On a recent November Saturday my plans were to go for a short kayaking trip on the river, have lunch, and then head to the beach for a nice long hike along the Point at Emerald Isle. The week was a tough one, and I needed some serious time by myself. You can find a lot of solitude and peace at the far end of the Point.
I found that time to be alone but as is so often the case, I found it among the oyster rocks on the river. I never made it over to the Point that day, but I did find my way over the next afternoon. The river is at my back door and unless I go by boat to the Point, I have to get in a car and drive for a few minutes. That being the case, the river usually wins since time in the car rarely helps anyone find peace.
From the moment I started paddling the White Oak River in the fall of 2006, I knew it was a special place. However, it is a river you have to take the time to get to know. Getting up the White Oak River requires a little zigging and zagging in a power boat unless you want to park your boat unceremoniously on the oyster rocks that populate the lower part of the river.
However, if you are comfortable in a kayak, the White Oak, even as it stretches to almost two miles in width, can be a very friendly place. To be honest, I feel a lot more comfortable in the middle of the White Oak by myself in a kayak than I do in the middle of Bogue Inlet in our skiff by myself.
In my seven years of kayaking, often three or four times a week during March through December, I have never seen another kayaker in my section of the river. I have seen some in the lower section of the river near Jones Island, but our middle section up by Raymond’s Gut is a peaceful place most of the year. We get a few fishermen in skiffs especially during the fall. However, even a skiff with a good captain cannot get in the area which I enjoy so much. The most annoyance that comes from a skiff when I am on the oyster rocks would be a barking dog.
Many rivers have shallow water on their edges, and while the White Oak has plenty of that, some of the most challenging shallow water is in the middle of the river surrounded by mounds of rocks made of oyster shells or oyster rocks as we call them. When the fish are in the river, the shallows between the oyster rocks are among their favorite feeding places.
Sometimes if you are in the right spot at the right time, you can bring home some beautiful fish like these in this picture. They were caught Saturday, November 9, 2013. The drum was 21″, one trout was 19″ and the other was 18″. I returned a 16″ puppy drum to the water that same day. In the same spot on the previous day I caught a 17″ trout. It is days like that which keep you fishing. I take pleasure in fishing with artificial lures so that makes catching a few nice ones even more satisfying.
Of course if you are looking for serenity and beauty, fish are always optional. I make a lot of trips to the White Oak when I come back without fish. Sometimes, I do not even take a fishing rod, but almost always I have a camera with me. The beauty that I find on the river is often breathtaking and if I catch a fish for dinner that is just icing on my cake.
I often lose track of the time that I spend on the oyster rocks. That recent November Saturday, I thought that I had been out on the rocks an hour or so. It turns out that I was out in the river nearly three hours. When I came back, my GPS tracking program showed that I had paddled and floated nearly five miles on what can only be called a stunning Saturday on the White Oak.
If you have never been out on the river when the water sparkles and gleams, I can highly recommend making the effort. The images will lock themselves into you mind for a long time. I often go to sleep with the river’s sparkling blue water in my mind’s eye. That is not a bad way to fall asleep.
If you cannot get out onto the river, I can recommend this album of my November 16, 2013, trip. You will have a hard time finding that many beautiful blue water photos anywhere else.