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Hatteras Island's first tourists were fishermen, and fishing along the 50 miles of shoreline has become an institution on the island that is still enjoyed today, in every season.
Before casting, visitors will want to read up on the local regulations, guidelines, and tips for securing the best chance to reel in a big catch. With exceptional fishing conditions on the soundside, the oceanside, and even offshore, it's no wonder that Hatteras Island is still recognized as one of the best fishing vacation destinations on the Eastern Seaboard.
All anglers who are 16 and older will need a saltwater fishing license, or Coastal Recreational Fishing License (CRFL,) to fish from any of the soundside or oceanside beaches on Hatteras Island. These licenses are both inexpensive and easy to obtain, and the cost for a 10-day license typically hovers around $5 for North Carolina visitors, and $10 for out-of-state visitors. Annual fishing licenses are also available for a nominal cost, and are typically available in the $15-$30 range.
Every village on Hatteras Island has at least one local bait and tackle store where anglers can pick up a fishing license while on Hatteras Island, and fishing licenses can also be acquired ahead of time by visiting the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission's website at http://www.ncwildlife.org.
Surf Fishing Regulations
In addition to a saltwater fishing license, visitors who want to access a wide range of beaches, including the popular surf fishing destinations of Cape Point, South Beach and Hatteras Inlet, will want to acquire an ORV or Off-Road Vehicle Permit from the National Park Service.
Offered in weekly and yearly increments, this permit allows all licensed drivers with a registered 4WD truck or vehicle to drive on the 4WD accessible beaches. The permit costs vary from year to year, (a weekly permit is typically available for around $50-$60), and visitors can obtain a permit at the local ORV office near the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, or online at http://www.nps.gov/caha/planyourvisit/permitsandreservations.htm#ORV/.
While an ORV permit allows visitors to access miles of otherwise hard-to-get-to beaches, it should be noted that a number of the more popular surf fishing destinations, which include Cape Point and Hatteras Inlet, have been closed to seasonal visitors in recent years due to endangered bird breeding activity. These closures are usually in the summer months, and anglers are advised to check out the regularly-updated NPS access map at http://www.nps.gov/maps/full.html?mapId=0c53eca8-fd01-40ef-b809-41f814fe5efc to see what areas of the Cape Hatteras Recreational Seashore are currently open to the public.
Where to Fish and What to Catch
Anglers will find plenty of options when it comes to fishing on Hatteras Island, from the soundside canals and private Pamlico Sound docks to the big ocean waters. Diverse and always scenic, fishermen can head to any of these destinations for a full day of angling, and a wide range of fishing conditions.
Cape Point - Recognized as one of the top surf fishing spots on the East Coast, Cape Point is the geographic "turning point" of Hatteras Island, (where the island begins its hook towards the west), and is located just inshore of the Diamond Shoals, the Labrador Current, and the Gulf Stream. The ensuing surf fishing conditions are among the very best on the Outer Banks, and it's not unusual for dozens if not hundreds of anglers to cluster along this area of shoreline in the fall and spring months. Expect to real in drums, mackerels, blues, sharks, cobias, and even occasional offshore species from this legendary fishing locale.
South Beach - Located just a hundred yards or so south of Cape Point, this beach attracts a healthy percentage of the big-game catches that are abundant at Cape Point, but is never quite as crowded. South Beach is also known as one of the best shelling spots on Hatteras Island, which makes it a solid destination for families.
Hatteras Inlet - Head to the southern tip of the island and start casting for a chance to catch big inshore and offshore species as they cross through the inlet en route to the Pamlico Sound or Atlantic Ocean. Popular in the spring and fall, Hatteras Inlet is known for big game catches and plenty of room to spread out. Just note that this region is best accessed by a 4WD vehicle, and the waters closest to the open inlet can be crowded when the fishing is good.
Surf Fishing - Hatteras Island visitors can head to virtually any stretch of beach, start casting, and inevitably reel in a great oceanside catch or two. Popular oceanside beaches for surf fishing include Old Road in between Avon and Buxton, the Frisco beach that's adjacent to the Frisco Airport, and the stretch of shoreline in between Avon and Salvo. The best way to access most of these beaches, especially when carting along a lot of fishing gear, is via a 4WD vehicle, and there are seven ORV beach access ramps on Hatteras Island to choose from.
