By CAPTAIN DAVID WILSON
By CAPTAIN DAVID WILSON
While September lets you know that change is in the air, October IS the change.
Northeasters and cooler temperatures become more frequent, the air conditioner gets a break as the windows open more often, and sweatshirts are pulled out of the closet for the chilly mornings that can sometimes start out in the high 50s.
While the inshore fishermen have been doing well on speckled trout and drum for a couple months, both species are at their peak in October.
Trout, or “spotted weakfish”, can be found in sloughs and around broken grassy bottom inshore of the reef in the sound. Anglers cast lead heads with plastic grub tails, and mirro-lures to the colorful and acrobatic game fish. The recreational limit on speckled trout is four per person, and the minimum size limit is fourteen inches overall length.
Red Drum, also called “redfish,” can be caught on fresh cut bait or often found and “sight casted” to with spoons. Drum are caught in a variety of sizes and places. Everything from “puppy drum,” yearlings, and the big drum are caught in October. You are allowed to keep one fish per day recreationally and they must fall within the slot size of 18-27 inches overall length. Both trout and puppy drum are delicious for table fare, and I have no preference, but most people tend to enjoy the speckled trout more.
Surf fishermen are getting in on the action, and droves of four-wheel drive vehicles are entering and exiting the various beach access ramps. While many are headed to Cape Point in search of the big red drum, they can be found in many other locations along the oceanside beaches of Hatteras Island. Speckled trout can be found and casted to in the sloughs along with puppy drum. Bluefish, blow toads and sea mullet are commonly caught as well.
Offshore, the water temperatures begin cooling and while it’s not out of the question to hook a sailfish or find some dolphin, these warmer water species are less abundant in general. Wahoo fishing remains pretty strong, and yellowfin tuna begin to increase in numbers. Blackfin tuna remain plentiful, and larger fish become more prevalent.
I’ve always loved king mackerel fishing, both charter and commercial, and these explosive predators begin to trickle in around the first of the month and are usually here in great numbers by Halloween.
Live bait fishing for kings is as fast and exciting as anything we do all year. 20 pound class tackle is generally the preferred gear, with light wire leaders and small treble hooks. The menhaden or “fatback” as we call them, is attached and pitched over the side. Most strikes are on the surface and very close to the boat. As you watch the nervous baitfish swim frantically to escape their fate, the anticipation of a “sky rocket” strike is at hand. I’ve seen king mackerel explode and fly twenty feet in the air with their captured prey hanging from their mouths! Lightning fast, the kings make long screaming runs once hooked, but when alongside and ready to be gaffed, stay clear of the razor sharp teeth while admiring the long silver fish.
Kings can range from a few pounds to over sixty. They must be a minimum of 24” fork length (tip of the lower jaw to fork of the tail) to possess legally. The recreational bag limit is three per person. The minimum weight of a king mackerel in order to earn a coveted “citation,” (the good kind, not the bad kind), is thirty pounds, and citation class fish are common.
Commercially, kings are caught by both trolling and with gill nets. Usually after the early push of fish, in closer to the beach, the nets are put away and trolling is the preferred method. Downriggers and electric/hydraulic reels are used, with planers that carry the bait down deeper. Spoons and sea witches with fatback strips are most commonly used for bait. While late October is the start of king mackerel season for us, I’ve seen it last through the first of the year.
Change is a good thing and October fishing off of Hatteras is proof! Don’t miss out on an opportunity to enjoy the season of cooler weather and hot fishing!