Eight Top Outer Banks Surf Fishing Tips

An abundance of surf fishing opportunities makes the Outer Banks of North Carolina a top East Coast angling attraction. This is especially so in the fall, when large red drum, striped bass, and bluefish headline a long list of possible catches.

Any compilation of Outer Banks fishing tips must be prefaced with a reminder to make sure you’re up-to-date on fishing regulations for different species, as things can change during the season, plus access permits and your fishing license. That said, here are eight top Outer Banks fishing tips to help focus your efforts.

  1. If you’re new to OBX, as this area is known, and/or an inexperienced beach angler, hiring a local surf fishing guide will get you off to a great start for where to go and how to go about it.
  2. At the very least, visit a local tackle shop not only for supplies and bait, but also for information about what’s happening currently. Remember that storms change beach conditions, and this summer, Hurricane Dorian had a big effect on the North Carolina coast. Get as much local information as you can.
  3. Perhaps the most important of all Outer Banks surf fishing tips is this: When possible, try to do your fishing when the right tide and current coincide with low light conditions, meaning at dawn and dusk. This is prime fishing time.
  4. The fall staple of Outer Banks surf fishing species is red drum. These fish, which run large, are overwhelmingly caught on bait rather than lures. Crabs, mullet, and spot are the favorites.
  5. There is no substitute for the freshest possible bait. Buy your bait locally, as it will probably be what fish along the Outer Banks are feeding on, and acquired recently and locally. Take care to keep it in top condition.
  6. Use only single-hook surf rigs for bigger fish, like blues, stripers, and red drum. A two-hook rig can be used if your target is smaller species.
  7. Make sure you don’t use too small a hook with your bait. Smallish hooks are often made of thin wire and can straighten under severe pressure, plus their barbs may not completely penetrate a fish’s mouth, meaning they won’t hold. A lot of pressure is exerted in the surf while landing big fish, and the hook is vitally important.
  8. Visit beaches you plan to fish at low tide to observe sloughs, holes, bars, and other features. This is especially helpful after a storm, as beach and surf conditions change frequently.

Ken Schultz

Ken Schultz

Ken Schultz was a longtime staff writer for Field & Stream magazine and is the former Fishing Editor of ESPNoutdoors.com. He’s written and photographed nineteen books on sportfishing topics, plus an annual fishing tips calendar., and his writing has appeared on various websites for nearly two decades. His author website is kenschultz.com.