A look at winter fishing on Hatteras Island
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I’m looking at my little artificial “Charlie Brown” Christmas tree, and wondering why I haven’t taken the ornaments off and put it away yet. I guess maybe because, until today, it hasn’t even felt like winter! Our warm, soggy summer and fall has rolled right over to the New Year, it seems. I’ve been outside barefoot this week, working on my flounder nets, and it sure hasn’t seemed like January!
Wintertime fishing offshore can be really good. For years now, the abundance of blackfin tuna has made for exciting action for anglers. The advent of vertical jigs, braided line, and light tackle that can handle a lot of pressure has warranted opportunities for new angling challenges. Blackfins, which normally range from 5-6 pounds on up to 40, are great eating and fight like crazy on the lighter gear. When colder or dirtier water invades the areas that these fish inhabit, trolling, or any type of surface presentation can be futile. Getting below the top layer of water and down to where the fish are is most effective.
The warm water is still reasonably close to the beach, and even though it’s January, a lot of the fish still think it’s November. King fishing is still good, and there have been some nice wahoo caught recently as well. I haven’t heard too much about the yellowfin fishing, but I’d bet that due east of Hatteras Inlet about 40 miles would be a good spot to find some.
As I mentioned about the kings, the commercial fishermen have done well on them, when the weather has allowed them to get out. I’ve seen years when they are long gone by now, and I’ve also caught them right on till spring. If it stays mild, this could be one of those long seasons. Croakers are usually a targeted species by the gill netters, and soon the sea mullet will be showing up along the beach in good enough numbers to target as well. Commercial shark fishing is something that permitted fishermen can opt to do as well. That is entirely different from the dogfishing that will also be productive for guys closer to shore.
The cold water has evacuated most of the fish from the sound, and out into the warmer Atlantic Ocean waters. A lot of the inshore guides are currently running duck hunting parties. Clamming is still available, although they tend to get a little deeper once the water temperatures fall.
I took a ride out on the beach last week and saw lots of activity. The first thing I noticed on my first stop was Gulf Stream grass and Portuguese man of war jellyfish washed up all over the tide line. Again, an indicator that the water is still warm far offshore. Speckled trout seemed to be what people were casting for, and I’m sure that there were some puppy drum around as well.
Things are pretty quiet out here, otherwise. Highway 12 is frequented by fishermen transporting nets and gear down to their boats and back, as they switch from one fishery to another. Occasional 4X4s with racks full of rods and slacked tires can be seen entering and exiting the access ramps. It’s a peaceful time to live on a barrier island. Spring is coming though, and will be here before you know it!