Famous N.C. fishing spot Cape Point opens early to vehicles despite near record turtle nests

cape point

BUXTON — The surf-fishing hot spot of Cape Point, near the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, is open to anglers on foot and wheels much sooner than normal.

Shorebirds have finished nesting, allowing rangers with the Cape Hatteras National Seashore to open roads and ramps near the point a month earlier, said Michelle Havens, Outer Banks Group resource management chief. The Outer Banks Group includes the Seashore and other sites that are part of the National Park Service.

Meanwhile, biologists count 271 sea turtle nests in the park, just short of last year’s record of 289. More are expected this season, Havens said.

This year, access to the point closed in May instead of April and reopened on Wednesday instead of in late August. In all, the point was closed 77 days instead of 147 days, as it was the last two years.

“We think this is great,” said Bill Smith, president of the North Carolina Beach Buggy Association. Smith praised park Superintendent Dave Hallac for working with fishing groups.

Fishermen are catching a few Spanish mackerel, bluefish and sea mullet, among other species, despite the hot weather. Fishing will pick up in the fall, he said.

Cape Point is a 100-acre spit of sand along the Outer Banks that juts into the Atlantic Ocean like a hawk’s bill. The Cape Hatteras lighthouse stands nearby. Access points along N.C. 12 in the park allow passage of four-wheel-drive vehicles onto the beach. An annual or week-long permit is required to drive on the sand. Anglers park near the surf with easy access to fishing poles, coolers and bait.

Turtles and shorebirds nest during the summer along the Outer Banks beaches, especially on Hatteras Island. Rangers place buffers around the nests to prevent trucks from running them over. Before 2015, the buffers were much larger and would completely block the shoreline from dunes to the ocean.

Following a strong lobby by fishing interests, the park made smaller buffer zones which created more corridors for driving along the beach without disturbing the nests. The beaches remain closed to driving at night until mid-September.

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