By ROB ALDERMAN
By ROB ALDERMAN
That time is once again upon us. The time when taking a five-minute drive turns into 15 or 20 minutes. The time when you walk into your favorite restaurant and you don’t know everyone sitting inside. The time when you go into the grocery store and there is no bread on the shelves. The time that no matter where you go, all you smell is suntan lotion. It’s that time when the life’s blood of the Outer Banks — our visitors — begin arriving in large numbers.
Yep! It’s Memorial Day weekend.
And, while meteorologists might disagree, the nation considers it the official start of summer.
Anglers can expect a longer wait at their favorite tackle shop and more people on their favorite pier or in their favorite beach fishing spot. But, tourism is what keeps this area alive and visitors are welcomed here.
Although the tourist season is just about to heat up, the fishing has been fairly decent for a couple of weeks now.
The offshore fleets of the Outer Banks have had a great few weeks of mahi-mahi fishing. The reports have been filled with pictures of gaffer-size fish, day in and day out. Most days, anglers have caught the limit or near limit of fish, which makes for a lot of meat to take home.
Good catches of yellowfin and blackfin tuna have hit the docks. There definitely seems to be a good showing of the yellowfin, as of late. But, I do not want to take away from the blackfin. They also will continue to get caught in good numbers, as they have most of the year.
Billfish are being picked at, but I’d expect that to heat up any moment.
The inshore boats near Hatteras are catching some puppy drum, along with the occasional citation. Bluefish, Spanish mackerel, flounder and gray trout have also been caught. And some nice coolers of clams are being harvested.
The inshore boats around Oregon Inlet are finding some Spanish mackerel and bluefish around the inlets, along with small stripers and speckled trout in the back waters.
And, while an injury keeps me out of the fishing game for the time being, I’ve talked to some local guides and boat captains, and there’s no sign of puppy drum in the northern backwaters.
Charter fishing is hot right now, and whether it’s inshore or offshore, I’d recommend looking at some of the marinas to see if they have something that can suit your needs or wants.
Surf fishermen and women have been catching a mixed bag of fish along Hatteras and Ocracoke beaches. Puppy drum, sheepshead, sea mullet, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, black drum, flounder and pompano have hit the sand.
Now, if you are looking to dial into a specific fish and have the best chance of catching it, then I recommend you stop into a local tackle shop, where they can point you in the right direction and help set you up with what you need to catch it. Locations and methods change daily and the tackle shops can help you in both departments.
Pier fishing has been decent.
Avon Pier has seen some nice catches of good-size sea mullet, along with bluefish and some speckled trout hitting the deck. Rodanthe Pier has seen a mixed bag of sea mullet, pompano, sheepshead, black drum, and bluefish thrown into coolers.
Now for the cobia.
The season began a few weeks ago, and while some very large fish have been caught, the overall catch hasn’t been nearly as hot as last year — at least thus far.
Last year, the weather was very conducive for keeping these fish near shore and in tight packs. This year, the weather has been spotty at best and so has the cobia fishing. This doesn’t necessarily mean we will have a bad season, but we are definitely off to a rocky start.
Does this mean that all the recent talk of hurting cobia stocks is true? Absolutely not.
Cobia are migrating and spawning, and they will not stop their track because of poor inshore conditions. These fish will just push farther offshore and look for warmer water to swim north in. This is proven by the fact that cobia are currently being caught in fair numbers in the Chesapeake Bay.
The weather has managed to pull back together somewhat the past few days, and, once again, the cobia have made the local reports, but still not in overwhelming numbers.
This is my 16th summer here, and I’d say that the cobia seasons have been half and half — half what we are seeing now and half what we saw last year, which was red hot. This is nothing to be alarmed by and is one example of how the fish themselves and Mother Nature preserve the stocks.
I do believe that no matter what, cobia will continue to be caught to some degree for the foreseeable future. Some days are going to be good and some days not so good, but that, my friends, is fishing.
So, the fishing is good and the weather is hot. Businesses are in full swing and everybody is open. All you have to do now is get down here and take advantage of it.
Go fishing and play hard.
(Rob Alderman has lived on the Outer Banks for more than 16 years and has worked in the recreational fishing industry the entire time. A former variety fishing TV show host, beach fishing guide, tackle shop and pier employee, Rob currently owns and operates Outer Banks Kayak Fishing. He is on the Pro-Staff of Bending Branches LLC, Wilderness Systems Kayaks, Release Reels, Yakattack and is an ambassador for Ugly Stik. You can follow his adventures at www.FishMilitia.com or OuterBanksKayakFishing.com.)