Get ready to discover the bountiful fishing opportunities in the picturesque lakes of North Carolina. Whether you’re a seasoned angler seeking new challenges or a beginner eager to cast your first line, this guide is your gateway to an exciting fishing experience. From the best fishing spots to essential tips and accommodations, we’ve got you covered. Prepare to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of North Carolina’s lakes and reel in unforgettable memories on your next fishing expedition.
Best Fishing Lakes in North Carolina
North Carolina is a haven for fishing enthusiasts, boasting a diverse array of pristine lakes. From tranquil reservoirs to expansive bodies of water, here are some of the best fishing lakes in North Carolina.
- Jordan Lake: Located in central North Carolina, Jordan Lake is renowned for its excellent bass fishing. With its scenic shoreline and abundant fish species, including largemouth bass, crappie, and catfish, anglers can enjoy a rewarding fishing experience in this 13,940-acre reservoir.
- Lake Norman: As the largest man-made lake in North Carolina, Lake Norman is a favorite destination for both recreational boating and fishing. Anglers can target a variety of species such as striped bass, largemouth bass, and catfish.
- Fontana Lake: Nestled in the scenic Smoky Mountains, Fontana Lake is a paradise for anglers seeking a serene fishing retreat. This 10,230-acre lake is home to various fish species, including smallmouth bass, walleye, and rainbow trout.
- High Rock Lake: Located in the heart of North Carolina’s Piedmont region, High Rock Lake is renowned for its exceptional bass fishing. With over 15,000 acres of water, this lake offers ample opportunities to catch largemouth and striped bass, as well as crappie and catfish.
- Lake Gaston: Straddling the border between North Carolina and Virginia, Lake Gaston is a popular destination for fishing and water sports. Anglers can target striped bass, largemouth and smallmouth bass.
- Lake Wylie: Offering a mix of urban and natural landscapes, Lake Wylie is a prime fishing destination near Charlotte. Anglers can reel in a variety of species, including largemouth bass, crappie, catfish, and white perch.
- Kerr Lake (Buggs Island Lake): Straddling the North Carolina-Virginia border, Kerr Lake, also known as Buggs Island Lake, is a sprawling reservoir renowned for its fishing opportunities. This 50,000-acre lake teems with striped bass, largemouth bass, crappie, and catfish, attracting anglers from near and far.
- Lake Hickory: Situated in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Lake Hickory offers a scenic fishing experience. Anglers can pursue bass, catfish, and various panfish species.
- Lake James: Surrounded by the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains, Lake James provides a picturesque backdrop for fishing enthusiasts. This 6,812-acre lake offers excellent fishing for bass, walleye, muskie, and a variety of panfish, ensuring an exciting angling experience.
These are just a few of the many excellent fishing lakes in North Carolina. Each of these lakes offers unique fishing opportunities and abundant fish species. Whether you’re looking for bass, trout, catfish, or other popular game fish, North Carolina’s fishing lakes have something to offer for every angler.
Species of Fish Can You Catch While Fishing North Carolina Lakes
While fishing in the lakes of North Carolina, you can catch a wide variety of fish species. Some of the common fish species you may encounter include:
- Largemouth Bass: North Carolina lakes are known for their excellent largemouth bass fishing. These prized game fish provide thrilling angling opportunities.
- Smallmouth Bass: Certain lakes in North Carolina, such as Fontana Lake and Lake James, are home to smallmouth bass. Anglers enjoy the challenge of targeting these feisty and hard-fighting fish.
- Striped Bass: Lakes like Lake Norman, Lake Gaston, and Kerr Lake are known for their populations of striped bass. These migratory fish can reach impressive sizes and offer an exciting fight.
- Crappie: Both black crappie and white crappie are abundant in North Carolina lakes. Anglers target these panfish species for their delicious taste and exciting fishing experience.
- Catfish: Various species of catfish, including channel catfish and flathead catfish, inhabit the lakes of North Carolina. These bottom-dwelling fish provide a thrilling challenge and are sought after by many anglers.
- Walleye: Lakes like Fontana Lake and Lake Hickory are known for their walleye populations. These prized game fish are highly sought after for their delicious flavor and challenging fishing techniques.
- Rainbow Trout: Some lakes in North Carolina, such as Fontana Lake and the delayed-harvest sections of certain rivers, offer opportunities to catch rainbow trout. These vibrant and acrobatic fish are a favorite among fly anglers.
