February 26, 2024

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Pamlico Fishing Guide: The Complete Guide

Reading Time: 9 minutes

You can’t go wrong with fishing the Pamlico Sound. Why? The largest lagoon on the East Coast is made for angling. The Outer Banks (OBX) protect the area from the Atlantic Ocean, offering calm fishing grounds to anglers of all skill levels.

The sound boasts a rich network of marshes, estuaries, and productive waterways. And its unique ecosystem has been luring anglers from all over the country for so long that fishing has become an indistinguishable part of the local culture.

But Pamlico Sound fishing isn’t just about catching fish. Here, you can explore the true natural beauty of North Carolina’s coast. You can try kayaking, go bird watching, or just enjoy a peaceful escape from everyday life.

In this guide, we’ll talk about everything you need to know for an unforgettable adventure in these rich waters. We’ll take you through the best places to fish, the top species to target, the most productive techniques, and much more.

Pamlico Sound Fish Species

We’ve spoken about the rich inshore fishing grounds but, actually, the Pamlico Sound is much more than that. As well as being a shallow-water playground, it also offers access to the Atlantic Ocean. That means an angling adventure here could be pretty much anything you want it to be. From Bluefish and Redfish to Kingfish and Billfish, here are the stars of the show.


Enough of the hyperbole. Let’s get down to it. The Pamlico Sound itself offers such prized species as delicious Redfish and Flounder, along with Bluefish, Striped Bass, Black Drum, and even Tarpon in summer. We told you fishing here was good!

Bluefish and Striped Bass

A father and his teenage daughter pose aboard a fishing charter in the Pamlico Sound, holding a large Striped Bass on a clear winter's day
Photo courtesy of Flying Fish Charters OBX – Manteo

Your inshore adventure in the Pamlico Sound starts with some of the most sought-after species around. Bluefish and Striped Bass. Prime season for Bluefish runs from June through August, providing the ideal summer escapade. The best time to pursue Stripers is during their spring and fall migrations.

Whichever of these two species you want to target first, rest assured you’ll be upping your angling game. Head to Oregon Inlet, Hatteras Island, and Cape Lookout. There, try trolling with spoons or plugs, casting with jigs or plastics, or fly fishing – all these techniques can produce good results for Bluefish if you pick the right spot.

If you’re looking to outsmart Striped Bass, consider heading to Roanoke Island, the ever-popular Hatteras Island, and Cape Lookout. Gear up and troll with umbrella rigs or live bait or cast with topwater lures or soft plastics. Or do what the locals do – go fly fishing.

Redfish and Flounder

A smiling angler in a blue shirt and wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses, stood aboard a fishing charter in the Pamlico Sound, holding a large Redfish on a clear day
Photo courtesy of Waymaker Charters

No angler is ever disappointed to find feisty Redfish on the list of potential catches. And the Pamlico Sound is no different These species bite best during the fall season when they indulge in a feeding frenzy.

So, how can you tame Redfish? There are a couple of proven techniques that locals use, such as sight fishing with live bait and soft plastics. Or, you can lure them with topwaters, streamers, or poppers when fly fishing. The best Redfish territories include Core Sound, the Cape Lookout area, and the serene Neuse River.

The fun doesn’t stop here, though. Flounder actively bite in the waters of Pamlico Sound from June through August. Set sail for hotspots such as Oregon Inlet, Hatteras Island, and the Pamlico River. As for the best technique? You’re welcome to experiment and go for anything from bottom fishing with cut bait to drifting live bait and jigs.


The temptation of Snappers, Groupers, Cobia, and Kingfish, not to mention Mahi Mhai, Billfish, Tuna, and Tilefish, is hard to resist. Venture beyond the inlet and explore what the offshore waters of the Atlantic have to offer. The fishing menu is pretty impressive.

Kingfish and Cobia

Two youthful anglers hold a Kingfish each on a dock in the Pamlico Sound on a sunny day, with numerous sportfishing boats behind them
Photo courtesy of Haley Adyson Sportfishing

The waters just out from the Pamlico Sound are home to big, “Smoker” Kingfish (also known as King Mackerel) and the formidable Cobia. These species command the waters, challenging anglers of all skill levels.

Both Kingfish and Cobia are most active during the summer months from May through September. To outwit them, locals use trolling with live bait or spoons, casting with jigs or bait, and bottom fishing with cut bait.

