Hatteras Fishing Charters maintain a legendary reputation among offshore anglers – and for much more than just the boat brand. The town offers unparalleled access to the deepest waters of the Atlantic Ocean. You can hit the gulf stream in under 20 miles at certain times of year and can be fishing 5,000 feet above the ocean floor within 50 miles of shore. It’s no wonder Hatteras Island is often referred to as “the Blue Marlin Capital of the World”.
Hatteras fishing has something to offer in every month of the year. There is a permanent population of several top inshore species, with Red and Black Drum, Bluefish, and Trout found in large numbers even in the depths of winter. As if this wasn’t enough, these resident fisheries are bolstered in the summer by huge migrations of Tarpon and Spanish Mackerel.
But it was not inshore fishing which made Hatteras a household name. Hatteras has been ranked by both Marlin Magazine and Saltwater Sportsman as one of the top billfishing destinations in the world. Blue and White Marlin, Sailfish, and Swordfish can all be caught here, not to mention various species of Tuna ranging from Blackfin to Bluefin, and other big game favorites like Mahi Mahi and Wahoo.
When should I go?
A host of big game species tag each other out as the year rolls on, making choosing when to go slightly less important but much more difficult. Time your charter right and you could catch a half dozen different big game pelagics in a single day. You will need to plan your trip carefully if there is a specific species you are after, though.
The spring and summer months are a never-ending stream of awesome offshore fishing
. The season kicks off with the Yellowfin Tuna migration in March, running neatly up until the first big Blue Marlin show up in June. By July, you have both Blue and White Marlin, as well as Sailfish, Bigeye Tuna, Mahi Mahi, and Wahoo. No wonder this is peak tournament season. Events like the Hatteras Marlin Club Blue Marlin Release Tournament have been running for nearly 60 years, and draw in top anglers from around the globe. The best Blue Marlin move on after a couple of months, but the rest of these species can be caught well into the second half of September.
By October, the biggest billfish bite has moved on. This is replaced by the wonderful madness of the late season “Smoker Kings” Mackerel migration. Thousands of these fish, as heavy as 50 pounds, come hurtling past Hatteras in the fall. Local anglers get very excited this time of year, and have got the techniques for catching big Kingfish down to a finely-tuned art form.
During the winter, one species which dominates the Hatteras deep sea fishing
scene. Anglers come from across the country to do battle against these hot-blooded beasts and the Outer Banks are one of the best places in the world to do so. We’re talking, of course, about Bluefin Tuna. Arguably the tastiest fish in the sea, Bluefin are the ultimate bucket list species for many a seasoned sportfisher. The winter months of December and January are the best for Hatteras Tuna fishing, but you can find Bluefin here from late October through the beginning of March if you’re lucky.
Unsurprisingly, a revolving-door migration of many of the world’s favorite deep-water delicacies brings with it a large, almost permanent population of super-sized Sharks. 500-pound Makos erupt from the water and huge Hammerheads patrol the deep, and promise awesome angling if you aren’t too busy worrying that they’ll take a bite of your Tuna mid-battle.
How long will I need?
Hatteras charter captains don’t mess about when it come to trip times. The best fish are often found many miles away, even in the most outlying reaches of the Outer Banks. Because of this, half day trips normally last 5 hours, and a “full day” can mean 10 hours or more, depending on who you ask. If you want to target the area’s great inshore species, a half day trip will usually be more than enough to bag some big bull Reds and trophy-sized Trout, or take on the seasonal visitors like Cobia and Tarpon.
For a lot of local guides, anything this side of the Gulf Stream is described as “nearshore” (a sign of how serious they are about blue water fishing). To hit these warm currents with enough time to fish you will need at eight hours on even the fastest boat in town. Normally, Hatteras gulf stream trips start at the 10-hour mark, and 12-hour or even overnight charters are very common, heading to the outer edges of the Gulf Stream, way past the continental shelf.
How much will it cost?
Hatteras boasts one of the most impressive fishing fleets you are ever likely to see. This should come as no surprise for a town of famous boat-builders and legendary charter captains. Even the smallest boats in town are capable of going offshore, and luxury cruisers well over 50’ long are a common sight.
Prices, then, depend entirely on what you’re after. An entry-level half day will cost you around $500, and can be as much as $800 for the bigger boats. 10-hour Gulf Stream Trips cost somewhere in the $1250 range for a decent-sized sportfisher, and can cost half as much again for a fully-fledged cruiser. You get some serious bang for your buck on these bigger boats, though, and if you are planning on booking a liveaboard trip, an extra few hundred dollars for complete luxury suddenly seems a lot more reasonable after several hours of body-breaking big game battles.
Types of fishing
The most important fishery in the Outer Banks has to be Bluefin. Hatteras Bluefin Tuna charters
stick to some basic ground rules, built from the experience of thousands of hours on the water. You will usually find a mix of weights trolled simultaneously, ranging from 80 to 130-pound test. Wide reels and heavy monofilament offer more reliable fishing, which is vitally important when battles can last several hours. Ballyhoo is the bait of choice for blue water trolling, often headed with Sea Witches or Ilanders to make even more of a spectacle in the water.
The other fishery of special importance to local anglers is big “Smoker” King Mackerel. These are targeted with live Menhaden and medium-heavy tackle – seven-foot conventional or spinning rods rigged with either mono or braided line somewhere in the 12 to 30-pound range. The most important part is to get your leader right. Five feet or so of 50-pound fluorocarbon with 2 or 3 feet of slightly heavier braided wire attached at the end to fend off their sharp, toothy bite.
Rules and regulations
You will need a license for anyone aged 16 and up when fishing in North Carolina. Most Hatteras fishing charters have blanket licenses which cover everyone on board. This is not always the case, especially on smaller boats, but 10-day licenses only cost $10 for non-residents, so it’s hardly the end of the world if you need to buy one.