The North Carolina coastline, stretching further out into the Atlantic Ocean than any other point of land north of central Florida, is a hot spot of recreational water activities, including, of course, boating, surfing and world-renowned saltwater fishing. The 200-mile long stretch of barrier islands known as the Outer Banks as well as areas to the south of the OBX provide some of the richest fishing waters in the world.
East Coast Currents, Gulf Stream Waters
The Outer Banks, separating mainland North Carolina – Pamlico Sound, Currituck Sound and Albemarle Sound – from the Atlantic Ocean, is home to warm sandy beaches and town upon town of picture-perfect oceanside communities, each with its own unique personality. Fishing excursions typically depart out of Hatteras, Manteo and the Oregon Inlet, whereas those to the south of the Outer Banks and Ocracoke island most often use Beaufort, Morehead City, Atlantic Beach, Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach as their home bases. Though communities like Nags Head, Rodanthe, Surf City and Oak Island also offer pier fishing, saltwater fishing enthusiasts often opt to explore further out in the offshore Gulf Stream waters for an active day of sportfishing.
Graveyard of the Atlantic
An area of choppy waters off the Carolina coast referred to as the Graveyard of the Atlantic is the result of warm waters from the south – the Gulf Stream – meeting the frigid waters of the Labrador Current, flowing down along the Eastern seaboard out of the Arctic. Multiple shipwrecks line the coast her, victims of the hazardous conditions caused by the meeting of these two powerful currents. As rough as this part of the ocean can be, however, these nutrient-rich waters where the two currents collide, combined with a phenomenon in the area of constantly shifting shoals, or submerged ridges, mean that fish in these waters are abundant. As shoals shift, they create areas of deep and shallow water where smaller fish tend to congregate, and larger, game fish come to feed. The Outer Banks’ Diamond Shoals create a haven for fish, and a prime fishing location for avid fishermen.
North Carolina anglers are fortunate in that the fertile waters offshore provide an abundance of fish almost unparalleled up and down the East Coast. Fishing opportunities depend on a variety of conditions, including location, depth of water and tidal movements as well as preferred fishing methods: trolling, reef fishing, bottom fishing, and drifting.
Some of the most common saltwater game species are these.
- Flounder, Cobia, Black Drum, Trout, Bluefish and Sea Bass are all found in nearshore coastal reefs.
- More treacherous offshore reefs, ideal for more experienced anglers, are home to Barracuda, Amberjack, Snapper, Hogfish, Mackerel and Grouper.
- Trolling for larger game fish such as Tuna, Billfish, King Mackerel, and even Sailfish, Marlin and Swordfish requires one or more fishing lines, and heavier rods and reels from a boat traveling through and across offshore reefs of the Outer Banks.
- Bottom fishing and drift fishing are ideal for catching lower dwelling fish such as Flounder, Porgy, Snapper and Triggerfish.
Saltwater Fishing Rules & Regulations
Many are unaware that in North Carolina, a Coastal Recreational Fishing License is required that stipulates limits to the number of certain species of fish caught each day as well as minimum weights and sizes. The size and number of shellfish and crustaceans, too, such as Blue Crabs, Oysters, Spiny Lobsters, Scallops and Shrimp are also regulated, while other species of fish – primarily those that are endangered or threatened – are prohibited altogether.
For more information on how, where and when to obtain a NC fishing license, visit the NC Department of Environmental Qualit, hee: http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/recreational-fishing-size-and-bag-limits
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