Offshore Fishing From the North Carolina Coast

A quick look at a map of the North Carolina coastline shows you how the state juts out into the Atlantic Ocean, meaning the Gulf Stream and lots of great offshore fishing await anglers in the know. In fact, much of North Carolina’s coastline is closer to the Gulf Stream than anywhere in the United States north of Stuart, Florida.

A wide variety of charter fishing operations makes it easy for you to get offshore in search of the big one. Because coastal North Carolina marks the spot where the cool Labrador Current collides with the warm waters of the Gulf Stream before it heads toward Europe, fish also converge from both directions throughout the year.

The long list of possibilities of fish out in the Gulf Stream and closer to the coast include sailfish; blue and white marlin; dolphin; amberjack; bluefish; yellowfin, bluefin, and blackfin tuna; king and Spanish mackerel; wahoo; oceanic bonita; barracuda; false albacore; cobia; channel bass; sailfish; several shark species; and varied bottom fish – like triggerfish, sea bass, tilefish and grouper.

Though spring to fall is most popular for offshore fishing, there are fish to be found in the Atlantic year-round.

Northern Coast

The Outer Banks remains a hub for offshore fishing opportunities, including boats heading out of Hatteras, Manteo, Wanchese and Oregon Inlet. As with the rest of our state’s renowned outfitters, the typical offerings include varied half-day and full-day charters and regularly scheduled “head boat” options, with half-day trips staying to the west of the Gulf Stream – where there’s also world-class fishing – and full-day trips heading to the heart of the Gulf Stream. There are some even shorter trips available, as well as overnight excursions that would have lured Ernest Hemingway onboard. Some options include Phideaux Fishing Charters, Country Girl Fishing Charters, Sharky's Charter Booking or Salty Waters OBX.

Ocracoke Island’s Ocracoke Village provides another great base for offshore fishing. Quaint Ocracoke includes several charter fishing operations – Cap'n B Fishing Charters, Dream Girl Sport Fishing and Gecko Sportfishing are a few – as well as surf fishing along part of sprawling Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

Southern Coast

Southwest of the Outer Banks and Ocracoke Island, the beloved Crystal Coast awaits with a similar variety of options out of Beaufort (try Hawk Charters), Morehead City (Breakwater Charters) and Atlantic Beach (Family Time Fishing Charters). Down in the Wilmington area, offshore fishing operators head out of Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach for a wide range of nearby fishing options. Try Deep Sea Express Charters, A Fine Line Fishing Charters, or Fillet & Release Fishing Charters.

North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands also feature a number of offshore fishing options, with boats based in Southport, Oak Island, Holden Beach, Ocean Isle Beach and Calabash. Options: Oak Island Fishing Charters, Fugitive Fishing Charters or Ollie Raja Charters.

Those with less time, inclination or a budget for heading offshore should also consider one or more of our state’s great array of piers. More than 15 different piers create “offshore” fishing access across coastal North Carolina, meaning lots more fish are within your range. Of course, surf fishing remains an excellent option as well.

Whether or not you have luck offshore, it’s easy to enjoy fresh North Carolina seafood at many restaurants throughout the state. North Carolina Catch supports the work of several local seafood initiatives stretching from the Outer Banks down the coast to the Brunswick Islands. When in a restaurant, grocery store or seafood shop, look for the logo from Ocracoke Fresh, Brunswick Catch or Carteret Catch to guarantee your seafood is fresh from North Carolina waters.

Updated June 8, 2023
About the Author
Cele and Lynn Seldon

Cele and Lynn Seldon

Cele and Lynn Seldon miss the sunsets and walks on the beach in Oak Island, where they basked in the North Carolina sunshine for 15 years.

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