On a tiny strip of sand a few miles south of Nags Head, NC there lies the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center. Now sure, there are lots of deep-sea fishing opportunities off the Eastern coast of the United States. But how many of those spots sit as close as 20 miles from the Gulf Stream? Some of the biggest trophies of sportfishing, some of the best bluefin and yellowfin tuna fishing, it’s all right there, a short boat trip away. In fact, of all the land in the continental US, North Carolina’s Southern Outer Banks are the closest to the Gulf Stream. Want more? It’s where the cooler southward Labrador Current, the land structure of the Outer Banks, and the warmer northward Gulf Stream waters mix together and create a dream scenario for offshore fishing.
So one would think this place has everything going for it, right? There’s just one small hitch – it’s moving.
It’s moving constantly, every year. The Oregon Inlet was formed when a hurricane hit the Outer Banks in 1846. And since then, it has moved south. Over two miles south. And as hurricanes have thrown whitecaps against the Outer Banks, Oregon Inlet continues to move ever so gradually.
And there’s one more problem- a bridge spanning the entirety of Oregon Inlet.
The Bonner Bridge was built in 1963 and expected to have a 30-year lifespan. After all, why build a 2.7 mile bridge spanning an entire inlet that moves south if you didn’t plan on putting up a new one someday? It’s this dynamic that has plenty of Outer Banks residents and visitors a little concerned. And who can blame them- 1993 was a long time ago. As the inlet moves south, the bridge remains fixed in place. So why is there a single high span on this 2.7 mile bridge for boats to move from the Pamlico Sound into the Atlantic Ocean?
If the inlet wasn’t moving at an alarming rate southward every year, perhaps that makes sense. If the bridge had multiple spans to allow boats in and out, that would have made sense. But at this point something’s got to give – the bridge has to go. The state of North Carolina has spent millions on dredging the inlet, to ensure that commercial and charter fishermen can make their way out into the Atlantic. And the state of North Carolina is in discussions to buy the land around Oregon Inlet (currently controlled by the federal government) so they can install jetties and create a more long-term solution. After all, Oregon Inlet fishing charters bring revenue into the state. But what good is one of the best offshore fishing spots in the world if you can’t get your boat out?
There aren’t many places on earth where you can catch a blue marlin and be home in a couple of hours. So for all those hardworking commercial and charter fishermen using Oregon Inlet to tap into the bounty of the Gulf Stream, we hope the state and federal governments figure out a solution.
And for all those looking for a great day of charter fishing, check out the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center. While the inlet might be moving, the captains aren’t. And the fish will be here.