North Carolina coastal fishing report for early May

North Carolina fishing report
The Sensation Sportfishing crew caught this 68-pound gaffer dolphin on May 2 off the N.C. coast.

Outer Banks is opening to visitors May 16

Plenty of fish are biting along the North Carolina coast, making this coastal fishing report a mixed bag. Inshore, offshore, nearshore, and in the surf, anglers are catching multiple species. It’s a mixed bag, with the star of the show changing daily.

As we slide into May, the weather has been a little up and down throughout the Carolinas. Even during the warmest days, the nights have still been cool, keeping the water temperatures between 58 and 68 degrees.

The folks at TW’s Bait and Tackle in Nags Head said the yellowfin tuna bite has been great offshore. Dolphinfish are also biting strong for anglers.

Inshore anglers are catching big numbers of speckled trout and puppy drum. Stripers are also a big hit, mainly around the bridges.

North Carolina coastal report
The yellowfin tuna bite has been strong this spring off North Carolina’s coast.

Surf fishing is going strong too along the OBX, with anglers catching lots of speckled trout and stripers. Most of the stripers have been good sized, with an occasional stud mixed in. The bluefish are everywhere, and while most have been small, some chopper blues are beginning to show up.

North Carolina coastal fishing report
Mike Jackson caught this 40-inch striper in the surf at Kill Devil Hills on Wednesday.

Yellowfin bite shows promise for other species

Doghouse Sportfishing Adventures in Wanchese has been catching big numbers of yellowfin tuna. They are also catching dolphinfish, and said more and more of this species are showing up each day.

Numerous charters out of Pirate’s Cove Marina in Manteo have brought back limits of yellowfin and some gaffer dolphin on recent trips. Heather Maxwell, tournament director of the Pirate’s Cove Billfish Tournament, is happy to see how strong the yellowfin bite has been, even with so few boats fishing for them lately. This usually points to a strong summer of fishing for marlin and sailfish.

North Carolina coastal fishing report
Surf anglers are catching lots of bluefish in the Cape Lookout area.

“The spring yellowfin run provides the best forecast for our summer billfish bite,” said Maxwell.

Customers of Chasin’ Tails Bait & Tackle in Atlantic Beach are keeping plenty busy. Pompano, bluefish (including some nice choppers), and Spanish mackerel are biting in the surf. Anglers in the Cape Point area caught big numbers of all three Wednesday, mainly with casting plugs.

Monkalur Dolphin Shootout has early leader

The Monkalur Dolphin Shootout, hosted by Chasin’ Tails, is already off to a fast start. The guys from Breakwater Charters brought some gaffers to weigh in last night. A 22.25-pound dolphin is the early leader of the months-long tournament. It’s not too late to enter, so call 252-240-3474 for all the details.

Some nice Pompano are also biting in the surf.

Speaking of Monkalurs, the Chasin’ Tails Charter Fleet gave them a workout, along with the popular Baitmasters of South Florida Ballyhoo and Sea Witches this week. They brought back some nice dolphin, wahoo, triggerfish, and snappers.

Big Nic Fishing Spanish Candies got the job done for some other Chasin’ Tails customers this week. Fishing at Artificial Reef 330, Kip and Kyson Kowalski mopped up on Spanish mackerel, bonito, and weakfish.

Kyson and Kip Kowalski had a big day fishing the nearshore reefs out of Atlantic Beach this week.

The tackle shop saw their first sign of chopper bluefish since 2018 earlier this week. One group of anglers brought one to weigh. The fish tipped the scales at 11 pounds, and is hopefully a good sign of what is to come. Some other choppers were also caught at Cape Lookout and a few of the nearshore reefs.

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Brian Cope
About Brian Cope 1648 Articles
Brian Cope is the editor of He has won numerous awards for his writing, photography, and videography. He is a retired Air Force combat communications technician, and has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina. You can reach him at

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