Changing Coastal Seasons
A Stretch of Amazing Weather
There is no doubt that fall is here but with just a hint of colors in the trees, we often go looking for golden colors on the beach or nearby waters.
While most places focus on the drop in the air temperature during fall, here on the coast the water temperature is what most of us watch.
As we approach November, the temperature in the surf has dropped down from the eighties but is still warm at seventy-one Fahrenheit. Fishermen expect that with cooling water temperatures fishing will get better. As a preview to those better times I managed to catch a two pound flounder on September 19. Then fishing slowed again as we got grazed by all the moisture that nearly washed away South Carolina. Fishing success has been up and down since then.
Actually we were well into a very nice fall when it turned pretty wet at the first of October. I sort of thought of it as our good weather luck running out. Turns out we were really lucky since areas south and west of us got much more rain. Our rain stopped on October 5, and until October 27 when we got 1.25 inches, there was not another drop of precipitation.
Our streak of great weather started with some perfect drying conditions and morphed into three weeks of unbeatable weather. It was actually dry enough that we were watering our bean and tomato crops. Fall gardening here along the coast can produce some crops even nicer than the summer ones but it is a little bit of a gamble. We are already picking beans and my wife is planning on cooking some in the next day or so. We grew up eating lots of green beans in the Piedmont so we plant white half runner beans to bring back the memories of all those Sunday lunches with fried chicken, green beans, and mashed potatoes.
Gardening might be a gamble but fishing is always more so. Fall fishing is a great tradition here on the Crystal Coast but it is not nearly as easy as it used to be. I am always pleased when I catch something nice. I did catch a puppy drum at the same time I caught my recent flounder but it was not long enough to keep. I typically will not keep a drum less than 20 inches long.
By the end of October summer crowds are gone and the big local festivals have run their course. There are still a few families vacationing with young children. The fishermen are on the beach or in their spot yachts (small boats) hoping to fill some coolers with fish for the winter. Last year's showing of spot yachts was well down from one of the peak years like shown in this picture taken in 2011.
If you are not into fishing, there some marsh cruises scheduled for the end of October and into November. If you go to the Friends of Hammocks Beach and Bear Island website, ten dollars will get you a seat on the Lady Swan which is also still doing private cruise for twelve or more people. I can guarantee that you will have a great time and see some of the most beautiful scenery in the area. On top of that you will be supporting a great cause.
Fall is also a great time to visit the Aquarium in Pine Knoll Shores. We went early in the afternoon on October 23 and it was like having our own private aquarium. In the summer it is hard to get near the big tank, but last week we had it to ourselves as you can see in this YouTube video.
There are also holiday events on the horizon including the annual Swansboro by Candlelight Shopping Event on November 14 from 5:00 pm - 9:00 pm and one of my favorites, the Emerald Isle Christmas Parade and tree lighting starting at 3:00 PM on November 28. Those two events together usually do a very good job of setting the tone for a peaceful holiday season by the wonderful coastal waters that make our area so special. Emerald Isle also hosts an Arts & Crafts event on November 28 before the parade.
Residents on the Crystal Coast expect great weather this time of year and we usually get it. It is not unusual to be on the beach even after Thanksgiving and even in shorts sometimes in December. It is good to remember that it usually takes a long time to cool down the water that moderates our temperatures. Of course once it is cool, it takes us a while to warm up in late spring. That protects us from early heat. Much of the summer the beach areas are thankfully a little cooler than the mainland. Sometime in late fall or early winter, we have a seasonal reversal and the beach becomes warmer than the mainland. It just adds a little bit of variety to life here.
Speaking of spice, we have a new restaurant in Swansboro in the same strip mall as the Post Office. It is called the Olea Mediterranean Kitchen. We have eaten there twice so far and enjoyed it both times. I had some great kabobs with Greek salad and rice. The desserts are heavenly.
Also of note, the local oysters are here. I just had lunch at the Swansboro Yacht Club and enjoyed half a peck of the salty local taste treat. The oysters and clam chowder at the Yacht Club were very good. The fried fish basket with homemade chips and hush puppies will not be ordered again. If you want fried fish there are better places.
If you have been following the Swansboro Walmart issue, the group fighting the Walmart seems to have run out of money so it looks like there will be a Walmart in the area's future.
I created an online album of pictures of the high water that we had in early October and another album of beach and water pictures taken during September. They will give you a great feel for the area. If you are going to be over on the island make sure you take time to stop the new visitor center. It is really nicely done and packed with information, flyers, and very friendly, helpful people.
If you would like to see our previous newsletter, you will find it at this link.
You can find more articles about the area at Life Along The Crystal Coast and lots of articles about living here at the index for my Saltwater on my Feet blog.
Enjoy fall no matter where you are and be sure to visit the beach before the cold weather finds us in December. We hope to have our next newsletter out just after Thanksgiving.