By Bert Clark
This page will be geared toward the many fisherman who make there way down to the island all year long in search of their favorite species. I will be outlining what I target each month around the waters of Ocracoke and some basic tactics. I'm sure some of you will have other favorites and methods, but these are the fish that I target during each month of the year. Some fish will be listed multiple times but take note that tactics and areas will change with the seasons. Here we go!
Let us start with this month as it is my favorite month of the year for fishing. I will be boat fishing only this month, so no help here for the the surf fisherman. "Old drum" are hanging around the inlet (inside and out). These fish are in small to large schools and can be caught by sightcasting with bucktails. Clear water helps for seeing the schools but the drum will also be chasing flounders off the bottom up to the surface, so look for that as well as slicks on the surface. These fish can also be caught anchoring around the breakers in the inlet and fishing with cut bait if sightcasting conditions are not ideal. Any flounders that the drum don't eat will hopefully end up on the end of my gigging spear at night. The speckled trout bite, just behind Portsmouth, is really reaching its peak with the end of the month seeing the most quantity and quality fish. I use mirrolures of all shapes and colors exclusively now but the specks can also be caught on grubs. Puppy drum are also present near the speckled trout holes with nartural color swimbaits being the lure of choice for me. The wahoo bite offshore is typically excellent during this month and I will slip off to the deep as time and weather allow, armed with dark colored skirts and ballyhoo. Don't leave the dock without your planer rod and a trolling sinker for the way back bait. You will be sorry if you do!
If you are looking to catch a citation old drum from the surf, this is your time. If we get a SW blow of 15mph or so for a few days during the first two weeks of the month, head down somewhere south of Point Rd. Less people on beach and cool nights makes for an enjoyable night of fishing. There will be pups and yearlings mixed in also, but fish with your bigger surf tackle at night so that you can handle the big ones. Offshore, king mackerel fishing is world class this month. Live or dead baiting on light tackle will produce the biggest fish of the year and some of the most exciting strikes you will ever see. If you have never done this, I highly recommend booking a charter and trying it. Yellowfin tuna will also make a showing if you are willing to take a ride further offshore up toward Diamond Shoals.
December, January, February
Go tuna jigging offshore! You talk about fun. Dropping butterfly jigs and high speed jigging will produce blackfin tuna from15-30lbs, false albacore, and amberjack during the months of December and January. During February and March, we will beef up the jigging and popping equipment and chase bluefin tuna that run from 75-300lbs. Back in the surf, their are a few speckled trout and pups around depending on water temps and clarity. Fish the sloughs along the beach with gold hopkins, grubs, and mirrolures. Sometimes they are there, sometimes they are not, but there is hardly anyone on the beach so enjoy it.
If we get a SW blow towards the end of the month, look for the old drum in the surf. Once again, not many people here on the beach so this makes night and day fishing enjoyable. I am getting ready to open the motel back up, so not a whole lot of time for fishing. Will still be chasing the bluefin tuna as weather allows and have also had good luck with dead baiting king mackerel and bottomfishing for sea bass(when the season is open).
Water is beginning to warm a bit. Will be catching a few inshore pups on lures from the boat. I'm always hoping the yellowfin tuna will show up offshore, so I will take a pretty day and try and find them and if not, do some bottomfishing. Early April is also good for sightcasting to the old drum from the boat. Vacationing surf fisherman will begin to filter on to the beach with pups and blues making up the catch and some old drum too.
This is my second favorite month of the year for fishing or maybe my favorite. It is truly a toss up with October. "Cobia fever" sets in and I will spend all of my free time when weather allows sightfishing for thes brown bombers in and around the inlet. A white bucktail with grub is the lure of choice on 80lb flouro leader. Hope for clear water and calm winds. Nice gaffer-sized mahi will also be showing up offshore in force by the mid to latter part of the month so I always try to spend a couple of days offshore. Small ballyhoo with mylar skirts and brighter colors seem to work best for me.
The beginning of June sees me doing much of the same as the end of May. Still looking for cobia nearshore and fishing offshore when I can for mahi. Lots of spanish mackerel around inshore if you are inclined. Trolling clark spoons on small planers and torpedo weights or casting metal will do the trick.
When we get to July, my focus goes from solely fishing to also gigging flounder. We tend to have the highest number of gigged fish these months and in very shallow water. The fish are in no way as big as the fall fish, but tend to be in higher concentration. I will also be bottomfishing and trolling offshore. I had some great triggerfish catches this summer and there are normally mahi around of varying size offshore and nearshore with the occasional wahoo thrown in. We also begin to wade fish in the inlet for puppy drum on the incoming tide. We have had some great days sightcasting to the slot size fish with small bucktails in knee deep water. In past years, we have had excellent catches of pompano. Use sand fleas and anchor up along the bars around the inlet for a shot at these tasty fighters. Also use the sand fleas on inshore structure for a shot at the "convicts" (sheepshead).
Inshore fall fishing begins to heat with puppy drum making a good showing in the deep and shallows around the oyster rocks in the sound. You can catch them on bait in the deep and lures in the shallows depending on tide. Speckled trout will start to trickle into the holes I fish and I will also be targeting sheepshead inshore. I will still be looking for flounder at night as wind allows. Offshore, we will be focusing on wahoo. All trolled baits will have wire leader and ballyhoo with dark color combos. Lots of sailfish out there if billfishing is your game. Bottomfishing offshore can be very productive with great catches of triggerfish and snappers (when in season).
Well, there you go. A brief overview for each month of what I target when fishing the waters of Ocracoke. As most of you know, I enjoy talkin fishin with you when you arrive and I will be glad to recommend charter captains depending on the type of fishing you are most interested in. I will see you out there!