Are you looking for a remote getaway that’s good from spring through fall? Somewhere that offers all the sportfishing opportunities you could wish for, perhaps? Then look no further than Oak Island. Separated from the mainland by the Intracoastal Waterway and facing the Atlantic Ocean on its southern side, this place just screams “Serious angling action!” That’s why we’re here to let you in on everything there is to know about an Oak Island fishing adventure.
In this guide, we’ll run through species, spots, techniques, rules, and much more. By the time you’re done reading, we’re sure that – aside from being a theoretical expert on casting a line out of Oak Island – you’ll be itching to join the 30-50,000 annual visitors. So without further ado, let’s dive in.
Why Oak Island?
First things first. You’re probably wondering why a small town of fewer than 10,000 inhabitants is the place to be. After all, North Carolina is littered with prime angling locations! Well, the town’s size is part of its charm, giving you that homely feel when you visit. Not only that, but it’s seriously geared up for tourists, promising you a warm welcome.
We’re talking first-rate hospitality at a range of different accommodation options. Then you’ve got the ubiquitous seafood restaurants that’ll get you in the mood to get out on the water right away. There’s even some history to explore, with the historic fort – Fort Caswell’s battery – and miles of sandy beaches. And let’s not forget the most important thing – world-class fishing.
Top Oak Island Fishing Catches
So let’s get down to it. We’ve said Oak Island fishing promises incredible action. But don’t just take our word for it – take a look at the list of species on offer.
There are inshore favorites like Black and Red Drum, Flounder, and Speckled Trout. Hit the nearshore waters, and it’s all about Mackerel, Bluefish, and False Albacore. But head offshore, and here you’ll find the greatest rewards of all. Wahoo, Mahi Mahi, Blackfin Tuna, Sailfish, and Marlin are all possible in the depths of the Atlantic.
Oak Island Inshore Species
The Intracoastal Waterway is a haven for inshore fish from Texas to Massachusetts. And Oak Island is no exception. In fact, fishing here is better than in most places thanks to the numerous winding creeks and sloughs. There are even beachfronts primed for casting a line. With so much on offer, there’s the chance to fish shoulder-to-shoulder with other anglers, or find a secluded spot just for yourself.
Then it’s about getting that bait combo right and targeting your preferred fish. Minnows and live lining is a favorite combo for Redfish and Black Drums – and these grow to huge sizes come fall. They’re partial to some shrimp, mullet, and even artificials. Basically, whatever you have in your tackle box should do the job.
Explore the protected backcountry waters on foot, by boat, or even with a kayak, and there’s no end to the amount of fish you catch. Well, until you max out, that is – but more on that later. Hit the marshes and deeper holes, and you can find Speckled Trout and Flounder, too. Of course, if the waters are clear enough in summer, you can even try gigging!
Oak Island Nearshore Species
You’ll need a slightly larger vessel than a kayak when looking to catch some of the nearshore species, however. Despite this, when the weather gets good, some nearshore creatures come close to shore and there’s a chance that visiting an Oak Island fishing pier could see you reel in a monster. From just a few hundred yards to 15 miles offshore, there are plenty of sought-after creatures waiting to take your bait.
If out on a boat, trolling will be the name of the game in the Atlantic. With this method, you can entice Spanish Mackerel, False Albacore, and Kingfish. Metal jigs and Clarkspoons will do the job for the first two, but larger Kingfish are more likely to bite if you present some live or cut bait. Try bluefish or porgy for the best results. And the good news is that you can target Bluefish in their own right closer to shore!
The further out you go, the bigger and stronger these creatures get. They’re also joined by some of the most sought-after fish in the Gulf. Think Snappers, Groupers, Amberjack, and Cobia. These fish are absolutely delicious and they all put up an impressive fight. And you can also mix up bottom fishing and trolling to get ’em to bite. All we can say is – get ready for a serious workout.
Oak Island Offshore Species
So we said the fish grow to bigger sizes the further out you go… there’s almost no end to how big they can get. The deeper waters hold serious predators. And with sunken wrecks and reefs giving way to the Gulf Stream and bluewaters, you can really get your hands on a personal best out of Oak Island.
You’ll start by deep dropping for deepwater Groupers and Snappers. Mix this up with trolling when the season hits, and you could land Tuna, Mahi Mahi, and Wahoo, too. Ballyhoo lures will do the job here, attracting these topwater feeders, who promise to battle you for every inch of your line before you land a tasty treat.
Keep heading out, and you’ll eventually find the Gulf Stream around 45–60 miles out. This is where you’ll find Sailfish and Marlin. Trolling works well for these creatures too, but you’ll need some serious heavy gear as Marlin have a tendency to leap out of the water and thrash their bills around. Meanwhile, Tuna can dive deep with your line. Try chumming with cut bait to get a school of them near.
When’s the best time to go fishing on Oak Island?
We didn’t want to overwhelm you with information regarding seasonality in amongst all that, so we’ve broken it up in a more digestible fashion here:
As you’ll see above, fishing around Oak Island is possible year-round. Winter is reserved for the inshore favorites. Casting a line sure is a great way to keep warm and the rewards of a hearty meal at the end of the day are enough to tempt anyone. In fact, the only reason Redfish and Trout fishing, in particular, aren’t marked as “Great” in the winter is because they reach their peak sizes in fall, meaning that’s the best time of year to come.
And that goes for offshore and nearshore fishing too. September and October are the best times to come to get a mixed bag. You’ll also benefit from fewer crowds, while the weather will still be warm! If you’re looking for that trophy, however, come between spring and the height of summer. Just make sure to book up early, as trips and accommodations fill up fast.
