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Made the annual fall trip to Ocracoke last week with a group of friends. It's been a busy week catching up at the office but finally have a few minutes to give a report.

While Hurricane Matthew wreaked havoc and caused serious problems in the lives of many coastal residents, another much less important impact of the storm was that it caused a huge amount of uncertainty at the beginning of our trip. We were supposed to be on Ocracoke Sunday-Sunday but the island didn't re-open to visitors until Monday morning. So, four of us ended up in Buxton for the day on Sunday and spent the night at the Cape Pines Motel (nice, basic, clean rooms at a great price).

Sunday in Buxton - among the four of us I think we caught a couple under slot pups, one slot pup and one over-slot 32 inch pup along with a couple bluefish and a nice flounder. Fishing wasn't fast and furious but catching one here, one there - usually within a couple hours of the change of the tide (whether high or low). We fished off ramp 43. I hadn't fished in that area before and it was kind of fun to have the landmark Hatteras lighthouse in the background and to be there in the world famous fishing destination. Drove to Cape Point just to see the scene there b/c I'd never been all the way out to the point before. It was super cool to see and the water off the point sure looked like a place I'd love to throw a line . . . but overall the scene there and even off ramps 43 and 44 was a little crowded for my preference.

Monday - took the 8am ferry to Ocracoke after picking up coffee and an apple ugly from the Orange Blossom. I'd read about that place for years and this was my first experience. Definitely want to get another! Monday late morning through late afternoon those of us who came over from Buxton did a kayak float behind the island. In the shallows we found a bowl with a couple big schools of 15-22 inch puppy drum chasing bait and had a blast catching them on light tackle and soft bodied jigs, landing well over a dozen drag-pulling pups in about an hour and a half, along with several flounder ranging from 16 to 21 inches, and a couple nice trout. We hit the beach just before sunset and were surprised to find the water was still super-high due to the combination of the recent storm plus the full super moon. There were big ponds at the ends of ramps 70 and 67 (ramp 72 was closed the entire time we were there) and several places the beach was cut off at high tide. We fished off Ramp 67 Monday night and were joined by 4 more of our crew who drove down that evening. Among us I think we caught several decent sized (3.5-4 feet) sharks and 3 or 4 pups in the low to mid 20 inches range.

Tuesday - in the morning my buddy drove down a sand road to the sound and wrangled some fiddler crabs, then paddled his kayak to some structure not far out in the sound, and caught a nice 3 pound sheepshead for his efforts. We took an afternoon half-day charter on the Drumrunner with Ernest Doshier and 4 of us boated 18 drum with the biggest (3 of them) topping out at 38 inches. While we were on the boat the 3 guys who didn't take the charter fished the beach off ramp 70 and caught a couple of slot sized keeper pups in the 26 inch range. Tuesday evening fishing on the beach (ramp 67) was a little slow, with a few more sharks and just a couple more pups among our group.

Wednesday - By Wednesday the high tide/water levels had returned if not all the way back to normal, at least close enough that most of the beach was accessible even at high tide. We had slow fishing during the day. Caught a couple of 25-26 inch pups near south point as well as a couple small pompano, a flounder and small black drum. It felt like summer, with temps in the low 80's and almost no breeze. Wednesday evening several of our group drove down to the new ramp 63 at sundown and caught 7 nice pups between them plus one 35 inch yearling drum that ended up being the big fish of the trip (not counting those caught on the charter). The other three of us fished off ramp 70 that night and our fishing was slower, with just 2 mid-slot pups landed.

Thursday - most of the crew left and I was on the island fishing solo. Picked up 4 more nice pups off ramp 63 Thursday evening.

Friday - did some gift shopping for the wife and kids, drove down to the north end and fished a little light tackle wading on the back side behind the ferry but it was weedy and the current was really ripping, and didn't find anything. Cleaned up and prepared to leave a day early as it had been a good trip and I was there solo and missing the family. Felt like I'd done what I'd come to do.

Saturday - left the island to return home, realizing that Friday night and Saturday morning the weather had really turned (15+ degree temperature drop) and heard that some big drum had really started hitting the beach Friday night and again on Saturday. Part of me wished I had stayed and fished hard for the big drum Friday night and Saturday and come home on Sunday as scheduled - and I would have if any of my crew had been there with me through the weekend - but with all the other guys headed home and having had a good trip already, I wasn't all that sorry to have packed it in when I did. Hopefully the big ones will be there for us next year.
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