Depending on where you grew up, you might or might not know about the tradition of fall fishing on the southeast coast. I was lucky to grow up in North Carolina and have some family members who made the annual pilgrimage to the coast and almost always came back with coolers full of fish.
Unfortunately I was not old enough to take part in the epic trips where they fished a week at a time from the Core Banks. While the tradition might not be as strong as it once was, plenty of people still head to the coast for fishing as fall arrives.
The best reason is that fall is when the fish are biting. People catch fish most of the year, but fish are much harder to catch in summer and your odds of catching a nice fish close to shore are much better in fall.
Another thing lost on many in the non-fishing world is that we fishermen are a very fragmented lot. Some of us will fish just about any way if given the opportunity and then there are those of us who have grown to love fishing a certain way and typically stick to what we know and what is successful for us.
My personal history with fishing goes back over six decades to when my Uncle Henry put a catfish on a line without me knowing it and then handed me the rod and reel. Even at three years old I was as hooked as the catfish. I have been fishing ever since whenever I could find the time. I have plenty of fishing tales and even reliable witnesses to some stories so beware of long car rides with me.
I have been a serious fly fisherman, chased fish with my skiff in the ocean, and even fished in Alaska many years ago. Now I prefer to stalk fish with my kayak in the big coastal river that is my neighbor. I will still fish from the skiff a few times each year and even fish the surf , but if I can choose, I will be on the White Oak River oyster rocks in my kayak looking for drum.
You could say that I am coastal river kayak fisherman, but you would have to qualify it by saying that I only fish using artificial baits. There are others who fish the same river and use live bait. I like the challenge of artificial bait. Fishing with artificial bait also suits my personality.
The only time I use bait and it usually is dead bait is when someone visits. Usually they are really interested in catching something even if it is too small to keep or not edible. Edible has a broad definition depending on how hungry you are for fish. Usually a tiny chunk of shrimp on the right sized hook will catch something if you drag it across the bottom for awhile. Bringing a croaker to the boat makes some folks happy and I am pleased to help them achieve their dreams.
However, there are no croakers in my dreams. I dream of drum, trout, and flounder. Fortunately I have figured out where and how to catch them. The problem is that there are times when they are either not around or are overly resistant to the charms of a stinky gulp. Also there are not as many fish in the water as there once were. We are lucky that there are still enough to keep most of us dedicated fishermen going.
It should be no surprise that sometimes I like to fish even when I know that the chances of catching a fish are slim. There are places where fish are just optional, being there is enough. Then there are times when I catch fish with the knowledge that I will throw back everything that I catch. I never catch more than my wife and i along with a fish-starved friend can eat.
At least once this fall you will find me knee deep in saltwater out on the Point at Emerald Isle. If I am lucky I might catch a Spanish mackerel or a bluefish, but actually I fish in the surf to enjoy the moment not necessarily to catch something. There is something magical about having your feet in still warm salt water and casting into the beautiful waters off the Point. It is a popular spot but as the fall wears on, the crowds will dwindle.
There are other ways of fishing. Many people love fishing from the pier, some from a charter boat, a party boat, or even with a guide. That is one of the great things about fishing. There are plenty of ways to enjoy fishing and there are even some families who get to do it together. If you are lucky, someday you might get a cooler full of fish to keep the fishing dream alive.