Surf Fishing along North Carolina's Outer Banks

The easiest way to experience Outer Banks fishing is right off the beach, by simply casting a line right off the shore and seeing what hits. Because of convenience – virtually any stretch of beach will do – this is easily the most popular type of fishing on the Outer Banks, and it’s not unusual, particularly in the off-season fall and spring seasons, to see lines of pole holders in between the beach blankets.
Little equipment is needed for beach fishing, but you’ll want to be sure you have a surfing rod available for long casting and to hold up in the ocean waves. Surf fishing can be a tricky venture as any passing current might give the line a tug and send you reeling. Look for quick rapid movements as a telltale sign that some sea critter is actually on the line.
As for bait, there’s plenty available at your local tackle shops, and the staff should be able to point you in the right direction. Depending on what you’re casting for, you can choose from squid, small mullet and other bait fish, shrimp, or even blood worms.
Quick Beach Fishing Tip
If you find yourself stranded on the beach without any bait left, a quick fix is to find a lumpy pile of sand right in the ocean wash and start digging. Small mole crabs, affectionately known as “sand fleas” or “sand diggers” seasonally gather and nest in the low tide line right where the waves are coming ashore, and a larger sand flea (about 2 inches) can work remarkably well as surf fishing bait.
Best Places to Cast
With all that gear and tackle on board, many anglers find the best way to go beach fishing is via a little beach driving trip.
In the central Outer Banks towns of Kill Devil HillsNags Head and Kitty Hawk, driving on the beach is permitted in the off-season, although permits may be required in some areas.
On Hatteras Island beaches, anglers can drive 4WD vehicles on the beach year-round, although some of the more popular fishing beaches are closed seasonally in the summer months.
Also, in order to drive on the beach, you will need a beach driving permit, which is distributed by the National Park Service (NPS) in several locations along Hatteras Island, like near Oregon Inlet, and at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Park Service Station. To receive a permit, you’ll need to watch a 10 minute video on beach driving and pay a weekly or annual fee.
Once you have your permit, there are a number of beach access ramps, marked with brown NPS signs, all along Hatteras Island from Rodanthe to Hatteras Inlet. Before driving up the ramp, be sure and slack your tires down to around 20psi. (There are plenty of gas stations with free air to fill your tires back up once you’re off the beach.) You may also want to bring a shovel and boards along just in case you get stuck.
While the best beach spots to explore can certainly vary based on what’s biting and where, there are a few fishing beaches that remain popular with anglers all year long.
Cape Point: Arguably the best fishing spot on the ‘banks, Cape Point is the exact location where Hatteras Island jets out into the ocean before making a western turn towards the mainland. Because of its location, it literally runs with the East Coast’s two major currents: The Labrador Current and The Gulf Stream. The treacherous Diamond Shoals lurk offshore, creating sweeping sandbars off the beach that change daily, if not hourly. All of these factors combine to make Cape Point one of the best surf fishing locations on the East Coast.
If you go, be prepared to have company. Cape Point attracts fishermen from all over the world, and during the most popular fishing times (particularly September and October), Cape Point can be elbow-to-elbow with anglers.
Not that this should deter you – just be sure and be mindful of your fishing neighbors when casting, or if you want more privacy, head south a hundred yards or so to South Beach, also known as “The Hook,” where the fishing is comparatively good. Also bear in mind that Cape Point is sometimes closed in the summer months, so check with the NPS first to be sure it is open to fishermen.
Pick an Inlet: Another sure spot is any of the inlets that intermittently break up the barrier islands of the Outer Banks. North of Hatteras Island lies Oregon Inlet, below the Bonner Bridge, and north of Rodanthe you’ll find the new “Irene’s Inlet,” which is a small inlet formed after Hurricane Irene in 2011.
Further south lies Hatteras Inlet, the large watery gap between Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands, and Ocracoke Inlet, which separates Ocracoke from Portsmouth Island. Because of the deep channels these inlets create, fishing is almost always good. Again, these inlets are seasonally closed, so it’s best to check with NPS to be sure accessing them by foot or vehicle is permitted.
What to Know Before you Go
In addition to a beach driving permit, (if you choose to go beach fishing with a 4wd vehicle), you’ll also need a North Carolina fishing license. Fishing licenses can be purchased online before your vacation from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission’s website, or at almost any tackle shop on the Outer Banks while you’re here.

Surf fishing is an incredibly popular activity along the Outer Banks of North Carolina, in part because of the unique opportunity to drive on the beaches. By driving on the beaches, anglers can access remote and secluded areas that would otherwise be difficult to reach, and get to the best fishing spots with ease.
Driving on the beaches is an activity in its own right and is also one of the reasons surf fishing is so popular in the area. The freedom and excitement of driving on the beach, with the sand and waves just feet away, is a thrilling experience that is hard to match. Additionally, driving on the beaches allows visitors to access some of the most remote and untouched parts of the coastline, where the fishing is often the best.
Surf fishing is also accessible to everyone, and this is another factor in its popularity. Unlike other forms of fishing that require a boat or expensive equipment, surf fishing can be done with just a few basic items, such as a fishing rod and bait. By combining surf fishing with the ability to drive on the beaches, visitors have access to a unique and unforgettable experience that is accessible to anyone who wants to try it.
The natural scenery of the Outer Banks is another reason surf fishing is so popular in the area. The coastline offers miles of pristine beaches, sand dunes, and rolling waves that provide a stunning backdrop for fishing. The ability to drive on the beaches and explore the coastline up close only enhances the beauty and makes the experience even more memorable.
Overall, the popularity of surf fishing on the Outer Banks of North Carolina can be attributed to the unique opportunity to drive on the beaches and access remote and secluded areas that would otherwise be difficult to reach. By combining the thrill of driving on the beach with the accessibility of surf fishing, visitors have access to a unique and unforgettable experience that is truly one-of-a-kind.

The oregon Inlet

Surf fishing has been an important part of the history of the Oregon Inlet and the North Carolina coast for many years. The inlet has provided an ideal location for surf fishing due to its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf Stream.
Historically, the inlet has been an important location for commercial fishing, particularly for the local fishing industry. However, as recreational fishing became more popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s, surf fishing in the area also gained popularity. Hotels and other businesses were built to accommodate tourists who wanted to fish for striped bass, bluefish, and other species along the coast.
Over the years, surf fishing has become an important economic resource for the area. Many local businesses, such as bait and tackle shops, fishing charters, and seafood restaurants, cater to surf fishermen and help to support the local economy.
The North Carolina coast is known for its excellent surf fishing conditions, and the Oregon Inlet is no exception. The inlet provides a variety of different types of fish, including striped bass, bluefish, flounder, and red drum. Fishermen often use bait such as sand crabs, mullet, and shrimp to attract fish.
Surf fishing tournaments have also become a popular event in the area. These tournaments often have multiple categories for different species of fish, as well as prizes for the biggest fish caught. The tournaments help to bring in tourism and revenue to the area.
Despite the popularity of surf fishing, the activity can be challenging due to the changing tides and weather conditions in the area. Fishermen must be knowledgeable about the different types of bait and lures, as well as the various species of fish that can be found in the inlet.
Overall, surf fishing has remained a beloved pastime and an important part of the history and culture of the Oregon Inlet and the North Carolina coast. It provides a source of recreation, employment, and economic growth for the region.

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