Fish on the Current

Megan M. Spencer
Ryan White of Rodanthe caught a large red drum on the north end the day after OISFT.
Ryan White of Rodanthe caught a large red drum on the north end the day after OISFT.
Ocracoke fishing after the tournaments….

The tournament month of May marks the very beginning of the best fishing on Ocracoke – inshore, offshore and in the surf.

The Ocracoke Invitational Surf Fishing Tournament kicks off the month with meager but decent catches. Ending the month, anglers from inland eastern NC convene to fish offshore waters for the Reel Nauti tournament, formerly (and appropriately) the Red Neck tournament. 

Seeing everyone on the island was a welcome sight after a long winter. But, when they leave, fishing always seems to heat up for those that stick around.

This year marks the fourth time I have been invited to fish the OISFT, held April 30 – May 2. And keeping with my personal tradition, I scored nothing for the tournament. I didn’t even reel in a small one (again). But, I went out a few days later and reeled in a 15-inch bluefish. Last year I landed a drum after the tournament. The year before, a very scorable sea mullet. I wasn’t the only one, either. Ryan White, Rodanthe resident and proprietor of Advanced Fishing USA, sent me a photo of a beautiful large red drum landed on the north end the day after the tournament. Ashley Bahen of northern Outer Banks and fisher lady on the Queen Mackerals, pulled up a cooler full of pretty bluefish the next day. And just like years past, the post-tournament weather was beautiful.

So remember all my up-the-beach fishers, you don’t have to wait for a tournament to come see us. It’s much fishier other times.

Especially spring. Taylor bluefish have been landed in the surf, along with puffers and sea mullet. Flounder have been scattered. I saw a gray trout landed during the tournament and my team mate Cheryl said she also missed one.

Ashley Bahen of northern Outer Banks reeled in a cooler full of blue fish the day after the OISFT.
Ashley Bahen of northern Outer Banks reeled in a cooler full of blue fish the day after the OISFT.

Last year, I was bent on NOT fishing the tournament, until I met the Virginia Beach Sand Witches. I had a ball with these ladies! Even better, they seemed to understand my lone fisher-girl mentality. I’m sorry, but I will probably be late for at least one of the sessions and I definitely throw bait around with my own style. Some teams seem to be too serious for me. But, I fish like I want and the Sand Witches welcome me for it.

This year, I was very honored when the Sand Witches chose me to fish as a team member – not an alternate. However, we still needed an alternate to complete our 6-member team.

So, I called on my Swan Quarter cousin Kris to join us. 

Keep in mind, we grew up on the water and we did a lot of fishing, but not necessarily surf fishing. For us, it was Pamlico sound in a boat, or a simple cork-and-worm set up in one of the ponds or ditches around. An even better Swan Quarter fishing adventure was throwing a bottom rig off Bell Island Pier. Surf fishing is a little different, though. And when you’re standing on the beach with nearly 400 pros and being observed by judges, it can be intimidating. Because I understood this, no one would have guessed my cousin was a tournament virgin and surf fishing novice. We ARE fishers, darn it.

She brought good bait from a commercial fisherman. I had the rigs and the ride covered, she just needed to bring her own pole.

The rods she brought were top of the line. That is, if you’re fishing for a wicked tuna. How do you cast them, I asked. Um, you don’t? Plan B…..

Luckily, I knew Ryan White from Team Advanced Fishing had an extra Century Rod to spare. With a phone call, we were sponsored. And my cousin had a custom surf fishing rod that evening.

Kris Noble of Swan Quarter reeled in a 14.5 inch flounder during the OISFT.
Kris Noble of Swan Quarter reeled in a 14.5 inch flounder during the OISFT.
We fished like pros. We canoodled with fellow tournament fishers like a bosses. We missed the sausage Friday morning, due to a late arrival for the session, but we had a blast. She even caught a flounder! A non-scoring flounder, but she didn’t share my tradition of getting skunked.

For OISFT results, click here.

There were no official results available for the Reel Nauti tournament, which took place last weekend, May 14 – 16th. I spoke with a few of the participants after the awards ceremony and several claimed to have won second place. Nearly everyone said that dolphin were the main catch. But, with so many claiming the second place honor, I decided the information given at the local watering hole that night may not be accurate. 

The same weekend, Drum Stick charters reportedly smoked tournament anglers, with a meat fish grand slam of tuna, dolphin, and wahoo during a Saturday charter trip.

Offshore, big dolphin (mahi-mahi) have been plentiful among the Ocracoke fleet, with the majority requiring the gaff to boat them. Gecko has been decking lots of dolphin, along with scattered wahoo. Triggers, including several citation-sized fish, as well as false albacore were landed last week aboard Dreamgirl.

Inshore, cobia action is starting to heat up. With the wind switch on Saturday to southwest, anglers fishing with Russell with Williams’ Guide Service hooked into some pretty cobia. The party also caught and released several large drum.

A big thanks to tournament  fishers and spectators that come to the island and provide a very welcome economic boost for us. A bigger thank you to the local fishers who survived a long winter to make it through the tournament month of May. Fishing only gets better from here. 

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