Once you have applied your sunscreen, it might be time to try fishing. Anglers come from all over the world to fish the waters off the North Carolina coast, and it doesn't matter if you are big, small, young or old - around here, everyone has a chance at catchin' the big one.
There are tons of different places to cast your line. Local piers can be a great place to fish, and often charge just a couple dollars for a whole day's worth of fishing. You can also take a boat out to the inlets and sound waters, or simply go surf fishing and cast from the beach.
If you don't have a fishing pole handy, there are plenty of local beach and tackle shops that can provide you with the perfect pole for your fishing adventure. These shops can even tell you what's biting and where, and if you do land a big one, they can issue you a "Citation," which is a special certificate issued by the state of North Carolina for folks who catch the big fish.
A Citation is different for every type of fish. For example, you can get a Citation certificate if you reel in a Sheepshead over 8 pounds, but you can also get a Citation for a Sea Mullet that is over 2 pounds. A Citation is the perfect souvenir to frame on your wall, letting everyone know that you reeled in a beauty. For a complete list of how big a fish needs to be to get a Citation certificate, visit the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries website.
A few simple supplies will help you on your quest to land that perfect fish. Bring along pole holders to stick in the sand and hold your pole when you need a break, and whatever you do, don't forget the bait! You can pick up bait at the local tackle store, or catch your own from a soundside dock or a saltwater lake with a cast net. If you're taking a boat to go fishing, be sure you bring a hat to protect yourself from the sun, insect repellent, a first aid kit (just in case) and a life jacket. No matter what, don't forget to be patient. Sometimes it takes a long time for even the best anglers to land a fish, but when it happens, it is a feeling you will never forget.
Sometimes it can get a little boring sitting around and waiting for the fish to bite, but a little planning and imagination can go a long way. Set the poles in the pole holders, and keep an eye on them in case they move like crazy, indicating that you have a bite. As long as the poles are in the holders, you can enjoy a beach picnic, play a game of ball, read a book or just unwind on the sand. Make sure you keep your eye on the pole though, because if a large enough fish bites your hook, it could actually take off with it and pull the rod out of the holder!
If you want to try something new, your family can book a fishing cruise on a local fishing boat, like Dorothy's Harbor Tours on Topsail Island, a 2.5-hour educational fishing excursion that offers the opportunity to catch pinfish, pigfish and various other species, while learning about the various types of underwater marine life. On the Outer Banks, charter boats and fishing boats leave Hatteras Island daily, and for a fun fishing excursion, climb aboard the Miss Hatteras and take an afternoon or evening cruise in the Pamlico Sound.
Feeling competitive? There are all sorts of fishing tournaments along North Carolina's beaches designed just for kids. Captain Charlie's Kids Fishing Tournament, a catch and release tournament, is held every year at the Southport City Pier in the Waterfront Park in Southport and welcomes all kids under the age of 16. Bring your rod and reel, and the tournament provides free hot dogs, soft drinks and t-Shirts for the first 100 kids who enter. There are also many prizes donated by local merchants.
In Boiling Spring Lakes, you can try the Small Fry Fishing tournament, which has 3 age categories and $100 first prizes for each age group, and toys for everyone who participates. During the first week of October, the North Carolina Seafood Festival All Kids' Pier Fishing Classic tournament welcomes young anglers with big prizes awarded for the largest of any kind of fish caught, though every angler goes home with some kind of prize.
No matter which tournament you join, be sure you bring along your fishing rod, a little bait, and a little luck, and you will be sure sure to have a wonderful time.