One of the most common fish found in the Carolina surf. Overall this fish has a silver color with a gold tint in the background. Sometimes they have wavy vertical lines running along the upper sides. There are small barbels on the lower jaw. They typically weigh in at a pound or two and the meat is quite good.
Keep your bait size small. Do not jerk the rod when you hook one, the mouths are tender and you could pull the hook right out.
A tough (as in a fighter – not the meat) little fish – lots of fun to catch on light tackle. Overall color is silver with a yellow underside. Typical pompano weigh in at one or two pounds, though they can grow up to be larger. One of the tastiest fish you can catch in the surf.
As far as food quality goes – my personal favorite. Looks like a croaker to some degree. Less silvery in color – more brassy – and the tail is more forked. Spot have wavy vertical lines along the upper side of the body and their bottom is white. Look for the distinctive spot behind the gill cover. Typical spot weigh in at a pound or pound and half. When cooking up a classic fish fry, Spot are an excellent choice. Just give them an egg-wash, roll in breading and pan fry.
Serve with a slice of lemon.
Whiting (sometimes called Kingfish) is another abundant surf fish that will take shrimp. Many times you can see these fish swimming along in the surf. More slender of build than a croaker – these fish do have similar barbels on the lower jaw. Overall they are silver in color – with a yellowish tinge along the top. Two pounds seems to be the upper weight limit.
There are four major flounder species found in North Carolina waters. These flat bodied fish are ambush feeders that will strike artificial lures, cut bait or live bait. Generally speaking, they are taken when there is a source of movement with your bait. Pay careful attention to size and bag limits.
Bluefish in the NC surf are found in all sizes, from the small Snappers, weighing in at just a few ounces to toothy monster Choppers guaranteed to put a hurting on you and your equipment.
The taste of bluefish is not for everyone. I for one love them. Nothing like stepping out on the beach at sunrise, attaching a Hopkins lure to my line, casting toward the rising sun and bringing in a bluefish for breakfast. I submit, that those who do not like the taste of bluefish, do not know the way to prepare one for a meal. First, fresh is best. If you do not intend on eating your caught bluefish that day, return him to the ocean. Keepers should be cleaned as quickly as is feasible, remove entrails and scrap away the blood along the backbone. Leave the heads on if cleaning in the field, bag him in a ziplock and ice him down. I like to filet and soak the meat in buttermilk for about 30 to 45 minutes. Then I’ll take the fillets, pat them in a paper towel until they are only slightly dry, dredge the meat through cornmeal and fry them up in some hot oil. Cook until meat flakes easily with a fork.
The IGFA All Tackle Record was caught at Cape Hatteras in 1972. This beast weighed in at 31 lbs 12 oz.
North Carolina’s State Fish. The source of a North Carolina Surf Fisherman’s greatest dreams, fish tales and other lies. The Red Drum of North Carolina’s Outer Banks are the fish of legends, people from all over the world converge on our shores to pursue this fish while surf fishing. The IGFA All Tackle Record was caught in North Carolina. This leviathan was caught in Avon, NC and weighed in at 94 lbs 2 oz.
Similar in appearance to the Weakfish, it differs by its prominent black spots “speckled” about the body. The upper jaw has two large canine teeth. On average these fish measure 15 to 25 inches and weigh in at 2 to 4 pounds. The food quality of this fish is very good.
More olive green in color than the speckled trout and the spotting on the side is less dark in color as well as the spots being more arranged in a diagonal pattern. The mouth is soft, hooks can be easily pulled out during the fight.
Sometimes confused with Sheepshead, the Black Drum can be distinguished by the shape of its dorsal fin and the barbels on its chin. The Sheepshead also has very noticeably different teeth. Like the Sheepshead, Black Drum eat crustaceans and shellfish. The older the fish, the less noticeable the stripes, even tending towards a dingy black or deep bronze color.
Sheepshead like structure, think pier pilings or jetties, occasionally they may forage away from the structure if the food source is there. The Sheepsheads’ teeth are a distinguishing characteristic, resembling those of a sheep.
Not really thought of as a gamefish, these can be caught on all sorts of cut bait, but they tend toward shellfish. Certainly more fun to catch on light tackle, they rarely come in over 1 pound. The food quality of this fish is excellent. Just be sure to properly clean them. If I had to direct you to one video showing you haow to clean, this is my favorite.