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Outer Banks Fishing

Pier Fishing in the Outer Banks

Along the Outer Banks, there are many piers available for fishing. Each individual pier has a pier house where fishermen can purchase bait and tackle. There are also rods and reels that fishermen can rent. You can buy a daily, weekly, or seasonal admission ticket. The piers are open 24 hours a day during fishing season and are lighted for individuals who like to fish at night. If you call the piers in advance, pier employees will gladly tell you what types of fish are biting on that particular day.

Getting on the Beach with your 4 Wheel Drive

The beach access ramps you can use to access the beach are provided by the National Park Service. In order to use these ramps and get to the beach, you must have a 4-wheel drive vehicle. The first available ramp is at Coquina Beach. It is located near the National Seashore headquarters. The second ramp is located on the north point of Oregon Inlet. The number on the ramp is determined by its distance in miles from Coquina Beach.

Public Beach Access

The North Carolina Coastal Management Program has provided public beach accesses in the towns of Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, and Nags Head. These public accesses are highlighted by blue and orange signs. As you drive along the beach, these signs will be facing west.

North Carolina Saltwater Fishing License

Effective January 1, 2007, North Carolina Coastal Recreational Fishing License is Required on the Outer Banks. North Carolina's Coastal Recreational Fishing License (CRFL), administered by the Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF), can be purchased on a 10-day, annual or lifetime basis, or combined with a variety of licenses issued by the Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC). This license allows recreational fishermen to harvest finfish for personal consumption; finfish harvested under this license cannot be sold. Fishermen using this license are held to the state's recreational size and possession limits. For more information about the North Carolina Saltwater Fishing License, click here.

General Fishing along the Outer Banks

There are many different types of fish available for fishermen to catch. The availability of each specific type of fish depends on when peak season occurs. The peak season is when the fish are the most plentiful in the ocean.

Types of Fish on the Outer Banks

  • Spot
  • Croaker
  • Flounder
  • Gray Trout
  • Speckled Trout
  • Pompano
  • Spanish Mackerel
  • Bluefish
  • Striped Bass
  • Red Drum
  • King Mackerel
  • Cobia

Types of Fishing Gear Needed for the Outer Banks

There are many different types of fishing reels. The open faced spinning reel is the most common type of fishing reel used in pier and surf fishing. The spinning reel usually comes in different sizes. The classification of the reel is determined by its weight. The lighter reels are designed to hold low pound test lines. The medium size, which is the most popular choice of fishermen, usually holds 12 to 15 pounds of fishing line. A heavy surf casting reel holds the most amount of line. The lighter the reel, the more comfortable it will feel to the fishermen.

The revolving spool reel is usually used by individuals fishing for large bluefish and drum. This is a harder type of reel to use. Since the spool tends to move quicker than the line, the line is more likely to become tangled.

Fishing Rods

The length of the surf rod is usually between 8 and 12 feet. The longer the rod, the greater the distance the line will travel. There is considerable distance between the butt of the rod and the reel. This helps the angler to have better control and throwing distance when casting the line.

Action rods are a popular choice for people who fish during the summertime. They range in length between 7 and 9 feet. They are used for pier and surf fishing. The larger the fish, the heavier the rod you will need.

Fishing Line

Fishing lines are weighed by the pounds test. The thinner lines have lower tests. Lines that are lighter can travel a greater distance than the heavier lines. Also, the fishing spool can carry more of the lighter line. Most lines are made out of nylon and are fluorescent in color.

Fish Hooks and Other Necessary Gear

The size of the hook needed is determined by the size of the fish you are catching. The number of the hook is determined by the size. The size of the hook is determined by 2 scales. The size of the general purpose hook ranges from #3 to 1/0. Most hooks have medium or regular shanks. Some hooks have longer shanks, and that makes it easier to remove from the mouth of the fish.

The purpose of the sinker is to keep the terminal rig at the bottom of the ocean. The pyramid shape works the best for pier and surf fishing. The shape makes it easier to stay buried in the ocean. The choppiness of the water determines the weight of the sinker used. If the water is rougher, a heavier sinker weight should be used.

