September 21, 2017
Fishing Offshore In The Fall … My Favorite!
By CAPTAIN DAVID WILSON
30+ years at the helm of an offshore charter boat out of Hatteras, I’d
love to have a dollar for every time somebody asked me “When’s the best
time to fish?”
The truth is, you can have that banner day just about any time of the
year. I’ve watched cycles and transitions. I’ve seen
summers with hardly any grass and consequently very few dolphin.
I’ve been booked every day in April, where all you had to do was get
out there to fill the box with yellowfin.
Of course, each year can be different, but there are two things that
have always been pretty dependable: gaffer dolphin in May and wahoo in
I don’t know why I have always loved the fall so much. I think
it’s because you know change is on its way. By the end of August,
you’ve run 110 days, bailed a million dolphin, battled for position on
the grass lines, and been flipped off by a dozen tourists on the way
home from work.
I’ve always thought of September as a continuation of August,
with the addition of wahoo and sailfish, and a third of the boat
Although the wahoo fishing generally picks up in August, I have always
recommended September as our best month for the lightning-fast game
fish. The best wahoo fishing is usually from 30 to 50 fathoms,
and around structure and breaks in the bottom. Most guys fish a
planer that takes a bait down 15-20 feet and is quite productive.
If you ask ten captains what their favorite color is for wahoo, you’ll
get ten different answers. I’ve always been partial to blue/black
or purple/black, but you better keep something pink out there
Sailfish can also be anywhere in September. Although the better
marlin fishing is typically around 100 fathoms, it's pretty common to
have encounters in the same areas where the wahoo bite is on.
Fishing for wahoo and sails at the same time can be complicated, since
you need wire leaders to successfully capitalize on most of your wahoo
bites, due to their razor-sharp teeth. Most guys fish for sails
with smaller gear, light drag, and light monofilament leaders, making
it easier to “feed” the bait to the unsuspecting billfish. I came
up with a way to keep a small bait out for sails that were fairly wahoo
proof. Instead of mono for my leader, I used 60 pound, seven
strand cable, like we use for live bait king mackerel fishing.
We’d make the rig identical to the one with mono, with the cable being
the only difference. I’ve landed plenty of both on that
Dolphin fishing continues to be excellent in September, with schools of
bailers along the grass lines, color changes, and under flotsam adrift
on the surface.
One other interesting thing about the fall is that its peak season for
tropical storms and hurricanes. Generally, a few days after a
storm, there will be debris from the Caribbean and Bahamas that gets
swept up here in the Gulf Stream current. Everything from buckets
to palm trees make for excellent habitat. Baitfish collect under
the debris, and the food chain begins. By the time it gets to us
there are schools of dolphin and wahoo waiting to be caught!
Heading into October, the dolphin fishing begins to slow down, but the
wahoo stick around as well as a smattering of yellowfin and blackfin
The inshore guides also have great success with red drum and speckled
trout in the fall. Schools of finger mullet and menhaden are
abundant, and the sound seems to come to life. It’s an exciting
time to visit Hatteras Island for a fishing vacation!