A great way to beat the weekend crowds and enjoy a prize fishing spot all to yourself is by night fishing. While most North Carolina beaches do not allow camping on the beach, for the most part, setting up the fishing gear and staying out late is perfectly fine. Check with your local tourism boards, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in North Carolina (or the National Park Service if you are night fishing on a National Seashore) to see if it is permitted in the area at the time you want to fish. Occasionally, a stretch of beach can be closed for night fishermen, particularly in the late summer and early fall when sea turtle nests on the beach are about to hatch and the lights of fishermen can distract them from their scurry to the ocean water.
You may also want to bring a friend, and plenty of lights, particularly on 4-wheel-drive beaches when oncoming trucks might not see you as they drive along the beaches. Remember that coastal nights can be much colder than coastal days, so an extra sweater or jacket might come in handy.
Check the weather before you head out, as it is just as likely that a common coastal thunderstorm will pop up at night as it is during the day. Weather websites, like Weather.com, offer satellite images of any approaching storms, and this will give you a good indication as to what lies ahead weather wise. If a storm does hit, put any metal poles away and head for the safety of the vehicle until it passes. After the storm, you might be in for a pleasant surprise, as the gusty winds that often accompany a thunderstorm have a tendency to drive fish to the coast.
Also before you go night fishing, you should test the batteries in your lights at home first, just to make sure they can hold out for the long haul. Keep spare bulbs, when applicable, and spare batteries on hand in your vehicle. It is nearly impossible to cut up a piece of bait and properly rig a line when the lighting is bad.
Some anglers suggest using lights to attract fish towards the shore. However, this doesn't always work, as the fish that frequent the area might not be used to seeing artificial lights in the area. It is possible that this could scare them off just as likely as it would attract them.
Two lights that may come in handy, are a head lamp and a tip light. A battery operated head lamp is attached to elastic and, like a coal miner's lamp, is worn on your head and gives you a little extra light in front of you for casting and preparing bait.
A tip light is a tiny battery operated lamp that attaches to the top of your fishing pole, so that you can see when the pole is flicking back and forth indicating a bite. This is especially useful if you plan on using pole holders, and letting them do most of the work. Unless they are firmly secured and balanced, be sure to remove the tip lights when casting so they don't fly off into the water or unbalance the tip of your rod and result in a bad cast. Red colored tip lights are generally more economical and provide perfect light for the tip of the pole.
What are the benefits of night fishing? For one thing, you can have a popular stretch of beach that is cluttered by surfers, beachgoers and other fishermen in the daytime, for yourself. For another, there are some big species of fish that primarily feed at night, like drum and sharks. Fishing after dark increases your chances of landing one of these big catches.
Day or night, summer or winter, surf fishing is a relatively inexpensive and easy way to enjoy some of the best fishing that the coast has to offer. With a multitude of different tasty species that vary among all seasons, there is always a great catch lurking somewhere off a North Carolina beach. Remember, even if you come home empty handed, there is nothing like a good tall fish tale to liven up any North Carolina vacation.