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Fishing drives Ocracoke Island's off-season tourism economy, as the beaches are world renowned for excellent surf fishing. Because the island is just 12 miles away from the Gulf Stream, anglers will have easy access to big game offshore catches as well.
Find your fishing trip
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Silver Lake Harbor is home to a handful of fishing charters that take anglers out to the offshore Gulf Stream waters, or to the fruitful waters that lay just off the beaches and soundside.
There are roughly just under a dozen fishing charters that operate out of Ocracoke, and which can be reserved for half day or full day trips. The cost to book a charter varies both on the length of time and the targeted area.
Inshore charters are noticeably cheaper, and on Ocracoke Island, are a solid trip for anglers who want to reel in a large number of tasty game fish without the excess cost of the 12-mile trip to the Gulf Stream.
Of course, when it comes to big game fishing, the Gulf Stream is the optimal choice, and charter businesses on Ocracoke Island can target a wide range of big species from blue and white marlins, to shimmering dolphin and snappers.
Because of the popularity of fishing on Ocracoke Island, and the limited number of charters available that launch from the village's waterfront, anglers are advised to book as well in advance as possible. Most charter fishing vessels can accommodate parties of 1-6, and small groups of anglers can occasionally join other small parties for extra savings and last minute trips.
Ocracoke visitors can also head to the village of Hatteras via the Ocracoke / Hatteras ferry, which is home to dozens of acclaimed fishing charters. Anglers should note that because most fishing charters leave between 4:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. in the morning, and the earliest Hatteras / Ocracoke ferry crossing is 5:00 a.m. or later, an overnight trip may be required to embark on a Hatteras Village fishing charter.
Even so, both Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands offer some of the easiest access to the Gulf Stream, with charters that are spearheaded by some of the most experienced local captains. For that reason, and the added bonus of the incredible inshore fishing, Ocracoke and Hatteras fishing charters are hard to beat on the Outer Banks.
A North Carolina saltwater fishing license, also referred to as a Coastal Recreational Fishing License (CRFL), is required for all anglers who are 16 or older. The cost for a fishing license varies based on the amount of time a license is good for, as well as the applicant's residence status. Generally, an NC resident can acquire a 10 day license for $5, while an out-of-state resident can purchase a 10 day license for $10.
Annual licenses are also available for $15 or $30, and lifetime licenses can be purchased as well, with special discounts incldued for youths, residents, and disabled veterans.
Fishing Licenses can be easily picked up online at the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission's website at http://www.ncwildlife.org//. They can also be obtained while on the island at the Tradewinds Tackle Shop in Ocracoke Village.
Surf fishing regulations
Once an angler has a Coastal Recreational Fishing License, they can veritably stroll over to any beach along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and start casting. (Note that some stretches of the shoreline may be seasonally closed by the National Park Service for nesting shorebirds or sea turtles.)
With that being said, many longtime visitors and locals attest that the best beaches for surf fishing are 4WD accessible beaches that are located along Ocracoke and Hatteras Inlets. These beaches are anywhere from .5 miles (Hatteras Inlet) to 3-4 miles (Ocracoke Inlet) from the nearest paved parking area, and are thereby hard to get to without a 4WD vehicle.
In order to drive on the beach, visitors will need to obtain a Beach Driving Permit. These permits are granted by the National Park Service (NPS) and are available in 7 day increments for $50 or for a full year for $120. Visitors can pick up a beach driving permit while on the island at the Ocracoke Visitor Center at 40 Irvin Garrish Highway, or can purchase and reserve a permit online, which can then be mailed or picked up while on the island.
The online reservation process for a beach driving permit is fairly new, and visitors can learn more about this process at the NPS website at http://www.nps.gov/caha/planyourvisit/permitsandreservations.htm#ORV/. Note that visitors who apply for a permit in person will be required to watch a 7-minute video on the do's and don'ts of beach driving. Applicants will also be required to show their driver's license, vehicle registration, and the previous year's beach driving permit, if applicable.
Visitors should also note that some popular fishing beaches and access ramps, including those that access the inlets, may be closed during the summer months due to nesting activity. Visitors can stay up-to-date on open Ocracoke Island beaches by checking the NPS beach access map at http://www.nps.gov/maps/full.html?mapId=0c53eca8-fd01-40ef-b809-41f814fe5efc.
Types of fish to catch, where, when
The beaches off of the Hatteras and Ocracoke Inlets are considered the best regions for surf fishing, as these regions attract big game species throughout the year.
