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36 Great Fishing Trips In North Carolina

36 Great Fishing Trips In North Carolina

With fishing spots from the ocean to the mountains, there's some great angling year 'round in North Carolina. Here are some ideas for your fishing in 2008. (February 2008).

Mike Marsh.

With so many different types of water from mountain streams to Piedmont reservoirs to the Atlantic Ocean, it's hard to make a decision on where to go and what to try to catch in North Carolina. To help make up your mind, here's a list of some of the state's top fishing opportunities.


Oregon Inlet

Striped Bass

The striped bass run at Oregon Inlet is legendary. It has become so popular that a line of traffic miles long can form as anglers launch their boats at Oregon Inlet Fishing Center.

Anglers fishing from the beach jockey for position while listening over their radios for others who have made contact with the fish. The fish are easy to spot, forming huge schools just offshore of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, where many dune crossovers allow access to the beach and to the fish.

Big surf rods are needed to cast heavy spoons and jigs or cut baits to the fish in windy conditions present on the Outer Banks.


Anglers with boats head out the inlet or fish right under the Oregon Inlet Bridge. They find the fish the same way, by watching for birds or for other anglers who are catching striped bass.

Ocean-run stripers can top 30 pounds and many can be caught in a single day. It's important to dress warmly and pay attention to the wind direction and sea conditions. West winds are best because the beach blocks the wind. Northeasters can be brutal for striped bass fishermen who make the trip in vain if they only plan on fishing for one day from a small center-console boat.

Trolling or jigging with heavy metal spoons works well. Jigs, cut baits, topwater poppers and crankbaits will all work well.

Call Oregon Inlet Fishing Center at (252) 441-6301.


Cape Fear River


The Cape Fear River near Fayetteville holds some of the biggest catfish in the state. Several line-class state records have come from that stretch of the Cape Fear and commercial anglers have caught bigger catfish on trotlines and set lines.

The colder the weather, the better opportunities there are for catching the really big fish. Smaller catfish and other potential competitors cool off, while the bigger catfish stay active.

Best baits for blue catfish are cut baits like shad, eel, mullet and shrimp. Best baits for flatheads are live offerings, with shiners, shad and eels excellent choices.

For the best luck, fish the upstream side of deep holes at bends in the river. Catfish move out of the deep holes at dusk, drawn to the baits by their scent trail. Plenty of blue catfish also lurk around the old pilings in Wilmington.

Contact Riverside Sports Center at (910) 483-1649.


Largemouth Bass

Sutton Lake

Sutton Lake stays warm all winter because it serves a steam-electric plant. Special regulations have been implemented to maintain the lake's trophy largemouth bass population, including a prohibition against keeping fish through the colder months, when anglers catch many huge largemouth bass with live baits. Anglers must be careful to adhere to the prohibition against keeping fish because the regulation is incorrectly listed for other water bodies in the 2007-08 Commission Inland Fishing Regulations. The regulation is posted at the Sutton Lake boating access area.

The hot-water discharge canal into Pond 1 is a great place to start. Working around the dikes until you find the right temperature is a great way to scout out the largemouth population. The best action will be found back to Pond No. 3 or Pond No. 4.

Soft-plastic lures, medium-depth crankbaits, spinnerbaits and tube jigs are good choices for Sutton bass. While it's not the best month for topwater lures for most lakes in the state, anglers using walk-the-dog and propeller lures have excellent luck in Sutton's warmer waters, especially later in the month. Anglers fishing the fish attractors, which are marked with buoys, have excellent luck. But there is plenty of woody structure throughout the lake, as well as deep channels beside all of the dikes

Mike Marsh.


Hickory Shad

Roanoke River

Even the N.C. Wildlife Commission isn't certain why hickory shad have returned along with striped bass to the Roanoke River. However, the commission now has a dedicated stocking program to help things along.

The hickory shad run in peaks in April, with hundreds of fishermen coming to the area to catch the smaller shad species, which weigh a pound or two on average. Shad concentrate below the rapids and form huge schools. Downstream of deadfalls, at creek mouths, downstream of boulders and in the deep undercuts along the bank, shad rest from their ocean migration and that's where fishermen will catch the most fish.

Small jigs called darts are traditional lures for catching shad. But curly-tailed crappie jigs work as well or better. Small gold or silver spoons also catch plenty of shad. Some shad anglers even fish with fly gear, casting the same jigs with fly rods.

