Anglers should be aware of current regulations including license requirements, seasons, size and bag limits.
Anyone over the age of 16 visiting the Outer Banks who wishes to fish in North Carolina's coastal waters will be required to purchase and carry a Coastal Recreational Fishing License or CRFL. This means if you are standing on the beach surf casting or throwing a line from the shore on the sound-side you will need a license. Even if you are in a private boat on the ocean or sound, a CRFL will be required. You will also need one if you are crabbing.
The cost of a NC CRFL is:
This license can be purchased online or at most area bait and tackle shops and at Wal-Mart. The area fishing piers and charter boats have a blanket license for their patrons so you don't have to buy one if you are pier fishing or booking a charter.
Surf and Pier Fishing
The Outer Banks is home to many Fishing Piers that offer weekly and yearly passes. Kitty Hawk Pier, Avalon Pier, Nags Head Pier, Jennettes Pier and the Outer Banks Fishing Pier.
The waters of the Atlantic provide a bountiful harvest year round. It is a thrill to reel in your line and anticipate what species of fish will be on your hook! Dawn & dusk tend to be the best time to catch fish throughout the year. Most piers shut down November through April however, if open, Rockfish (Stripped Bass), Blow toads, and Ling Cod are available to jump on your hook! Come spring, Bluefish, Speckled Trout, Spanish Mackerel , Flounder, and Cobia start hitting. The summer months offer an abundant selection including Cobia and King Mackerel from the ends of the piers. Jigging for Bluefish, Speckled Trout and Spanish mackerel using "Gotchya" lures or with silver spoons at dawn & dusk is best. Bottom fishermen can hook into a multitude of fish including Spot, Croaker, Sea Mullet, Flounder, Bluefish, Speckled & Gray Trout, Spadefish, Sheepshead, Black Drum, Skates and Stingrays. Bloodworms, strips of cut squid or mullet and sand fleas are the best bait to use for bottom fishing. The fall months of September and October are some of the best as everything mentioned above is biting along with Puppy Drum and Pompano. The waters are warm and the occasional storm gets the fish looking for food. All piers have bait and tackle shops and most have restaurants or offer food and ice from the shops conveniently located right on the planks.
Offshore Charter Fishing
Offshore charter boats usually carry a maximum of six people. The trip takes the entire day. The boats leave early in the morning from Oregon Inlet Fishing Center or Pirates Cove Marina. Professional captains and mates run the charters. All bait, tackle and fishing equipment is provided. You do not have to have a fishing license to fish on a charter boat. You will need to bring, food drinks and of course a cooler big enough to take home your feast! The charters take their charter groups to the Gulf Stream which is about 30 miles off-shore. Try your skills at landing a Yellow Fin, Black Fin or Blue Fin Tuna. You can also let you captain know in advance if you would like to try for some Wahoo, King Mackerel, or Dolphin (Mahi Mahi).
The Outer Banks is known as "The Billfish Capital of the World" and for good reason. Blue marlins, white marlins and sailfish are caught and released by Outer Banks charters by the hundreds every year. The season for billfish is long, with the peak for blue marlin arriving in June and white marlin and sailfish most plentiful in August and September. All are caught consistently from late spring to early fall.
Inshore Charter Fishing
Inshore fishing generally means that you are fishing within 5 miles of the coast, but can include Oregon inlet, or the sounds. Professional captains run the charters. All bait, tackle and fishing equipment is provided. You do not have to have a fishing license to fish on a charter boat. Rock (Stripped Bass) is the fish during the winter months of November through March. Bluefish are also available during this time if the water doesn't get too cold. King Mackerel, Bluefish, Cobia, False Albacore as well as Red Drum, Rockfish, Trout and Flounder are on the menu during the summer months. Some Inshore charters offer wreck fishing, which offer Spadefish, Sheepshead, Black Sea Bass, and Tautogs. A few charters offer spearfishing trips to these sights as well. The fall months tend to be most productive with almost all species of fish available.
Freshwater & Brackish Water Fishing
A valid Freshwater NC Fishing license is required to fish in fresh and brackish waters. Largemouth Bass, Crappie, White Perch, Chain Pickerel, Pumpkinseed, Catfish, Gar, and Bluegills are found in most bodies of freshwater in the area. Go west on 64 to the Buffalo Road intersection in Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. Sawyer Lake, Sandy Ridge Guf, Boat Bay Lake and Milltail Creek are proven hot spots. Lake Mattamuskeet down 264 near Engelhard is another great place for freshwater fishing. It also has some of the biggest Blue Claw Crabs anywhere!
