The Haddis Catch

The Haddis Catch

Outer Banks Fishing Guide

Catch Your Share of Spanish Mackerel This Summer While Pier Fishing the OBX

Summertime brings a lot of visitors to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The days and water increase in warmth in early May, inviting a multitude of people and sea life to relax and enjoy this popular spot. The barrier islands provide anglers the exciting opportunity to catch targeted fish from the OBX piers.

North Carolina fishing regulations provide that fishing piers carry their own license which extends to anglers fishing there. Walk over to the pier, pay an inexpensive admission fee, find a place to sit, and cast out your line without worrying about whether you remembered your license.

Spanish Mackerel

The Outer Banks Fishing Pier at South Nags Head is a smaller pier with a restaurant and tackle shop. It is seasonably open 24 hours a day. Anglers find a myriad of fish depending on the time, weather, and temperature. Spanish mackerel usually run from May through September and make a fine catch of tasty fish. Keepers start at 12 inches. Use the photo op to send pictures to friends and family.

Reeling in Spanish mackerel is the same from one OBX pier to another. Set up during the early morning hours or a couple of hours before nightfall because the fish bites better during low light. Know what to look for. Spanish mackerel has a green back that shades to silver along the sides. Golden yellow spots are scattered below and above the lateral line, which gently curves to the base of the tail. The front of the dorsal fin is black.

Weight ranges from one to seven pounds, although anglers may bring in a lunkers weighing ten pounds or more! The fish is a speedy runner and puts up an impressive fight. Three popular methods attract its attention while fishing the piers off the Outer Banks:

Live baiting

Live bait like a mullet or grass shad can be added to a standard two-rod king mackerel outfit. One rod holds bait with a small clothespin near the anchor line; the other rod is an anchor sinker. Light-lining adds to the chance to catch Spanish mackerel. Fish have extremely sensitive senses that detect vibration and what’s visible. Heavy lines scare them off; lighter lines cause less disruption in the water and are harder for the fish to see.


Warm water causes this type of fish to swarm from just under the surface to about three feet below. Keep the line close to the pier and avoid letting it sink below five feet. A heavy casting plug draws the line down. Jerk it from side to side so it looks tasty to eat. Keep the selected lure working on the way back to the pier, as the active mackerel likes to chase around the pilings searching food.


Use metal lures colored silver or gold for jigging around the waters surrounding the pier. The fish like the bright color and the metal stands up to the mackerel’s sharp teeth. This eliminates the need to buy a special lure for the pier, since the spoons are also used from bridges, boats, and any other location along the Outer Banks or elsewhere. Draw the line back so the lure delivers a jerky forward motion, causing the lure to resemble an injured baitfish and easy prey.

Take time to talk with anglers around you for additional fishing tips and trivia around the OBX. They may share a delightful Spanish mackerel recipe that rivals the rave reviews of preparation in local restaurants!