If you are a visitor to the Outer Banks and would like to spend an afternoon doing something fun (and free), go check out the fish!
Every afternoon there are hundreds of boats returning from their fishing trips, with some amazing hauls. We like to visit the marinas and see how the fishing was, and we’d like to share a few tips with you! There are several marinas to choose from, and each offers different types of charter fishing – inshore, offshore, half-day and full-day. If you have a couple of hours to kill on a sunny afternoon, read on!
When to go
Not every charter boat returns at the same time. At Oregon Inlet, it’s a slightly shorter trip to the Gulf Stream than it is for boats departing from Wanchese, while the trip from Hatteras to the Gulf Stream might be quicker than Oregon Inlet (depending on conditions). If you are looking for some Gulf Stream fish (Mahi, Wahoo, Tuna) then you want to find a marina with several boats that go on offshore trips. If you are looking for inshore fish (Drum, Cobia), the timing might be a little different. Here’s a rough guide for when the boats return at various locations on the Outer Banks:
Hatteras – 3:30pm til 4:30pm
Oregon Inlet – 3:30pm til 5:00pm
Wanchese – 11:00am til 12:30pm, 4pm til 5pm
What to expect
Some boats will have the mates sling the fish onto the deck at the marinas, especially if it was a good haul! Other boats might be reluctant to do this for various reasons. Sometimes the party that books a charter trip doesn’t want the fish laid out at the dock for pictures, they just want the fish packed up and they head home with their catch. Sometimes the captain or mates have things to tend to, and they need to get the boat washed down and tied up. But more often than not, as the boats come in they will start putting out the day’s catch. We like to park towards the water, so we can see the boats as they are coming in and head over toward their slip at the marina. If we don’t see any other boats showing off their catch, we’ll head back to relax in the truck until we see another one coming in.
You are free to take as many pictures as you want, and share them with others! You never know what you’ll see coming in, and for the really big ones it’s quite a spectacle to see them on the scales. Some marinas like Hatteras Harbor have their own webcam pointing at the scales, so if you’re stuck inside you can still catch a glimpse of what’s going on at the docks!
One thing to keep in mind is that some of the prizes like marlin or sailfish are catch and release, so you won’t see them at the docks. Also some captains encourage their party to practice catch and release of any fish they aren’t going to eat. We think this is a great idea, and we are big supporters of this approach. We do enjoy chatting with the folks hopping off a boat with marlin flags raised, see if you can spot some flags at the marinas!
Where to go?
Two of our favorite hangouts are the docks at Oregon Inlet and the docks at OBX Marina in Wanchese. At Oregon Inlet they have the largest fleet of offshore charter fishing vessels on the East Coast. How can you go wrong with so many boats coming in every single afternoon? OBX Marina in Wanchese has a smaller fleet, but if you’re familiar with the Wicked Tuna series on National Geographic, those boats were docked at OBX Marina! It’s a great spot to catch half-day trips coming back in (around lunchtime) with some inshore hauls, and generally just hang out from lunch til the late afternoon. There are several other marinas which are great to check out, pick one in your area and stop by!
Oregon Inlet Fishing Center
Pirates Cove Marina
And don’t forget – when you’re watching the fish come in, take some pictures and share them! If you tag them on twitter or Instagram with #charterhookup, your pictures will show in our feed on the main page!
We love the Periscope app, if you want to patrol the docks and shoot some video, tag us there too! But most of all, have fun at the docks and enjoy one of the best kept secrets on the Outer Banks – a free afternoon of sightseeing at the premier Gulf Stream fishing spot on the East Coast.