By Ken DeBarth
It is spring again. Another fishing season begins. We all look forward to any new year with expectations. This will be the year we will get out more, catch more and bigger fish and create more memories.
What can we expect here on Ocracoke? As the year progresses there will be changes in the water and air temperature that will bring different species of fish within casting range. The days will lengthen and the light will be brighter. Each of these changes will affect fish behavior.
In March large numbers of gray trout move into the sound. I have caught my biggest gray
trout in late March and early April. April brings a migration of big red drum from their off
shore winter habitat into the surf and through the inlets to the sound where they spend the
summer. These fish are hungry and feed aggressively as the water temperatures warm and
their metabolism speeds up.
April also marks the migration of large bluefish along the beaches. Blues spend the winter south of Ocracoke and as the southerly waters warm they migrate north toward the cooler summer waters off New England.
Blues are aggressive feeders and strong fighters. Landing a 15 pound bluefish through the surf is a thrill. May and June start to see mixed bag fishing. Sea mullets,small bluefish, flounder and puppy drum are in the surf.
Fish different sized baits and rigs to discover which species is in your area on any given day.
July adds pompano to the mixed bag. These delicious and beautiful fish prefer the shallow and clear water near shore. They love sand flea. Ask the folks at Tradewinds Tackle Shop how to capture your own baits.
The bright light of summer and warm water will bring Spanish mackerel to the beaches. An excellent tasting fish, they are most often caught at dawn and dusk by casting metal lures.August and September bring the blues back on their southerly return trip. Big drum become more common in the surf as they fatten up before heading out to their winter in the deeper ocean.
October is the peak of the red drum migration when large numbers of big drum move back out through the inlets for their winter grounds offshore. November will still have some activity from the red drum and the bluefish as well as an influx of black drum, another excellent eating fish.
I will tell you what else you can expect. There will quiet days with warm sun on your face. There will be gentle breezes and the sounds of the surf and the birds. There will be the smell of the salt water.
There will be stories told while waiting for the next fish to bite. There will be bragging about the fish caught and griping about the weather over coffee, evening drinks and at the tackle shop. There will be photos taken and fish released. Hopefully some of you will be able to teach a child about this great sport of fishing. There will be memories made.
Oh yeah, you just might catch the best fish of your life.
Let’s all expect that, too.
Ken DeBarth lives and fishes