If you’re looking to set your course for the best locations around to land the two species, consider Cape Lookout or the idyllic Hatteras Island. Alternatively, you can explore the deeper holes near the east end of Taylor’s Creek.


Two anglers stand behind a table on the deck of an offshore sportfishing vessel, holding a large Marlin, with the water behind them on a clear day
Photo courtesy of Carolina Style Sportfishing

Whether it’s the elegant Sailfish or the regal Marlin, Billfish fishing in Pamlico Sound is one of the reasons why anglers book a deep sea fishing trip here. Of course, you’ll need to venture offshore, but it’s definitely worth it when the season hits.

These game fish reign from June through September. Blue Marlin can be caught with trolling rigged baits or lures, or with live bait fishing. Their smaller brothers – the agile White Marlin – can be attracted with the same tactics. While both Blues and Whites can grace the local waters, Blue Marlin are definitely more prevalent.

Some of the most popular Billfish territories include the Gulf Stream and the Diamond Shoals area. Hatteras Island is one of the the closest spots in the country to the Continental Shelf, so this is one of the best places to venture offshore from.

Tuna and Mahi Mahi

Two men and a child stand on a boat dock in the Pamlico Sound, each holding a large Bluefin Tuna on a sunny day, with boats to the right of them and a car behind in the distance
Photo courtesy of Hayden Express Charters

But the ultimate angling escapade won’t be complete without some Tuna and Mahi Mahi fishing during the summer. Yellowfin Tuna dominate the waters beyond the Pamlico Sound, while Blackfin tend to be less abundant. But, if you’re lucky, you may even come across the highly prized Bluefin!

Troll with baits and lures, cast jigs and topwater lures, and deploy live bait to tempt the fish in. The favored playgrounds of both Mahi Mahi and Tuna are the Diamond Shoals area, the Gulf Stream, and some other offshore spots that a lot of local captains keep secret. That’s why heading out with a local guide is your best bet!

How can I fish the Pamlico Sound?

Now that you know what’s biting, it’s time to get a little bit technical. As we just mentioned, it’s never a bad idea to head out with an experienced guide, who’ll have their preferred techniques to land all the local fish. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know what to expect. Let’s talk about some of the most popular fishing techniques in the Pamlico Sound:


A view out across the back of a fishing boat with six trolling rods lined up and the wake of the boat visible in the water behind
Photo courtesy of Artemis Sportfishing

Some call it boring, while others believe that trolling is a dynamic angling technique that can help you land a lot of fish. To conquer your target, you’ll first need to equip yourself with top-notch gear, such as a sturdy rod and a high-quality reel. As for the lines, opt for weights between 30–50 pounds to make sure it can withstand the might of whatever’s biting. Match it with appropriate lures, such as diving plugs, spoons, and baits, and you’re all set.

The trolling speeds depend on where you’re fishing and what you’re after. Any captain will make sure to maintain the right speed and stay vigilant to make sure your target takes the bait. This technique works best for species such as Mahi Mahi, Tuna, King Mackerel, and Billfish but you can also troll inshore for species such as Striped Bass.

Bottom Fishing

A female angler leans over the side of a fishing boat, bottom fishing in the waters of the Pamlico Sound on a relatively clear day
Photo courtesy of Waymaker Charters

Bottom fishing in the Pamlico Sound is a technique suited for anything from Flounder to Seabass, and even Cobia. This rewarding angling method is productive year-round, but the peak seasons vary depending on which species you go for. The Pamlico and Neuse Rivers, along with Hatteras Island are good bottom fishing spots where the seafloor teems with life.

For a productive experience, you’ll want to gear up with a medium-heavy action rod, paired with a saltwater spinning or baitcasting reel. Local anglers choose braided lines between 20–40 pounds and stock their tackle box with sinkers, circle or J-hooks, cut bait, live bait, and other essentials. For the best results, anglers fine-tune their game by adjusting the weight and presentation to the current and depth.

Fly Fishing

Two anglers stand on a fishing charter, while one holds an Albacore Tuna and a fly fishing rod in his hands, with the water behind them on a cloudy day
Photo courtesy of FlyLight Charters

Fly fishing enthusiasts know how elegant this craft is, especially when targeting species such as Striped Bass. This technique isn’t reserved for Stripers, though. You can also fly fish for Redfish and Seatrout, whose seasons peak from late spring to early winter.

Pamlico Sound fly anglers tend to favor a 7–9 wt saltwater fly rod, a reliable reel, and a versatile floating or sinking line. The lures and flies are typically designed to mimic the natural prey of their specific targets.

