- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 4, 2009

HATTERAS ISLAND, N.C.

Ken Snider stood shirtless at the end of the 850-foot-long Rodanthe fishing pier, casting a cigarette-shaped, pink Got-Cha lure into the rolling waves of the Atlantic and retrieving it in short, jerky motions. Instantly, a young bluefish chased after the artificial “food” and hooked itself. Snider reeled it up and over the pier’s protective railing.

The Piqua, Ohio, angler, who worked on the Outer Banks during the vacation season, smiled as he removed a treble hook from the toothsome blue and said: “Actually, I was hoping to attract a Spanish mackerel. The fishing for them has been good all summer; it has been the best year ever for the Spanish. We’ve had mornings and evenings when everybody on the pier would catch those tasty fish.”

“Everybody on the pier” is a statement of some importance; there are days when it seems as if fishermen from nearly every state are represented - except North Carolina. At sunrise, the local citizens of the town of Rodanthe still must have been asleep, but there was George Hinzman of Pittsburgh, a first-time visitor who said during two preceding days he found bluefish using strips of mullet or shrimp to serve as bait.

Hollis Ryder of Marlinton, W.Va., stood nearby, readying long surf rods, his spinning reels filled with lime-green, 17-pound monofilament line. The 6/0 hooks he attached to a weighted bottom rig held pieces of unshelled shrimp or the ever-popular flesh of a mullet.

Suddenly, Ryder pointed to a broad ocean spot beyond the waves where dozens of bottlenose dolphins cavorted, probably chasing a finned morning snack. They leapt high into the air occasionally, delighting the normally land-surrounded visitors.

Then there were the Rager brothers, Gary and Denny, who come down from Johnstown, Pa., every year to spend two weeks in Rodanthe. The brothers stood side by side, executing admirably long casts into the foaming sea, and soon stuck the baited hooks to bluefish, reeling them up the gently swaying, wooden structure, wishing the fish they caught were puppy drum or “Spanish.” (The abbreviation for the small mackerel that rate high marks as table fish is one that is used by all surf and pier anglers along the Atlantic Ocean.)

Whenever you asked any of the fellows on the pier what their wives were doing, the answer was almost as if it had been scripted.

“Mine is just up the road having a happy time because she’s finally getting to see the beach house that was used in that chick flick ‘Nights in Rodanthe,’ ” said one man from upstate New York who wouldn’t provide his name. “I don’t want anybody to know where I am,” he insisted.

The tall, weather-beaten beach residence was prominently featured in the Richard Gere-Diane Lane love story. It unquestionably has added to the tourism dollars taken in by the town’s businesses. However, be careful when you come down this way to fish in the surf or from the great pier (a $10 user ticket is required) or even to stare at or shoot photos of the rickety house seen in the movie.

The dining-out costs at various restaurants can be sky-high, while the taste of the food and quantities in several instances was lower than an island sand flea. One example was a crabmeat stuffing atop a tiny number of shrimp. The whole deal tasted like something made by the Wonder Bread bakery, not a chef who knows seafood.

Back on the pier, Ron and Wanda Michaels of Martinsburg, W.Va., patiently sat on one of the many benches, holding rods whose lines were baited with shrimp. They waited for the telltale nibbles that make anglers jump up and set the hook. Nearby, Marylander Dale Knupp quickly pumped and reeled a silver-and-red metal Got-Cha lure, actually feeling fish that lived in the waters near the tall pilings slap at the lure. Somehow they avoided the sharp treble hooks.

“Man, doing this for more than 10 minutes at a time can wear out an arm,” Knupp said. “But I’m not giving up.”

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com. Mueller’s Inside Outside blog can be found at washingtontimes.com/sports. Also check out Mueller’s weekend fishing report and his Inside Outside blog at washingtontimes.com/sports.

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