Off the Porch: Time to head for the Outer Banks
Sometimes, the urge to toss a line in the water exceeds the desire to follow a well laid plan. My grandson, Charlie, and I had just arrived on South Core Banks, commonly called Davis Island. The island is called Davis Island because the ferries that carry people and vehicles across to the islands are located in the little town of Davis and have been transporting people there for almost a century. Our plan was to drive the 14 miles down the beach to the point of Cape Lookout and scout for holes as we went. Having reconnoitered the area, we would make a plan on where to fish at low and high tides.
I realized as soon as we were on the beach that it was high tide and the best time to read the beach is low tide. About two miles down the beach, I spotted a slough that looked good at high tide. We pulled the camper over and set up shop. Charlie and I were traveling in my old Chevy truck and staying in the slide in camper on the back. We baited hooks, set up the awning for shade and prepared to relax with bait in the water while we waited for the tide to recede.
Some of the best surf fishing of the year is about to begin. The water is warming up, the fish are moving and the weather is suitable for great days on the sand. This week I talked to Annette, at Davis Shore Ferry Service. Last week, the island turned cold and windy but the week before produced a lot of fish. This time of year, spots, sea mullet, blues, flounder, and puppy drum are working the sloughs and big drum are cruising. Bottom fishing is the main technique, but you should always have a Stingsilver rigged on a distance rod in case you see birds.
For North Carolina Coastal surf fishing, a rod that will serve you well would be something like a nine foot rod capable of casting from one to four ounces. Add a spinning reel that will hold 250 yards of 12 pound line and you’re ready to go. I like to use a two hook bottom rig with a float on top and the bottom bait resting in the sand. I also attach a spinner on my rigs because I like fresh bluefish. If you don’t have a rod to keep rigged for the Stingsilver, use a quality snap to hold your rig and keep a Stingsilver rigged on a section of fluorocarbon leader so you can switch out fast.
While monofilament line has served us well for the last 60 years, the new braids are even better for most fishing and they allow extra line strength with less diameter, allowing you to run a higher test line with the same reel capacity. An added benefit is sensitivity. With brail on a spinning reel, I can feel the sinker roll over in heavy surf. There is a downside to braid; braid is harder to untangle if you get wrapped up with another line, and the knots are a little harder to tie. With casting reels, it’s a little easier to backlash and a lot harder to untangle.
I like to pick up my bait before I leave town. Jimmy Todd at, Todd’s seafood in Thomasville, often has popeye mullet, and when he doesn’t I often buy small spots. If you’re going to fish for big drum, you can’t beat a spot head. It’ll stay on the hook and smaller fish will leave it alone. Of course, fresh shrimp work well and the shoreline often provides some of the best bait in the form of sand fleas and they’re free. Bait is available at Davis Shore, but sometimes selection can be spotty due to rough weather.
If you don’t have a camper, there are cabins on the island, but they fill up fast this time of year. Tent camping will also work, but it can be an exfoliating experience if the wind whips up. Slide in campers rule at Davis. I have a generator and air conditioner to cool the camper off before going to bed. Make sure you buy everything you need before getting on the ferry, the only purchases you can make there are for gas and ice.
Charlie and I relaxed under the canopy as we waited for the tide to go out and expose more beach. We had a little shore lunch and kept our baits refreshed. Apparently, my choice of spots was a good one. about halfway between high and low tide. I had a major hit on the larger rod I’d cast over the sandbar that formed the slough. After about a 15 minute fight, I beached a citation red drum.
Davis Island has a lot to offer this time of year. The weather is fine, the beaches are beautiful and not crowded, and the fish are there. I’ve got to figure out how to find the time to get back down there.
Davis Shore Ferry Service (252) 729-3474 davisferry.com
One of North Carolina’s most precious assets are our Coastal Outer Banks. Our history is rich with stories about this almost magical region. The Outer Banks history includes their value as a recreational area, in fact they were originally set aside as a recreational area. Unfortunately, there are those in our government who feel the recreational aspect of Cape Hatteras National Seashore is less important than the special interests of the Audubon Society, Defenders of Wildlife and The Southern Environmental Law Center. As a result, the Cape Hatteras National Seashore is far less friendly to recreational anglers and beachgoers, with the vast majority of the system being closed during the seasons when tourists appear. Not only are the affected beaches closed to vehicular traffic, they are closed to anyone walking on the beach as well. In addition to closing the beaches, the U.S. Parks Service has killed over a thousand mammals that naturally inhabit the island to protect the birds the closures protect. All this is done to protect piping plovers and American oystercatchers, and neither bird is on the endangered species list. All this has happened over the last ten years and I fear the same will happen to the other stretches of recreational beach we have if we don’t stop these organizations.
If you’d like to get involved and contribute to the fight to keep our beaches open for the public, the Outer Banks Preservation Association is leading the fight along with the North Carolina Beach Buggy Association. Both organizations are involved in not only protecting out access, but they’re involved in real world conservation measures and hold regular beach cleanups as well.