One of the great “near” fishing destinations from the Crystal Coast is beautiful Ocracoke Island.
But on Sept. 6, 2019 Ocracoke was devastated by a 7-foot tsunami-like surge on the back side of Hurricane Dorian that flooded the island from end to end.
I recently talked to Alan Sutton, along with his wife Melinda, who operate the well-known Tradewinds Bait and Tackle. Alan said that there was for the first time it its history, Tradewinds took on some water but is back open and in great shape.
The island is open, albeit with fewer restaurants and over-night accommodations, but open for business nonetheless and doing well. As far as beach vehicle access, the closures are normal for early summer with mainly bird-nesting areas closed, likely until the end of August.
So how is fishing, both on Ocracoke Island and along the Crystal Coast?
We have had a great Spanish mackerel season here on Bogue Banks this year, and ditto for Ocracoke. Fish are plentiful and big with many citation-sized being weighed in.
Interestingly, whereas the bluefish have been mostly missing here, Spanish anglers are trolling up 5-plus-pound blues in the mix. But like we have seen here on Bogue Banks, there are scant few of the smaller fish.
If you log onto the Tradewinds web site (http://tradewindstackle.com/), one thing you will notice is the number of big pompano being weighed in, many of which are citation-sized trophies. Right now, there are also some of the juvenile fish in the mix, but this year has an excellent one for these tasty, hard-fighting fish of the jack family. Some of the biggest fish are being caught along the sandbars near the inlet, and they usually are caught on Ocracoke into October.
Between the shutdown of the flounder season from the deluge that was Hurricane Florence and the current season hiatus via a N.C. Marine Fisheries edict, the numbers of flounder and size is notable along the coast, including Ocracoke, and Sutton expects to have a good short season when it reopens Aug. 16 through Sept. 30.
Here on the Crystal Coast and on Topsail Island, we have seen an unusually good summer bite for the speckled trout.
On Ocracoke, there was an early season bite as the spring typhoons drenched us. Sutton believes that the increased freshwater pushed some of the trout out of the creeks for that spring speck action.
As far as the red drum action along the surf, the slot red drum action has been good. We are now entering the old drum spawning bite in the Neuse/Pamlico region, but Sutton indicated that the surf action of those big fish is best from mid-October to mid-November as the post spawn fish leave the Neuse River.
As far as the other drum, the black drum, the surf action has been mediocre at best, but the inside fishing for both black drum and sheepshead has been good, with quality citation sheepshead being caught on sand fleas and fiddler crabs.
I asked Sutton how he likes his sheepshead cooked. He said on the half shell. I like this technique too, especially for red and black drum.
How is it on the half shell? Just fillet the drum or sheepshead and do not scale or skin the fish. I like them soaked in a small amount of salad dressing and then pop them on the grill. When the flesh is opaque and the meat done, the fillet just slides off the protective scaled skin. Just remember, don’t flip the fish over, it cooks fully on the skin/scale side to perfection.
So, Ocracoke is back, and the fishing is great.
If it’s great on Ocracoke, how is it here?
The big news remains the king and Spanish mackerel from the beach on out. From Bogue Inlet out to Southeast Bottoms, within 10 miles from the beach, reports also include mahi, amberjacks, wahoo, sailfish and plenty of sharks.
Similarly, if you are out of Beaufort Inlet, Northwest Places is only about 12 miles out, and the fishing is equally excellent, including a 58-pound king mackerel boated by Capt. Dean Lamont (Crystal Coast Adventures). Bait? A live menhaden! Bottom fishing has also been excellent with some hot spots east of the Cape Lookout Shoals.
The surf is another problem, being very slow. I’ve fished the 85-degree surf from Emerald Isle to Pine Knoll Shores with little to no success. I’ve also worked one of the Highway 24 Creeks and the newly replaced pier in Emerald Isle Woods Park with no success. In the park, the walkway down to the floating dock has been replaced and is now easier to navigate a kayak up and down the ramp.
Inside, if you get out early or late, there are still slot reds and specks, along with good catches of sheepshead and black drum. With the heat, areas around and under bridges and docks are places of choice, and all over the turning basin and port area will get you almost anything – sheepshead, red and black drum, Spanish, gray and speckled trout, and yes, flounder.
Some of the best areas are at the train trestle and high-rise bridge at Radio Island. When the flounder season reopens, there always is the area in the vicinity of the Coast Guard Station. There are already big flounder there.
Now for our ocean piers where fishing has slowed noticeably due to the heat and tepid water.
Oceanana Pier reports Spanish, puffers, spots, croakers and still speckled trout at night on live bait.
Bogue Inlet Pier reports spots, croakers, trout on live bait, kings, a few big Spanish, rare blues and blue crabs. Recently, Jim “Aflac” Larison landed a 22.4-pound king.
Seaview Pier weighed in a couple of kings this past week, big Spanish, specks and blues.
Surf City Pier had a slow week with a few spots and Spanish and weighed in a 27-pound crevalle jack.
Jolly Roger Pier reports s-l-o-w fishing with no kings last week but a few trout, blues, Spanish and small spots.
Finally, disturbingly this year, we are seeing increased vandalism of our sea turtle nests.
Be advised that these are protected species, and it’s a federal crime to vandalize, disturb or damage sea turtles and their nests.
It is also of interest that probably due to a lot of beach activity, we are having a season with an increased number of “false crawls.” That is a female turtle going up onto the beach to lay a nest but returning to the ocean without laying one.
Be kind, be safe, catch fish, enjoy and leave the turtle nests alone.
2) "Ask Dr. Bogus" is on the radio every Monday at 7:30 a.m. WTKF 107.1 FM and 1240 AM. The show is also replayed on Sunday morning at 6 a.m. Callers may reach me at 800-818-2255.
3) I’m located at 118 Conch Ct. in Sea Dunes, just off Coast Guard Road, Emerald Isle, NC 28594. The mailing address is P.O. Box 5225, Emerald Isle, NC 28594. Don’t forget a gift certificate for your favorite angler for fishing lessons or my totally Bogus Fishing Report subscription. Please stop by at any time and say “Hi” or call 252-354-4905.