Top Outer Banks Fishing Spots

Fishing the Outer Banks of North Carolina is well documented as among the best saltwater fishing in the country. Situated near the Gulf Stream, you can’t beat this part of the Carolina coastline for pier and surf fishing, and inshore and offshore fishing.

As someone who loves to pier fish, I began talking with those who have spent their lives fishing offshore as well as inshore and surf fishing, specifically on Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands. Where are their favorite fishing spots? What fish are they after?

Here’s what our very own survey of veteran fishermen recommend as top Outer Banks fishing locations:

Hatteras, N.C. Surf Fishing

What: Bluefish, Striped Bass, Red Drum (channel bass), Trout, Flounder, Spot, Spanish Mackerel

When: The best fishing occurs in September through January; spring and summer are just less predictable

Top Outer Banks fishing spots - Surf fishing at HatterasOnce the fish start to hit, it’s game on! Especially in the fall, surf fishing off Cape Hatteras on North Carolina’s Outer Banks is great sport.

Surf fishers can routinely pull in good size bluefish (12-18 lbs.) and striped bass weighing 30 lbs. and more. The incredible Hatteras beach offers something for every fisherman, from kids to grand dads hoping to land a cooler full of fish. Trout, red drum, flounder, Spanish mackerel … and when the spot hit, there is no better eating on this earth.

You may want to know, our fishing friends are concerned about special interest groups who favor restricting public beach access to those who love to fish, bird watch, walk and search for shells. We suggest that you check out the Cape Hatteras National Park Service website at  for the most current information about Hatteras beach access including off-road vehicle use.

Hatteras, N.C. Offshore Fishing

What: Yellowfin Tuna yellowfish-tuna-outerbanks-fishing

When: The best fishing occurs from November through December

An interesting thing happens off of the Outer Banks around Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands. Fish migrating north and south swim through these waters to create one of the best conditions for fishermen on the Atlantic coast.

One of those fish is the yellowfin tuna. In the fall, they appear in large numbers to feed and are naturally ready to hit the right bait. Trolling works well with artificial lures or chunk bait, as well as casting for yellowfin. Weighing from 30 lbs. to over 100 pounds, yellowfin tuna fight like the dickens and are an amazing fish to catch. The payoff is even greater with fresh, delicious tuna steaks after a great day on open water.

Ocracoke Inlet, Hatteras Inlet and Portsmouth Island Surf Fishing

What: Red Drum (channel bass)red-drum-surf-fishing-obx

When: The best fishing occurs from April through June and mid-September to late November (peak season)

The biggest red drum in the world live along the coast of North Carolina. Big 40-50 pound red drum (a.k.a. channel bass) are frequently caught and released at Cape Hatteras National Seashore. In fact, the 94-pound world-record red drum was caught in the Cape Hatteras surf.

Red drum “runs” in the spring and fall along the Outer Banks are legendary. Hatteras and Ocracoke inlets are major spawning areas for these fish. In the late summer and fall, large, adult red drum come inshore to NC’s rivers to spawn and then head to the beaches of Ocracoke, Hatteras and Portsmouth Islands.

Red drum feed mostly in the evening and at night. That means your supplies must include hot coffee, snacks and a warm sleeping bag. You can also pier fish for red drum – area piers are found in the towns of Avon and Rodanthe.

Red drum feed by sight and smell, and is why live bait or scented lures work best. When drum hit your bait, they don’t hit “hard” like many other fish do; they swallow the bait and swim away, causing a steady pull on the line.

Remember: It is unlawful to possess red drum greater than 27 inches total length. So, part of being a drum fisherman is to “catch and release” these big bull reds, making sure to do so quickly – releasing them alive and in the best possible condition.

Go Charter Fishing on the Outer Banks

Outer Banks Charter FishingMany wonderful options exist on the Outer Banks for sport fishermen that are not mentioned here. The real experts are the full time Outer Banks charter fishing services.

For the best fishing in the world, whether you're a first-time fisherman or a long-time enthusiast, give them a call to line up a sportfishing trip to the top Outer Banks fishing spots.

New to saltwater fishing in North Carolina?

The best resource for fishing license, NC fishing guidelines, plus a great “fish finder” guide is the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries.