As the sun rises over the Outer Banks each morning, the ocean and sound come alive with fishermen and boat captains awakening to cast fishing nets, pull up crab pots and cruise the waters of Oregon Inlet and beyond.
Here, our way of life is dependent on the tides and the direction of the wind moving over the water, and there’s nothing like seeing it all from the deck of an Outer Banks fishing boat – and casting a line yourself.
It’s the quintessential way to experience the Outer Banks, and a few hours on the water will give you a new perspective of the island you know and love plus a chance to hook a flounder, spot, croaker or any one of the bounty of fish swimming in local waters. The first step is climbing aboard the 65-foot Crystal Dawn, where you can experience head boat fishing at its finest.
Docked at Pirate’s Cove Marina on the Nags Head/Manteo Causeway – less than 3 miles from the Nags Head beaches – Crystal Dawn has everything you need for a fishing excursion with the whole family. The vessel allows passengers to book trips per head instead of reserving the entire boat. While there’s enough room for 150 passengers, Crystal Dawn’s fishing trips are limited to 50, which ensures a comfortable experience for everyone.
Wake up with the sun for a morning excursion, or go for a leisurely afternoon at sea. As the head boat departs Pirate’s Cove Marina and crosses under the Washington Baum Bridge, you will take in some of the most spectacular scenery on the Outer Banks from the boat’s upper or lower deck while following the channel buoys to the fishing grounds.
“It’s a whole different atmosphere out there,” says Vanessa Foreman, owner of Crystal Dawn. “You’re surrounded by so much beauty. It’s a breath of fresh air.”
Keep your eyes open for nesting ospreys, dolphins playing in the boat’s wake and pelicans and sea gulls diving for their own catch – along with iconic landmarks, such as the Bodie Island Lighthouse, the new Oregon Inlet bridge and the Duck Island Hunt Club, built in 1926.
As you take in the sights, a mate will set up the fishing gear you’re going to need, including a rod, tackle, bait, a fish bag and your fishing license. (He or she will be on hand throughout the trip to help, so feel free to ask if you’re not sure how to get your fish off the hook later.)
Using state-of-the-art equipment and communicating with other boats in the area, the captain determines the best place to fish for the day, and then it’s simply time to cast your line and wait for that telltale bounce at the tip of your rod.
The waters of the Outer Banks teem with a wide variety of fish, so you could hook anything from puppy drum to grey trout, speckled trout, sea mullet, blues or sea bass. The crew is ready to assist those new to fishing and share tidbits of local knowledge with any experienced anglers, and of course, taking home your catch for dinner is encouraged. (If you don’t, the crew will.)
A half-day aboard Crystal Dawn is enough time to keep the smallest members in your group entertained while still making unforgettable memories. Not to mention, it’s a great way to meet fellow passengers from all over the country.
“It’s fantastic,” Vanessa says. “Even if you’re going on a fishing trip, you’re getting a tour of the Outer Banks as well because you get to see a lot of beauty and sights along the way.”
For those looking for another way to see the Outer Banks from the water, Crystal Dawn also offers sunset and dinner cruises to Roanoke Island. On a warm summer evening, set out for the historic village of Manteo to see the majestic Elizabeth II, the former home of Andy Griffith and The Lost Colony’s Waterside Theatre, all from the Albemarle Sound, or opt for a dinner tour of the waters of nearby Wanchese.
Just across the island from Manteo, Wanchese Harbor paints a true portrait of the working Outer Banks, but it’s a sight most visitors never see. From the deck of Crystal Dawn, you can spot all manner of boatyards, commercial fishing vessels, boat-building shops and fish houses. Watch the local fishermen going about their work, then stop off at the Tiki Hut at OBX Marina for a dinner of traditional seafood, fried chicken or eastern North Carolina barbecue prepared by local favorite Sooey’s Dockside.
Along with the fishing trips and evening cruises, there are some can’t-miss special events throughout the summer months like the Fourth of July cruise under a sky full of fireworks and the Purple Martin Excursions on certain dates in July and August.
The Purple Martin Excursions are particularly captivating: Each year more than 100,000 purple martins flock to the William B. Umstead Bridge, completely transforming the surrounding skies, and it’s a marvel to behold. As North America’s largest swallows, the birds make their home on the bridge for just a short time on their journey south, and every day at sunrise and sunset, they put on a spectacular show for the boats gathered below as the sky turns shades of scarlet and orange.
If you have any other ideas for your day on the water, you can reserve Crystal Dawn for a private cruise or private inlet and sound fishing. And for even more adventure, consider a trip aboard Crystal Dawn’s sister ship, the 57-foot Country Girl. The boat specializes in full-day, big-game offshore charters in the Gulf Stream and can accommodate 27 anglers per trip, whereas most offshore charter boats can only accommodate six anglers. It can also be reserved for bachelor and bachelorette parties, ocean wreck fishing, dispersing ashes at sea and pelagic birding trips.
No matter which excursion you choose on Crystal Dawn or Country Girl, you’re sure to gain a new perspective of life on the water on the Outer Banks.
2000 Sailfish Drive
Manteo, NC 27954