The fishing can be just as good from the bank as from a boat. Anglers in boats must be careful because the submerged rocks and boulders have damaged many lower units and propellers.

Hickory shad leap when hooked and have soft mouths. Landing them is best accomplished with a net.

Contact Down East Guide Service at (252) 249-3474.


Wrightsville Beach

Spanish Mackerel

In May, Spanish mackerel show up at the Masonboro Inlet jetties. The fish form huge schools, and can be seen leaping from the water as they chase baitfish along the tide lines during falling tide stages.

They may move north or south of the rock jetties, but can usually be caught within two miles of the beaches. They also school at the nearby artificial reefs.

Birds working baitfish forced to the surface by Spanish mackerel are dead giveaways about where to fish. Anglers in boats trolling in th

e same area also tell other anglers where to fish. Just get into the rhythm of the trolling circle and join in to catch some tasty Spanish mackerel.

Most successful Spanish mackerel anglers catch them by trolling small spoons. However, jump fishing them is also popular. When a school surfaces, the boat is powered close to them and anglers cast topwater poppers, tinsel jigs, spoons and flies to the fish before they head deep again.

Spanish mackerel can be maddening to catch at times, especially when they are jumping everywhere but not biting. At these times, downsizing lures and leaders is the best plan because the fish are very specific when it comes to the size of baitfish they will eat on any given day.

Call Capt. Jot Owens, Fortune Hunter Too at (910) 233-4139.


Roanoke River

Striped Bass

By June, the "keeper" part of the season is winding down and water levels have stabilized. While the start of the striped bass run is usually a questionable proposition, the ending time is easier to predict.

Fewer anglers are on the water in June, making the conditions easier for the catch-and-release angler. A single-hook lure with the barbs filed down or pinched down with pliers is used to catch the big striped bass, which can top 40 pounds.

Live shad and shiners work well for catching Roanoke stripers, but soft-plastic lures, bucktail jigs with plastic trailers, topwater lures and flies all catch their share of fish.

Aluminum johnboats are ideal for fishing the Roanoke, but all sorts of watercraft are used, from kayaks to center-console offshore fishing boats.

The best bite in June is right at dusk, with first light of dawn the second choice for fishing.

Call Down East Guide Service, at (252) 249-3474.

Mike Marsh.



Linville River

The commission's stocking schedule for the Linville River make its Hatchery Supported Trout Water ideal for an Independence Day vacation fishing destination. The upper reaches of the Linville River have some spectacular scenery and are at high elevations.

Anglers can fish with whatever they like, including natural baits, lures or flies, making the Linville River a very popular destination.

It pays to be in good shape because the trails down to the Linville are steep and the bottom is slick and rocky. Some bold anglers can fish the river in nothing more than wading shoes in July, but the water is still cold, so dedicated anglers still carry lightweight chest waders along for fishing longer stretches of the river. The best fishing can occur just at dark in the heat of the summer.

Downstream of the Lake James powerhouse is the Bridgewater Fishing Area, which is on the final downstream stretch of the Linville River. The waters just downstream of the powerhouse are classified as Hatchery Supported Trout Water and there is a seven-mile stretch of public fishing water as well, along with a generous parking area and a handicapped accessible fishing pier.

The times, dates and warnings for water discharges from the powerhouse can be obtained by calling the Bridgewater Plant Hydrogeneration Schedule Information Line at (828) 584-1451. This information is available three days in advance, but can vary due to certain conditions.

The North Carolina Trout Fishing Maps book is available online at



Pamlico Sound

In August, when the tarpon run hits its peak in Pamlico Sound, anglers head to Oriental to try their luck.

Anglers fishing from boats with towers spot tarpon from long distances by watching for the mirror-like shine of the "silver kings." When tarpon are spotted rolling or jumping, it's time to motor quietly several hundred yards ahead of the school. Tarpon are spooky fish and don't like to be disturbed by fast-running boats.

Fan-casting as many as eight rigs baited with cut mullet, croaker or spot on the bottom is the best technique. While tarpon are attracted, the baits also bring on bites from cownosed rays or "pancake tarpon," which are aggravating to deal with but help stave off the boredom between exciting tarpon strikes.

When a tarpon strikes, the battle is unlike that of any other inshore game fish, with the fish displaying amazing leaps, plus speed and power that can't be easily described. Bowing to the fish is an axiom that has been repeated so often it's like beating a dead horse. But if you don't give some slack line to a tarpon as it leaps, it will fall back on the leader or line and break free.

