Fishing improves this month beginning with the likely return of Northern puffers. These small to medium-sized fish puff up with air when they’re caught and reeled in. Prized for their meat by some anglers, they are often called blowfish or blow toads. The Northern puffer is not deadly poisonous like its tropical counterparts and has been consumed by humans for many years.
Puffers typically represent the start of a long march of returning species such as shad, sea mullet, blues, gray and spotted sea trout. Fortunately, this year, the puppy drum stuck around Outer Banks waters throughout the change of seasons, and they’ve provided plenty of action for dedicated anglers.
At Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head, fishermen have enjoyed scattered puppy drum catches despite the passing of seasons since summer. Typically, anglers use hand-tied, double-bottom rigs baited with shrimp; a combination that also works great for puffers. Store bought rigs work too.
Last year in March, sea mullet started to bite and they stuck around until late fall. These hard-fitting fish also make excellent table fare. A third species fisherman might get a crack at catching this month are spotted seatrout, also known as speckled trout or “specs.”
Whether from a pier, beach or boat, it takes dedication to catch these elusive fish. Sometimes hundreds of casts are required to hook a keeper spotted seatrout. Lead head jigs and soft plastic tails seem to be the most popular lure for this type of top-water fishing. Speckled trout are great eating as well.
Trout fishermen, clad in waders and billed hats with tackle bags handy, line the beaches near fishing piers up and down the Outer Banks in the spring. Early mornings and late afternoons are best.
For general bottom fishing, anglers on the northern beaches should concentrate on sloughs and holes up and down the beach from Coquina to Oregon Inlet in March. Across the bridge on Hatteras Island, a lot of people have been fishing around the jetties near Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and at Cape Point itself.
Most of these areas allow beach driving but a permit is required from the National Park Service. They recently changed several aspects of the annual $120 pass process to make the requirement less pain-staking. A ten-day pass costs $50. For those venturing out on Nags Head and Kill Devil Hills beaches, driving permits are $25 each and are good until April 31.
Offshore sport fishing vessels out of Oregon and Hatteras Inlets have had a fairly decent winter of tuna fishing and its likely this will continue into March. There was even a report floating around about a blue marlin being caught in late February, which is fairly unusual. Most boats are targeting yellowfin and bluefin tuna this time of year.
Judging from warm afternoons and long lines of Canada geese making their way north, spring conditions along, with spring fishing, appear to be just around the bend.