Fishing on the Outer Banks

The Outer Banks has been a favorite vacation spot since the 1950’s and one of the things that made it so famous is the fishing. From surf fishing to charters, our fishing experience is second to none!  Part of the reason that our fishing is so great is that we are surrounded by water.  Another reason is that the Gulf Stream and Labrador currents run very close to the Outer Banks, providing warm water and a wide variety of large game fish. 

Below is part one of our 2-part article on Outer Banks Fishing with a focus on fishing from the land.  Our next article will cover Charter Boat Fishing on the Outer Banks. 

Please Note:  Fishing in North Carolina from the land requires a license. 

Surf Fishing

Surf fishing is the most common fishing on the Outer Banks. It’s also the best way to introduce children to fishing. You simply get a pole, some bait, a fishing license, and cast into the water from shore.  You can catch some nice sized fish this way, some even large enough to eat.  Of course, what you’ll catch depends largely on the season, and whatever’s passing by. It’s all a matter of luck when you’re shore fishing.

The best idea for beginners is to stop someplace like Bob’s Bait and Tackle to pick up bait, tackle, advice, and a list of size limits for fish.

Best For: Family Fishing

Average Price: The cost of a license for each fishing family member

What You’ll Catch: drum, mackerel, spot, croaker, flounder, bluefish, trout

Pier Fishing   

There’s a little less luck involved in pier fishing and more skill. This is because fish love hanging around piers to eat the stuff that grows along the pilings. Larger fish come to eat the smaller fish that like to eat the growth on the pier. Also, because a pier can get you out at least a hundred feet further than the shore, you’ll be able to catch bigger fish that don’t come close to shore.

There are many piers on the Outer Banks. However, the Outer Banks Pier in South Nags Head is our Fun N Sun partner. This means one member of your crew can enjoy a whole day fishing on the pier for free. And you can even do it again tomorrow.  Piers do not require licenses as they have a blanket license to cover everyone. They also sell bait and rent tackle so you don’t have to buy your own.

Best For: people who have fished before (But kids are also welcome)

Average Price: Circa $12 per person, (or one person free on the Outer Banks Pier with Fun N Sun Pass)

What You’ll Catch: Much larger drum, mackerel, spot, croaker, flounder, bluefish, trout

Renting Your Own Boat

Renting your own boat is different from chartering one, because area charters feature Captains, while boat rental companies will simply rent you the boat.  Rental boats are geared mainly for the calm, shallow waters of the Sound.  It’s relatively difficult for people unfamiliar with the area to take a boat out in the ocean.   The changing sandbars and unpredictable currents are not for the casual boater.  

On the other hand, the Sound has small waves and is easy for even novices to maneuver.  Most often, there are two types of boats to rent; an outboard motor type, (think dingy with a motor) and a pontoon boat.

Pontoon boats are best for shallow waters, exploration of the surrounding islands and for those who care more about the smoothness of the ride than the speed of the boat.   They are also better for large families. An outboard motor type boat can go faster and go out further in less time than a pontoon boat. It also holds fewer people. It’s the equivalent of the type of high powered car when you can feel the road under you, only with this boat, you can feel the waves under you. Depending on how much you love waves, that may or may not be your type of boat.

In either case, you’ll catch the same kind of fish you’ll catch on shore, only smaller ones. Many fish use the gentle sound as a nursery for their babies. It’s rare to catch a truly large fishing the sound, but it does happen. You’ll want to make sure you bring your license and a fish size guide. 

Places such as The Outer Banks Fishing Pier also do boat rentals.   Check out their website for details. 

Best For: families who want to fish and explore the area

Average Price: $99-$499 depending on size and length of time (bring your own license)

What You’ll Catch: smaller drum, mackerel, spot, croaker, flounder, bluefish, trout, pigfish, pinfish



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