Walking around the docks in November, you’ll quickly notice that things have changed in the fishing fleet of Hatteras Village. A number of the charter boats have removed their fighting chairs, which were used daily for anglers to battle their “fish of a lifetime.” In their place, “kill boxes” have been positioned, which is the first place a commercially caught king mackerel lands after being brought aboard.
Kill boxes usually hold 400 to 1000 pounds of fish and can be made of foam and fiberglass, or simply built out of plywood. Most boxes have one or two “de-hooking” bars, which make removing the hooks from the fish simple, safe and quick.
The average size fish caught trolling is 10-15 pounds, although bigger fish are often caught. Kings are brought in on downriggers and electric or hydraulic reels. The reels are filled with cable or heavy welding wire, which attach to planers. From the planer is a long monofilament leader with either a sea witch, double hook set and a strip, or a drone spoon. Once the planer is wound in, the mates pull the leader in by hand until the fish is slung or gaffed and thrown into the box.
A hot mackerel bite can last all day, and fish often have to be moved from the kill box to another box where they are packed in ice until the end of the trip. 2,000 pounds isn’t uncommon on a good day.
There are still charters going out in November, many taking advantage of the abundance of king mackerel and opportunity to catch them on light tackle during the peak month. Yellowfin tuna can be abundant, usually east of Hatteras, while the best wahoo bite is usually south of the inlet. Dolphin and billfish are usually pretty scarce by now. Bottom fishing is still red hot if you want to try for triggers, b-liners, grouper and tilefish.
We’re right at the end of the fishing season in the sound by now. Cooler water temperatures have the fish moving into deeper water and into the ocean. Many of the inshore fishing guides are beginning to get their duck blinds ready for the visitors that head to the Outer Banks for the wintertime waterfowl hunting.
Fishing in the surf is still great in November, and those fishermen who are willing to challenge the cooler air and water temperatures will usually be rewarded with a big red drum.
There’s nothing more pleasant than a light northeast wind in November, but during one of our many three-day, 25 knot northeasters, it can become quite blustery.
Most days I find myself in jeans and a sweatshirt, as the chances to wear shorts and crocs are fewer.
By now, a number of the area’s gift shops have closed, and many restaurants are closed or have limited days that they are open, although Thanksgiving is usually a pretty busy weekend. The traffic on highway 12 is pretty light now, and for locals, you generally know half of the people you pass.
It’s a refreshing time to be here. The beaches are quiet; seashell hunting is great after a blow, very little traffic, and great fishing. Come on down!