By the time October rolls around on the islands, the summertime crowds have certainly thinned, but there’s always a steady wave of “new” visitors that hit the beaches in full force – the fishermen.
Anglers and hunters have the honored distinction of being the islands’ first visitors, as it was the exceptional fishing and hunting that attracted adventurous beach-goers here in the first place, years before the Bonner Bridge was built. These folks would hop on a small ferry across Oregon Inlet, and follow miles of slow-going sand roads, just to have the opportunity to fish off our quietly famous beaches.
Today, we have a lot more to offer our anglers – (we have a paved highway and everything!) – which includes a number of surf fishing tournaments that peak during the height of fall.
This past weekend, the Capital City Four Wheelers (CCFW) held their 33rd annual surf fishing tournament on the island, and participants packed the Fessenden Center before heading out to the local shorelines. It’s a great event for the local economy for sure, but also for the island in general, as every year a significant portion of tournament proceeds go to help local organizations, such as Hatteras Island Meals, the Food Pantry, Hatteras Island Cancer Foundation, and the Fessenden Center.
November has two renowned fishing tournaments on the calendar – the 61st Annual Cape Hatteras Anglers Club Surf Fishing Tournament and the PBR Classic Fishing Tournament at the Avon Pier, and this week, the crowds and competition continues with the annual North Carolina Beach Buggy Association (NCBBA) Red Drum Tournament.
For anglers who want to put their skills to the test, the NCBBA Annual Red Drum Tournament is an imminent and prime opportunity, as the tournament officially kicks off on Wednesday at midnight.
Celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2018, the number “10” has become a bit of a theme at this year’s tournament which, happily, includes the prize money amounts.
“We tried to do everything in 10s, so the total cash prizes will be $10,000 or more, with the number one fish alone being worth $2,000,” says NCBBA Tournament Co-Chair Bill King.
It’s a prize that grabs attention, and for tournament newcomers, there’s still time to get into the competition under the wire.
“People [can register] right up until midnight on Wednesday,” says King. “We are a 24 hour tournament, so we begin at midnight on Wednesday, and you can fish until noon on Saturday.”
“Anyone can fish this tournament, and we encourage folks to come down and join us,” he adds. “This is not just a tournament for our members – it’s open to the public, and the only thing you need is a 4WD vehicle with a park permit to drive on the beach, and a current fishing license.”
Like many of the fall fishing tournaments, the NCBBA Red Drum Tournament is growing in popularity over the years, too. King reports that at last count, the 2018 tournament had 286 participants, and they are expecting more than 300 anglers total by the time Wednesday rolls around. “There’s been some ebb and flow over the years, [in terms of] attendees,” he says. “This year, depending on how many we have total, it looks like it may be the third biggest tournament, if not the second biggest.”
It sounds like a lot of anglers, especially for what could be technically considered the “off season,” but it’s not an unusually large number. The Cape Hatteras Anglers Club’s Invitational Surf Fishing Tournament has long had a reputation as being the biggest tournament of its kind in the world, after all, with 120 teams of six members each invited to participate. (There’s also an open tournament – the Bob Bernard Open Individual Tournament – which is held on the Saturday following the tournament.)
And the reason why these tournaments are so successful is simple – it’s a darn good time of year to fish.
“This is the time of year when the water temperature changes, and the red drum starts moving,” says King, “and we all want to have a line in the water when they move past Hatteras Island.”
While seasoned participants can expect the same a stellar fishing conditions they have in past, there are a few new additions to the NCBBA tournament this year.
For one thing, the Banquet Dinner that caps off the tournament will be held at The Beach Klub at Koru Village in Avon, which is a venue that can accommodate plenty of anglers, with extra elbow room to go around. “We had the membership meeting there this year, and the [members] that came to the meeting really enjoyed the venue,” says King. “The staff just opened their arms and welcomed us, and we wanted for nothing, so we’re excited to come back.” For another, the kick-off meeting will be for judges and anglers who are new to the tournament, to fill them in on all the tournament basics. “This way, we can give them the nuts and bolts of what they, as fishermen, need to know,” says King.
Finally, depending on the total number of judges available, the tournament “grounds” will hopefully extend all the way to Buxton this year, encompassing ramp 23 just south of Rodanthe to ramp 43.
But other than these minor changes, folks who love fishing, (and fishing tournaments), can expect the same crisp weather and solid surf fishing conditions that have kept Hatteras Island’s fall tournaments going strong for more than 60 years.
And if you are new to Hatteras Island’s fall fishing scene, and want to get your feet or your waders wet, there’s still plenty of time to sign up and enjoy lots of time on the shoreline.
“All you have to do is go to Frank and Fran’s and register, come on out, and fish wherever you want,” says King. “We want everyone to come out and join us.”
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