Pier Fishing - There are two fishing piers on Hatteras Island which are open to the public, including one in Avon and one in Rodanthe. Both piers are open seasonally until midnight or later, and are popular spots for anglers to reel in blues, Spanish mackerels, king mackerels, sea mullets, cobia, and even drum. (In fact, one of the largest drums on the East Coast was caught from the Avon Pier.) Both piers also have a bait and tackle store / snack shop on hand where anglers can pick up gear and refreshments, and ask local pier experts what's biting.
Pamlico Sound - The Pamlico Sound is a completely different fishing experience, where anglers can cast a line, or drop a cast net, to score tasty sheapshead, mullets, crabs, and other typically smaller species. Anglers can simply wade out a hundred yards or so to start fishing, as the waters in the Pamlico Sound are rarely more than 5' feet deep. In addition, fishermen of all ages can easily go clamming in the sound by finding a bumpy and bubbly spot along the sandy floor, and shuffling their feet to unearth the big local clams.
Freshwater / Brackish Water Fishing - Believe it or not, Hatteras Island also had freshwater or brackish-water fishing for anglers who want a completely different change of pace. Head to the Buxton Woods region in Buxton and Frisco, where a cluster of large ponds can be found, or scope out the local residential communities that are just barely off the salty waters of the coastline. For example, local Avon anglers who are in-the-know flock to the small ponds in Kinnakeet Shores, (next to the Food Lion), which are stocked with small-mouth bass.
Hatteras Island has nearly a dozen regionally and nationally recognized fishing tournaments that have been going strong for decades, and which attract anglers from all over the country.
While some of these tournaments are invitation or members-only tournaments, a large number are open to the public on certain days, or when spots open up for new teams.
The 50+ year-running Angler's Club Invitational Surf Fishing Tournament is a prime example of this, and the tournament hosts a public surf fishing event on Saturday morning in addition to the traditional and nearly week-long invitational tournament.
Anglers who are new to the tournament scene on Hatteras Island but want to learn more can stop by any local tackle store to find out the details on upcoming surf and offshore fishing tournaments on Hatteras Island. (In fact, many local tackle stores, like Frank & Fran's in Avon or Hatteras Jack's in Rodanthe, even sponsor their own annual surf fishing tournaments.)
The fall months of October and November are typically the most popular times of the year for surf fishing tournaments, while the early summer May and June months are popular for offshore tournaments.
In any case, every season typically has a handful of fishing tournaments to choose from, and new anglers and spectators are typically welcome to join in the fun.
There are a half dozen local marinas clustered along the Hatteras Village soundfront docks, and these marinas are stocked with dozens of fishing charter businesses that are happy to take out fishermen on an offshore or even inshore fishing adventure.
Anglers who want to plan a fishing trip but who are unfamiliar with the local Hatteras Village charter vendors can call the marinas directly for reservations and contact info, or can use a centralized booking agent like http://www.charterhookup.com/.
Most fishing trips that are offered on Hatteras Island are offshore adventures that chug out to the Gulf Stream for big sport and game fishing at its best. Hatteras Village is just 15 miles or so away from the Gulf Stream, and as a result, is one of the easiest launching spots for offshore fishing along the Outer Banks.
A number of different offshore charter fishing trips are available, including half day, full day, and even specialized trips like kayak-Gulf Stream fishing - a new venture that's gaining popularity with seasoned offshore anglers. Targeted species include marlins, groupers, tuna, amberjack, and other big catches that can easily weigh in at 50 lbs. or more.
Inshore fishing adventures are also available, (and often at a noticeably lower cost), for anglers who want to explore the local inlet, ocean and sound waters, which are located a mile or so away from the barrier island shoreline. Local inshore vendors like Got ‘Em Charters in Hatteras Village can provide customized, family-friendly fishing trips that stick close to shore, target local species, and / or simply explore the barely-offshore islands which are locally known for exceptional shelling and clamming.
Regardless of whether a visitor goes on a deep sea adventure or sticks close to home, the Hatteras Village fishing charters can cater to practically any adventure. Be prepared to leave the docks at 5:00 a.m. or earlier, and be sure and make a charter fishing reservation well in advance. Fishing is always popular on Hatteras Island, and the renowned local charter fishing businesses are always in high demand.