In Nags Head, anglers will have their choice of public pedestrian beaches, 4WD beaches, three fishing piers, and the Albemarle and Roanoke Sound waters.

The combination of options has contributed to the town's legacy as a historically popular destination for anglers from all across the East Coast.

Local Charter Boats

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Fishing Charters

The town of Nags Head and neighboring Roanoke Island are home to a nice supply of fishing charters, like the Country Girl Head Boat, Fistful Sportfishing, Full Moon Charters, Marauder Sportfishing Charters, and Sandra D. Fishing Charters.

New visitors will also find a boatload of charter options at the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center, which serves as the home base for roughly 45 individually owned OBX fishing charters, and is located about 10-20 minutes south of Nags Head on NC Highway 12.

Regardless of the individual charter an angler embarks on, they'll want to keep the following considerations in mind when booking a fishing trip.

  • Inshore fishing trips stick to the waters of the Albemarle, Pamlico, and Roanoke Sounds as well as the "inshore regions" of the Atlantic Ocean, depending on where the fish are biting.
  • Offshore charter trips head to the Gulf Stream via Oregon Inlet, which is roughly a 1-2.5 hour trip, depending on weather conditions and destination.
  • Fishing charters can typically accommodate parties of 1-6 anglers
  • Oregon Inlet Fishing Center has several larger fishing boats, like the Miss Oregon Inlet, which can accommodate multiple anglers (20 or more) and which stick to the inshore waters close to the inlet.
  • Rates vary depending on inshore or offshore fishing, half day or full day, and party size. Note that it is customary to tip your first mate and / or crew members.
  • Fishing charters should be booked well in advance, although anglers should note that trips can be cancelled at the last minute due to inclement weather and consistent winds of 20-25 mph or more. Make-up charters may be available in these cases.
  • Many fishing charters can be booked online or by calling the business directly. The Oregon Inlet Fishing Center also accepts reservations for many of its on-site charters, and can be contacted at (800) 272-5199 or info@oregon-inlet.com.

Licensing and Fishing Regulations

 

  • A saltwater fishing license is required for all anglers over the age of 16 in the ocean or sound waters.Visitors can purchase a temporary 10-day license, and the cost runs around $5 for North Carolina state residents and $10 for out-of-area vacationers.
  • Licenses can be purchased at Nags Head area bait & tackle shops, the Walmart in Kitty Hawk, the Kmart in Kill Devil Hills, online at http://www.ncwildlife.org/fishing.aspx, or by calling the division directly at (888) 248-6834.
  • Note that each species has a bag limit as well as a minimum length. A complete guide to saltwater species limits can be found online at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/recreational-fishing-size-and-bag-limits.
  • A fishing license is NOT required for mariners who are fishing from a pier or charter boat, as these are covered by the respective owner's blanket fishing license.
  • There are three 4WD beach access ramps located in between Nags Head and Oregon Inlet. Because this area is part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, a Beach Driving Permit is required to access the shoreline with a vehicle. Permits can be purchased at the National Park Service Coquina Beach Station at 8101 NC Highway 12 in Nags Head.
  • Beach driving is also allowed in the town of Nags Head from October 1st thru April 30th, typically from sunrise to sunset. A permit is required to drive within town limits, and can be purchased for $25.
  • Surf fishing is allowed throughout the town of Nags Head on the public beaches, however anglers are urged to watch out for swimmers, surfers, and other vacationers sharing the waves.

Where to Fish

There are multiple access points for anglers in Nags Head, both along the oceanfront and the sound

Soundside - The parking areas near the Washington Baum Bridge are very popular with soundside anglers. There are also several pedestrian walkways parallel to US 64 so that anglers can fish directly into the open sound waters. Anglers can also head to the Harvey Sound Access, located near the Tanger Outlets at milepost 16, for uninterrupted Albemarle Sound access.

Oceanside - Virtually any stretch of shoreline is good for surf fishing, although local anglers are partial to the 4WD accessible beaches located just south of Nags Head. The beaches bordering Oregon Inlet, which are part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and are seasonally open in the fall, winter and early springs months, are considered one of the best fishing destinations on the OBX. A Beach Driving permit from the National Park Service is required to access these beaches with a 4WD vehicle.

Pier Fishing - Anglers can head to three fishing pier in Nags Head - The Nags Head Fishing Pier at Milepost 11.5, the newly renovated Jennette's Pier, and South Nags Head's Outer Banks Fishing Pier at milepost 18.5. Rates vary at each pier, but are generally in the $10-$15 per day range for anglers, and $1.00 - $2.00 range for sightseers. Each pier has a tackle shop and pier house where bait and supplies can be purchased.

What to Catch

Popular species vary by season and waters (sound or ocean), with the spring and fall months considered the best time for fishing. Anglers who are close to shore can often reel in mullet, sea trout, red and black drum, flounder, cobia, weakfish, snappers, mullets, bluefish, Spanish and king mackerels, and sharks.

A trip to the Gulf Stream can yield bigger catches, including Mahi, groupers, tuna, amberjack, tarpon, blue and elusive white marlins, and many of the aforementioned close-to-shore species.

Jennette's Pier has a daily fishing report at http://jennettespier.net/jp/fr/ for surf fishermen who want to see what's biting, and the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center's collective fishing report at http://www.oregon-inlet.com/journal/all_articles.cfm?ccat_id=1 is a valuable resource for inshore and offshore anglers.