How to Go Fishing from Oak Island
So, you know what you’ll be going after and when you want to come. Now let’s see about picking the right Oak Island fishing trip for you. From hidden spots along the shore to piers, all the way out to big offshore sportfishing vessels – this small town isn’t short of options. Have a look at what suits you best.
Oak Island Surf Fishing
Ask anyone who hasn’t been fishing before what they think casting a line looks like, and it’ll be something similar to surf fishing. While there are a million different ways to cast from the surf, fishing on one’s own or with a small group of close friends is the back-to-basics approach that anglers all over the world love. And it doesn’t get much better than Oak Island.
From busy public beaches to hidden creeks, from green park areas to grassy flats where you can wade – surf fishing here can be whatever you want it to be. Bring your favorite gear or hit one of the numerous bait and tackle stores to rent some, and you’ll be ready to cast away. All inshore fish are possible. And, if you’re in the Atlantic, Bluefish and Mackerel are also in the cards when the season hits.
Oak Island Pier Fishing
Every locale that’s proud of its fishing makes the most of it. And Oak Island surely follows that trend. While the town used to be home to three piers, just two remain in the Atlantic. But there are plenty of docks that act as effective vantage points in the Intracoastal, too.
The advantages of pier fishing are manifold. First, you’ll have that extra purchase by being at such a height above your fish, giving you the edge when trying to reel ’em in. Secondly, the structure in the water builds up algae, which, in turn, attracts bait fish. You know what that means – bigger fish come hunting for food here, too!
Finally, you’ll be surrounded by like-minded anglers, giving a real community feel to your angling experience. And, you’ll be just minutes from the shore, so you won’t have to worry about grabbing lunch.
Oak Island Charter Fishing
If you’re looking for the best of all worlds, however, charter fishing is for you. You’ll get to explore everywhere from the inshore creeks and the Intracoastal Waterway to the deep bluewaters of the Atlantic Ocean – depending on the boat.
And that’s the best bit. There are fishing charters dotted around Oak Island that cater to every need. Taking the kids out to learn how to fish? Try a skiff. Mixing that up with a trip nearshore? A center console has you covered. And then there are huge sportfishing vessels ready to take you offshore.
No matter what kind of adventure you opt for, you’ll have the invaluable knowledge of a local guide at your side. Not only that, but they’ll also provide all the rods and reels you need, too. Hop on a charter and all your fishing dreams could be about to become a reality.
Oak Island Fishing Spots
While heading out with a guide will mean that they’ll take care of getting you to the honey holes, there’s no reason you shouldn’t know where to go. And, if you’re fishing from shore, there are plenty of locales you simply must check out. Have a look at our top Oak Island fishing spots below:
- The Point. Located on the western end of the island, this spit of sand is a vast expanse of surf fishing opportunities. Target Sharks and Mackerel in the ocean in summer or turn your attention to Bull Redfish in fall. This place has it all.
- Davis Canal. Looking to get away from it all? This secluded fishing spot is the place to be. It’s difficult to reach, so you won’t be mobbed by other anglers. But kayak fishers are particularly fond of this area. And there’s little wonder why when you can land all Oak Island’s inshore trophies here.
- Oak Island Fishing Pier. Where better to cast a line than the town’s most famed purpose-built fishing structure? Flounder, Trout, and Redfish are obvious targets, with Bluefish, Mackerel, and even Amberjack and Cobia showing up too. With the NC state record Tiger Shark caught from this very spot back in 1966, you won’t want to miss out.
- Ocean Crest Fishing Pier. If the thought of pier fishing entices you but the crowds and action of the main structure put you off, head to the island’s second pier. This is a Mackerel hotspot – Spanish and King varieties – and there’s no need for a license to cast your line. Win-win!
- The Shark Hole. Lying 20 miles from shore, the name of this honey hole should tell you all you need to know. But not only is this deepwater ditch a Shark hotspot, there are also plenty of Cobia, Amberjacks, Snappers, Groupers, and Mahi Mahi around. Don’t miss out on the chance to head another 5 miles to discover the riches of the “Frying Pan,” too.
- The Gulf Stream. We mentioned where the big fish like to hide and there’s no place quite like it. Head 45–60 miles offshore and you’ll hit a current almost unseen all over the world. Bringing with it pelagics ranging from Mahi Mahi to Tuna, to Billfish, this is where you’re most likely to land that trophy catch.
North Carolina Fishing Regulations
Before we let you go, there’s just some housekeeping to go through. Unless fishing from a licensed pier, every angler aged 16 or older will need an NC coastal fishing license. That is – unless you’re heading out with a charter. In that case, the captain will have you covered. Other than that, your guide will also keep you abreast of all the other regulations regarding bag and size limits.
Speaking of which, if you’re fishing on your own, you should keep an eye on these restrictions. Most importantly, you can only keep one Redfish between 18 and 27 inches, three Kingfish measuring over 24 inches, and one Marlin and Sailfish of various sizes per vessel. For a full breakdown of all the limits, check out the NC DEQ website.
Small Town, Big Rewards: Oak Island
So there you have it. Oak Island certainly punches above its weight when it comes to its fishing prowess. Have we convinced you to visit? With such diverse angling action, a range of other exciting activities to partake in, and a warm welcome all but guaranteed, we hope we’ve done it justice.
Have you ever been fishing around Oak Island? How was your experience? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!