I'm in North Carolina this week, and over the weekend I was able to visit some family in Greensboro and head to the coast for a bit of fishing. It wasn't the best time to be in the area, because Hurricane Joaquin is currently offshore. Joaquin didn't actually hit the coast, but its low pressure zone is causing historic amounts of rain and fairly steady 20 to 25 mph winds in the region. This was one of those trips where you make lemonade out of lemons, so my friend Ali (who I met while fishing in NC two years ago) and I decided to give it a shot anyway. We decided to avoid the ocean piers and go to a smaller pier in the Intercoastal Waterway near Morehead City.
By the time we arrived at the pier I had been awake for nearly 23 hours, so I promptly went to sleep in the front seat of the car. I didn't care how many species I was potentially missing out on - sleep was a necessity. Ali, on the other hand, was eager to fish and joined a couple other fishermen at the end of the pier. As the tide was moving they did pretty well catching rays, skates, eels, and a variety of bottom fish like whitings and croakers. Ali shared these photos with me once I woke up from my near-comatose slumber.
Atlantic Stingray (Dasyatis sabina)
Clearnose Skate (Raja eglanteria)
Shrimp Eel (Ophichthus gomesii)
Around 5am I woke up with a jolt. It was time to fish! I assembled my travel rods and made my way out to join Ali and his new fishing buddies. Right away Ali and the guy next to him hooked up with a nice ray. Ali's hook was in it's mouth, and the other guys' rig was tangled up in Ali's line, so turned out to be an awkward team effort bringing it in.
Southern Stingray (Dasyatis americana)
I wanted a ray quite badly (Atlantic and southern would be new for me), but the bite died down as the tide slowed and the sun began to rise behind the clouds. Our luck of not getting rained on too much ran out when we saw a big storm front approaching. The rest of the day was on and off heavy rain and constant wind.
The bite started off slow once I had bait in the water. My first catch was this silver perch, a species that I only recently added to my lifelist when I was in Louisiana with Ruoxi earlier this year.
Silver Perch (Bairdiella chrysoura)
At low tide we caught a few hermit crabs. They were pretty cute, and since we weren't catching many fish we didn't mind them stealing our baits from time to time.
In the late morning the bite picked back up. Unfortunately it mostly consisted of pigfish and pinfish, two species that are ubiquitous to the Atlantic coast. They're handsome fish though, and it was nice to have a more steady bite.
Pigfish (Orthopristis chrysoptera)
Pinfish (Lagodon rhomboides)
In the early afternoon I finally caught a new lifer, a northern puffer. It was hanging out close to one of the pier's wooden pilings. I'm lucky I got a photo of it, because as soon as I got it over the railing it bit through my 8 lb fluorocarbon line. He posed nicely for a photo and swam off quickly when I released him.
Northern Puffer (Sphoeroides maculatus) - new hook & line species #313
Ali caught his first toadfish when he fished close to one of the pilings. He was quite pleased about it!
Oyster Toadfish (Opsanus tau)
Later in the afternoon the outgoing tide was moving pretty good. As the grass and other debris floated by, we caught a few other interesting species. This spottail pinfish was especially large. I had never seen one with blue pelvic fins.
Spottail Pinfish (Diplodus holbrookii)
Black Sea Bass (Centropristis striata)
Even though we could have fished quite a while longer, the rain and wind kicked our butt, so we packed up around mid-afternoon. As we moved away from the coast the rain switched from sudden bursts to a steady drizzle. Ali's dog and I were pretty out of it, and I'm glad Ali brought us back safe.
This was a day of fishing unlike anything else I've experience, and I'm happy we did it. I'm also glad I was able to get a lifer! Huge thanks to Ali for driving from Chapel Hill to the coast and finding a somewhat sheltered pier for us to fish.