For most of my life I have been in love with the water. For the last seven years or so it might be more accurate to say that I have been smitten by the water.
In 2003, my wife and I travelled to Beaufort, North Carolina, for our thirtieth anniversary. Beaufort is a special place and while it took three years before we found a nearby place that we could afford on the Crystal Coast, we moved here in the fall of 2006.
One of the first things that I did that fall was to purchase a kayak. While the river in our backyard, the White Oak, does not look huge on this map, it is close to two miles wide near where we live about three miles up the river from Swansboro. Even today the river is pretty impressive as you see from my picture taken sitting in my kayak looking down river towards Swansboro, Cedar Point and Jones Island.
That first fall the river was actually a little intimidating in a kayak just twelve feet long, but I feel very comfortable on the river now. I know many of the oyster rocks very well and I love to work their fish-holding pockets on a beautiful fall day like Saturday, October 26.
In late spring of 2007, we purchased a 20 ft Sundance skiff which now resides on a lift behind our home on Raymond’s Gut which leads to the White Oak River. Between the kayak and the skiff, I get plenty of time on the water. The river looks very different from the higher view that you get from a skiff.
Taking the skiff down the river to Swansboro is one of my favorite things to do. There is something really special about getting a boat trimmed just right to glide across the water just barely breaking the surface. With North Carolina’s temperate climate, I manage to run the boat just about every week of the year at least once. I do get to a point in January or February when I end up wearing jeans, a jacket, and gloves, but as I am writing this, it is almost November and I am still in shorts on the boat. Sometime I can say that even in December when almost summer-like weather visits.
While I really enjoy our skiff, being in the kayak and out on the river is truly special. You really get close to the water and the moods of the river. I have become so familiar with the river, that I probably go out on days when most people would stay at home. There are usually places that I can go which keep me out of the wind and if it is truly rough on the river, I just stay in our inlet.
One of the great things about the White Oak is that it is an uncrowded, very clean river. As you can see from the picture at the top, taken on Saturday, October 26, you do not have to fight for space on the river. This time of year there is usually a boat or two in sight, but it is still not unusual to have the river to yourself except for an occasional commercial fisherman passing through the oyster rocks.
Once in a while you find yourself on the river when the tides and winds work with each other to keep you in one place. That equilibrium on the river is a great thing for fishermen like myself. Fall is the perfect time for kayaking, and on cool mornings it is actually warmer out on the river than it is walking around on land because the water is still over 60F.
It is not unusual for me to kayak into December or even January. By February when the water becomes cold, kayaking with only a fraction of an inch of plastic between you and the river becomes a little challenging and sometimes it takes until May for our warm kayaking water to return.
In the fall of the year I spend a lot of time sitting on the oyster rocks and fishing in the holes around the rocks by twitching a jig dressed up with a Gulp. You can catch almost anything which is not surprising considering the tradition of good fishing during the fall on the Southern Outer Banks.
With great fall weather here for the next week, I am hoping for a nice trout for dinner one night in the next few days, but obviously I will settle for flounder or a red drum. Fresh fish nearby is just one of the benefits of living on a big coastal river where water is on your doorstep. November can be one of our best fishing months so the odds are in my favor for catching something tasty.
I wrote this post about life on the river over three years ago. It appears that I am even more enthusiastic about it now than I was then. I have many albums of kayaking pictures posted and you can sample them with this one taken recently during a low tide when all the oyster rocks were visible. When the water gets high in the marshes, the river looks even bigger. If boating in a skiff is more your style, try this album of a trip to the marshes across the Intracoastal Waterway at Swansboro.
No matter which way you choose to get on the water, you will have a lot of fun on a river like the White Oak.