By casting off the beach, anglers can catch huge spring and fall drums, sharks, bluefish, flounder, Spanish mackerel, pompano, spots, croaker, and sea mullets on a regular basis, depending on season. Local Outer Banks tackle shops, like Tradewinds Tackle in Ocracoke, can serve as valuable resources for what's in season along the beach.
The spring and fall months are considered the best time for surf fishing, but summertime visitors will have good luck as well, especially when it comes to blues and sea mullets.
Offshore, visitors can reel in the big game and prize fish, including marlin, dolphin or Mahi Mahi, red snapper, amberjacks, and Yellowfin Tuna. Because Ocracoke Islands is just 12 miles or so away from the Gulf Stream, getting to the offshore waters is a relatively easy venture.
On the soundside, anglers can wade out a few hundred feet and start shuffling their toes in the shallow waters to unearth a large number of fresh clams that are perfect for steaming and eating.Oysters are also popular in Ocracoke, and crabbing is fruitful as well, especially via a soundfront or harborfront dock.
The beaches of Ocracoke Islands are home base to one of the biggest surf fishing tournaments in the Outer Banks, the Annual Ocracoke Invitational Surf Fishing Tournament. This tournament has been going strong for 30+ years, and is a fun competition among roughly 70 teams that begins with a kick-off party, and ends with an awards ceremony with coveted prizes. Held in early May and lasting 2-5 days, the Ocracoke Fishing Tournament effectively hosts around 420 anglers and their supporters every year.
Fishermen can also head south across the ferry to Hatteras Island, which is home to some of the oldest fishing tournaments along the Outer Banks. These tournaments include the Cape Hatteras Anglers Club Tournament and NCBBA Frank and Fran's Red Drum Tournament. Both of these competitions are held in the fall, and have been popular with visiting and local anglers for decades.
Surf Fishing Rod and Reel Combos
Rods can be purchased separately, or as a rod and reel combo. Though the length can vary by beach and surf conditions, local anglers traditionally recommend using an 8′ to 16′ light to medium surf type rod, which can adapt to most conditions and most species. Keep in mind that the rod you choose has a lot to do with your physical size – some rods are heavy, and can tire out an angler quickly after multiple casts.
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Ugly Tech Construction * Ugly Stik Clear Tip * Ugly Tuff Guides * Fuji Reel Seat * Durable Rubber Gimbal (select models)
Surf Fishing Line
Your line will literally make or break your ability to reel in a catch. Look for 20-25 test line for the best results in all conditions, and go for Nylon Monofilament, Fluorocarbon, or Braided Line varieties in terms of materials. Monofilament nylon is a great choice for new anglers, as it is fairly cheap, knots well, and has an inherent stretch, which is a great attribute for surf fishermen who are developing their skills.
Strong knot strength - dynamically incorporated strands in KastKing Superpower braided lines allow you to easily tie a more solid knot; you can even tie an improved clinch knot. * Low memory - helps...
Rigs for Surf Fishing
Like all gear designed for surf fishing, when it comes to rigs and rig set-ups, there are a lot of options, which generally depend on the fish you are targeting, the season, and other conditions and factors that change depending on where along the North Carolina coastline you land. In fact, there is likely a unique and distinct type of rig available for every species of fish, and every type of body of saltwater.
????2 arm 12pcs white nylon monofilament leaders,main leader test 90lb, arm leader test 55lb, keep hooks free of leader. * ????When it's time to protect or strengthen your main line, using a steel...
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Sand spike and other varieties of rod holders will hold your rod in place when you need a break, or just want to enjoy a little downtime relaxing on the beach. This piece of equipment comes in a variety of different materials – such as PVC or aluminum – as well as different lengths, and different price ranges. Rod holders that are made of PVC or ABS plastic are traditionally the least expensive, but if you’re in rough ocean conditions and do a lot of surf fishing, upgrading to a more durable metal rod holder may be your best rouet.
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SAND SPIKE HOLDER: Hold your fishing rods in style when you go to the beach using this rod sand spike with an aluminum stake from Sea Striker. Designed in an angled form, it slides into the sand...
A pyramid weight is often the preferred weight for surf fishermen, as it can stand up to currents and hold at the bottom. A roughly 2 oz. to 4 oz. pyramid weight should hold strong in most ocean conditions, when used in conjunction with a surf rod. If it’s a rough day, or you are fishing on a beach with large breakers close to the shore, up the weight a bit to hold strong in the surf.
Fishing drop sinkers can help take your bait down to where big fish lurk. Great drop sinkers to attract bigger fish. * JSHANMEI fishing sinkers hold in strong waves and current extremely well due to...
A cart will make a surf fisherman’s life infinitely easier when heading to and from the beach. Built to be pulled across the sand with ease, and large enough to hold all the essential equipment and then some, a beach cart is a great way to pack and tote along all the equipment you’ll need for a full day on the sand.
