May is our peak spring fishing month on Ocracoke Island. Whether surf fishing, inshore, or offshore, there is a chance for the catch of a lifetime. The fishing will change from only seeing early spring species such as drum and bluefish to including summertime fish such as cobia, Spanish mackerel, and pompano.

Whether you like fishing for sea mullets along the beach or trolling for dolphin offshore, May can be a great month around Ocracoke. And the most excitement will probably be generated by near-shore cobia! Cobia migrating north sometimes stack up along Portsmouth and Ocracoke Islands, unwilling to move further north to the colder water off of Cape Point. Lucky anglers are able to sightcast to these fish as they move along with schools of bait. Most fish are around 40lbs, with the largest over 80lbs. Each May we look forward to these great-tasting and hard-fighting fish.


In addition to the cobia, large schools of citation sized red drum are found near shore and moving through the inlets. While red drum over the 18 to 27” slot limit must be released, large 30 to 40 pound fish provide great action. Most of these fish are caught sightcasting, using the same large bucktail lures and jigs that anglers use for cobia. While some schools are found outside the inlet near the beaches, other schools are found inside the inlet as these fish migrate into the sound.

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Sea mullets, big red drum, puppy drum, bluefish, sheepshead, black drum – all of these fish will be caught surf-fishing Ocracoke during the month of May. Sea mullet fishing can be great in mid-April, and we expect these fish to remain through the summer. We expect to see some large bluefish over 30″ in May.


The sound side fishing really starts to heat up in May as the water inside warms. Gray and speckled trout, red drum, black drum, sea mullets, bluefish, and sheepshead are just some of the fish anglers will be targeting. Although a few hardy fishermen will wade along the shoreline, the best fishing is found from a kayak or small skiff. Light spinning gear is the most common tackle for fishing inside the sound, although a few will try their hand at fly fishing also. Transition points along creek mouths, grass flats, and small drop offs will produce the most fish.

By late May flounder may be showing up (but are waiting on current fisheries regulations for 2023 season) and early Spanish mackerel and pompano begin to appear as well. For those anglers fishing inshore that are looking for something smaller than the cobia and big red drum, downsizing the gear will provide the opportunity to catch the same fish that are caught along the surf. And for those fishermen that prefer to head offshore, amberjack, king mackerel, and dolphin can be caught. A few wahoo and yellowfin tuna should be around offshore also. Regardless of whether you are fishing the surf, inshore, or offshore, action in May will be heating up!

See recent catches and read the current fishing reports at Tradewinds Tackle on Facebook or on our home page. For more information on what to expect fishing Ocracoke year round see our fishing page here.

What to Expect Fishing Ocracoke in May