Get out your calendars and use this guide to help you organize a full year of great fishing adventures in North Carolina.
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From trout swimming in sparkling streams, to lunker bass lurking in piedmont lakes and red drum cruising Atlantic beaches, North Carolina has such an incredible variety of fishing opportunities it's hard to decide what to catch. To help you make up your mind, here are some suggestions.
Kerr Lake - Striped Bass
Kerr Lake is one of the top striper fishing lakes in the state. Most striper fishermen catch shad with cast nets for use as live striper baits. Live shad are drifted or trolled on weightless lines, lead-core lines and weighted lines. Side planers are used to spread the baits across as much water as possible while trolling.
An electronic depthfinder is important for locating the baitfish schools and striped bass feeding on them. Once the proper depth is found by using a depthfinder, the depth of the live baits is adjusted accordingly.
Another way to catch striped bass is by trolling with deep-diving plugs along the channel edges and points. Once a school is located, a metal jigging spoon, bucktail jig or jig with a plastic trailer will catch the fish.
For more information, call Ramrod's Guide Service, (252) 492-7793.
Neuse River - Speckled Trout
The Neuse River near New Bern is a vast body of water in which to try to find a speckled trout. While the banks look the same, subtle changes attract specks. A steep drop-off of less than two feet can hold lots of specks. Any boat dock, seawall, mud bank or stumpy point could hold fish.
Anglers use trolling motors to cruise the shoreline of the river and back in the creeks. Any disturbance of the water is either a baitfish or shrimp or a speck feeding, so anglers should be on the lookout for these telltale signs.
Scented soft plastic lures rigged on jig heads are the best bets. They should be cast and allowed to settle slowly to the bottom. The lure is then jigged and allowed to fall repeatedly all the way back to the boat.
For more information, contact Down East Guide Service at (252) 671-3474.
Lake Lucas - Largemouth Bass
Little Lake Lucas, which is a water supply lake for the Asheboro, is among the best lakes in the state for producing big largemouth bass. Horsepower restrictions keep anglers with big bass boats away. A lack of shoreline development keeps the shoreline pristine, but bass congregate in the backs of the creeks, on the rocky points and at the blowdowns.
Boat rentals are available, so anglers without boats can get in on the action. Live minnows are one of the best baits for big Lucas lunkers. But crankbaits and spinnerbaits are also good bets for March fishing. Inline spinners such as Mepps squirrel tail spinners, work extremely well in Lake Lucas.
Shallow running stickbaits are also good bets for Lake Lucas largemouth. They can be cast and retrieved with steady reeling or retrieved with twitches, allowing the lure to rise to the surface before reeling again. Warmer days are the best bets for twitch fishing along the sunlit banks.
For more information, visit www.asheboroparksandrecreation.com.
Randleman Lake - Largemouth Bass
After filling for three years, Lake Randleman opened for fishing in 2010. The 3,007-acre lake has not been a disappointment, producing lots of big largemouth bass. Some really great catches occurred last April during the spawning period.
The lake has lots of standing timber. Anglers fish soft plastics among the drowned tree skeletons. The rocky points also offer good bass structure. But by April the best fishing is back up the numerous creeks. The lake is fairly clear, so anglers can spot bedding bass. A soft crawfish or lizard lure cast into a bed will be attacked.
Schooling bass show on top near the dam and at the bridges. To catch schooling bass, anglers cast topwater poppers and spoons.
There are many special rules that apply to fishing at Lake Randleman. Anglers should visit the website at www.ptwra.org for more information.
Roanoke River - Striped Bass
The striper fishing on the Roanoke River is unrivalled. The fish enter the river in April and remain until June. The river has restrictions requiring single-hook, barbless lures and hooks on certain sections and an open season for striped bass. Anglers should check the regulations carefully before fishing.
Roanoke stripers grow big, with some topping 50 pounds. But there are myriad smaller fish. Anglers with sufficient stamina can catch and release 100 stripers a day during the peak of the spawning run.
For smaller stripers, anything goes. Live shiners, jigs, flies, spoons, diving lures and topwater lures all work well. But for the biggest fish, live baits are the ticket. Striper anglers fill their live wells with shad baits caught from upstream lakes. Frozen or dead shad also work well.
The Roanoke is rocky above Weldon, so anglers without jet drive outboards fish that section. The weekends get crowded. But downstream, other places near the head of Albemarle Sound such as Plymouth also provide access to good striper fishing. Fishing the lower river with jigs, soft plastics and by trolling deep diving lures is a great way to get in on Roanoke striper action away from the crowds.
For more information, call Tommy Hughes, High Water Mark Guide Service, (252) 670-9929.
Lake Phelps - Largemouth Bass
Lake Phelps is one of the most beautiful natural lakes in the state. Its firm sandy bottom creates excellent footing for wade fishing and the water is so clear, anglers can see the lake's legendary largemouth bass.
Bass structure includes grass and pads. But the shoreline also has a few cypress trees and boat docks. The shallow lake is perfect for fishing with topwater lures. Walk-the-dog lures are excellent choices. They should be fished in the openings and along the edges of the pad beds and grass beds.