You can use a swivel to prevent the line from becoming twisted. Barrel type swivels are the most common type used by fishermen although snaps allow the bait on the fishing rod to be quickly changed.


There are two types of knots commonly used by fishermen. The first type is called the improved clinch knot. It is used by fishermen to tie lures, hooks, and swivels to the fishing line. The second type is called the blood knot. It is used to connect two strands of monofilament.

Natural Baits

The key to becoming a successful fisherman is knowing what bait to use and how to present it on a lure to entice fish. Employees of piers and tackle shops can offer suggestions on what type of bait is best, depending on what you are fishing for.

Bloodworms work best for fishermen who are looking for spot and sea mullets. When the weather is warm, it is best to keep them stored in a cool spot. They will last longer. Fishermen cut bloodworms into small pieces and place them on the hook. You have to be careful when cutting, because they can deliver a painful bite.

Squid is a good bait to use because it can last for a long time in the water. They are usually cut into strips and pieces. The strips are usually cut so they measure 1/4 to 1/2 inch wide and 2 to 5 inches long. When not used, the squid can be placed in the freezer again.

Shrimp are used when fishermen are looking for bottom-feeding fish. The shrimp used as bait are about the same size as shrimp people eat. The shrimp have to be peeled before being placed on the hooks. Fresh shrimp work best when fishing for trout.

Mullets are the favorite type of bait to be used when fishing for bluefish and drums. The reason it works so well is that it is an oily fish, and that attracts bluefish and drums. Most mullet is sold frozen during the fishing season, while fresh mullet is occasionally available. The mullet is usually cut into strips or chunks before it is put on the hook.

The sand flea is the favorite type of bait used to catch pompano. The hook is placed through the rear of the sand flea and it comes up through the back.

Small baitfishes, such as minnows, are used to attract flounder and trout. Live fish can be hooked in the back and dead ones should be hooked through the lips.

Some fishes can be turned into bait more easily than other types. Spots make great fishes to use as bait. When fishing for flounder, it is best to use a belly strip from another flounder. These strips last a long time because of their tough skin.

Terminal Rigs

You can buy prepared terminal rigs at any tackle shop. The two-hook bottom rig is the most commonly used. This rig can hold any sized hook. Usually, two different sized hooks are used when fishing for bottom feeders. These hooks may have colored floats or spinners attached to them. They are used to attract the fishes' attention.

The fishfinder rig is used to allow the bait and hook to move around more freely. The biting fish can not the drag caused by the sinker attached to the line.

Artificial Lures

The purpose of an artificial lure is to entice the fish to come over to the line attached to the fisherman's rod. The size of the lure used is determined by the size of the fish you are trying to catch.

Two very popular types of artificial lure used are called bucktails and leadheads. These lures are made out of weighted lead that is attached to a molded hook. Tails made out of natural buckhead are usually attached to the lead. The colors and shapes of these lures vary. These types of lure are usually dragged along the bottom of the ocean.

A lot of fishermen use metal lures. Most metal lures imitate the movement of fish used for bait. Most lures weigh between 1/2 to 4 ounces. They can be used for either pier or surf fishing. It is best to use these lures when the water is clear. It is easier for fish to see them.

Some of the equipment used by the fishermen include nets, buckets, cutting boards, sand spikes, and tackle boxes. A sand spike is used as a rod holder when a person is surf fishing. Cutting boards are used to cut the bait.

Pier Casting

When a fishermen is throwing his line a short distance, he will use an underhand cast. The terminal rig goes under the pier and then pulled forward by the rod. The rod will then travel the direction that the fisherman wants the rig to go. The lure should be hanging about 12 inches away from the tip of the rod. The rod should be standing in a vertical position. The rod should always be in front of you when the lure is cast. Making sure your rod is straight makes it less likely for the line to become tangled with any other fisherman's line. It is also important not to bring the lure out of the water too quickly.

