If you know where to look, the Outer Banks can be a beachcomber's paradise. With miles of shoreline to explore, hidden beaches that are relatively untouched, and literally piles of shells washing up on the beaches after a storm, shelling on the OBX beaches is simply a matter of timing and area expertise.
Before casting a line, visiting anglers will want to read up on the local rules, regulations, and tips for accessing the best regional fishing grounds.
A fishing license is required to fish from both the Atlantic Ocean beaches and from the Currituck Sound waters, although the type of license required may vary. Many portions of the Currituck Sound require a freshwater fishing license, (due to the sound's very low salinity levels), while a North Carolina Saltwater Fishing License is required to cast from the beach.
Licenses are issued by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC), and rates vary by both the type of license, and the time period that a license covers.
A temporary 10-day license typically runs around $10-$18 for visitors, and annual licenses can be purchased for $30 per year or so. A license is required for all anglers over the age of 16, and special discounts are granted for North Carolina residents.
Licenses can be purchased online via the NCWRC's website at http://www.ncwildlife.org/, or by calling the Commission directly at 1-888-248-6834. Visitors can also pick up a license directly, (or inquire about types of licenses required), at area tackle shops, like TW's Bait & Tackle which is located at 815B Ocean Trail in Corolla
Surf fishing regulations
Virtually every species caught in the Currituck Sound or Atlantic Ocean waters has a bag and / or size limit, which is regulated and monitored by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.
For a complete list of current limitations, (which includes a downloadable guide), visit http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/recreational-fishing-size-and-bag-limits, and remember that a fishing license is required at all times in Carova for both beach and sound fishing.
Types of fish to Catch, Where, and When
The type of species that can be caught in the Atlantic Ocean waters is completely dependent on the time of year.
Common (but tasty) species like bluefish can be reeled in year-round, while other species have their own unique "season" where they are the most common, and are the most likely to be spotted.
Local tackle shops are the best guides for determining what's biting, but generally anglers can be on the lookout for the following seasonal species when casting along the Carova shoreline:
- Spring - Red drum, black drum, king mackerels, croaker, striped bass,flounder, sea mullets, gray trout, and spotted sea trout
- Summer -Cobia, flounder, king mackerel, sea bass, Spanish mackerel, spotted sea trout, tarpon, pompano and sharks
- Fall - Red drum, black drum, gray trout, false albacore, king mackerel, sea mullet, sharks, flounder, spots, striped bass and spotted sea trout
- Winter - Flounder, striped bass, and spotted sea trout
Meanwhile, the almost-freshwater Currituck Sound is prime fishing grounds for largemouth bass and catfish, as well as smaller sunfish and sheapshead. In fact, after a decades-long period of overfishing, the Currituck Sound is once again regaining a reputation as one of the best bodies of water for North Carolina anglers.
The area is also prime digging grounds for shellfish, including clams and cold-weather oysters. Clammers will want to simply find a shallow patch of sound waters, climb out of the boat, and start burrowing the soft sand with their feet, or with a shovel. Small and irregular bumps or indents along an otherwise smooth sandy sound floor can serve as indicators of where clams and shellfish are hiding.
There are vast variations between the types of species caught in the Atlantic Ocean and the Currituck Sound, even though the two bodies of water are located about two miles away from each other (at the most) in Carova. As such, avid anglers are encouraged to explore both bodies of water for the optimal chances of landing a wide variety of coastal North Carolina catches.
While the town of Carova has no fishing tournaments, the region is within an hour of some of the larger off-shore tournaments on the Outer Banks. The Pirate's Cove Marina in Manteo hosts a number of nationally renowned tournaments every year, including the Billfish Tournament and the Alice Kelly Tournament, (which is only open to female anglers.) Both of these tournaments - which target blue and white marlins - have huge cash prizes that reach five figures or more.
The Outer Banks Anglers Club, which is headquartered in the central Outer Banks, also sponsors a number of fishing tournaments which are held throughout the year. Anglers who are interested in joining, or seeing what is on the upcoming calendar, can visit the Outer Banks Anglers Club online at http://www.outerbanksanglersclub.com/.
In addition, a number of smaller fishing tournaments are held at local Outer Banks piers, like Jennette's Pier in Nags Head, and in southern Outer Banks destinations like Hatteras Island, (which is the home base of the 60+ year-running Red Drum Surf Fishing Tournament.)
For more information on upcoming tournaments throughout the Outer Banks, visitors can swing by local tackle shops in Corolla, including Corolla Bait & Tackle, Bob's Bait and Tackle, and TW's Bait & Tackle.
While there are no fishing charters that launch directly from isolated and serene Carova, visitors will find ample inshore and offshore charters in the Northern Outer Banks and Currituck County regions.
These charters either target the calmer waters of the Currituck Sound, which is famed for its largemouth bass and catfish, or head offshore to the Gulf Stream, where big game and prize catches can be reeled in, including marlin, tarpon, Mahi, yellowfin tuna, snapper, amberjack, and more.
Carova visitors can contact Currituck Banks charters such as the East Carolina Charters, Island Girl Charters and Outer Banks Charter Fishing Adventures for more information on varying trips and rates. Inshore charters are significantly cheaper than offshore ventures, and are generally priced in the $300-$800 range, depending on party size and length of the trip. (Offshore charters are typically $450 or more.)
For the best selection of offshore fishing charter providers, visitors can head about 45-60 minutes south to the small Roanoke Island town of Wanchese. The fishing centers located in Wanchese are just miles away from the Oregon Inlet, and as such, are excellent launching points for an offshore fishing adventure. The Oregon Inlet Fishing Center, (also located about an hour away on Bodie Island), is another exceptional resource for offshore charters, and is home to dozens of local charter businesses.
Regardless of where on the Outer Banks a charter adventure begins, planning ahead is key. Local charters stay busy year-round, but many have websites and / or online booking for advanced reservations. Inshore and offshore charters can typically accommodate parties of 1-6, and may be cancelled for inclement weather, or steady winds of 20-25 mph or more. (Make-up charters may be available for cancelled trips.)
Despite the lack of local options for charter trips, Carova visitors will nevertheless be close enough to a wide range of trips in the Currituck Banks region, both in the Currituck Sound, and in the Gulf Stream 15-20 miles away. With strategic planning, and a well-packed carry-on of sunscreen, Dramamine, and a cash tip for the first mate, Carova visitors can easily enjoy an Outer Banks fishing charter trip.