No other state has fishing variety North Carolina has to offer. Some game fish species bite best in cold weather, others in the heat of summer. With so many fish to catch over the course of a year, an angler may need help making up his mind. Here are our 36 favorite fishing trips.
Striped bass migrate to Cape Hatteras in winter, where anglers can expect to catch many fish weighing 25 pounds or more during a routine day.
The fish are concentrated around Oregon Inlet within a mile or two of the beach. Good fishing occurs when winds are calm or when a westerly wind is held at bay by the beaches, making the waters slick enough to fish in comfort.
The fish are easy to locate by watching for birds circling above the baitfish that stripers have chased to the surface. A striped bass school may cover several acres. Tossing a topwater lure, spoon, or jig into the school is certain to draw a strike.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore has many access points for driving along the beach. Surf fishermen watch for birds, surface-feeding fish and parked vehicles of other anglers.
At 11,700 acres, Fontana Lake offers some of the best smallmouth bass fishing in the state. While smallmouth scatter to the depths, making them difficult to locate in the huge lake during warmer months, during February, the fish move up to shallower cover where they are easier to catch. Colder water temperatures also shut down competition from largemouth bass.
Smallmouth bass bite best in 10 to 30 feet of water and the best place to find them is along a rocky point or rock outcrops. If the water level is low, anglers find that fishing visible rocks becomes even easier.
The best bets for lures include tube jigs, Carolina-rigged lizards, crankbaits and spinnerbaits. Soft lures are best for clear days when the fish are deep, while crankbaits and spinnerbaits are the best bets early and late or on overcast days.
For many anglers, fishing with a live minnow is the best bet for Fontana’s winter smallmouth. The bait’s depth can be controlled by using a slip-float rig or by weighting the line with a split shot.
This New Hanover County Lake is only 850 acres in size, but it has some huge largemouth bass. A trophy regulation prohibits keeping bass in March and ensures the continuation of its legendary status.
Because it provides cooling water for the L.V. Sutton plant, the lake has a series of dikes to increase flow length before the water is re-used. This flow regime makes Sutton one of the warmest lakes in the Southeast. As a result, the pre-spawn largemouth bite occurs a month earlier than in other North Carolina lakes. Catches of more than 20 fish are common and several bass weighing 8 pounds or more are landed every March. A fish weighing more than 10 pounds is a possibility.
The best tactic is fishing the first three “ponds,” because they have the warmest water. Casting inside the plant’s discharge canal, which is very close to the boat ramp, is also a good bet.
Most anglers use Carolina-rigged plastic worms in February. But a few anglers cast medium-depth crankbaits and spinnerbaits.
Albemarle Headwater Rivers
April is the best month for catching striped bass in the Roanoke River system. Catches of 20 to 100 fish are possible, bringing anglers from far beyond North Carolina.
While the world-class action draws crowds the Weldon area along the upper river, savvy anglers catch the same fish downstream without worrying about crowds or the rocks of the upper river.
“Rockfish” enter the Roanoke and three other rivers downstream of Weldon near Plymouth. The four rivers come together at the headwaters of Albemarle Sound to offer striped bass fishing just as good as that of the Weldon area. The Cashie, Roanoke, Middle and Eastmost are accessible from a NCWRC ramp at the south end of the N.C. Highway 45 Bridge and the pay ramp at Shipyard Landing at the north side of the bridge.
Anglers troll deep-diving lures in the channels or cast bucktail jigs, soft plastic flukes and crankbaits along the shoreline. Unlike the rocky upper Roanoke, the downstream rivers’ structure consists of standing trees, stumps or fallen trees submerged in the water. Mud banks and bars also hold striped bass.
Check out the top spots for North Carolina fishing for May, June, July and August on page two