Tournaments

The town of Nags Head has a handful of surf fishing tournaments, including the Nags Head Surf Fishing Club Invitational Tournament, a local competition that has been going strong for more than 60 years.

Jennette's Pier also hosts seasonal tournaments, such as the very popular Nags Head Youth Fishing Tournament, which is held in July and is aimed at the region's youngest local and visiting anglers.

Pirate's Cove in Manteo, located just 10-15 minutes away, serves as the launching point for several big-name offshore competitions, such as the annual Billfish Tournaments and Alice Kelly Tournaments - both of which target those big Gulf Stream marlins.

Further south, visitors will find a number of longstanding Hatteras Island fall tournaments, including the Cape Hatteras Anglers Club Tournament and NCBBA Frank and Fran's Red Drum Tournament. Both of these multiple-day tournaments are a decades-old legacy, and attract off-season anglers from all across the East Coast.

Additional tournaments are held throughout the year targeting a specific species - like striper, drums, and flounder - that are sponsored by the Outer Banks Anglers club. This relatively new club which was founded in 2008 offers a number of regional fishing tournaments that are relatively convenient for Nags Head visitors. For more information on upcoming competitions, visit http://www.outerbanksanglersclub.com/.

Fishing Gear

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.

Ugly Stik Bigwater Spinning Reel and Fishing Rod Combo, Black/Red/Yellow
$79.95

Ugly Tech Construction * Ugly Stik Clear Tip * Ugly Tuff Guides * Fuji Reel Seat * Durable Rubber Gimbal (select models)

*Prices are updated several times a day, but subject to change at any moment

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.

*Prices are updated several times a day, but subject to change at any moment

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.

YOTO Fishing Leaders,Saltwater Tackle Rig with Swivels Snap, High-Strength Fishing Wire Gear Equipment for Lures Bait Or Hooks,1Arm and 2Arm
$12.99

????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...

Pompano-Rigs-for-Surf-Fishing-Saltwater-Gear with Double Circle & Wide Gap Hook-6-Pack Surf Fishing Tackle
$12.99

FIELD TESTED HI/LOW FISHING FLOAT RIGS: Made for Surf Fishing enthusiasts of all levels. From beginners to pros, these rigs make fishing easy and enjoyable. XFISHMAN Surf Fishing Rigs can be used...

*Prices are updated several times a day, but subject to change at any moment

Rod holders

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.

*Prices are updated several times a day, but subject to change at any moment

Pyramid weights

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.

Pyramid Sinkers Fishing Weights, Saltwater Fishing Weights Sinkers Pyramid Weights Bullet Fishing Sinkers for Ocean Surf Fishing Tackle 1oz 2oz 3oz 4oz 5oz 6oz 8oz
$9.99

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...

*Prices are updated several times a day, but subject to change at any moment

Cart

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.

Gorilla Carts 200 Pound Heavy Duty Aluminum Poly Bed Fish and Marine Cart for Fishing, Picnic, and Other Outdoor Activities with Rod Holders, Gray
$205.99

HEAVY-DUTY CART: Poly fishing and marine utility cart wagon with 200-pound capacity for maneuvering heavy fishing gear, picnic supplies, or sporting equipment; Overall cart height of 24.75 inches ...

AESRAOU Beach Fishing Cart with Big Sturdy Wheels for Sand Heavy Duty ATV Car Outdoor Fishing Roller Wagon (Black)
$149.99

【Sturdy Metal Frame】Made of high-quality aluminum alloy, this beach fishing cart is sturdy and durable enough to hold up to 500 lbs. Featuring a tough powder-coated finish that prevents the frame...

*Prices are updated several times a day, but subject to change at any moment

Waders

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.

*Prices are updated several times a day, but subject to change at any moment

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.

Bait

  • 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.

Lures

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.

Heddon Saltwater Super Spook Jr - 3 Pack PK3X9236-2,Multi,One Size
$15.99

Perfect for walk-the-dog presentations * Tough construction; Dazzling colors * Realiztic finishes; Rugged line tines * Strong, sharp hooks

*Prices are updated several times a day, but subject to change at any moment

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.

Flying Fisherman Polarized Sunglasses with 100% UVA & UVB Protection for Fishing, Biking, Golf, Hiking, Beach, Driving – BUCHANAN, Gunmetal Frames with Copper Tinted Lenses (7719GC)
$22.75

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...

VIMOV Saltwater Fishing Pliers (2 Pack), Stainless Steel Plating Titanium Multi Tool (Hook Remover, Braid Line Cutter, Split Ring Opener) for Saltwater Angling, Kayak and Boating

★ 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...

Piscifun Fishing Pliers, Saltwater Fishing Pliers with Split Ring, Fish Hook Remover, Corrosion Resistance Fly Fishing Pliers with Braid Cutters, Sheath and Lanyard, Fishing Gear Gifts for Men, Black
$16.99

【Gifts for Fisherman】Add ultralight Piscifun Saltwater Aluminum Fishing Pliers Gear to your fishing box. Make your hook removal much easier. Fish on! * 【Anti-Corrosion Material】The...

KastKing Bait Knife and Fillet Knife, Boning and Food Prep Knives, 5 inch Bait Knife
$21.99

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, Gray, PVC Fabric with Waterproof and Non-Skid Base, Includes 2 3700 StowAway Utility Boxes, Soft Fishing Tackle Storage Bag
$73.99

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...

*Prices are updated several times a day, but subject to change at any moment

 

 

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