You can start your fly fishing journey in the flats around Roanoke Island, the marshes near Core Sound, or the grassy shorelines of Cape Lookout.

Pamlico Sound Fishing Spots

A view from a hill towards the Pamlico Sound on a cloudy day, with a small, wooden fishing pier sticking out into the water in the middle of the image

We’ve talked a little bit about where you should go to find the best bite, but let’s take a closer look. As the largest lagoon on the East Coast, the Pamlico Sound is an angler’s paradise. With abundant opportunities both inshore and offshore, there are various spots for anglers to explore. Here are some of our top locations for you to consider:

  • Oregon Inlet. The inlet is located on the northern end of the Outer Banks, popular for both shore and charter fishing. You can get your hands on anything from Redfish, Speckled Trout, Bluefish, and Flounder to Striped Bass and Tuna.
  • Ocracoke Inlet. This inlet is tucked between the Ocracoke and Portsmouth Islands. It’s a picturesque spot with breathtaking views of the Atlantic, fewer crowds, and healthy populations of Redfish, Flounder, Speckled Trout, and many other species.
  • Stumpy Point Bay. Some anglers say that the shallow Stumpy Point Bay is the ultimate spot for a Redfish rendezvous. It’s located on the western shores of Pamlico Sound, offering excellent wading options, as well.
  • Rodanthe and Avon Fishing Piers. Both piers are iconic landmarks with excellent facilities for anyone who wants to cast a line for Redfish, Flounder, and Mackerel while enjoying the refreshing ocean breeze. Plus, there’s a vibrant social scene as night falls.
  • Buxton Fishing Hole. Also known as “The Point,” this hole is located on Hatteras Island. Here, the Pamlico Sound meets the Atlantic Ocean, blending the currents and offering a lot of angling options for Redfish, Bluefish, and more.
  • Engelhard. This charming fishing village is nestled on the shores of the sound, luring anglers with promises of Flounder, Striped Bass, and even Crab. You can book a fishing charter or explore the shallow marshes with an on-foot guide.
  • Hatteras Island. This barrier island is based on the southern end of the OBX. Anglers come here to surf fish for Striped Bass and Bluefish. Plus, there are a number of inlets and jetties to fish from a boat. And that’s without mentioning its access to some serious offshore hunting grounds!

When to Go Fishing in the Pamlico Sound

A view along a boardwalk towards a lighthouse in the Outer Banks, with plenty of water grass and calm waters surrounding it at sunset on a clear day

Each Pamlico Sound fishing season brings its own unique opportunities to target a selection of fascinating fish species. Spring breathes new life into the area, making it a perfect time to pursue Striped Bass as they migrate through Roanoke Island and Hatteras Island. Plus, Redfish become active in the marshy areas and flats around these months.

In the summer months, it’s all about the game. This season offers the chance to land Bluefish, Flounder, and Cobia near Oregon Inlet, Hatteras Island, and Cape Lookout. Plus, you can hit the waters of the Gulf Stream and Diamond Shoals for some Tuna, Mahi Mahi, and Billfish.

Fall brings a new set of opportunities, such as Redfish in the Neuse River, Core Sound, and Cape Lookout. Later in the season, Bluefin Tuna arrive, followed by Striped Bass that make their presence known as the colder months hit.

Pamlico Sound Fishing: Tales of the Tides

An aerial view of the Outer Banks, looking towards Hatteras Island, with the waves crashing into the OBX from the right of the image and the Pamlico Sound visible in the distance on the left

Fishing the Pamlico Sound is sure to leave you with a treasure trove of unforgettable memories. It might be the Bluefin Tuna you caught offshore, the elusive inshore Redfish, or that first dose of Striped Bass on the fly. This aquatic playground has earned its rightful spot among some of the best locations to cast a line in North Carolina – nay, the country! If you’d like to take home the spirit of the Pamlico Sound with you, come and see it for yourself!

Have you ever fished the Pamlico Sound? What’s your favorite catch? Share your fish stories with us in the comments below!

The post Pamlico Sound Fishing: The Complete Guide appeared first on FishingBooker Blog.

By: Lisa
Title: Pamlico Sound Fishing: The Complete Guide
Sourced From: fishingbooker.com/blog/pamlico-sound-fishing/
Published Date: Fri, 30 Jun 2023 12:23:49 +0000

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