Call Down East Guide Service at (252) 249-3474.



Carolina Beach

Carolina Beach is legendary for the number of flounder and the sizes of flounder caught from the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, the Carolina Beach Boat Basin, the Cape Fear River and Carolina Beach Inlet.

Kure Beach's offshore ledges are also good places to fish. While southern flounder rule the inshore fishing, the offshore ledges are the domains of summer flounder.

A few anglers use scent-impregnated artificial lures fished on jigheads along the bottom or on float rigs to catch flounder, catching large numbers of fish along the shallower flats and grassbeds. But most anglers use live baits, especially mudminnows, mullet and menhaden, to catch the biggest flounder.

To catch a big doormat, it takes a big bait. A 10-inch mullet or menhaden is the preferred baitfish of tournament fishermen, who often boat flounder topping 10 pounds. These huge flounder are inhabitants of the rocky areas, boat docks, piers, oyster beds and other inshore deep-water junkyards. If you aren't getting your tackle hung often and losing a few bottom rigs, you aren't fishing for trophy flounder.

Offshore, the rocky bottoms hold plenty of flatfish. Anglers become hung just as easily on the ledges as they do while fishing inshore structure. Fishing a 50-pound superbraid is not an uncommon practice among trophy flounder fishermen.

Call Reel Bait and Tackle for information at (910) 395-


Mike Marsh.




Lake James

The secret is out about the great muskie fishing at Lake James. Muskies take plenty of work, with anglers casting lures that weigh 1/2 pound all day long in hopes of just seeing one fish.

It pays to be in excellent physical shape, as well as maintaining a positive attitude because you never know when a big muskie will strike. Sometimes they just take a look at the lure, taking the angler off guard, and then just as quickly dart away. Other times, they take the lure and spit the hook before the angler can strike back. But every now and then, the stars are aligned and everything makes the right connection. A muskie goes airborne and the battle is on.

Anglers use heavy superbraid lines and baitcasting tackle to make their "10,000 casts" necessary to get a muskie strike. Wire leaders are mandatory for landing fish because their teeth will cut the line; at the end of the leaders are lures like twitch baits, swim baits, topwaters and 4-ounce spinnerbaits. The fish live in the fallen trees lining the banks of the Linville River arm of the lake and anywhere there is a steep dropoff, then a ledge at 20 to 30 feet below.

A hard, instantaneous hookset is everything, because a muskie holds onto the lure with its teeth. The strike must be hard enough to move the lure and get the hooks into the bones of the mouth, or the fish may merely let go of the lure when it gets right beside the boat and swims away.

Call Blue Ridge Fishing Adventures at (828) 385-1220.


Lake Phelps

Largemouth Bass

The best bite with Lake Phelps largemouth bass occurs in November. The fish are moving into the shallows after the summer's heat, orienting along the shoreline cover, such as pad beds, grassbeds and any woody cover.

The grassbeds along the east and south sides of the lake are excellent places to fish. The pad beds and cypress trees near Pettigrew State Park on the east side of the lake are also excellent bass cover.

Topwater action is hot, with poppers and walk-the-dog-type lures great choices for wade-fishing the shallow lake. Fly rods, spinning rods and baitcasters work well for catching the fish. Twitch baits and stick baits imitating pumpkinseed sunfish and yellow perch work very well, since these are the principal bass forage species in the lake.

The wind velocity and direction can make fishing tough. But there are usually long stretches of calm, warm days in November that are ideal for fishing the lake.

Call Conman's Guide Service and Vacation Rentals at (800) 668-7124.


Spotted Seatrou

Cape Lookout

Anglers casting lures around the oyster beds in the Newport River will catch some of the biggest fish of the year. The speck bite will continue to be good at the Fort Macon and Cape Lookout rock jetties.

Anglers who have kept mudminnows alive or who can buy live shrimp will have excellent luck with the big winter specks. December is one of the best times to catch big specks, which can top the NCDMF citation weight of 4 pounds.

Circle hook rigs, with just a split shot or two, are best for catching the cold-water specks. But anglers fishing with enzyme-impregnated baits or other soft-plastic lures will also catch some nice fish.

Small crankbaits also work well. Anglers should have a large color selection because specks can be finicky, especially in cold water.

When heading out onto the water in December, it pays to dress in layers and to pick a calm day. Wind chop and sea spray can create miserable fishing conditions for the unprepared.

Call Fish'n 4-Life Charters at (336) 558-5697.

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