- Sunfish: North Carolina lakes are home to various sunfish species, including bluegill, redear sunfish (shellcracker), and pumpkinseed. These colorful panfish provide enjoyable and accessible fishing for anglers of all ages.
The specific fish species and their abundance may vary depending on the lake and its ecosystem. Always make sure to check local fishing regulations and obtain the necessary licenses before casting your line.
Best Time of Day and Months for North Carolina Lake Fishing
The best time of day for lake fishing in North Carolina can vary depending on the season and the specific lake you’re fishing in. However, there are some general guidelines that can help increase your chances of success:
Time of day:
- Early Morning and Late Evening: During the warmer months, such as spring and summer, early morning and late evening are often the most productive times for lake fishing. Fish are typically more active during these cooler parts of the day, especially during the hot summer months when the water temperature rises.
- Evening to Night: Some species, like catfish, are more active during the nighttime hours. Night fishing can be particularly productive for catfish, as they tend to feed more actively in low-light conditions. Additionally, some lakes have regulations that allow for night fishing, providing anglers with the opportunity to target nocturnal species.
Time of year:
- Seasonal Patterns: In North Carolina, the best months for lake fishing can vary depending on the species you’re targeting. For example, spring can be a great time for bass fishing, as the fish move into shallower waters to spawn. Fall is another productive season, as fish are often feeding heavily in preparation for the winter months.
Remember that fishing conditions can vary, and fish behavior can be influenced by factors such as water temperature, food availability, and spawning seasons.
Best Gear for Fishing North Carolina Lakes
Having the right gear can greatly enhance your fishing experience. Here are some essential items to consider:
- Fishing Rod and Reel: Choose a fishing rod and reel combo that matches the type of fishing you plan to do. For general lake fishing, a bait caster with a medium to medium heavy rod will be adequate for most species.
- Fishing Line: Select a fishing line with the appropriate strength and type for the fish you are targeting. Monofilament and fluorocarbon lines are commonly used for lake fishing, with pound test ratings ranging from 6 to 12 pounds for most freshwater species. However, adjust the line strength based on the target species.
- Hooks, Weights, and Bobbers: Carry a selection of hooks in different sizes, weights (sinkers), and bobbers (floats) to accommodate various fishing techniques. This allows you to adjust your presentation and target different depths.
- Live Bait: Live bait such as nightcrawlers, minnows, and crickets can be effective for enticing a wide range of fish species in North Carolina lakes. Check local regulations to ensure that using live bait is allowed.
- Tackle Box: Keep your gear organized and easily accessible in a tackle box or tackle backpack. This will help you quickly find and switch between different lures, hooks, and other tackle.
- Fishing Accessories: Don’t forget to bring essential accessories such as needle-nose pliers or a multitool for removing hooks, a landing net for safely landing fish, sunscreen, a hat, polarized sunglasses for better visibility, and a fishing hat or cap to protect yourself from the sun. Moreover, keeping a can of insect repellent will help to keep the bugs at bay.
- Personal Safety Equipment: Depending on the fishing conditions and the lake’s characteristics, it’s advisable to wear a life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD) for safety, especially if you’ll be fishing from a boat or in deep waters. For added safety keeping a first aid kit in your backpack is always a good idea.
Check local fishing regulations, obtain the necessary fishing licenses, and follow any specific gear restrictions for the lake you plan to fish in.
Best Baits and Lures for North Carolina Fishing Lakes
- Plastic Worms: Soft plastic worms in various colors and sizes are go-to baits for bass fishing in North Carolina lakes. Rig them Texas-style or on a jighead and work them slowly along the bottom or through vegetation.
- Crankbaits: Crankbaits are versatile lures that imitate baitfish and can attract a variety of fish species. Choose different depths and sizes to match the water conditions and target species.
- Spinnerbaits: Spinnerbaits are effective lures for bass, particularly in stained or murky waters. The flash and vibration of the spinning blades can trigger aggressive strikes.
- Topwater Lures: Topwater lures like buzzbaits, poppers, and frogs can be exhilarating to fish with and are effective for targeting bass and other predatory species in North Carolina lakes, especially during low-light conditions or when fish are actively feeding near the surface.
- Jigs: Jigs with soft plastic trailers are versatile lures that can be effective for bass, crappie, and other species. Try different colors and weights to match the conditions and fish preferences.
- Live Bait: Live bait such as nightcrawlers, minnows, and crayfish can be highly effective in enticing a variety of fish species, including bass, catfish, and panfish. Use them on appropriate hooks and rigs based on the specific target species and fishing conditions.
