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Limits & Quick Reference Guide - Outer Banks Surf Fishing Species

What fish did I catch? How big does it have to be to keep? What bait works best? Learn more about the fish of the Outer Banks!



(Alt. Names)

Preferred Bait


In Season


Spadefish Atlantic Spadefish Use tiny hooks baited with shrimp or jellyfish. None
(Angelfish) (Peaks feeding midday.) (20/day)
Black Drum Black Drum Rarely caught with artificial lures. Use cut mullet, menhaden, shrimp, or blood worms. March - May Sept. - Dec.
(Drum) (Bottom rig with sinker or single hook with no sinker.) (None)
Bluefish Bluefish Cut baits fished on the bottom, or casting or trolling artificial lures, such as metal spoons, bright-colored popping lures, jerk jigger style baits and lead-headed plastic grubs. March - Nov.
(Blues, Snappers, Choppers, Taylor Blues) (Bluefish have razor sharp teeth; handle with care.) (15/day, only 5 great than 24")
Cobia Cobia Hunts by sight. April - Aug.
(Ling, Lemonfish) (Most are caught around the inlet on the tide line.) (33" min, 2/day)
Florida Pompano Florida Pompano Bottom fish with natural bait such as sand fleas, cut bait, fiddler crabs, and shrimp. Later summer
(Pompano) (Often caught in the surf just behind the breakers. They love warm, clear water.) (None)
Gulf Flounder Gulf Flounder Use live and artificial finger mullets. June - Dec.
(Flounder) (Use hook and line or bottom rig.) (15" min, 6/day)
King Mackerel King Mackerel Live menhaden and cigar minnows, or dead ribbonfish seem to have the best result, but spoons and jigs also works. April - June Sept. - Dec.
(King, Kingfish, Snakes, Smokers) (Catch off the end of a pier using a slow reeling technique.) (24" min, 3/day)
Kingfish Kingfish Shrimp, mole crabs, blood worms, or squid. Some success with jigs or spec rigs. April - Nov.
(Sea Mullet, Whiting, Virginia Mullet, Roundhead) (Use a two hook bottom rig with live bait.) (None)
Northern Pugger Northern Puffer Shrimp, blood worms, or squid. None
(Swell Toad, Puffer, Blowfish, Blow Toad, Toadfish, Sea Squab) (Use a two hook bottom rig with live bait.) (None)
Pigfish Pigfish Shrimp, blood worms, or squid. None
(Hogfish, Grunt) (Use a two hook bottom rig with live bait. Fish near a structure or rough bottom.) (20/day)
Pinfish Pinfish Shrimp, blood worms, or squid. None
(Sea Brim, Pin Perch, Sand Perch) (Use a two hook bottom rig with live bait.) (None)
Red Drum Red Drum Cut bait, shrimp, or live bait. March - June Sept. - Dec.
(Channel Bass, Redfish, Puppy Drum, Spottail Bass) (Surf fishing or spot fishing.) (18" min, 27" max, 1/day)
Sheepshead Sheepshead Fiddler crabs, barnacle, oysters, clams, crabs, or shrimp. None
(Convict) (Difficult to hook because they take the bait fast.) (None)
Silver Perch Silver Perch --- None
(Sand Perch) (Often caught unintentionally and used as live bait for bluefish, mackerels, and striped bass.) (None)
Southern Flounder Southern Flounder Use live and artificial finger mullets. June - Dec.
(Flounder) (Use hook and line. Often caught under bridges and docks.) (15" min, 6/day)
Spanish Mackerel Spanish Mackerel Use any tiny, shiny metal lure or jig. May - Sept.
(Spanish) (Retrieve quickly.) (12" min, 15/day)
Spot Spot Shrimp, blood worms, or squid. None
(Yellow Belly) (Use a two hook bottom rig with live bait.) (None)
Spotted Seatrout Spotted Seatrout Shrimp or minnow. May - Dec.
(Speckled Trout, Southern Spotted, Weakfish, Speak) (A popular method is to suspend bait from a float.) (14" min, 4/day)
Striped Bass Striped Bass Attacks nearly anything. Oct. - April
(Rockfish, Rock, Striper) (Cast or jigging with artificial bait. Surf fish with spoons or heavy lures. Float or bottom fish with natural bait.) (See below*)
Summer Flounder Summer Flounder Cut bait, shrimp, or live minnows. Bucktail lures and jigs. May - Dec.
(Fluke, Flounder) (Use a bottom rig.) (15" min, 6/day)
Weakfish Weakfish Attacks nearly anything. Oct. - Feb.
(Grey Trout, Trout) (Weakfish have a soft mouth. Keep the line tight, but don't pull hard because the hook could rip through the lip.) (12" min, 1/day)
White Perch White Perch Live minnows or small artificial baits. None
(Gray Perch, Blue-Nosed Perch, Silver Perch, Sea Perch) (Use drift fishing with minnows and casting with jugs and spoons.) (None)

* Striped Bass: Albemarle Sound Management Area: contact DMF for seasons, areas or other limits; Atlantic Ocean year-round: 2 per person per day at 28” TL minimum; Other coastal areas (excluding Inland Waters-regulations set by Wildlife Resources Commission), 2 per person per day at 18” TL minimum and unlawful to possess between 22” – 27” TL in Joint waters. Moratorium in Cape Fear River system. Season October through April, statewide by proclamation (except Cape Fear River). Includes hybrid bass.

Illustrations by Duane Raver from the book "Fishes of the Southeastern United States".