Core Banks, NC Fall 2010 E-mail
Written by Jon Shein   
Wednesday, 10 November 2010 11:12

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Joey had wanted to hit the Core Banks for years. Me too once I knew what they were. For those of you who don’t, they’re the barrier islands below the Outer Banks. They run in a NNW direction and the southernmost island is called Great Island.  Just to the south is Shackleford Bank which runs perpendicular to Great. Also the end of Great has a tip and a hook. What all this amounts to is a lot of exposures. You have the Atlantic Ocean, a sound, an inlet and inside bay with lots of marshes and small estuaries.  The area has terrific fishing and in the fall it’s the false albacore capital of the world. Besides albies there’s often big red drum in the surf, puppy drum on the inside along with trout and flounder. As we found out there’s also bluefish. Enough species to keep one busy.

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What we needed was a few nice days of weather and we were off. We monitored various reports and found a window of several days of light winds and small surf. So we left my house in NJ a bit before 9PM and the following day was expected to be the last of the windy days. We had a 1PM ferry across to Great Island and were hoping once we were there we could get on an earlier one. After 3 separate construction zone delays we arrived at the ferry a touch past 9AM. When we checked with the ferry office they didn’t have us down. Turns out there were 2 ferries and this one wasn’t ours and it had a 10AM opening. So we cancelled on the one where we had the 1PM booking and got to the island much earlier then anticipated. The cost was $80 for the vehicle and each of us was $16 and then there was tax. This was for roundtrip. Joining us on the ferry were a couple guys who fished there often and they filled us in. On the ride over we aired down to 15 lbs. Island standard was 20, so at 15 I knew I’d be great. When we got off on the other side we decided to head north first and check out the inlet there called Drum Inlet. It was much too windy and we headed to the south end. We figured between the ocean, sound and inlet we had a lot of variety close by. We set up camp on the hook, looking out across the sound and just over the dunes behind us was the inlet and across from it Shackleford Island. The inlet has a cove that’s formed on the inside of the hook too.

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In the morning from the dunes we saw some albies working. Rather than drag the kayaks over the dunes we opted to head to a launch point we had discovered on the inside. We were able to drive right to the water. Unfortunately the albies were gone. So we headed to the tip of the hook where a bunch of boats were fishing. I got a lizard fish on the way trolling a white finesse on a Kalin jighead. There were just some stray very small blues at the hook. Joey got one.  So we headed to Shackleford and caught a bunch of flounder and lizardfish. No size to the flounder. We explored the island and spotted the only inhabitants, wild horses and took some pics of them. Then we fished our way back towards the launch. We figured it was so calm we had to check out the ocean. I saw some boats to the right as we were heading in and went to investigate. One was hooked up and I saw them net a redfish, which the locals call drum. I made a cast along the Wild horses on Shackleford dock and hooked up as soon as my jig hit the bottom. It was a red and looked to be a keeper. I measured and it was less than an inch over. It was perfect for us to eat for dinner, so I kept it. I yelled to Joey as he was already back at the launch. He got the message and came over. Everybody was catching fish. They weren’t monsters but all were on the lower end of the keeper spectrum running up to 22”. They were fun. I was talking with a boat and put my yak in reverse and something weird happened. Turns out the pin on my motor shaft broke and the prop spun off. Luckily it was in less than 5’ of water. Joey had on shorts and a t-shirt under his waders and volunteered to get it. After he retrieved it he got chilled so we decided to head back to camp. One boater told us the albies were hitting the bay early and late each day so we decided to leave the kayaks on the inside, just over the dunes from camp so we could target the albies that evening and then again in the morning. So I drove the truck back and Joey towed my kayak over to the lee where we left them on the bank. The tide was going out so we knew they’d be fine for our evening foray. We decided to have our big meal in the late afternoon so we wouldn’t be cooking in the dark. I threw some Cajun blackening seasoning on the fillets and we used the convection function on my toaster oven on max to cook the fish. That combined with some black beans and brown rice made for a great meal.

