Surf fishing is one of the most popular ways to fish on the Outer Banks. Hundreds of miles of coastline make surf fishing accessible for most visitors here and the ocean cartography here creates the ideal environment for surf casters to catch many species of fish. Simple tackle is required for successful surf fishing on the Outer Banks. Typically used, a surf fishing rod between 6-10 feet in length, and a standard ocean bottom rig (see illustration) will provide excellent means for catching the widest assortment of inshore fish.
From May-September, a wide variety of fish can be caught directly from the surf! Bluefish, Spot, Croaker, Sea Mullet, Flounder, Skate, Dogfish, Pompano, and Drum are most common. Surf fishing is a great activity for families looking to fish on vacation as it is very easy and many fish are attracted to common baits. For surf fishing, use of bloodworms, squid, shrimp, cut bait, or the artificial alternatives make great all-around baits for the widest variety of fish. Squid is relatively inexpensive and should be cut into 2-3" triangles and hooked once through the wide part. Mullet is the preferred cut bait of choice and should be chunked in cubes/strips for hook placement. Bloodworms can bite so use caution. They are the most expensive bait on the Outer Banks but are VERY effective! Remember: small hooks catch more fish, so you may only need a size 4-6 hook for most fish in the surf.
There are more advanced techniques to surf fishing, but generally anglers using a bottom rig have the most luck casting into "holes" in the surf. A hole can be spotted by noting where waves do not break in the water. Waves will crash when the water is too shallow to support them. Casting in the deeper "holes" where waves are not breaking will put your bait where most bottom-feeding fish will be searching for food. Surf fishing from the beach is most productive around the tides as well. Surf feeding fish will move into holes during high tide, and can also be confined in them during low tide (see illustration below).
Other fishing rigs such as floating rigs, can be highly effective for catching Bluefish - a very aggressive and tasty fish. A floating rig is much like a bottom rig with the exception of small floats to keep bait at a level higher for hungry Bluefish. During the summer months, a lure pulled by a light tackle spinning reel can be highly effective as well for catching Bluefish. Spoons or Gotcha lures will both catch the eyes of predator fish and they will act fast on moving "look a-likes."
Remember, you will need a North Carolina Fishing License to fish the surf, so be sure to familiarize yourself with our state's size and possession limits. For this information check out our Tips, Bait & Tackle section.