From our countries’ lakes and rivers to thousands of miles of ocean coastline, there are plenty of opportunities for the recreational and avid fisher alike to cast a rod, net, or even hand into water and interact with a variety of aquatic species. The best part? Most recreational fishing is available within a stone’s throw of our own backyards.
It’s precisely why, when we set out to bring you the best of adventure stateside, we started our new video series, “America’s Backyard,” with a journey fishing off the coast of North Carolina.
America’s Backyard: The Journey Begins in North Carolina
The coastal waters off North Carolina provide ample opportunity for some of the best sport fishing on the planet. This mecca of fishing allows prime access to both deep sea and inshore fishing, providing unique salt water experiences for any type of angler along its majestic coastline.
From rugged surf casters hoping for a nibble from striped bass to deep-water sport fishermen on the hunt for vaunted billfish like the blue marlin, fishing in this part of the Atlantic requires the angler to be bold, rugged, and up for ever-changing conditions. That’s why we tapped a few local anglers—including father/son captain duo John and Stephen Kittrell, along with experienced first mate Derek Nelson—to serve as our guides as we searched for the catch of a lifetime.
The Blue Marlin: A Fish of Legend
Any sport fisherman who’s been at it long enough will tell you that billfish have some of the best fight around. Sailfish, white marlin, the elusive blue marlin—these are the fish of legend. Every sport angler dreams of having a blue marlin on the hook, launching into the air, spear-nosed, like a javelin. But finding a blue marlin isn’t easy and landing one in your boat is even tougher.
The high season for this prized billfish is between June and August, making it a short window for anyone looking for a thrill of a lifetime. Warm ocean waters mean these fish typically bed deep in the ocean. Attracting them to the surface takes a lot of skill, luck, and patience.
Over the course of a few days in July we joined John, Stephen, and Derek as we navigated the waters off coastal Carolina on the hunt for a Blue Marlin. These waters are also inhabited by another colorful creature, the dolphin fish, as well as predatory sharks who passed through as they migrate up and down the Atlantic seaboard.
In our video above, you’ll get a sense of why the Carolinas are the epitome of deep-sea fishing. You’ll see how exhilarating, yet exhausting, a day spent in the deep Atlantic Ocean can be, regardless of what fish you happen to reel in. Were we successful in reeling in blue marlin? You’ll just have to watch and find out!
If you’re interested in replicating our trip, or want to plan your visit to the Outer Banks region of the Carolinas to try your hand at sport fishing, visit our interactive map for points of interest along with some of the locations our adventurous crew recommends you visit along the way.
Meet the America’s Backyard Carolina Crew
Captain John Kittrell is owner of “The Wasabi,” a fishing vessel he acquired a few years back from a local owner. Why name a boat Wasabi? “I really like wasabi, especially on tuna. So now I have my wasabi and all I need is some tuna,” Kitrell says, laughing. Based out of Wanchese Harbor, John Kitrell and his son, Stephen, can often be found trolling the waters off the Outer Banks on the hunt for mahi-mahi and marlin.
Stephen is an offshore sport fisher and big-fish chaser. He’s a pro-staffer for JPR Rods and often takes “The Wasabi” out for a spin. You can follow Stephen’s adventurers on Instagram.
Derek Nelson is a world-class first mate, handling a lot of the dirty work required to help reel in a massive fish like the blue marlin. He’s also experienced enough to serve as captain and is the owner of his own boat and charter, “Back in Black.” Derek recently appeared on a podcast talking about his start in the fishing world. Follow Derek’s adventures on Instagram.
The Appeal of the Outer Banks
The Outer Banks has a plenitude of options for the recreational angler—experienced and novice alike. Sure, anyone can pull up their car on the beach and cast a line into the surf or dangle some bait off a pier into the coastal inlet for a great fishing experience. But for real heart-thumping adventure, you’ll want to chase the wide variety of billfish out in the open Atlantic. Visit our interactive experience for some of the gear you’ll need to start your Carolina fishing journey today.
Places of Interest
Our journey started in the town of Wanchese (pronounced Wahn-cheese), a hamlet on Roanoke Island. Nestled between the Outer Banks and the North Carolina mainland, Wanchese is widely considered the hub of commercial fishing and boatbuilding on the Outer Banks, Wanchese is a great home base for any fishing vessel looking to venture out into the Atlantic and where you’ll find “The Wasabi.”
Just across the inlet from Wanchese are the long islands that comprise the famed Outer Banks region. Another prominent harbor in the area, Pirate’s Cove, is supposedly where Michael Jordan will be docking his new boat—which has been the talk of the town. Oregon Inlet is another popular destination for fishing charters seeking deep-sea adventure, especially as the inlet offers prime access to the Atlantic Ocean. For those into historical landmarks, the Oregon Inlet Life Saving Station, built in 1898, is currently protected under the National Register of Historic Places.
Where to stay
Coastal inns, hotels, and motels alike line the Outer Banks oceanfront. Most resorts are situated within easy access to the ocean beaches, making this a popular summertime destination for the angler and family alike. For those looking for a more rustic, local experience, try booking an Airbnb or VBRO for your stay.
Our America’s Backyard crew set up shop in an Airbnb in Kill Devil Hills. This coastal town offers the traveler popular beaches to play as well as some epic sunsets at night. Famously, Kill Devil Hills is the location of the Wright brothers’ first powered airplane flight on December 17, 1903. However, since Kill Devil Hills didn’t officially exist until 1953, it’s famously known that the Wright Brothers flew their craft in Kitty Hawk, which is just a few miles north.
Where to dine and drink
Dozens of mom and pop joints, including seafood shacks and family dining establishments, are within walking distance of just about any location on the Outer Banks. However, after a hard day spent on the water, nothing washes down the taste of success (or disappointment) quite like a cold, refreshing beer. Swell’s A Brewing is an ocean-inspired brewery offering craft beers and live music to help you celebrate or drown your sorrows.
A must-stop for any Outer Banks local and tourist alike is Sam & Omie’s. Situated conveniently as you leave Roanoke Island and enter the Outer Banks, this staple dates back to 1937 as a respite to feed early-morning fisherman—as well as handle some charter bookings for those looking for a deep-sea thrill. With its central location, it’s no wonder local fishing crew operators have made Sam & Omie their hangout. Since the 1970s, it’s been feeding and regaling fisherman, happy hour seekers and the family diner alike. Some vintage photos line the walls for those seeking a walk back through local Outer Banks history.
However, for those looking to cook up their own feast, nothing is more classic than a seafood boil. Tossing together some fresh catch (either yours or store bought) and whatever corn and local staples you can pull together, a seafood boil is a quintessential way to end a day on the Outer Banks, especially under the cool, coastal breeze at sunset. If you come up empty handed in your catch or just want to leave the prep to the experts, the Outer Banks Boil Company is for you. With locations up and down the Eastern seaboard, Outer Banks Boil Company provides convenient “Pots to Go” with all the fixins’. No cutting or meticulous cleaning required, just add liquid and heat on your stovetop—giving you more time to enjoy a beer around the fire and share tales of the one that got away. For locations and catering visit outerbanksboilcompany.com.
For more information about where to experience your own epic adventure in the Outer Banks, visit our interactive map.
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