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Outer Banks Area Features

Fishing in & Around the Carolina Coast

  By: Joe Malat

Few places in the world offer the variety of fishing opportunities and challenges that may be found along the Outer Banks. From freshwater to salt, it’s all here.

More than sixty miles of sandy beaches are a surfcaster’s dream, and a line cast into these fishy waters might produce anything from a half-pound spot up to an eighty-pound cobia. Fall and spring are known as the “prime times” for surf fishing, when speckled trout thrill light tackle anglers and jumbo striped bass, bluefish or red drum can challenge even the most experienced anglers. The summer surf holds lots of spot, croakers, pompano, sea mullet, Spanish mackerel and bluefish.

Throughout the year, shorebound anglers can wade along the “soundside” of the barrier islands. Fly fishermen and light tackle fans will discover one of the best-kept fishing secrets of the Outer Banks as they cast for speckled trout, striped bass, flounder and puppy drum. 

Free public parking areas are found along the soundside and oceanfront. The courteous and friendly folks at local tackle shops or visitors bureaus can provide tips for those who might be fishing on the Outer Banks for the first time.

Pier fishing is a great family event and there are five ocean piers from Kill Devil Hills to Cape Hatteras. Rods, reels and rigs are available for rent, and dangling a baited bottom rig from one of the piers is a terrific way to pass the time of day, or night. From summer through the early fall, many of the piers are open for fishing 24 hours a day. Hours are adjusted seasonally at other times of the year. At some pier house restaurants, you can even have your catch cooked to order and enjoy a fresh fish dinner!

The Gulf Stream sets the stage for some of the most exciting fishing found anywhere in the world. Imagine the thrill as a massive blue marlin charges from the deep to inhale a lure trailing only yards behind the boat. That feeling kicks into high gear when the marlin, weighing nearly 500 pounds, takes the bait and leaps ten feet into the air. At the end of the fight, both angler and fish are winners when the fish is unhooked and released to swim away unharmed.

Blue marlin, white marlin and sailfish, locally known as “billfish,” are but one element of offshore fishing. Some of the best tasting fish in the sea, such as yellowfin tuna, wahoo, king mackerel and dolphin (also called mahi-mahi) can be caught on a Gulf Stream charter.

Near-shore waters provide an abundance of fish for boaters. Spanish mackerel, bluefish, red drum, sea bass, cobia, and amberjack can be caught within a few miles of land. During the past several years, striped bass have made some memorable appearances during the winter. Striper season kicks into high gear in December and January. 

Knowledgeable guides are available for offshore charters or backcountry fishing safaris, and local captains are among the best in the world. They furnish all of the tackle, bait, and equipment for fishing trips, which may be arranged through many of the Outer Banks marinas and boat docks.

Experienced anglers with their own ocean-going boats can also share in the blue water bounty. Staff at any marina or tackle shop will gladly provide the latest information about where to go, what’s biting, and how to hook ‘em.

The Outer Banks is not just about saltwater fishing. Kitty Hawk Bay, Currituck Sound, and several inland lakes and rivers offer largemouth bass, striped bass, white perch, sunfish and catfish that will interest freshwater fishing fanatics.

Both fresh and salt water fishing licenses are required and are available at many of the Outer Banks tackle shops and marinas.

2019 Fishing Tournaments

(schedules subject to change)

Fritz Boyden Memorial Annual Youth Fishing Tournament
Avalon, Nags Head, Jennette’s & Outer Banks Fishing Piers; June 19, 8am-noon

Dare County Boat Builders Tournament
Registration: July 24; Fishing: July 25-27

30th Alice Kelly Ladies Memorial Billfish Tournament
Registration: August 10; Fishing: August 11

35th Annual Pirate’s Cove Billfish Tournament
Registration: August 12; Fishing: August 13-16

69th Annual Nags Head Surf Fishing Club Tournament
October 9-11

22nd Annual Manteo Rotary "Inshore Slam" Fishing Tournament
October 5-6

Fish Where How Season Bait
Amberjack Ocean Casting, live bait Summer Bucktails, menhaden, pinfish
Blue marlin Offshore Trolling Spring, summer Lures, ballyhoo
Bluefin tuna Ocean, offshore Trolling, casting Winter Lures, menhaden
Bluefish Sounds, surf, piers Bottom, casting, trolling Spring, summer, fall Mullet, spoons
Cobia Ocean Casting, live bait Summer Bucktails, live bait
Croaker Sounds, surf, piers Bottom Spring, summer, fall Bloodworms, shrimp, squid
Dolphin Offshore Trolling Summer Lures, ballyhoo
Flounder Sounds, surf, piers Bottom Spring, summer, fall Squid, live mullet, shrimp
Gray trout Sounds, surf, piers Bottom, casting Spring, fall Squid, jigs, spoons
King mackerel Ocean, piers Trolling, live bait Spring, fall, winter Lures, menhaden
Pompano Surf, piers Bottom Summer Shrimp, sand fleas
Red drum Sounds, surf, piers Bottom Spring, summer, fall Mullet, jigs, sand fleas
Sailfish Offshore Trolling Summer Lures, ballyhoo
Sea bass Ocean Bottom Spring, summer, fall Squid
Spanish mackerel Ocean, surf, piers Trolling, casting Sprig, summer, fall Spoons
Speckled trout Sounds, surf, piers Casting, bottom Spring, summer, fall Jigs, shrimp, cut bait
Spot Sounds, surf, piers Bottom Summer, fall Bloodworms, shrimp
Striped bass Ocean, surf, sounds Trolling, casting, Fall, winter Bucktails, spoons, live bait
Tile fish Ocean Bottom Spring, summer, fall Squid
Wahoo Offshore Trolling Spring, summer Lures
White marlin Offshore Trolling Summer, fall Lures, ballyhoo
Yellowfin tuna Offshore Trolling Spring, summer, fall Lures, ballyhoo
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