Joey with a puppy drum

That evening we saw about 100 birds working over a school and headed towards them. Joey with the motor got there before me. Something didn’t look right though. They didn’t look like albies and weren’t. It was cocktail bluefish. So caught several, explored a bit and then headed back. We decided to leave the kayaks as the winds were predicted to be 5 to 10 mph and we had the peninsula blocking them. I pulled my kayak up a ways and jammed my anchor into the sand. Joey had his about 50’ further out.

I had a bunch of gear in the back of the truck. The first night I slept in the truck but during the day I had set up my tent. I left the rain fly off so I’d have more ventilation and could see the stars through the mesh. The tent had a lot of mesh. We turned in and the wind started building and building. What was worse was the sand was coming in through the mesh and it was much too windy to put the rain fly on now. I wanted to get back in the truck and sleep but I didn’t want to unload gear from the truck as one of the items was the generator we had borrowed and I wasn’t going to sleep in the truck with it. The wind was blasting everything with sand and I wouldn’t expose it to that. I didn’t sleep very well and bega Joey towing my kayak back to camp n to wonder about the kayaks, especially Joey’s as we now had sustained winds 25 to 30 with gusts that had to be approaching 50! It was awful. I finally fell asleep, due to exhaustion, an hour or so before dawn. I woke during predawn but it was light out. Joey was coming back over the dunes and announced his kayak was gone. So we hopped in the truck to go to the other side of the bay, hoping the wind had washed it up somewhere over there. We stopped at a number of vantage points and it was nowhere to be seen. I suggested that Joey walk down to the dock because I felt if it ended up there we’d never see it from afar. He didn’t. So we went back to camp and I wheeled my kayak over the dunes. Joey showed up from more scouting and said the commercial fishermen had his kayak. Turns out one of them was sleeping in his boat, which was grounded by the low tide, near my kayak. He woke up, saw Joey and asked if he’d like to buy a kayak. Joey thought I had told him about the lost kayak and he was pulling his leg but I hadn’t seen him. Turns out Joey’s kayak got caught in the nets they had laid out and they had the kayak by the dock between the boats. The spot I suggested Joey hike to as we couldn’t see it. What a relief to get the kayak back. Everything was there too. Joey had left his favorite rod and reel on it and one of my group 24 batteries was in it.

The forecast for the next few days was for a lot of wind. Joey had grabbed a reservation on the 6:30PM ferry so we figured we’d pack up camp and fully explore the island. When we passed the crossing we’d grab a shower at the bathhouse. It took quite some time to pack as Camp after I moved the truck there was sand in everything. Even inside closed coolers! When everything was loaded I turned the truck so the wind would be parallel to the direction of the kayaks so the straps would stay in place while we loaded. Besides you don’t want a kayak broadside while loading in a strong wind. I learned that at Cape Cod once when a strong gust ripped a kayak from our grasp and blew it over the roof and as it dropped down the other side and broke an electric mirror on the my Pathfinder. Our first stop was the showers and boy were they welcome. It was wonderful.

From the ranger station, where the showers were, we headed up to the north end of the island except this time we were going to stay on the inside road instead of the beach. We found a few great launch spots to access miles and miles of great inside fishing that should be excellent for reds, trout and flounder. We made our way back to the ferry, aired up the tires and had something to eat.

My friend Terry spends a week each season fishing the area by boat. He arrived on Sunday and we told him we were leaving. I got a call from Terry on Thursday night that confirmed our decision to leave. They had only caught one albie and said Thursday was the first day without strong winds. They had fished each day and covered a lot of water and were skunked. I suggested they fish for reds as they’re resident fish. I’m sure glad we didn’t stick around. However we’ll be back as the area is fantastic and I know there’s got to be terrific fishing on the inside. When I go back that will be my focus and the albies a bonus.

I’m preparing a destinations article for the area so check it out when it’s up. Right now we’re planning on doing a week there next fall. Why don’t you join us?

Buoy washed up on beach

 

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