Fish Post

Tidelines – June 20, 2019

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Coming off of Father’s Day weekend to put this issue to print, the topic of Tidelines was an easy one—I joined fellow dad Capt. Jim Sabella, of Plan 9 Charters, to take our boys fishing in the Wide Open Tech Spanish Mackerel Open, and while we didn’t find our way on to the leaderboard, the boys (and dads) had a great time on the water.

Jim fishes out of Hampstead and the Topsail area, so we met him at the Sloop Point boat ramp. We put the four boys up front—Dante Sabella (age 13), and Ethan, James, and Owen Hurley (ages 7, 12, and 13)—and headed out New Topsail Inlet on our way to the Dallas Rocks area.

Not long out of the inlet, though, Jim saw a bunch of birds working, so we pulled off plane, dropped two Clarkspoons behind planers, put one diving plug out far, and we began to work the area. Bait was nervous on the surface, and then at a closer look we saw some spanish skying. The spoons started producing immediately, and that’s just what we wanted for our boatload of young anglers.

Dante Sabella, Ethan Hurley, Owen Hurley, and James Hurley (left to right) with the three spanish they weighed in in the 2019 Wide Open Tech Spanish Mackerel Open. The fish were caught on Clarkspoons while fishing out of New Topsail Inlet.

The boys were cute, working out amongst themselves who was next on the rod or next to hand line in a spanish. Their oversight of each other wasn’t competitive, as they weren’t trying to keep anyone from jumping line, rather they were just making sure the rotation was fair, happy for each other when their time came.

We enjoyed non-stop action for a good amount of time, putting numerous fish in the cooler. Some of our spanish were bigger than others, but none were looking like tournament winners. Size was no concern, however, as Jim and I had decided not to go the route of slow trolling live bait in search of a few big fish, deciding instead that our boys would have a better time catching lots of modest fish over a few big ones.

Besides, my two youngest battle a little with seasickness, and I know from experience that trolling 6 or so knots with wind in the face is much better for their success on the water than long periods of bumping the engine in and out of idle.

The boys’ cooperative spirit continued until the bite eventually slowed down, or I should say my boys’ cooperative spirit continued until the sun was up a little higher and I started to hand out Fisherman’s Post hats.

That was the first squabble—whose color hat was whose. James wanted the red hat, so of course that meant that Owen wanted the red hat, too. You know…brothers.

Then there was disagreement over what flavor Gatorade they each got, but somehow they rebounded when it came to candy, each of them apparently pleased with the box they were handed.

Jim’s son wasn’t fighting over drink or food. He was happy to be on the boat, measuring spanish, checking out their markings, and then re-measuring the spanish. Dante’s easy spirit allowed Jim to do what he does well—teach people (adults and kids) about fishing.

Jim coached Owen and James on fine tuning their spanish fishing techniques. For Owen, the main lesson was to swing the spanish over the gunnel as soon as you pull it out of the water, rather than pulling it out of the water, letting it dangle, and then looking to see where to swing the fish.

For James, the lesson was more about hand lining, trying to let the line you pull in fall back in the water so the chances of tangles go way down. And for Ethan, Jim just focused on getting him to retrieve steady and stop right before the planer meets the rod tip.

There were no spanish for us when we finally made it to Dallas Rocks, just one king, but we again found all the spanish we wanted outside Rich’s Inlet and once more at Mason’s Inlet. The boys continued to be entertained while reeling in spanish after spanish, taking some time out to net jellyballs as we trolled by, but Jim and I were a little frustrated. We had targeted the inlets trying to find a bluefish to weigh in since we were in the tournament’s Bluefish TWT, but all we found were 12-16” spanish and (after purposely slowing down our trolling speed a little) a couple of lizardfish.

No bluefish. Plenty of spanish. One king. Some turtle and porpoise sightings. Four happy and tired boys, and two happy and tired dads. The morning was a success.

Capt. Jim Sabella, of Plan 9 Charters, can keep your family entertained, too, whether it’s a half day of spanish or king fishing, or a full day of bottom fishing or trolling for bigger pelagics further off the beach. He’s the perfect choice, as he doesn’t just understand fishing, but understands kids, adults, and enjoys talking to and sharing knowledge with anyone that cares to listen.

So give Jim a call at (910) 367-2224, or visit him online at, to figure out your best options based on season, desired species, number of people, level of fishing experience, and all of the other variables that a good captain considers when putting together a plan for your day on the water.

Jim will do his best to make everyone on the boat successful, but you’re probably on your own when it comes to matters of drink flavor and hat color. But your kids are probably always well behaved…