July 17th, 2019

Outer Banks catch of the day

By Steve MacNaull on April 20, 2019.

Photo by Sumner Mattingly
Travel writer Steve MacNaull and his son, Alex, show off part of their catch after fishing with The Albatross Fleet in the Pamlico Sound off North Carolina's Outer Banks.

Damn, this fish is delicious.

Of course, I’m biased in my assessment of the catch of the day we’re gobbling up at Sonny’s Restaurant on Hatteras Island in North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

After all, my 26-year-old son Alex and I caught the bluefish, triggerfish and mackerel ourselves just two hours earlier in the adjacent Pamlico Sound.

We’d been out angling with Captain Ernie Foster and First Mate Sumner Mattingly of The Albatross Fleet and had a startlingly successful morning.

As soon as Sumner launched four fishing rods in trolling formation, the bluefish start to bite.

Ernie may have captained the boat to his prime spot at the mouth of the Hatteras Inlet and the first mate been responsible for baiting the hooks and casting the lines, but Alex and I take all the glory.

We coax the catch repeatedly to the boat with rhythmic tugs on the rods punctuated by frantic reeling, huge grins on our faces.

Sated with a big catch, we motor back to dock chatting excitedly of fishing conquests past, present and future.

The sky is light blue, the water choppy and we’re famished.

Luckily, Albatross has a deal with Sonny’s to fry up proud anglers’ catches for lunch.

We’re sent off with the prime filets as BYOF (bring your own fish) customers to devour some of our catch lightly fried with French fries and cole slaw.

My son and I are lured to the Outer Banks not just for fishing bragging rights, but the region’s Wright Brothers First Flight history, horseback riding, beaches, barbecue and Southern hospitality.

Our horseback riding with Equine Adventures, also on Hatteras Island, is through maritime forest and along wide swathes of Atlantic Ocean beaches.

As a chain of skinny barrier island off the coast of North Carolina, the Outer Banks geography is all sand dunes and beaches.

The softness of the sand, and consistent Atlantic winds, is what attracted Wilbur and Orville Wright to Kitty Hawk on the Outer Banks for the first four flights by a motorized airplane in 1903.

Alex and I check out the newly refurbished Wright Brothers National Memorial that commemorates the exact take off and landing points of those four short world-changing flights in a contraption made by the brothers of wood, cloth, wire and bicycle parts.

We’re inspired to take flight ourselves and book a hang gliding lesson with Kitty Hawk Kites in Jockey’s Ridge State Park to run off the tallest sand dune and fly.

As beginners, our five solo flights are as short as Wilbur and Orville’s, but they are a blast and give us the same thrill as the aviation pioneers.

Even our accommodations are a nod to the brothers as we stay at the Days Inn Wilbur and Orville Wright.

The oceanside location also means lounging and jogging on the wide beach and splashing in the Atlantic.

It’s also walking distance from Outer Banks Brewing Station, which we’ll frequent more than once for celebratory craft beers and pork barbecue.

Air Canada has boosted daily service from Toronto, and will soon inaugurate flights from Montreal, to Raleigh, North Carolina, which is a three-and-a-half hour drive from the Outer Banks.

The flights are on modern Embraer and CRJ jets, not Wright Flyers or hang gliders.

Check out OuterBanks.com, AlbatrossFleet.com, KittyHawk.com and AirCanada.ca.

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