Important Things to Know About Fall Fishing in the Outer Banks

Fall is a most wonderful time of the year. It’s a season packed full of holiday and tradition, with ample opportunity to spend extra hours with family and friends.

In the Outer Banks, fall fishing is a prime activity for locals and visitors alike. Whether you prefer leisurely nearshore fishing excursions or action-packed offshore adventures, the North Carolina barrier islands have something for you!

In fact, much has been written about what species of fish can be caught in which types of waters during these busy angling months. If you haven’t already done so, try doing a quick Google search for “fall fishing in the outer banks” and you’ll see exactly what we mean! You can also check out this North Beach Sun article or this one over at Outer Banks Revealed for more examples.

At Great Escapes, we pride ourselves on providing what you need while also attending to those details that make all the difference between a good trip and a GREAT one! Keep reading here for several important but sometimes overlooked points of information that you’ll want to know before your fall fishing adventures in the Outer Banks!


It’s Gonna Be Busy

Let’s face it. North Carolina’s Outer Banks are a fishing hot spot no matter what time of the year it is, but the fall season is particularly busy. Our little slice of paradise is situated in such a way that we are the uppermost range for species such as tarpon and grouper and the lowermost range for species like flounder. This means that the OBX offers lots of variety appealing to all kinds of anglers.

gone fishing on the obx | Great Escapes OBX


While you may think this is a mark against a fall fishing trip, we tend to disagree. For one, the sheer number of fish running through the waters means that you’re likely to hit your limits regardless of your skill set. No need to be a surf-fishing expert if you’re casting in Corolla in November. This makes a fall fishing trip in the Outer Banks a perfect family-friendly outing for people of all ages and abilities.

In addition, there are bound to be plenty of bona fide experts nearby that can help you choose which bait to use as a lure for your bucket list bluefish or black drum. Most old salts are happy to oblige with a word of advice or two, provided you and your fishing crew aren’t creating a ruckus and scaring off everyone’s catch.

Also, because the dates of a fall fishing trip are beyond the scope of the traditional beach vacation months, you may enjoy off-season pricing for your vacation rental. You can spend your savings on some new fishing gear or an offshore charter!


outer banks fishing rules | Great Escapes OBX

Rules Are Rules


The rules and regulations pertaining to fishing in North Carolina are many and complex. They also tend to change on a semi-regular basis, and it can be difficult to figure out which specifications apply to which species.

But here’s the real bottom line – failure to know the rules does not absolve you from the consequences if you get caught breaking them.


The men and women from the NC Department of Wildlife and the NC Division of Marine Fisheries do not play around with rule breakers. If you are caught violating any policy pertaining to a fishing activity, you may be fined. Or worse.


At a minimum, you should know the following:

  • Anyone over the age of 16 years of age needs to have a fishing license to fish recreationally in North Carolina’s coastal waters.
  • Incorrect identification of a fish that you choose to keep may carry stiff penalties. Be sure you know exactly what kind of fish you’ve caught and stay up-to-date on the size and bag limits pertaining to each.
  • It’s acceptable – even encouraged – to simply catch a fish for the sport of it and then release it back into the water. There’s no need to keep a fish just because you’re still within your bag limits.
  • Sizing up is not cool. While immediate catch-and-release is considered humane and ethical, tossing back a fish that has already been stuck in the hold or a cooler in favor of a larger specimen is not. Don’t do it.
  • There’s an app for that (saltwater) rule. Those anglers among us who appreciate the power of a phone application should check out Fish Rules. This easy app takes much of the guesswork out of species identification and rules governing specific locations.


Play Fish Games,
Win Fish Prizes

The rewards associated with Fall fishing in the NC OBX are varied but potentially profitable. Fishing tournaments abound up and down the coastline, and while you can find a big event during pretty much any month from May through November, the calendar from late summer through fall is packed with activities ranging from surf and pier fishing to big offshore invitational events.

outer banks fall fishing tournaments | Great Escapes OBX


But did you know that you don’t have to participate in these organized affairs to potentially earn a little money from your catch?

According to this pamphlet, “The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries releases more than 15,000 tagged fish each year, including red drum, striped bass, southern flounder, spotted seatrout, and cobia. Where do they release these fish? In all coastal inland waters from the Albemarle Sound south to the Cape Fear River.

If you catch a fish with a tag (or even two tags), then you are eligible to receive a reward packet containing a letter with information about your fish, a personalized certificate, and a reward of your choice.

The division uses two tag colors, yellow and red. If you catch a fish with a yellow tag marked with “NCDMF”, you are eligible to receive $5, a hat, fish towel, or other reward. Be sure to check both sides of the fish because it may have two tags, which means you receive a double reward! If you catch a fish with a red tag marked with “NCDMF” and “$100 REWARD”, you are eligible for a $100 monetary reward. Please note, red tags must be cut-off and returned to the division’s Morehead City office to receive the monetary reward.

Mail tags to:
N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries
ATTN: Tagging Program
P.O. Box 769
Morehead City, NC 28557

When you catch a tagged fish, cut off the tag and record the following information:

  1. Species
  2. Tag number(s)
  3. Date
  4. Location captured
  5. Length
  6. Fate of the fish (released or harvested)
  7. Gear used for capture


Then report the tag and associated information to 800-682-2632, or online here.”


So there you have it! Fall fishing in North Carolina’s Outer Banks is an absolute must-have experience. But to truly take advantage of this activity, its important that you know what to expect, and what’s expected of you in return.

We hope that you use the information provided in this article to make your OBX fall fishing excursion one to remember!