Saltwater Fishing in North Carolina

A boy on a beach with fishing rods, North Carolina, Outer Banks
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Are you an avid angler looking for a new saltwater fishing destination? Look no further than North Carolina! With miles of coastline and diverse fishing opportunities, North Carolina offers some of the best saltwater fishing in the country. From the Atlantic Ocean to the sounds and inlets, there are plenty of fishing options to suit any angler’s interests and skill levels. Whether you’re targeting red drum, flounder, or tuna, North Carolina’s saltwater is home to a wide variety of fish species. In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at the top saltwater fishing spots, fish species, gear and techniques, regulations, and more to help you plan your next North Carolina fishing adventure. So, pack your bags, grab your tackle, and get ready to experience the thrill of saltwater fishing in North Carolina!

Best Saltwater Fishing Spots in North Carolina

North Carolina offers many excellent saltwater fishing spots for anglers of all levels. Here are some of the best saltwater fishing spots in North Carolina:

  1. Cape Hatteras: Located on the Outer Banks, Cape Hatteras is a renowned destination for surf fishing. Anglers can target red drum, bluefish, flounder, and striped bass, among other species.
  2. Oregon Inlet: This is another popular spot on the Outer Banks that offers excellent surf fishing opportunities. Anglers can catch red drum, bluefish, and Spanish mackerel, among others.
  3. Atlantic Beach: This is a great spot for both inshore and offshore fishing. Anglers can target red drum, speckled trout, flounder, and Spanish mackerel inshore, while offshore species include mahi-mahi, tuna, and billfish.
  4. Wrightsville Beach: This area is known for its diverse fishery, with anglers targeting red drum, flounder, speckled trout, and Spanish mackerel inshore, and king mackerel, cobia, and mahi-mahi offshore.
  5. Hatteras Island: This area offers a wide range of fishing opportunities, including surf fishing, inshore fishing, and offshore fishing. Anglers can target species such as red drum, speckled trout, flounder, cobia, tuna, and billfish.
  6. Bogue Inlet: Located in the town of Emerald Isle, Bogue Inlet is a popular spot for inshore fishing. Anglers can target red drum, speckled trout, flounder, and sheepshead.
  7. Morehead City: This is another excellent spot for both inshore and offshore fishing. Anglers can target species such as red drum, speckled trout, flounder, king mackerel, mahi-mahi, and billfish.

These are just a few of the many great saltwater fishing spots in North Carolina. Anglers can also consider areas such as Topsail Island, Carolina Beach, and Beaufort for excellent fishing opportunities.

North Carolina Red Fishing

Types of Saltwater Fish in North Carolina

North Carolina’s coast is home to a wide variety of saltwater fish, attracting anglers from all over the country. Here are some of the most common types of saltwater fish in North Carolina:

  1. Red Drum (also known as Redfish): A popular inshore game fish in North Carolina, red drum can be caught year-round. They are known for their fighting ability and can be caught on a variety of baits and lures.
  2. Speckled Trout: Another popular inshore fish, speckled trout can be caught year-round as well. They are known for their distinctive spots and are often caught on live bait or soft plastic lures.
  3. Flounder: This is a flatfish that is commonly caught in inshore waters, estuaries, and nearshore reefs. They are known for their excellent taste and can be caught on a variety of baits and lures.
  4. Bluefish: A fast-swimming fish that is often caught in the surf, bluefish are known for their aggressive strikes and strong fight. They can be caught on a variety of lures and baits.
  5. Spanish Mackerel: This is a popular fish that can be caught both inshore and offshore. They are known for their speed and acrobatic jumps, and are often caught on small lures or live bait.
  6. King Mackerel: Also known as “Kingfish,” this is a popular game fish that is often caught offshore. They are known for their large size and strong fight, and are often caught on live bait or trolling lures.
  7. Cobia: A large and powerful fish, cobia are often caught nearshore and offshore. They are known for their excellent taste and can be caught on live bait or artificial lures.
  8. Mahi-Mahi: A colorful and fast-swimming fish that is commonly caught offshore, Mahi-Mahi are prized for their firm, mild-flavored meat. They are often caught on trolling lures or live bait.
  9. Billfish: This includes species such as blue marlin, white marlin, and sailfish, which are highly sought-after game fish offshore. They are known for their large size and strong fight, and are often caught on trolling lures or live bait.

These are just a few of the many types of saltwater fish that can be caught in North Carolina. Other species include sheepshead, black sea bass, triggerfish, and many more.

