At the southern end of North Carolina’s Outer Banks lies the Cape Lookout National Seashore. North Core, South Core and Shackleford Banks make up this string of barrier islands that lie just east of the town of Beaufort (pronounced Bo-ford).
Just offshore of these isles the waters are famous for their fall season runs of false albacore. But for anglers wanting a much more dependable target to pursue, bluefish are hard to beat.
Blues are vicious feeders that attack most any bait or lure, but they are particularly attracted to flamboyantly colorful baits, noise topwater plugs and any lure giving off a lot of flash.
Once on a trip to this area while waiting with fly rod in hand for a pod of false albies to show on the surface, my fly dangled motionless a few feet below the surface. Twice during the lull bluefish grabbed the fly and took off running. If it’s in the water, it is susceptible to a bluefish attack!
Cape Lookout offers options for both boat and shore-bound angling for bluefish. Often the “Hook” at the southern end of South Core Bank is lined with wading anglers, casting into the surf. As one might guess from the name, this point of land is shaped like a fishhook with its tip curling to the north to face on Lookout Bight.
Anglers also can have a vehicle ferried out to North or South Core Bank. Driving is permitted on the beach on both these isles, opening access to remote stretches of the sand. A ferry also runs to Shackleford Bank, but no vehicles are allowed on that barrier island.
For boaters, the jump off point is from Harkers Island. The island is connected to the mainland by a causeway and several marinas have boat ramps that can be accessed for a fee.
To the south across Back Sound is Shackleford Bank. Running south from Harkers, boaters can pass through Barden Inlet and then Lookout Bight to round the Hook and enter the open Atlantic Ocean.
Making this run gives a close look at the Cape Lookout Lighthouse that was built in 1859. The 163-foot structure is painted in a distinctive black and white diamond pattern.
Also while passing through the bight, keep an eye on the shore of Shackleford Bank. You may spot one of the banker ponies that inhabit the island. These wild horses have been on the island since their ancestors were beached there during shipwrecks as early as the 1580s.