December brings an end to the tourist season, with very few people visiting the island. The people that do visit may find only one or two restaurants and motels staying open for the winter. But there is a special opportunity for those few visitors to enjoy the solitude and quiet, open beaches. Weather can vary from a beautiful blue sky to windy gray, so come prepared for the season.
Surf fishermen fish for puppy drum, black drum, and speckled trout. While most of the black drum are caught with shrimp, most of the speckled trout will be caught using artificial baits. Puppy drum can usually be caught with either artificial lures or bait, depending on the water clarity. Clear water will favor the artificial lures, while dirty water will favor mullet or shrimp baits. (Beginning 11/14/23, mullets caught in North Carolina will not be legal to use as bait until after 12/31/23. Tradewinds, and other shops, that buy frozen bait will have frozen finger mullet and cut mullet available after 11/14 that originate from out of state. Other bait such as menhaden, tuna belly, spot, croakers, shrimp, and squid are unaffected.) A few sea mullets may also be caught from the surf on bait as well. And if the water stays warm enough, big red drum (over 40” in length) may be caught from the surf. Artificial lures used in the surf include grubs, Mirrolures, and Hopkins. Popular colors for the Mirrolures will vary with the conditions, with lighter colors being more popular in the bright light and darker colors early and late. White and green will be the most popular grub colors, while Hopkins will be almost all gold. Expect the artificial lures to become more popular as water temperatures cool and fish begin relying less on scent to feed.
Inshore fishing will slow to nearly a stop as water temperatures cool. Offshore fishermen will target a mixed bag of fish, from bottom fishing for black sea bass and triggerfish to trolling for wahoo. Blackfin tuna will be caught jigging, along with large amberjack. While king mackerel will be the most prevalent fish caught while trolling, don’t be surprised to see a dolphin or large billfish around due to the close gulf stream water. Late in the month big bluefin tuna may begin to show, with some being caught trolling conventional gear and some caught jigging heavy standup tackle.
While there can be some good fishing on a pretty day during December, January, and February, there is not enough business for us to keep the store open every day during this period. Tradewinds stays open through Thanksgiving weekend, but we will close for the season afterwards. Please keep that in mind if you are visiting in December 2023, January, and February 2024 and plan accordingly.
See recent catches and read the current fishing reports at Tradewinds Tackle on Facebook or on our home page. For more information on what to expect fishing Ocracoke year round see our fishing page here.