In the second installment of our article on fishing the Outer Banks, were going to take a closer look at charter fishing. To be considered 'a charter' it means the boat comes with a captain. Boats you can rent and drive yourself is not included in this installment, but you can learn more in our previous blog article.
Charters generally require a group of people and the number depends on the size of the boat. There is usually a flat cost for the day so whether you have 2 or 10 people in your fishing party, the amounts per person will vary. Charters include a blanket fishing license for all on board, so there's no need to bring your own. The Captain/mate will also let you know if your fish is within legal limits to keep, so there are no worries about breaking the rules there.
When on a fishing charter, surrounded by reflective water, the sun is intense! Be sure to bring plenty of sunscreen as well as sun protective clothing such as hats, sunglasses, and even a light jacket or long sleeve shirt. Some charters provide the option of purchasing drinks and snacks from them, while others let you bring your own. Ask about which one your charter does before boarding. Be sure to remember if you pack your own that boats have a 'no glass bottle' policy. Aluminum bottles, cans, and plastic bottles are fine.
Keep in mind that the approximate prices given below only inlclude the price of the charter. It's customary to tip the Captain/mate the same as you would a restaurant server for their service.
Gulf Stream Charters
This 8 hour charter is what most people think of when they thing 'charter'. It's a deep sea fishing expedition that goes after either trophy fish like Marlin, or eating fish like Tuna. It goes all the way out to the Gulf Stream where the largest fish hang out. It's important to note that while you can bring home eating fish (as long as you stay in a certain limits) trophy fish are strictly catch and release.
This is a great charter for the experienced fisher, and makes memories for a lifetime. However, young children and the elderly don’t find it nearly as fun because 8 hours on a moving boat is exhausting.
Best For: Experienced fishers
Average Price: $1500
Holds: 6 people
What You'll Catch: marlin, tuna, mackerel, dolphin, cobia
Be sure to tell your captain what you're hoping to catch before you go. This helps them plan where they take you, as well as the type of bait and poles used.
Half Day Ocean Charters
Half day charters are much shorter in duration than their full day counterparts. They only run about 4 hours. Because of this, they don’t go out as far, so that means no marlin. However there are still plenty of other fish you can catch, from giant flounder to trout and more. This is a perfect charter for a slightly less experienced angler who isn't sure they want to spend all day on a boat. It's also a great charter for families. Since you don't go out as far, the waves are much smaller and you arrive at your destination faster so you can start fishing sooner.
Best For: Families with older children; semi experienced fishers. Stripers, drum,
Average Price: $500
What You'll Catch: Flounder, speckled trout, bluefish, cobia
Makeup Ocean Charters
If you feel that the cost of a charter is prohibitive for only one or two people, then consider a makeup charter. It's a type ocean charter where one or two people combine with other singles to go out on a charter together and split the cost. Be sure you call the marina ahead of time to let them know you're interested in one. Then, when they have enough people interested for the same week, they'll give you a call. Make up charters, like regular charters, can either be full or half days.
If you have a younger family, are traveling with your parents, are prone to seasickness or really just want a day on the water, then an inshore charter is probably a better fit for your group. Inshore charters go on the much gentler waters of the Sound. The waves are small, so there is less chance of seasickness or of a child getting scared because they lost sight of land. (Inshore charters very rarely lose sight of land, and if you talk to the captain first, they can make sure land is always in sight.)
An inshore charter can be a full or a half day, the same as their ocean counterparts. Unlike the ocean, may different types of boats can go in the sound, including ocean boats. The numbers of people this boat can take vary between 4-6 people.
Best For: Families with younger/older members.
Average Price: $450-$950
Holds: 4-6 depending
What You'll Catch: smaller flounder, trout, spot, croaker
Pontoon Boat Charter
A Pontoon Boat Charter, such as the kind you get from our Explore the Shore Partner, obxpontoonman.com is the type of charter you get when spending a day on the water with the family is more important than fishing. A Pontoon boat gives you the smoothest ride on the water with very little chance of seasickness. Additionally, Pontoon boats are able to go into the shallower waters that boat with sharp keels cannot.
A Pontoon boat charters can accommodate Sound fishing, (you'll catch smaller fish) and crabbing. Of course, if you just want to spend the day exploring the surrounding islands, looking for dolphin and playing in the water instead of fishing, that's fine too.
Best For: The entire family, including small children and the elderly
Average Price: $485-$950
Holds: Up to 12
What You'll Catch: small flounder, croaker, spot, trout, large crabs
A headboat is a unique experience. It's a large boat that holds dozens of families. You all go out together for a half day and have fun fishing. This is perfect for the beginning fisher or the kids. You can bring your own drinks or concessions are available on the boat. Rods, reels, bait, fish bags and licenses are included. It's the best way to explore the idea of a charter before you invest in the big one. A normal headboat charter runs a half day. And if you're coming with an extra big family, it would be easy enough to rent the entire boat for your party.
Best For: Families with young children or the elderly
Average Price: $48 per person.
What You'll Catch: spot, croaker, trout, flounder
No matter how you choose to fish, the Outer Banks is the place to do it. There are enough different types of charters out there to make everyone happy from the most experienced angler to the first timer. And no matter which charter you choose, you're going keep those memories a lot longer than the fish it provides.