Surf Casting

The most common mistake that fishermen who are surf fishing make is throwing their line too far into the ocean. Most bottom feeding fish find their food behind a breaking wave. It is best to place the bait in the area where the fish come to feed.

When you are surf fishing, you should make sure your feet are placed to give you the best balance. The right hand should be above the reel. The left hand should be located near the butt of the rod. The rod should be shoulder high with the butt end facing the ocean, and your body should be facing the direction you want the cast to go. The weight of the body should shift from the right leg to the left.

Fishing Regulations

The state of North Carolina determines what types of fish are allowed to be caught. They also determine the length of the fish that can be caught, how long the fishing season will last, and the amount of fish you are allowed to catch and keep for yourself. The purpose of the regulations is to ensure the improvement of fish populations. The pier will know the latest fishing regulations.


The tide will cause a change in the water level. Incoming tides will cause the water to get closer to the shore. The water will be at high tide six hours after the water gets close to the shore. Low tide occurs when the water experiences an outgoing movement. That usually happens six hours after high tide. Fishing conditions are usually the best at high and low tides during the new and full moon period of each month. This is due to more water movement.

It is important for a fisherman to keep a tide chart handy. It will help him determine when it is the best time to go fishing.

Winds And The Water

The wind plays a determining factor in the luck you will have fishing. A moderate northeast wind makes for suitable conditions for pier and surf fishing. A southwest wind makes the water calmer and creates muddier water. This creates good conditions for catching bottom feeding fish, such as spots, croakers, and mullets. An easterly wind creates warmer water and warmer temperatures make it clearer. Clear water makes for good fishing for trout, bluefish, and flounder.

Keeping Your Catch

The best way to make sure the fish you caught and want to bring home does not start to decay is to keep it cool in a bucket of ice. If you do not have ice, it is important to keep the bucket buried in a cool spot in the sand.

Fish Cleaning

The size of the fish usually determines the method that will be used to clean it. Fish that are usually put in a pan and fried, such as the spot, are headed and gutted. Larger fish are usually cleaned by filleting them. Filleting is usually used to make sure there are no bones left in the fish after it is cooked. A sharp knife is used to clean the fish. It is also important to rinse the sink out after cleaning the fish and wrapping the discarded parts of the fish in newspaper. It is easiest to take the scales off a fish when it is still moist.

Freezing Your Catch

It is important to remember to keep the fish from getting exposed to air when you are packaging the fish to be frozen. Always place the fish in a freezer bag. It is important to place the bag in water before it is sealed to make sure there is no air left in the bag. Freezing the fish in a water-filled bag helps the fish last for a longer period of time. Fish that is properly stored can last up to 12 months in the freezer. Be sure to always label the fish and the date you put it in the freezer.

Fishing Tips

  • After fishing, wash your rod and reel thoroughly with fresh water. Also do this with your rods and lures.
  • Use a sand spike to hold rod when re-baiting, taking off fish, and changing tackle.
  • Be prepared to change your rigs to fish for the fish that are biting. Experiment with different baits or lures.
  • When removing a fish, cup your hands in such a way that the dorsal (back) fins are pushed back towards the tail. Also grasp the fish with the forefinger and thumb inside the gills.
  • From the beach, use an incoming wave to help land a fish. Keep tension on the line and the rod tip up.
  • With an artificial lure, set the hook as soon as the strike is felt.
  • Keep small pieces of bait in a plastic ziploc bag or plastic container.
  • During summer fishing, favorable times are early morning and early evening. It's good when these times coincide with the incoming tide.
  • A flock of working seagulls may signal the location of a school of blues. The gulls are actually feeding on bait fishes and pieces of fishes chopped up by the big blues.
  • To set the reel's drag, wrap the line a couple of times around your forefinger. If it does not hurt when you pull the line, the drag is fine.
  • For fishing reports, read the local newspapers and listen to the local radio station. Also, check with a bait and tackle dealer.
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