Grab a net, a cooler, some chicken necks or backs, get some string and small weights and you're good to go! Tie one end of the string to a pole and throw the chicken line out there and wait for it to move. Slowly pull in the bait with your Blue Claw Crab hanging on to it and quietly and quickly slip your net under it to capture the delicacy. A valid NC Fishing license is required to crab. Crabs have size limits and limits on how many you can keep per person and per boat. The best places to crab are Colington Harbor Bridge, Oregon Inlet (sound side) or in any area on the sounds (canals) with a dock or bulkhead.
A valid NC Fishing license is required to clam. Clams have size limits depending on the species and there are limits on how many you can keep per person and per boat. Having a boat is the best way to access clams in this area. You will need a clam rake and a floating container to put them in as you clam the area. The best places to go raking for clams the northern Outer Banks is the area west of the Oregon Inlet Bridge in the Pamlico Sound. The sand bars and islands that are covered by at least 1 feet of water during low tide provide the best habitat. These clams are mostly the quahog variety (which are large) and are excellent for chowder. The areas around Hatteras and Ocracoke are best for clamming because of a larger variety and are abundant.
Dare County Public Boat Ramp- Turn west off 158 bypass onto Kitty Hawk Road and follow it for approximately three miles. Turn left onto Bob Perry Road. Follow Bob Perry Road for approximately one mile and turn right at the Dare County Public Boat Ramp sign. Parking is available for approximately 30 vehicles and trailers, with access to a picnic area. The canal to the sound is about 200 feet long, with a depth of approximately 5 feet.
North Carolina Fish & Wildlife Public Boat Ramp and Access at Dock Street- Off Bay Drive, Kill Devil Hills Ramps, docks, breakwater and 12 paved parking spaces. From the East end of Wright Memorial Bridge on NC158 E over Currituck Sound, go 6.0 mi. to Avalon Drive. Turn right onto Avalon Drive and travel 0.6mi. to Bay Drive. Turn left onto Bay Drive and travel 0.1 mi. to Dock Street. The area is located adjacent to the intersection of Bay Dr. and Dock St. (shallow draft vessels recommended)
National Park Service Boat Ramp at Oregon Inlet- Located at the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center off Hwy. 12 behind the fishing center. Parking is available for approximately 75 vehicles and trailers.
Fish & Wildlife Boat Ramp - Washington Baum Bridge- Located on the west side of the Washington Baum Bridge, directly across from Pirate's Cove Marina. There is parking available for approximately 50 vehicles and trailers, with several railed walkways that provide easy access for recreational fishing. From the junction of US64/264 and NC345 east of Manteo, take US64/264 east 1.0 mile to the Washington Baum Bridge. Turn right onto the access road at the bridge. The area is located under the west end of the bridge.
Dare County Boat Ramp- As you enter the Village of Wanchese, bear left at the intersection and continue for approximately one mile to Fisherman's Wharf Restaurant. The boat ramp is on the south side between Fisherman's Wharf Restaurant and Moon Tillett's Fish Company. Parking is very limited depending on commercial activity.
Fish & Wildlife Boat Ramp - Bowerstown Road- Located in the Town of Manteo on Roanoke Island. Turn left onto Bowerstown Road located at the intersection of Hwy. 64 and Bowerstown Road (next to CVS Pharmacy). Follow Bowerstown Road approximately one mile and make a left on California (you will be facing EMS Station 2). Stay on California for about 1/8 mile and the boat ramp is on the right hand side. There is parking available for approximately 30 vehicles and trailers.
Dare County Public Boat Ramp- Located in the Town of Manteo on Roanoke Island. Turn right at the stop light on Budleigh Street and follow it to the end and make a left. The boat ramp is adjacent to the bridge that goes to the Elizabeth II historical site. There is very limited parking.
Dare County Public Boat Ramp- In the Village of Manns Harbor located on the mainland. Cross the William B. Umstead Bridge (on the north end of Roanoke Island) going west and turn left off Hwy. 64 onto Old Ferry Dock Road. Very limited access.
Fish & Wildlife Boat Ramp - Mashoes Road- Located off of Mashoes Road in the Village of Manns Harbor. Cross over William B. Umstead Bridge going west approximately 1/8 mile and turn right onto Mashoes Road. Follow Mashoes Road about four miles and turn left at the Fish and Wildlife sign. Parking is available for approximately 15 vehicles and trailers. This is a wooden ramp; shallow water and very limited parking.
Fish & Wildlife Public Boat Ramp- Located one mile east of the Alligator River Bridge off Hwy. 64. Parking available.