It had been a while (my wife tells me three years) but the Parrott Family finally took a long vacation.
Our destination was a return trip to a family favorite, the Outer Banks in North Carolina. Although Hurricane Arthur cut our trip two days shorter than planned, we still had a great time.
The highlight of the trip for me was a fishing excursion on my birthday as I got to do something I had never done before. On our last trip to the Outer Banks, we used a charter service out of a harbor called Teach’s Lair located on the southern tip of the banks in a town called Hatteras. We had a good time the last time we were there, so we returned to the same outfit although this time we used a different boat and captain. We had booked a half day inland shore family trip with Captain Doug Martin on his boat called the Hallelujah.
The trip started getting the kids up before the crack of dawn. We were on the water by 6 a.m. and headed to a spot out where they had caught a lot of speckled trout the day before. Speckled trout are great eating fish and I was looking forward to loading up the cooler with them.
However, the weather was very unusual for the area as we were experiencing extremely calm winds that day. The water was almost like glass. The lack of chop on the water made fishing a tad slow. We were casting chartreuse twister tails on 3/8 ounce jig heads and with a lot of moving around changing spots, we slowly picked up a limit of gray trout with a handful of speckled trout and blue fish thrown in.
Once we had our limit of trout, our captain suggested with the remaining time we had left, that we head out past the inlet and chase after some red drum and boy am I glad we did. As we ran several miles towards our destination I happened to spot a pod of a dozen dolphins so he shut the motor down and got the boat up close to the group enabling us to snap some awesome photos. The kids were tickled to death that we were able to get within five yards of the pod making things up close and personal.
After a few moments we continued on to our destination which was a series of protected flats with weed beds spread out around the area. Because of the calmness of the water and its gin clear color, with a good set of polarized sunglasses we were able to see dozens and dozens of stingrays feeding on the flats. I was amazed with how large some of those guys were and was secretly hoping that I didn’t fall overboard.
As we idled slowly around the flat, the captain climbed up on the tallest perch of the boat and began searching for the drum. Several other charter boats were in the area searching for the same thing. After several minutes he located a lot of disturbance on the water and after some hushed conversations he informed us that he found what we were looking for. Because of the calm and clear water, the drum were very spooky and it made it impossible to get close enough to reach the school within a cast’s reach.
Finally, by accident, our fate changed. Another charter boat actually cut the school off and their disturbance turned the fish back and they were heading right for us. He told me to get ready as we would only have one chance and boy was he right. When the school approached I could see that they were traveling at what seemed like mach one speed as a school of drum nearly a quarter acre in size cruised right by the boat. My cast didn’t anticipate enough lead in front of the group and I came up empty.
However, the captain’s cast was dead on and he was able to nab one of these cruising freight trains they call channel bass, or otherwise known as red drum. He quickly passed off the rod to one of the kids as he grabbed another rod and hooked into another. By then the school was way passed us but the two we had on gave one heck of a battle. The strength of these brutes made it hard to gain any ground on them. The gain in line was slow and tiresome but it was a blast.
When we finally landed the fish the school was long gone, so we went on the stalk again trying to locate another school. The captains of the charter boats finally got to where they were indirectly working together driving schools towards each other because you couldn’t sneak up on them as they were too spooky and cruising too fast.
When the next school turned towards us, I was more prepared for what to do this time and made a perfect cast ahead of the school. As soon as the jig hit the water, I felt the Mack truck I’d hooked nearly take the rod out of my hands. I was amazed at the strength of these guys and learned quickly that you had to be patient to gain ground on them.
While I was battling this brute, two more were hooked into. The boys and I had fun trying to reel the three of them in without getting our lines tangled. Fortunately, after a little dancing around and shuffling positions, all three were landed with success. After some quick snapshots, they quickly found their way into the cooler.
Fishing regulations only allow keeping one red drum per person, but we spent the rest of the morning catching and releasing these guys until our arms hurt. We had finally run out of time and left the schools of drum to the rest of the crews that were chasing them. Although I hated having to leave the biting fish, my shoulder was thankful we were done.
When we arrived back of the dock, we hired the local fish cleaning service to handle our catch and we were surprised to hear that we had over fifty pounds of fish to get cleaned. I can tell you after a couple of meals of fish, drum and sea trout are very tasty table fare.
Although I have done a lot of sight fishing for spawning bass I have never sight fished for cruising fish like that before so that was a real treat. Let alone the strength and size of these guys made it a challenge to land them like I have never experienced in fishing before. If you ever find your way towards the coast, I strongly urge to save your pennies and book a charter. It is well worth the money.
Although charters can be pricey, you are saving yourself a lot of guess work and frustration in trying to be successful on your own. On top of paying for the fuel and use of their equipment, you are also paying for their knowledge and experience and that is invaluable.
Until next time, Good Hunting and Good Fishing!