- Crankbait/Diving Plug: Diving plugs with a lip or bill that allows them to dive to different depths can be effective for targeting species like bass, walleye, and pike. Vary the depth and retrieve speed to find what the fish are responding to.
- Soft Plastic Swimbaits: Soft plastic swimbaits imitate baitfish and can be effective for catching bass and other predatory species. Retrieve them at different speeds or use a slow, steady retrieve to mimic injured prey.
- Carolina Rig: The Carolina rig is a popular setup for bottom fishing, especially for bass. It consists of a weight, a bead, a swivel, a leader, and a soft plastic bait. This rig allows for a natural presentation and is effective for covering a lot of water.
Remember to vary your presentations, experiment with different colors and sizes, and pay attention to the specific preferences of the fish in the lake you’re fishing. It’s always a good idea to consult with local anglers or bait and tackle shops for recommendations.
Best Guides and Charters for Fishing in North Carolina Lakes
When it comes to hiring guides and charters for fishing in North Carolina lakes, there are several reputable options available. Here are a few well-known guides and charters that offer excellent services:
- High Country Angler: Based in Boone, High Country Angler specializes in guided fishing trips in the scenic High Country region. They offer trips on various lakes and rivers, including Watauga Lake, South Holston River, and New River.
- Jordan Lake Guide Service: Jordan Lake, located near Raleigh, is a popular destination for freshwater fishing. Jordan Lake Guide Service provides professional fishing charters on this lake, focusing on species like largemouth bass, crappie, and catfish.
- Carolina Fishing Adventures: Carolina Fishing Adventures operates in multiple lakes throughout North Carolina, including Falls Lake, Harris Lake, and Shearon Harris Reservoir. They offer guided fishing trips that cater to both novice and experienced anglers.
- Kerr Lake Guide Service: Kerr Lake, also known as Buggs Island Lake, is a sprawling reservoir on the border of North Carolina and Virginia. Kerr Lake Guide Service specializes in fishing charters on this lake, focusing on trophy-sized striped bass and catfish.
- Fontana Guides: Fontana Lake, nestled in the scenic Smoky Mountains, is known for its stunning beauty and excellent fishing opportunities. Fontana Guides offer guided fishing trips on this lake, targeting smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, trout, and more.
Check the availability, pricing, and specific fishing options with the guides before booking. It’s also a good idea to read reviews and gather additional information to ensure the guide aligns with your preferences and expectations.
Popular Fishing Tournaments and Events in North Carolina Lakes
North Carolina is home to several popular fishing tournaments and events that attract anglers from all over. Here are some well-known fishing tournaments and events held in North Carolina lakes:
- Bassmaster Elite Series: The Bassmaster Elite Series is a prestigious professional bass fishing tournament that features top anglers competing on various North Carolina lakes, such as Lake Norman, Lake Wylie, and Falls Lake.
- FLW Tour: The FLW Tour is another renowned professional bass fishing tournament that includes stops at North Carolina lakes like Lake Hartwell and Lake Norman.
- Crappie USA Tournaments: Crappie USA hosts competitive crappie fishing tournaments in North Carolina. Lakes like High Rock Lake and Jordan Lake often serve as tournament venues, where anglers compete to catch the biggest crappie and win prizes.
- Fly Fishing Events: North Carolina’s rivers and streams are also popular for fly fishing events.
These are just a few examples of the fishing tournaments and events held in North Carolina lakes. It’s always a good idea to check local event calendars, fishing organizations, and websites dedicated to fishing in North Carolina.
Fishing Regulations and Licenses for North Carolina Lakes
Fishing regulations and licenses in North Carolina are important to ensure the sustainability of fish populations and the enjoyment of anglers. Here are some key points regarding fishing regulations and licenses for fishing in North Carolina lakes:
- Fishing License: Anglers aged 16 and older must have a valid fishing license to fish in North Carolina waters, including lakes. Licenses can be obtained online through the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) website or from authorized license agents across the state.
- Freshwater and Saltwater Fishing: North Carolina lakes fall under the category of freshwater fishing. However, some lakes, especially those along the coast, may have brackish water that combines freshwater and saltwater.
- Fishing Seasons: North Carolina lakes have specific fishing seasons for certain species. It’s crucial to be familiar with the open and closed seasons for the fish you intend to target. The NCWRC provides detailed information about fishing seasons and regulations on their website.
- Catch Limits and Size Restrictions: To ensure the conservation of fish populations, catch limits and size restrictions are in place for various species in North Carolina lakes. These regulations specify the number of fish you can keep and the minimum or maximum size limits.
