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