Best Time of Year for Saltwater Fishing in North Carolina

North Carolina offers great saltwater fishing opportunities throughout the year, but the timing and species can vary depending on the season. Here’s a breakdown of the best time of year for saltwater fishing in North Carolina:

  1. Spring (March to May): Spring is a great time for inshore fishing, with species like red drum, speckled trout, and flounder becoming more active. It’s also a good time for nearshore fishing for species like Spanish mackerel and bluefish. Offshore, anglers can target species like mahi-mahi and tuna.
  2. Summer (June to August): Summer is a popular time for fishing in North Carolina, with both inshore and offshore opportunities. Inshore species like red drum, speckled trout, and flounder continue to be active, while offshore anglers can target species like king mackerel, mahi-mahi, and billfish.
  3. Fall (September to November): Fall is a great time for inshore fishing, with red drum, speckled trout, and flounder being particularly active. Nearshore species like Spanish mackerel and bluefish are also common. Offshore fishing for species like tuna and billfish can still be productive.
  4. Winter (December to February): Winter is a slower time for fishing in North Carolina, but there are still opportunities for inshore and nearshore species like red drum, speckled trout, and bluefish. Offshore fishing is generally slower during the winter months.
Inshore Saltwater Fishing – Outer Banks, NC

Best Bait for Saltwater Fishing in North Carolina

The best bait for saltwater fishing in North Carolina can vary depending on the species you’re targeting and the time of year. Here are some popular baits that can be effective in North Carolina waters:

  1. Live Shrimp: This is a popular bait for inshore species like red drum and speckled trout. They can be fished under a popping cork or on a jighead.
  2. Live Menhaden: Menhaden, also known as pogies, are a popular bait for nearshore and offshore species like bluefish, Spanish mackerel, and king mackerel. They can be fished on a free-line or under a balloon.
  3. Live Mullet: This is a popular bait for inshore species like red drum and flounder. They can be fished on a Carolina rig or on a jighead.
  4. Squid: Squid can be a good bait for a variety of species, including flounder, sea bass, and even some offshore species like mahi-mahi. They can be fished on a Carolina rig or on a jighead.
  5. Cut Bait: Cut bait can be an effective option for a variety of species, including bluefish, Spanish mackerel, and sharks. Popular cut baits include menhaden, mullet, and squid.
  6. Artificial Baits: Artificial baits like soft plastic lures and hard baits can be effective for a variety of species, including red drum, speckled trout, and flounder. Different baits and colors can be effective depending on the conditions.

Recommended Gear for Saltwater Fishing in North Carolina

The recommended gear for saltwater fishing in North Carolina can vary depending on the species you’re targeting and the location you’re fishing in. However, here are some basic gear recommendations to consider:

  1. Rod and Reel: The type of rod and reel you need will depend on the species you’re targeting and the location you’re fishing in. For inshore fishing, a medium-action spinning rod and reel combo is a good choice. For offshore fishing, a heavy-action rod and reel combo is usually necessary. A good rule of thumb is to match the rod and reel to the size and strength of the fish you’re targeting.
  2. Line and Leader: Monofilament and braided lines are popular choices for saltwater fishing in North Carolina. A fluorocarbon leader is also recommended, especially for species with sharp teeth or abrasive mouths.
  3. Hooks: Circle hooks are a popular choice for many saltwater species in North Carolina. They are designed to hook the fish in the corner of the mouth, which can reduce injury and improve survival rates when catch-and-release fishing. J-hooks can also be effective, but it’s important to use the right size and style for the species you’re targeting.
  4. Lures and Bait: As mentioned earlier, the type of lures and bait you need will depend on the species you’re targeting and the location you’re fishing in. Soft plastic lures, hard baits, and live or cut bait are all popular options.
  5. Tackle Bag or Box: A tackle bag or box is a great way to organize and store your gear. Look for one with plenty of compartments and pockets to keep everything organized.
  6. Other Gear: Other gear that can be useful for saltwater fishing in North Carolina includes pliers, a net, a gaff, a fish grip, and a cooler or ice chest to keep your catch fresh.
Charter Fishing Off North Carolina Coast

Best Saltwater Fishing Charters in North Carolina

North Carolina is known for its world-class saltwater fishing opportunities, and there are many great fishing charters available throughout the state. Here are some of the best saltwater fishing charters in North Carolina:

  1. Tuna Fever Charters: Located in Oregon Inlet on the Outer Banks, Tuna Fever Charters is known for its offshore fishing trips targeting tuna, marlin, and other big game species.
  2. Full Drawn Charters: Based in Morehead City, Full Drawn Charters offers inshore and offshore fishing trips targeting a variety of species, including red drum, cobia, and king mackerel.
  3. Doghouse Sportfishing Charters: Located in Hatteras, Doghouse Sportfishing Charters offers inshore and offshore fishing trips targeting a variety of species, including tuna, mahi-mahi, and billfish.
  4. Carolina Beach Fishing Charters: Based in Carolina Beach, this charter offers inshore and offshore fishing trips targeting a variety of species, including red drum, flounder, and king mackerel.
  5. Crystal Coast Lady Charters: Located in Atlantic Beach, Crystal Coast Lady Charters offers inshore and offshore fishing trips targeting a variety of species, including red drum, speckled trout, and cobia.
  6. Fish Witch Charters: Based in Southport, Fish Witch Charters offers inshore and offshore fishing trips targeting a variety of species, including Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, and flounder.
  7. Hatteras Jack Fishing Charters: Located in Rodanthe on the Outer Banks, Hatteras Jack Fishing Charters offers inshore and offshore fishing trips targeting a variety of species, including red drum, tuna, and billfish.