- Special Regulations: Some lakes may have additional special regulations or restrictions that apply to fishing. These regulations can include gear restrictions, specific fishing methods allowed or prohibited, and designated areas with special rules.
- Protected and Endangered Species: North Carolina lakes may be home to protected or endangered fish species. It is crucial to be aware of any special regulations and restrictions in place for these species.
It’s important to note that fishing regulations and license requirements can change, so it’s advisable to regularly check the NCWRC website or contact them directly for the most up-to-date information.
Best Places to Stay for North Carolina Lake Fishing
Here are several great places to stay that offer convenient access to the fishing action. Here are some recommendations for the best places to stay for North Carolina lake fishing:
- Lakefront Cabins and Resorts: Consider renting a lakefront cabin or booking a stay at a resort located directly on the shores of the lake you plan to fish. This provides easy access to the water and allows you to enjoy the scenic beauty of the lake throughout your stay.
- State Parks and Campgrounds: North Carolina is home to several state parks that offer camping facilities near lakes, providing a budget-friendly option for anglers.
- Lodges and Hotels near Lakes: If you prefer a more traditional lodging experience, consider staying at lodges or hotels located near the lakes. Many lakeside towns in North Carolina, such as Asheville, Mooresville, and Boone, offer a range of accommodation options to suit different preferences and budgets.
- Vacation Rentals: Vacation rental platforms like Airbnb and VRBO can provide a variety of options for accommodations near North Carolina lakes. From cozy cottages to spacious lake houses, you can find a rental property that suits your needs and preferences.
- Fishing Resorts and Guide Services: Some fishing resorts and guide services in North Carolina offer all-inclusive packages that include accommodations along with guided fishing trips. These establishments often have their own private lakes or access to exclusive fishing spots.
When choosing a place to stay, consider factors such as proximity to the lake, availability of amenities like boat rentals or fishing guides, and the overall fishing reputation of the area.
Tips and Tricks for Successful Fishing in North Carolina Lakes
Here are some tips and tricks to help you have a successful fishing experience in North Carolina lakes:
- Research the Lake: Before heading out, gather information about the lake you plan to fish in. Learn about the fish species present, their behavior, and the best fishing techniques for that particular lake.
- Local Knowledge: Seek advice from local anglers or fishing guides who have experience fishing in North Carolina lakes. They can offer insider tips on productive areas, preferred baits, and specific techniques that work well in those waters.
- Time your Fishing: Pay attention to the time of day and seasons when planning your fishing trips. Some species of fish are more active during specific times of the day or prefer certain weather conditions. Early morning and evening hours often yield good results, especially during warmer months.
- Use the Right Bait and Lures: Choose your bait and lures based on the fish species you’re targeting. Live bait such as worms, minnows, or crayfish can be effective for various freshwater fish.
- Observe Water Conditions: Pay attention to water clarity, temperature, and current when selecting your fishing spots and techniques. Fish may be more active in certain areas depending on factors like water depth, structure, and vegetation.
- Practice Patience and Stealth: Fishing requires patience and a stealthy approach. Avoid making unnecessary noise or sudden movements that could spook fish. Take your time and be patient, as sometimes it takes a while for fish to bite.
- Follow Fishing Regulations: Familiarize yourself with the fishing regulations and adhere to catch limits, size restrictions, and other rules. It’s important to practice responsible fishing and conservation to preserve the fish populations and the environment.
- Stay adaptable: Fishing conditions can change, and fish behavior can vary from day to day. Be ready to adapt your strategies and techniques based on the conditions you encounter.
Fishing is a combination of skill, knowledge, and sometimes a bit of luck. Enjoy the process, appreciate the natural beauty of North Carolina lakes, and have fun while honing your angling skills.
In summary, North Carolina offers a diverse range of lakes that are perfect for fishing enthusiasts. By understanding the fishing regulations, knowing the best places to stay, and implementing effective tips and tricks, you can enhance your chances of a successful and enjoyable fishing experience. Whether you’re targeting bass, trout, crappie, or other species, North Carolina lakes provide ample opportunities for anglers to connect with nature and create lasting fishing memories.
Meet Nic Armitage, a devoted outdoors enthusiast with an insatiable love for fishing, boating, and a wide range of adventurous activities. His passion for the great outdoors knows no bounds. Nic is your trusted guide into the world of nature, sharing his experiences and expertise on the Shaman Mountain Sports and Outdoors Blog.