Look for carts that can hold a lot of weight – you may be bringing back plenty of big catches, after all – as well as carts that have larger than normal, sturdy wheels. Larger wheels will essentially transform a standard cart into a 4WD mode of transportation that can easily haul your supplies across soft sand.
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SURF CART: This all-around, versatile cart has a heavy-duty frame and comes with the capability to hold up to MOST 54 quart coolers. Get this adventure filled piece of equipment that includes a frame...
If you want a longer cast, and you prefer to fish in colder or cooler weather, waders will be your best friend. Waders are effectively worn like overalls, protecting the lower 3/4th of your body from water inundation when you wade out to the surf to cast.
Don’t skimp on quality when it comes to waders! Inexpensive varieties can leak, which can turn a great fishing day into a bad one fairly quickly.
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Bait and Lures
One of the hardest decisions for surf fishermen is what type of bait, or artificial lure, to use for the best results. Many local tackle shops can direct new anglers in the right direction when it comes to what’s biting, and what bait or lures to use, but here’s a closer look at some of the most popular varieties for fishing along coastal North Carolina.
- Shrimp – Virtually all saltwater species are attracted to shrimp, which is why it’s found in just about every bait and tackle store up and down the North Carolina coastline. Fresh shrimp is generally preferred over frozen if you can find it, and it’s recommended that you remove the head, cut the shrimp into 3-4 bite-sized pieces if desired, and hook the shrimp through the dorsal back so that it stays securely on the hook.
- Sand Fleas – Sand fleas are a great (and effective) on-the-spot option when surf fishermen are out of bait, or out of money. In the summer months, sand fleas can often be obtained by digging through the sand close to the ocean wash. Able to attract a wide array of species, sand fleas can also be purchased at bait and tackle stores when they aren’t plentiful along the shoreline.
- Mullet – Cut mullet is another catch-all bait that can attract a wide array of species. Discard the tail, and cut into small chunks for the best results. Small bait mullet can also be caught for free in area sounds, saltwater canals, marshes, and other calm salty waters with a bucket or a cast net.
- Menhaden – Menhaden is a cut-bait fish that is popular with bluefish, sea trout, and striped bass – some of the most prevalent species along the North Carolina coastline. Most bait shops will have menhaden available, which can be easily cut and hooked.
- Squid – Squid is a frequent option at North Carolina bait shops, as it works well with saltwater species of all varieties, and of all sizes. Use whole smaller squids for targeting the big fish, or cut up squid into smaller piece.
- Clams and Oysters – Though tricky to hook, clams and oysters can attract a wide array of species. Just be sure and stock up – it’s easy for this bait to slide off a hook in rougher ocean conditions.
- Bloodworms or ragworms – Bloodworms are also available in most all North Carolina bait and tackle stores, as they work well in all conditions, for all types of fish. (They’re also nicely inexpensive!) Best of all, bloodworms can be used for surf fishing, as well as targeting inland streams, canals, and sound waters throughout the coastline.
When it comes to lures, there are plenty of options, and what an angler uses is all dependent on where they are headed, and what they are targeting. Bait and tackle store will provide the best recommendations for lures to use for specific species, weather conditions, and seasons, but there are a few popular varieties to try that can work in most any coastal fishing environment.
Here are some of the most popular types of lures for saltwater fishing.
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Other Gear You’ll Need for Surf Fishing
In addition to all of the above essentials, there are some other tools you’ll need to bring along to ensure you have everything you need for a full day (or night) of surf fishing along the North Carolina coastline. Available at bait and tackle stores, sporting goods stores, and even traditional beach shops or grocery stores, look for these items that will make it easier to spend long hours on the beach.
BUCHANAN STYLE - FRAMES: Polycarbonate Matte Crystal Gunmetal | LENSES: Polarized Triacetate with AcuTint | COPPER TINT: A copper/rose lens tint favored for sight fishing, muddy water and very low...
★ Plating Titanium Process makes this fishing gear antioxidant, corrosion-proof, colorfast, UV resistant, high hardness in saltwater and other damp and harsh environment. * ★ Small Jaws of...
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G4116 German Stainless Blades – The razor sharp G4116 German Stainless-Steel blade has a beautiful black finish and will maintain its edge longer to make the job of cutting bait easier. * Serrated...
PLANO Z SERIES 3700 TACKLE BAG: The Z-Series Tackle Bag is durably designed with a waterproof base, PVC fabric, and easy-access attachment points. Dimensions: 10”L x 18.8”W x 10.2”H. * THE...