Seafood and the Outer Banks just go hand in hand; it literally just makes sense you know? Locally sourced seafood is something that many locals pride themselves on and we’re willing to bet you didn’t know that most seafood goes by the season! Some types of fish and shellfish are available year-round, but some types are best and only available during certain seasons. To make it easier for you, we’ve come up with a handy guide on which seafood you can get fresh during certain months of the year and some that are available all year round! We wouldn’t blame you for planning a vacation for specific seafood seasons (here’s looking at you, soft shell season.)

Seafood for Spring & Summer Season on the OBX

Mahi Mahi


Mahi-mahi often goes by the name “dolphin” (not Flipper), “dolphinfish”, and “dorado”. This summer season fish has a sweeter flavor and is a favorite due to its diversity in cooking options.

Our Favorite Way to Enjoy:

Beer Battered and fried at Mahi-Mahis in Nags Head.

Brown Shrimp


Shrimp is one of the most popular seafood items in the U.S. Brown shrimp is among the most popular shrimp species and what you’ll typically see in seafood markets. While brown shrimp are mostly caught during the summer months, you can usually find them at most local restaurants since they can be frozen to preserve freshness.

Our Favorite Way to Enjoy:

In Shrimp ‘N Grits at NC Coast in Duck.

Softshell Crabs


Softshell crab season is arguably one of the favorite seafood seasons here on the OBX. Softshell crabs are blue crabs that have recently molted their shell; allowing you to eat the entire body. While the softshell season is short, many locals buy softshells in bulk to freeze and be able to enjoy in the coming seasons. We recommend heading to a local restaurant on the OBX to enjoy soft shell crabs in all their glory as it’s important to clean them properly. If you’re up for the task of cleaning them and cooking them yourself; here’s a quick video on the process.

Our Favorite Way to Enjoy:

As a sandwich at The Kill Devil Grill in Kill Devil Hills.

blue crab in hands

Hard Shell Crabs

June – September

Unlike soft shell crabs, hardshell crabs have to be picked to enjoy the meat inside the shell. Hardshell crab harvesting typically happens in the Albemarle Sound. Steaming is the preferred cooking method. Hardshell crabs are not to be confused with crab legs. Alaskan and snow crab legs are not caught locally on the Outer Banks. If you want local snow or Alaskan crab legs; you’ll have to go to Alaska or Maine to indulge. If you don’t know how to pick hard crabs, Southern Living has a great guide to help beginners.

Our Favorite Way to Enjoy:

Steamed for you to take home from Austin’s Seafood in Nags Head.


August – September

Flounder are probably one of the funniest fish species to look at. They typically dwell on the bottom of the ocean and camouflage themselves in the sand to hunt their prey. Unlike most fish that have eyes on both sides of their heads, flounder only have eyes on one side. This late summer season fish is perfect for kids and picky eaters since this fish has a mild flavor.

Our Favorite Way to Enjoy:

Fried on a sandwich from Sam & Omie’s in Nags Head.

Seafood or the Fall & Winter Season on the OBX

Fresh OBX oysters are popular seafood for the colder season.


October – March

There’s a saying that oysters are best enjoyed during months that end in -er; which isn’t far off! Oysters are typically harvested from October to March. However, steamed oysters are usually enjoyed during the late fall and early winter season from October to December.

Greentail shrimp are a fall season staple in regards to OBX seafood.

Green-tail Shrimp

September – November

Green-tail shrimp are some of the most sought-after shrimp in the country, let alone on the OBX! This fall season seafood is sweeter more subtle flavor in comparison to brown shrimp. You can usually find green-tail shrimp in brackish marshes versus in the ocean.

Seafood Found Year-round on the OBX

Yellowfin Tuna swimming in the blue. Tuna can be found year round on the OBX.


Tuna is probably one of the most popular fish on the Outer Banks as it’s available during any season. The most popular species are yellowfin, bluefin, bigeye, and blackfin.

Fresh clams on ice. Clams are a local OBX seafood that can be found year round.


Clams are also a common shellfish that you can find on the OBX year-round. They’re most active and easier to find from June through August, but almost all local OBX restaurants serve clams year-round.