October afternoon at Springer’s Point. Photo: C. Leinbach

Do you have a favorite season or month?

Many of those who have lived on Ocracoke for many years consider October to be the best month. No guarantees, but by then, in a good year, one sees the hurricane season (typically from June to November) winding down and that the island will be spared.

But October yields pleasant temperatures, the softening light from the glare of summer and fewer visitors. It is not hard to find solitude in an early morning or late afternoon beach walk and see dolphins just beyond the breakers.

Fishing in October

October is the peak fishing month on Ocracoke Island. It’s a time when the big fish are likely to be caught, although the big ones are captured year ‘round.

According to Tradewinds Tackle, jumping mullets move along the inlets and beach providing a great source of bait for game fish such as drum and bluefish, which makes the fishing productive.

Water temperatures start to cool down toward the end of October bringing larger bluefish and citation red drum (over 40 inches) to the surf. 

Surf fishing for smaller fish and trophies can be excellent throughout the month. Puppy drum are the primary target of surf fishermen, with many yearling-sized drum (27 to 37 inches) mixed in as well.


Brown pelicans on their evening commute under a waxing October moon. Photo: C. Leinbach

Brown Pelicans fly lazily in strings overhead and along the waters. Peregrine Falcons pass through, sometimes perching on the water tower in the village.

Toward the end of the month, Myrtle Warblers will appear throughout the island, especially in the village, and will remain until late winter/early spring.

Gone will be those beautiful Black Skimmers that had an excellent nesting year with lots of fledglings that will return. These black-and-white beauties with their long unusual red bills delight beach walkers in the late afternoon as they fly just above the water line, their lower bills dipping through the water, in search of food.

Soon, the Northern Gannets will arrive. These large white birds with long black-tipped wings are an equal delight to watch as they make spectacular dives into the ocean.

Various other seasonal birds — possibly rare ones, too — can be spotted throughout the island in the fall during migration.

Northern Gannet off Ocracoke Island. Photo: P. Vankevich

The above, somewhat idyllic, portrayal of October on Ocracoke is for what may be categorized as “normal times.”

But the last couple of years have been far from that. Hurricane Dorian in 2019 and a pandemic that began in early 2020 and is far from over on the island and almost everywhere else. Many now are experiencing an increased sense of anxiety that climate change is already here — far sooner than many scientists predicted.

Getting on and off the island has been difficult and time-consuming. The N.C. Ferry Division has had challenges. Along with the ongoing battle with shoaling, inadequate staffing and COVID-19 have caused many cancellations on Ocracoke’s lifeline –- the ferries between Hatteras, Swan Quarter and Cedar Island.

In many ways, we are no different from most communities that face challenges. It’s just that ours are different from most others.

We all need to find ways to lower our stress levels, especially on issues over which we have no control. 

Where we do stand out and which is why those of us who stay here and “live on the edge” is because we can easily walk the beach, enjoy the susurrant wind, marvel at some of the world’s most beautiful sunrises and sunsets and find a spot on the dunes to peacefully reflect and enjoy the solace one can find in nature. 

Even a Black-bellied Plover can enjoy an October day on Ocracoke beach. Photo: P. Vankevich

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  1. Super interesting how some seasons are good for the fishing some places and bad for others. Here in So Cal, surf fishing slows a lot come fall through winter. Thanks for sharing!

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