Photos and words by FF Ambassador Cole Anderson.
There are stretches along the NC coast that seem like they could be forever lost to the outside world. Tucked away behind the tall coastal grasses and pines, salt water marshes dominate the landscape. Here, ducks lazily fly through the first and last breaths of the day while the Bob White Quail performs his gentle whistle. Since I was a boy I would spend my summers in the Outer Banks and in the sound side towns that dot the Crystal Coast, chasing surf and catching Redfish and Mackerel from the beach with Dad as he chewed on cigars. It will always be somewhere I feel a true sense of homecoming. One of my favorite things worth returning to every year; the large Bull Reds that turn inland to spawn at the end of every summer.
Leaving their near shore summer dwellings to head into river mouths to begin their annual duties, this marks the end of the Dog Days and the beginning of Fall. That is what brought me to Whortonsville, NC this August. It was supposed to be a work weekend, building and brushing duck blinds and doing some maintenance on camp in order to get ready for the upcoming season, however, we always manage to squeeze some fishing in somehow especially when the BIG pumpkins are in the patch.
The First Night
I came bumping into camp around 10:00 pm, late as usual, only to find that my compadres had already been out fishing for the evening and came back empty handed. After a quick pep talk, Waylon and I hopped aboard the 18’ Privateer and we struck out again into darkness. We set up in about 8’ of water on a previously marked spot, (top secret) and began tossing out rods with frozen mullet. It didn’t take long before the first rod sharply hunched over. It happened so quick and ‘matter a fact’ like, that we had no question what was on the other end. “BIG DRUM!” Matthew howled out at the first sight of the swirling bus.
“Midnight special, shine your light on me!”
A 53 incher and with a tag no less. We could have called in at that point and headed in after catching a fish that size but we liked our odds. Good thing too, because the spot continued to produced sizeable drum into the late hours of the night.
Recording the tag number to call into NC Wildlife the next day. This fish was approx 30 years old based on weight, length, and tag data.
The next morning came early, as it usually does at camp. We had a quick breakfast and gathered up rods for a quick trout fishing session.
Up before the rest, greeting the sun as it begins its day on the East coast.
Matt and Waylon heading out for the morning to catch some trout.
Waylon’s new responsibilities as the fish finder on the bow. He meticulously watched Matt’s popping cork rig for a bite all morning.
A couple of Pelican’s looking on as they dry the dew off of their wings.
Way-man suspicious of our fish catching abilities at this point and ready for his mid morning nap.
Matt and his partner in crime checking one last spot before heading back empty handed. We had several duck blinds to put up before we would be relieved our duties to fish that evening. So we gathered our tools and struck out. Having 10 guys in camp was a blessing this time around, as it made for short work.
Construction on the duck blind begins. A lot more to do before evening fishing rolls around.
Next up, getting baits ready for the evening fishing sessions and have a little dinner to help balance the day's beer drinking. But first, we had to shoot a little skeet and take in our beautiful surroundings. Sometimes you get so caught up with what’s next, you forget to enjoy the moment your in. Luckily, Drum Camp has some nice rocking chair lined porch where you can soak it all in.
Chores are done! Time to enjoy a casual afternoon shooting skeet from the dock.
The wait is over. Chores done. Baits caught. Time to head out and get to work.
The bite started early and fast. Rods pinned down one after another while we scrambled to get to them and pull fish into the boat.
Drag screaming as a 50 lb fish makes a run after spooking at the boat.
A moment of pure joy as Zach shows off his personal best Bull Red.
Drake sharing a moment with his catch before sending her on her way.
Drake snacking on some cold fried chicken while our fearless leader checks baits.
Taking a quick dip before heading back in for some cocktails on the porch
Night 2 was a success. All 8 people on the boat caught a drum and all before the sun went down. It was like a well oiled machine, and you can't ask for more than that. Now it was time to head back home in the dark one last time, there were stories to tell and bourbon to drink.
Reluctantly waking up again, it was time to pack up and clean camp before heading out, and we had some serious damage control to do. Right before parting ways, we made a last minute decision to run out to Cape Lookout to find schools of blitzing Albies.
We headed to the Cape on a last minute Albie mission. Slick calm conditions and some uncooperative fish made for a long, hot, and empty handed afternoon.
Cape Lookout Lighthouse standing watch as we patrol her shores.
It was a whirlwind of a weekend. It seemed like we had spent more hours awake fishing and in fellowship then we had sleeping, which is exactly how we like it. Eastern Carolina had once again treated us well. Fish were caught, meals were shared, new friends were made. But most importantly and perhaps surprisingly, we got a little work done and were invited back!
- Til next time Crystal Coast.