Head boat fishing on the sound in the Outer Banks


It’s record-busting hot here just as it is across much of the nation, but the morning breeze is refreshing as it finds its way across the Roanoke sound waters and teases the couple dozen sun-baked fellow anglers who dangle stubby boat roads over the rails of the Crystal Dawn, a popular head boat in the these parts.

The sun is already well up from its morning arrival from the Atlantic horizon making the east-facing side of the drifting boat several degrees more uncomfortable than the other. Indeed, the Outer Banks beaches are already looking like a tent city as beachgoers try their best to hide from the heat that will grow more intense as the day goes on.

But we’ve elected to sample the sound side, protected waters in pursuit of a nibble or two and just maybe a fillet or two as well.

Head boat fishing

Head boat fishing is a deal. Simply put, on the scale of excitement, head boat fishing is a dud.

But just as simply, it’s a great way to spend a few vacation hours waiting for the next bite rather than hiding behind a boring paperback, wondering how you are going to get the sand out of your shorts and thinking about your next fishing trip. But then again, excitement is relative.

Head boat fishing has no age limits. If a youngster can hold a fishing rod, she or he can handle it. Seasickness is a nonfactor, too, another plus when one mentions anything about angling the salt waters of the east coast.

As I look around the railings of the Crystal Dawn, I see adults with children, young couples, and any number of family groups. The fish caught are pretty small, the battles pretty short, and the chance of a trophy pretty rare.

Most folks on board are vacationers on board for the experience, a bit of fun. Although we are all welcome to keep our catch, it’s not often that someone living out of a duffle bag does.

Small fishMike Tontimonia's grandson, Sid Holland

Son-in-law Dave Miller and grandson Sid Holland are with me. We laugh at our smallest fish and admire anything larger.

While on board we also learned a great deal about the region, the life of a well-salted helmsman, some local history and well, some good old stories. All of which came across the loud speaker as Tex, our captain, announced our destination, the next move, and his best fish catching hints. All that and more included in the price of a ticket.

Tex’s best tale is true. We know it to be true because most local lore is to one degree or another. But Tex swears that this one is documented in official local journals. Plus five generations of Tex’s family have roots deeply planted in the Wanchese sand and that’s a fact, too.

Seems that Tex’s granddad was not only the Body Island lighthouse keeper but an extremely large individual. On any day of the week, Granddad weighed in at an impressive 482 pounds. That’s right up there with a whopper blue marlin and might have been verified on the same Wanchese dock scale.

The story is framed in the late 1950s when Grandpa Peter lost his balance and fell out of his skiff. Understand please that a 482-pound person is a load.

A rescue squad was called and reached Peter in plenty of time. After all, Tex says, Gramps couldn’t swim but he sure could float. Unable to pull Peter into the rescue craft, the crew simply towed him to a distant point, now known as Peter Point.

It must have been quite a sight and quite an event. The story has been told countless times and holds a firm hold on its place in local lore.

Crystal Dawn

The Crystal Dawn runs two trips every day out of Pirates Cove in Manteo at a bargain price. Other fishing options in the area are available at prices ranging from head boat trips to the most exciting of the mix, off-shore fishing for marlin and tuna that can cost $2,000 or more.


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Mike Tontimonia has been writing weekly columns and magazine features about the outdoors for over 25 years, a career that continues to hold the same excitement for him as it did at the beginning. Mike is a retired educator, a licensed auctioneer and marketing consultant. He lives in Ravenna, Ohio and enjoys spending time at his Carroll County cabin. Mike has hunted and fished in several states and Canada from the Carolinas to Alaska and from Idaho to Delaware. His readers have often commented that the stories about his adventures are about as close to being there as possible. He is past president of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Mike is also very involved in his community as a school board member and a Rotarian.



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