Rarely has there been a more perfect day for catching bluefish! Dark, rain laden clouds and a cold drizzle that left you chilled to the bone made the day one to remember. It was the third of June and the third day of our vacation. It was also a beautiful day for catching bluefish!
My family and I were bundled up as if it were January. It was hot down in Alabama when we left, but now it was cold. This didn’t seem to bother the fishermen though. The fishing pier was crowded with vacationers from all over the eastern seaboard; lined up on either side of the Nag’s Head Fishing Pier.
Ignoring the cold spray from the surf as it beat against the pier, dozens of men, women and kids wearing coats and rain gear were casting artificial lures into the water 12 feet below. Every few minutes a new school of fish would attack the lures that were being cast into dark choppy waters. Fishing rods could be seen bent double with a fish on the end of the line. We were in Nag’s Head, on the outer banks of beautiful North Carolina and the blue fish were running in schools up and down the coast.
Our vacation last year was to the outer banks, where we rented a large beach house for the first week in June. Yes, it was quite expensive, but split up between six families, it became fairly reasonable. Being from the south, we expected the weather to cooperate as it does most of the time at home.
This was not the case though in Nags Head. A cold front moved in the day we got there and didn’t leave until we left for home. In Alabama we have some strong winds, but not like those skipping over the Atlantic Ocean to nail us to the walls on the outer banks of North Carolina.
The first two days of our vacation we took advantage of the winds and visited tourist attractions like the good husbands and fathers we were. We didn’t have much choice. It was too difficult to try to fish. If you threw a fishing lure toward the water, the wind would throw it back in your face, treble hooks and all! I like to fish, but not that much!
We fishermen consigned ourselves to following the wives around the island. We saw all five of the lighthouses on the outer banks, including the famous black and white striped one on Kitty Hawk, where the Wright Brothers made their historic airplane flight. It was easy to see how those dunes would be an excellent place from which to launch. You could almost see yourself helping push the airplane into the wind.
Of ancient ships we saw a replica of a 16th century ship that crossed the ocean from England complete with a grizzled first mate explaining their voyage across the Atlantic 400 years ago. The boat was small! I mean little! I like the water and boat riding, but I don’t believe I have the guts to attempt an ocean voyage in something a little larger than a bathtub! We visited other tourist sites while attempting to stay warm.
By the afternoon of the third day, the wind had decreased to a gentle little breeze of about 20 miles per hour. This was calm enough to head for the beach and surf casting. After an hour of having our bait thrown back at us by the wind, we packed up our tackle and drove a mile to the Nag’s Head Fishing Pier! We weren’t the only ones glad to get away from sight seeing with the wives. The pier stretched out quite far into the ocean, a lot farther than we had been able to cast from the beach.
Stopping at the bait and tackle store to buy our out of state fishing licenses and some bait shrimp, we began walking to the end of the deck where we had seen three fishermen leaving. Luckily the space was still empty when we got there. Looking around to see what other folks were using as bait, it was surprising to see that most were using the same thing.
I asked one fisherman who had just landed a bluefish about the bait he was using and he told me we could buy them at the bait store at the end of the pier. The lure he was using was about the size of an unfiltered cigarette. If you can picture a cigarette with black spots and a red head with treble hooks front and back, you know what a ‘thing-a-ma-jig’ looks like. A strange name, but they really caught fish!
During a lull in the action we used the shrimp we had bought to bottom fish. We didn’t catch any fish, but we caught a lot of skates which are in the sting ray family. Folks around us said this sandy colored animal wouldn’t hurt you, but the way they were snapping at me when I tried to remove the hook made me think otherwise. The Bluefish began to run again, so we left the skates to someone else.
We went back to the pier each morning and each remaining evening of our vacation, catching fish each time. The weather didn’t get a lot better. Nag’s head is a nice place to visit. Someday I’ll go back when the sun is shining.