It’s always a good idea to do some research and read reviews before booking a fishing charter to ensure that you find a reputable and experienced charter that meets your needs.

Fishing Regulations in North Carolina

Fishing regulations in North Carolina are managed by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC). The regulations are designed to protect fish populations and ensure sustainable fishing opportunities for future generations. Here are some of the key fishing regulations to be aware of in North Carolina:

  1. Fishing Licenses: Anyone over the age of 16 who fishes in North Carolina’s public waters is required to have a valid fishing license. Licenses can be purchased online or at various retail locations throughout the state.
  2. Catch Limits: Catch limits are in place for many fish species in North Carolina, including flounder, red drum, and spotted seatrout. It’s important to check the NCWRC website or consult the North Carolina Inland Fishing, Hunting, and Trapping Regulations Digest for up-to-date catch limit information.
  3. Size Limits: In addition to catch limits, size limits are in place for many fish species in North Carolina. These regulations specify the minimum and/or maximum size of fish that can be harvested. It’s important to measure fish accurately and release any undersized or oversized fish back into the water.
  4. Gear Restrictions: There are restrictions on the types of gear that can be used for fishing in North Carolina. For example, certain types of nets and traps are prohibited, and there are restrictions on the use of certain types of hooks and lures.
  5. Seasonal Closures: Some fish species in North Carolina are subject to seasonal closures to protect them during their spawning periods. It’s important to check the NCWRC website or consult the North Carolina Inland Fishing, Hunting, and Trapping Regulations Digest for up-to-date information on seasonal closures.
Surf Fishing in North Carolina

Where to Stay When Saltwater Fishing in North Carolina

North Carolina has many great places to stay for anglers looking to enjoy its world-class saltwater fishing. Here are some of the top options:

  1. Outer Banks: The Outer Banks is a popular destination for saltwater fishing in North Carolina, and there are many hotels, motels, and rental properties available for anglers. The towns of Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills, and Kitty Hawk are all good options for accommodations.
  2. Morehead City: Morehead City is another popular destination for saltwater fishing, and there are many hotels and rental properties available in the area. Some of the top options include the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Atlantic Beach Oceanfront and the Bask Hotel at Big Rock Landing.
  3. Hatteras Island: Hatteras Island is a great place to stay for anglers looking for a more secluded and laid-back atmosphere. There are many rental properties available in the area, including beachfront cottages and condos.
  4. Wilmington: Wilmington is a vibrant city located near some of the best saltwater fishing in North Carolina. There are many hotels and rental properties available in the area, including the Embassy Suites by Hilton Wilmington Riverfront and the Courtyard Wilmington Downtown/Historic District.
  5. Carolina Beach: Carolina Beach is a popular destination for anglers looking to enjoy both inshore and offshore fishing. There are many rental properties available in the area, including oceanfront condos and beach cottages.

No matter where you choose to stay in North Carolina, it’s important to do some research and book early to ensure availability, especially during peak fishing seasons.

Expert Tips and Tricks for Successful Saltwater Fishing in North Carolina

Here are some expert tips and tricks for successful saltwater fishing in North Carolina:

  1. Know the tides: Understanding the tides is crucial to successful saltwater fishing in North Carolina. Fish are more active during certain tide stages, so it’s important to plan your fishing trips around these times. In general, incoming tides are best for inshore fishing, while outgoing tides are best for offshore fishing.
  2. Use live bait: Live bait is often more effective than artificial lures in North Carolina’s saltwater. Popular live baits include shrimp, mullet, and menhaden. If you’re using artificial lures, try using lures that mimic the natural prey of the fish you’re targeting.
  3. Use the right gear: Using the right gear can make all the difference in saltwater fishing. Make sure you have appropriate rods, reels, lines, and leaders for the fish you’re targeting. It’s also important to have a variety of hooks, sinkers, and other terminal tackle on hand.
  4. Target structure: Fish in North Carolina’s saltwater often congregate around structure, such as jetties, piers, and wrecks. Try targeting these areas for the best chance of success.
  5. Be patient: Saltwater fishing in North Carolina can be unpredictable, so it’s important to be patient and persistent. Keep trying different baits, lures, and techniques until you find what works.
  6. Stay safe: Safety should always be a top priority when saltwater fishing in North Carolina. Be sure to wear a life jacket and stay aware of weather conditions and water currents. It’s also important to follow all fishing regulations and respect other anglers and boaters on the water.
Surf Fishing Tips – North Carolina

Conclusion

North Carolina offers some of the best saltwater fishing in the United States. From the Outer Banks to Morehead City to Hatteras Island, there are plenty of great destinations to choose from. By following expert tips and tricks, such as understanding the tides, using live bait, targeting structure, and staying safe, anglers can increase their chances of success. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner, North Carolina’s saltwater fishing offers a thrilling and rewarding experience that is sure to leave you with lasting memories.

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