Fishing the Outer Banks of North Carolina is a well loved pastime of both natives and visitors. Not only are there fantastic catches to be had, but the natural beauty of the area is simply breathtaking. With a North Carolina fishing license you’ll be able to settle in and snag a few nice fillets or a couple of nice new trophies for your fishing room.
But what sorts of fish swim these pretty waters? Let’s take a look.
Spring and fall bring about two big runs of Channel Bass for the Outer Banks area. This means that if you’re a Channel Bass angler, you’re going to want to show up in April or September for your best bet at finding your fish. Channel Bass are extremely varied in size and may run up to 50 pound whoppers. It’s not uncommon at all to see fishers weighed down in Channel Bass during the runs, so bring a hefty line and a big bucket.
Flounder is easily reeled in from piers, beaches and skiffs out on the shallows of the water. These bottom feeders swim in close to the shore and it’s easy enough to coax them to give your bait a little nibble. And let’s be honest, a little nibble is all they need. Though the Flounder in these waters aren’t the mammoth sized fish some of these others are, they’re still plenty to make a nice meal for the family.
If fishing for Flounder, you’ll want to come in during the spring, summer and fall. These fish tend to make themselves pretty scarce once the weather gets chilly, though some may still be found on deep sea fishing tours.
Spanish Mackerel are common during the summer months in the Outer Banks area. Though there is a size requirement for keeping these fish of a foot long or more because it is so popular. The local wardens want to keep them in high stock for the next several years to come, and all the anglers after you and yours.
Spanish Mackerel are a local favorite and found on many menus in the area, especially at restaurants along the beaches. Most of it is caught fresh exactly where you’ve caught yours. Though these fish are in high demand, they’re fairly easy to catch from the shore or off the dock.
The Outer Banks area keeps fishermen near and close year round because of it’s wide array of fish and the striped bass are incredibly important to that. Striped Bass are most often found during the winter months, with the highest population caught usually between late October and early January.
Striped Bass are one of the most common fish in the Outer Banks area, especially during the chillier period that makes up “winter” in the south east. Still though, if the Outer Banks area is freezing over it may be time to use a heavily scented lure. Striped Bass aren’t impossible to catch during North Carolina’s rare ice and snow, but they do require a little more encouragement than usual.
Striped bass run a large gamut at adulthood from eight to 80 pounds. If you’re after Striped Bass, run a heavy line just in case.
Bluefish, also known as Blues or occasionally Bluies, have a deceptively mild name. These fish are pretty aggressive and will even chase your bait inland as you reel it away from them. Whole schools have been known to churn the water, fighting to get a hook in their own silly mouths.
While these fish are rather bony, you can certainly eat them if you want. They make a great meal for those willing to go through the fillets with a fine toothed comb. However, these fish are ideal as bait too. Since they are so aggressive and active, they will gladly lure in a larger fish looking to eat them.
Handle with caution, though. Bluefish are known for biting unwary fishermen as they try to get away. Larger ones can cause some pretty serious injuries, too!
These fish make a sound not unlike a croak or a bark of surprise when you pop a hook out of their mouths. Croakers are known for being an easy catch and are readily grabbed up year round. They will eat most anything and show up the second they taste food in the water, be it a chicken liver or a round of hot dog on the end of a hook.
As these are relatively small schooling fish, these are easily netted if you give the water a quick chum or two. Those looking for pole fishing can cast off docks and expect to see these on a line pretty quickly.
There are two main types of trout that show up frequently in the waters surrounding the Outer Banks. Though you’re unlikely to catch them off the pier, you’ll be certain to find them on a warm, summer day a quarter mile out on a boat.
Grey trout show up throughout the year and most in the area will satisfy a single person’s appetite for a meal. Though there are some 10 pound whoppers sighted now and then, most of these fish run the one to four pound area and are easy to reel in for little anglers.
Speckled trout are even smaller in this area, ranging only around two pounds each. These are excellent bait fish if you don’t have an appetite for trout since everything seems to like to eat them. You’ll find speckled trout more active as things cool off in the year, with Greys more active during the warmer days.
Whiting, Kingfish or Sea Mullet. These are all the same sort of fish, though whiting tends to refer to a large number of fish whose flesh are all white. Sea mullet is incredibly populous in the Outer Banks area and will be easily located in most sandy areas. These are bottom feeders that prefer the shallows, so fishing off the beach or off a dock is recommended.
Once Sea Mullet are found, they’re usually as easy to catch as Croakers are. You can fill a bucket with these quickly and easily on good fishing days from spring to the late reaches of fall. However, once the cold really sets in the Sea Mullet tend to disappear to slightly warmer waters.
Cobia are the sorts of fish that Outer Banks myths and legends are made out of. If you hear a fisherman telling a story to his cohorts about a big, ferocious fish that he caught in the Outer Banks, he’s probably talking about his Cobia adventures.
These fish weigh in excess of 40 pounds, which means you’re going to need a serious fishing pole or net for them. And it’s not just their weight, these fish are out to snap your pole and send your reel to the depths. They will fight you for every inch of water they’re forced to give up, and they mean business!
If you’re lucky enough to land a gorgeous Cobia, you’ll have an exceptional dinner and a fantastic story to tell. Cobia turn up most frequently during the warmest months of the year, but they prefer a cloudy day or one right after it’s rained. These fish love to skim bugs off the top of the water.
Deep Sea Fishing
Deep sea fishing is incredibly popular in the Outer Banks area. In most ports located in this stretch of beach, you’ll find plenty of boats willing to take you and your friends out for a comfortable ride and a nice day of fishing. And their prices simply can’t be beat. The Outer Banks area lacks the inflation that other deep sea fishing bastions usually end up with.
Not only will you get a gorgeous day out on the ocean, but you’ll get to see plenty of wildlife besides what you’re catching. Depending on the time of year, you may see porpoises and dolphins skimming along your boat on your way out there. Stingrays aren’t uncommon either.
But what will you find on a deep sea fishing venture in the Outer Banks area? Mahi Mahi and Yellowfin Tuna are very common during the warmer months of the year after the spring storms have disappeared off. You may also find Wahoo, Amberjack and King Mackerel.
The Outer Banks of North Carolina is a fisherman’s paradise, with so many different species that most anyone will find something they’re looking for. They may even find a meal that they haven’t yet tried. With such careful care and maintenance by the North Carolina Fish and Wildlife Department, the Outer Banks of North Carolina are a treasure. This old fishing favorite will surely delight all comers, whether they want to stick their fresh catch on a grill or simply catch and release.