Lake Phelps is the best lake in the state for catch
ing largemouth bass with a fly rod. A popping bug is the best fly.
Anglers can launch johnboats and bass boats at Pettigrew State Park. Fishing from a boat is productive, but the boat can also be used to get to the grass beds, with anglers hopping out to wade.
For more information about Pettigrew State Park, visit www.ncparks.gov or call Conman's Guide Service and Vacation Cottages at (800) 668-7124.
Hiwassee Lake - Walleye
Hiwassee has excellent walleye fishing. Like other mountain lakes, Hiwassee Lake's most fertile area is the upstream reaches. The extra fertility bring to the lake attracts baitfish that in turn attract walleye. Because of the good forage base, anglers catch walleye weighing 7 to 8 pounds.
Most anglers use vertical jigging techniques. Spoons and small are effective. The best bet is finding baitfish schools along the steep banks and rocky points using an electronic depthfinder. Walleye can be scattered so they may or may not show up on the depthfinder screen among the baitfish.
Deep water can make finding the fish problematic. But anglers should simply keep searching with their electronics or by trolling with crankbaits and spinners. Once a school of walleye is located, a good tactic is drifting along with a live minnow or worm fished on a jig head.
Bald Head Island - Tarpon
The mouth of the Cape Fear River is an excellent place for catching tarpon. Anglers fish sloughs in the sandbar extending from the southern tip of Bald Head Island.
The fish move from the ocean into the river through these sloughs at sunset, setting off some fabulous tarpon action. The full moon is the best time for a couple of reasons. Some anglers say the fish feed better at night during the full moon, while others say navigating to port after a sunset trip is easier with the moon lighting the way.
The best bait is live menhaden, although chunks of menhaden, mullet or croaker also attract strikes.
Tarpon anglers anchor their boats in a favorite slough in late afternoon. The nearby river channel also has some deep holes that hold tarpon and anglers can fish in smaller boats in the protected water inside the river.
Blewett Falls Lake - Catfish
Blewett Falls Lake is one of the least-known lakes in the Yadkin-Pee Dee River chain, thanks to no shoreline development. The lake has excellent fishing for giant blue and flathead catfish like the upper lakes.
Flathead fishermen arrive early in the afternoon to lay in a supply of sunfish. The river is the best place to catch redbreast and bluegill sunfish.
A float rig is used for flatheads, with the bait fished along the steep riverbanks or in stump fields. Flatheads are loners, so once a flathead pounds a panfish bait, the angler should move to another cover area.
Blue catfish strike cut baits, including shad. Gizzard shad are plentiful, but it may take an electronic depthfinder to locate them. Anglers may find shad on the surface just before dark, and use a cast net to catch them.
The best technique for catching blue catfish is dropping cut baits on bottom rigs into the creek channels where they enter the main lake. Any area that has a steep drop is likely to hold blue cats.
Ocean Fishing Piers - Spot
Nothing attracts more fishermen to an ocean fishing pier than a spot run. The spot runs peak in October, when the fish migrate southward.
A medium action spinning or baitcasting rig will catch spots. The typical spot rig is a two-hook dropper rig with a sinker below two hooks.
Live bloodworms and fresh shrimp were the former standard baits for spots. However, artificial bloodworms and bloodworm-scented strips have proven to be nearly as effective. They also keep fresh longer than natural baits.
Anglers should call the different piers to see where the spots are currently biting. The bite can move great distances over the course of a week.
For phone numbers of fishing piers, visit the North Carolina Fishing Pier Society website at www.ncfps.com.
Cape Hatteras - Red Drum
The world record red drum was hooked on the Outer Banks and it is likely there are larger fish there. However, verifying a fish that large would be difficult because fish of that size are now protected.
When the drum leave the sounds and head for the Atlantic, they migrate along the beaches. Anglers line the surf when the drum run is going on, so it's usually not difficult to find the action. A four-wheel drive vehicle is necessary to get to the action and there are many places where beach drivers can gain access to the surf for fishing.
Cut baits, such as menhaden and mullet, make excellent baits for giant red drum. But when the fish are schooling, a big Hopkins spoon is also a good bet for catching them.
For more information contact surf fishing guide Joe Malat at www.joemalat.com.
Southport - Sea Bass
During December's calm days, there is excellent fishing for sea bass only a short boat ride from Southport.
Southport has many natural rock ledges within sight of the beach, including Lighthouse Rock. There are also offshore ledges and artificial reefs that hold these tasty fish.
Medium-sized center console boats can get in on good sea bass action, as well as large offshore craft. The good thing about the Southport area is that it is located on northeasterly winds, which are common in winter.
Anglers catch sea bass using bottom rigs. The best bait is squid; because it is difficult to tear, several fish may be caught on one bait. But cut fish, shrimp and jigs also catch their share of sea bass.
The artificial reefs are marked with buoys. But finding individual structure areas is still difficult without electronics because the buoys are not located directly atop the structure. For sea bass fishing, contact Capt. Butch Foster, Yeah Right Charters, 910-845-2004.
FOR MORE READING
Mike Marsh's latest book, Fishing North Carolina, details 100 fishing destinations and will be available this spring. For more information or to order copies, visit www.mikemarshoutdoors.com.