For the majority of area residents, fishing means hiking the mountains for native brook trout, spending time on nearby farm ponds trying to catch bass, or sunfish or matching wits with the various species of fish in the Susquehanna River. A trip to the shore to fish for the numerous kinds of saltwater fish is only a dream for many. The good news is that it is more affordable and much more rewarding than you may have thought.
On a recent sojourn, six of us drove to the Outer Banks of North Carolina in what we hoped would be a chance to add to the freezer a nice quantity of tuna fish that historically migrate through those ocean waters this time of year. The drive took the usual 9-10 hours, depending on traffic tie-ups around the Washington and Baltimore areas and upon arrival in Duck, North Carolina we enjoyed a great seafood dinner at a local restaurant.
The real fun began as we arrived at the Outer Banks docks, met Benjie Stansky, our Captain, and his first mate, Bo, as we boarded the 54-foot charter boat. Within minutes, we were idling our way out of the launch area and cautiously working our way out of the inland waterway and finally into the open ocean. We ran eastbound, watching the beautiful sunrise and then, after two hours of relaxing on the leather couches in the spacious cabin and cruising at 22 knots, the Captain throttled back the twin Caterpillar diesel engines and began trolling at idle speed, doing an average of 6 knots. Quickly, our first mate Bo fed the lines from eight rods out behind the boat at a distance of 30-80 yards — each one tipped with a 12-inch ballyhoo as bait. They bobbed along the surface, and in just 15 minutes, it was “Fish on!”
From the initial hook-up at 7:25 a.m. until our last fish being landed at 2:20 in the afternoon, it was a steady pace of hooking fish, losing a few but landing most. While our initial intent was to bring home some tuna for the dinner table, we ended up with a mixed bag of fish. At the end of our fishing, we had brought in four false albacore, five blackfin tuna, and four large wahoo. We watched several medium sized sharks swim by as their dorsal fin cut the top of the water and saw numerous seagulls course back and forth, watching our baits and searching for schools of baitfish. With all of the fishing action, we rotated fishermen in and out of the fighting chair, each of us getting a turn at least three times, with sufficient time in between bouts to rest our wrists and arms from the great fight that most of the fish provided — especially the wahoo.
The false albacore were in the 16-18 inch range and had a very dark red flesh. They were reported as having a very oily flesh and were not as palatable as most saltwater fish. The blackfin tuna were in the 24-28 inch length and are a desirable fish for eating. But the big surprise was the wahoo. They were large — two of them being in the mid-thirties for weight and two were twins, measuring 66 inches in length and weighing in at 72 pounds apiece. They have the shape of a kingfish, barracuda or a mackerel and are a great fighting fish. Even better, everyone we talked to about the wahoo said they were very good eating, and several folks assured us that the wahoo is the best tasting of all the game fish you can catch in the ocean waters.
Upon returning home, we were all anxious to find out for ourselves just how good the wahoo might taste. Generally pan-fried in olive oil and/or butter, the fish steaks were cooked either by searing the outside and leaving the center rare, as you might cook tuna fish, or allowing the fish to cook completely through. Either way, the fish was amazingly delicious and extremely tasty, with or without an accompanying sauce.
All in all, it was a great and memorable trip. We spent a good deal of time relaxing in the cabin while sharing a lot of tall tales of past hunting and fishing trips as we awaited our turn in the fighting chair. In just one day of fishing, we each amassed a nice quantity of quality eating fish that will remind us each over the months to come of the great time we had together. So, gather up some of your outdoor buddies and head to the Outer Banks for a rewarding trip that will provide some wonderful memories as well as some healthy and delicious table fare for months to come!