Summer Fishing in the Outer Banks
by Mattie Dalia –
Summer is the time when things start showing up on the Outer Banks: hot weather, sunny beaches, the tourists, crowded grocery stores… and (hopefully) lots of fish!
The spring started off a tad slow but has picked up nicely, with reports of good fishing up and down the beach. The northern piers and the surf have had excellent catches of sea mullet and blowtoads. The specks and hickory shad have kept the trout fishermen busy and happy. Pirate’s Cove Marina reports recent catches of tilefish, yellowfin, gaffer dolphin and citation-sized wahoo.
Here is what the angler can look forward to this summer on the Outer Banks.
As the summer approaches, so do the warm waters of the Gulf Stream…and so do the fish. While catching a variety of fish on any given summer day, historical data can show trends. Expect to see catches of schooling dolphin, migrating yellowfin and big-eye tuna in the late spring and early summer, and then the marlins and wahoo will show up in late summer. This is definitely the time of year to book a charter and try your luck.
In the early summer, a good predictor of the fishing future is to look south where the warmer water is “rising” towards the north. Hatteras and Ocracoke inshore boats have been reporting catches of cobia, which mean they are headed our way soon. The warmer months also can produce catches of Spanish mackerel and false albacore. There is nothing more fun than a day on the water, trolling for (and catching) these aggressive fish. Trout and red drum also show up in the boat ice boxes this time of the year.
The piers are busy places in the summer. It is probably because there is so much action to be had. Near the surf, speckled trout can be caught on double jig head lures. At the end you will find pin riggers fishing for bigger cobia and king mackerel. Up and down the pier, you can throw Gotcha plugs for bluefish and Spanish mackerel. Bottom fishing is at a premium in the summer; spot, croaker, and sea mullet can fill coolers. I have seen days in late August where people will fill five-gallon buckets with “yellow belly” spot… and then spend several hours at the cleaning table. Moderation, my fishing friends, moderation.
Sun on your back, bare feet in the sand, cold beverage nearby and fish that are biting. Surf fishing in the summertime is one of the most therapeutic activities I have done, even if you are not catching. I had the opportunity recently to chat with Joe Malat, renowned Outer Banks surf fisherman. He stated that the summer can produce good sea mullet catches, but right in the wash (versus trying to heave the bait out as far as you can). Sand fleas are a great bait for these fish and are free for the taking. Bait up, make a short cast into the surf, and get ready. Early mornings and late afternoons can also produce catches of trout and bluefish. For more valuable surf fishing information, visit Joe’s website at www.joemalat.com.
Tips and valuable info
Fish for free. While you will need a N.C. Coastal Recreational Fishing License, these locations carry no entry fee and can offer good fishing: the catwalks on the Oregon Inlet Bridge, under the Manteo bridge, behind the Bodie Island Lighthouse, and the miles of surf, up and down the Outer Banks.
Go see the catch being brought in at Oregon Inlet Fishing Center. Grab the family and witness the charter boats as they return from fishing all day and unload their bounty on the docks. The best time to go is around 3:00pm. Don’t be surprised to see lots of catch flags flying on the boats, signifying the number and types of species caught.
Keep a line in the water. Fishing can be extremely unpredictable. But those who catch fish are successful because they KEEP FISHING. If I can provide any advice, it is to keep a line in the water; don’t give up because it is slow. I have seen slow times turn instantly into some of the best catches. The patient are often rewarded.
Scout the surf for holes. Fish like to hang out in the deeper holes, near the surf. Low tide can be a great vantage point to find these holes. After you find the primo spots, start fishing them an hour before the incoming high tide; water and (hopefully) fish should start to fill in.
See what others are doing right. While on the pier or the surf, if you see someone out-catching everybody, take some time to observe their technique, bait being used, etc. Heck, you can even introduce yourself and ask for a few pointers. I have seen shelves at the tackle store get cleared out of a certain color lure by the observant.
Practice catch and release. Just because you can keep 15 bluefish a day doesn’t mean you should. Us anglers should be conservationists of the sea and practice moderation. Keep what you will eat and release the rest to live another day.
Total length versus fork length. When measuring a fish and adhering to NC Fishing Regulations, make sure you do it correctly. Some fish, like speckled trout, have minimal total length requirements, which is measured from the head to a pinched tail. Other fish, like Spanish mackerel, are covered by a minimum fork length, a measurement from the head to the apex of the fork of the tail.
Mattie Dalia has fished the coastal waters his entire life and made a lifelong dream come true by moving to the Outer Banks in 2006. You can usually find him in the evenings on Nags Head Fishing Pier, pursuing his favorite fish, el Spanish mackerel. Feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.