Tidelines – September 28, 2017
Though I haven’t read this anywhere in a management or leadership instructional manual, my instincts told me that the Fisherman’s Post crew would be much more productive working the Hatteras Island Surf Fishing Challenge Registration if we managed to fit in some fishing time prior to that long 3:00 pm (not counting setup time)-midnight shift.
We already had plans to cast out a few lines from shore during our down time on Saturday between weigh-in updates, so I called Capt. Joey VanDyke, of Fingeance Sportfishing, to see if he was available Friday morning early to get us out on the sound before a day of taking entry forms, assigning angler numbers and wrist bands, and talking about boundaries and the big shore break that was predicted to build all weekend long.
Just about any time of the year Joey can put his clients on a trout bite, and trout was our plan as we idled out of Hatteras Harbor Marina and continued leisurely in the direction of Egg Island Cut, a channel between two reefs (Hatteras translation—reefs are sandbars) that had a funnel effect and regularly held speckled trout ranging in size from spikes up to 8 lbs.
We pulled up just short of the outer reef, where you could see a duck blind every 500 yards, the duck blinds continuing that way for nine miles to the west in the direction of Buxton. We were in about 4’ of water and over a hard, sandy bottom with broken and scattered grass.
Joey handed each of us a light tackle rod with a 1/4 oz. jig head and soft plastic tied on, and he instructed us to bounce the baits off the bottom. Billy, Zakk, and I each found a corner of the boat as we started our drift.
Only a few boats could be seen anywhere in the distance, and Joey knew most of them, fellow guides that were each trying to solve the puzzle of the morning—finding fish that were willing to cooperate. A jet-driven mullet boat went by on the search, and local shrimpers could be heard marble-mouthing into the radio (Hatteras translation—no translation available).
Pinfish were the first to find us, but thanks to the Z-Man MinnowZ that Joey uses, coupled with some inshore series Pro-Cure, our baits held up enough to start picking at a few speckled trout. We were finding a trout here and there, but not with enough regularity to make Joey comfortable, so we diversified.
I was handed a popping cork rig loaded with a Z-Man pearl-colored EZ ShrimpZ. Before the recent storm (Jose), darker colors had been more productive, but now with dirtier water, Joey had more confidence in pearl, white, and other lighter colors.
Joey also threw out a couple of live bait rigs—grunting hogfish that he had scooped from his trap (before we had met at the docks at 6:45 am). The hogfish now had a hook through their top between the head and spine and dangled under a float rig.
My popping cork rig produced a couple of the better trout of the day, but I had to cover a lot of water. The hogfish, though, produced immediately, as I watched the first float go down right after hitting the surface. Joey counted to 10, recognizing that the slower run of the cork indicated a trout bite, as opposed to the fast, erratic runs typical of bluefish.
He flipped the lever on the baitrunner, successfully setting the hook on what would turn out to be a 16” trout. The 10-second count is recommended, Joey tells me, because the trout holds the hogfish in his mouth to reposition it before swallowing.
Billy and Zakk, staying true to bouncing a jig head off the bottom, found the highest volume of fish—a mix of more keepers and less throwbacks. We all found more keepers than throwbacks, so by the time we had to make the drive up to Tournament HQ, the Camp Hatteras Conference Center just down the road from Hatteras Jack, we had just under a limit of trout that would be the main course of our dinner menu the next evening.
While Capt. Joey VanDyke, of Fingeance Sportfishing, can put his clients on a speckled trout bite just about year round, he’s been chartering since 1985 and has a whole host of options available for clients wanting to make a fishing memory.
Joey will finish out this year’s fishing season around Thanksgiving, targeting trout and red drum up until the holiday. After a winter of therapy (hunting), he starts in mid-February offering shad trips on the Neuse River out of Pitchkettle Landing between Washington and New Bern, as well as rock fishing up the Roanoke River. He then heads back to Hatteras in spring to start a new year of targeting trout, cobia, big red drum, and puppy drum. The trout and puppy drum are joined in the summer by blues and spanish, and then the fall focuses his efforts primarily on trout and drum.
Most of the Hatteras trips happen on his 27’ Ricky Scarborough (with a tower), but for other trips the best tactic is to hop on his 24’ Carolina Skiff. You can find out more about all of Joey’s spring, summer, fall, and winter trips at www.outerbanksfishing.org, or give him a call direct at (252) 475-0402.
Spending a morning with the hard working, easy-to-like Joey was just what I and the Fisherman’s Post crew needed. We headed up Highway 12 with a cooler full of fish, ready to work hard all weekend so that our tournament anglers could enjoy a weekend of surf fishing (Hatteras translation—we were already planning a way to skip weigh-ins the next morning to go fishing for puppy drum behind the U.S. Coast Guard Station in Hatteras Village).