Surf Fishing on Cape Hatteras in Outer Banks, NC

Surf Fishing on Hatteras Island Beaches

For Outer Banks fishermen, there’s nothing like heading out to the shore with a rod and reel in hand and casting out right from the beach. With intersecting currents and miles of beaches, Hatteras Island on the Outer Banks offers a world of exceptional surf fishing, and novice and experienced anglers alike can find amazing record setting catches just by casting from Cape Hatteras’ 70 miles of national seashore.

Cape Point

The Labrador and Gulf Stream Currents collide off of Cape Point, the famous Buxton fishing beach and geographic center of Hatteras Island. A variety of migrating game fish are within surf casting distance at any given point of the year. In the spring months, expect to catch sea bass, striped bass, bluefish, and red drum off of Hatteras Island’s beaches, with many of these migrating fish returning again in the fall, along with king mackerels. 

Fishing Season

Anglers attest that fall is when surf fishing really heats up on Hatteras Island, particularly in the peak weeks of October when the fattened red drum return, and finger mullet run along the coast.  Flounder, puppy drum, sea mullets, spots, croakers, black drum, and an occasional sheepshead round out some of the fish that can be found in the surf, throughout the season.

In the summer months, be on the lookout for prized cobias, amberjacks, pompano, and tasty spanish mackerels, which can be found off these remarkable East Cast beaches all summer long, particularly in the early morning and late evening along points and inlets. You might want to bring, buy or rent a big surf rod during your stay, as some of these species, particularly the coveted red drums and cobias, can weigh between 30 and 100 pounds. 

Before you cast your line, you’ll need to obtain a North Carolina Recreational Fishing License. Simply visit the Division of Marine Fisheries' website to purchase a fishing license online, or stop by any local Outer Banks tackle shop during your stay. 

Bait the HookSurf fishing Subset 2

As for bait, you can purchase everything from squid to blood worms from your favorite tackle shop, or you can catch small surf fishing bait yourself. Try tossing a cast net into the bulkheaded salt water canals and Pamlico Sound for small live bait fish, particularly small mullets. On the shore side, you can put the kids to work digging for mole crabs, or “sand diggers,” which are small beige and pink crabs that are found in wet sand by the ocean. While not edible, mole crabs can be excellent bait on the fly.

Regulations and Citations

If you do land the large one, stop by a tackle shop with a weigh station, and see if your prize catch is eligible for a North Carolina Fishing Citation.  Each year, the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries sponsors an open “tournament” for recreational anglers. Fishermen who land or release certain saltwater species of a minimum size in NC's coastal waters are eligible for a citation certificate that commends their catch as extraordinary.

The requirements are pretty simple. The fish must be caught on hook and line and landed without electric or hydraulic equipment. The fish must then be weighed and inspected by an authorized weigh master, usually the proprietor or an employee of the tackle shop where the weigh station is located. For catch and release citations, the angler and a witness must fill out an application at an official weigh station. Once the application is filled out and approved, the citation is mailed to your home, ready to be framed and admired.

Whether you cast into the Atlantic from the beach in your own backyard, head out to famous fishing spots like Cape Point & South Beach in Buxton, Oregon Inlet, or Hatteras Inlet, or try your luck in the calm waters of the Pamlico Sound, surf fishing on Hatteras Island is nothing less than exceptional. With 70 miles of Cape Hatteras Shoreline to choose from, and migrating species from all over the world brushing the coast, you have a golden opportunity for landing the big one, and bringing in a North Carolina citation to show off your catch to boot.