Spring and Summer Fishing in North Carolina
By Capt. Gary Dubiel
Spring and summer bring many opportunities to anglers of all kinds and ages in North Carolina. From coastal rivers to warm ocean currents, North Carolina has many reasons to wet a line.
When the Gulf Stream leaves Florida, it moves farther offshore until it brushes less than 30 miles off the coast of North Carolina. The rich waters of the Labrador Current plunge southward until it meets the Gulf Stream just off the coast. This makes for some of the richest fishing grounds in the world and it is in these waters that many blue-water anglers catch white and blue marlin, yellow fin, blue fin, black fin and big eye tuna, Wahoo, sailfish and dolphin.
Ports and inlets steeped in fishing legend play host to many offshore fleets, departing from spots such as Hatteras, Ocracoke and the Oregon Inlet on the Outer Banks, Beaufort and the Bogue and Barden inlets along the Crystal Coast, and Masonboro in the Wilmington area. World-renowned fishing tournaments originate here and draw anglers from across the globe, yet families and friends who may have no experience at all sail from North Carolina's shores to the vivid blue waters of the Gulf Stream to catch the largest fish of their lives.
Before you get to the neon blue water of the Gulf Stream, the green near-shore waters of the North Carolina coast are filled with an abundance of life. Spring brings vast schools of bluefish, bonito and Spanish mackerel. Cobia, king mackerel, amber jack, groupers and snappers move in and around wrecks, reefs and other various coastal structures. Smaller boats and shorter runs from North Carolina's many inlets put many anglers into outstanding fishing opportunities.
Even at or in the inlets and close to the beaches, anglers can pursue countless bottom fish from flounder to croaker, weakfish and spot or cast to busting Spanish and blues. Each inlet presents its own challenges and its own rewards, each in its own timeframe, but each offers many great days of fishing throughout the spring and summer.
North Carolina's Cape Hatteras National Seashore is world-renowned, and along with the Cape Lookout National Seashore, comprises nearly 130 miles of pristine beach. Group them with countless additional miles of public beach and beach access and coastal state parks, surf anglers have a virtual paradise of locations and opportunities to wet a line. Many off-road vehicle access areas also add to the appeal of the Tar Heel State's beaches. Surf casters can tangle with many species each spring and summer; including the world largest red drum. The International Game Fish Association's all tackle world record red drum was caught on the beach at Avon and weighed 94 pounds.
Many ocean piers remain in place along coastal North Carolina, providing another source for many fishermen looking to try their luck. Perfect for casual and hardcore anglers, families and visitors, piers can yield anything from small bottom fish to big game like cobia, king mackerel and tarpon.
Michelle Dubiel of Fountain Inn, S.C., with the biggest fish she's ever caught; a giant red drum caught on North Carolina's Neuse River.
Behind the barrier Islands of the Outer Banks lies the second largest estuary in North America, the Pamlico Sound. Comprising waters from Virginia's Back Bay, the Albemarle Sound, its many rivers, and its two largest tributaries - the Neuse and Pamlico rivers - the Pamlico Sound covers more than 2 million acres of surface water. This inland sea has some of the finest fishing not only in the state, but also along the East Coast. Shallow water, light tackle and fly anglers can pursue many highly sought-after game fish, striped bass, redfish, seatrout, tarpon, flounder and many more. Access to the sound from the barrier islands is but a small part of the available ports of call to this vast fishing ground. Many small towns with both public and private boat launches dot the hundreds of miles of shoreline. Perhaps the most famous fishing in the state occurs here each summer, as those massive red drum (redfish) move into the estuary to spawn. Anglers looking to catch a fish of a lifetime are rewarded by catching and releasing 30- to 70-pound drum in unimaginable numbers.
The Pamlico Sound is not the only area of outstanding inshore fishing. The smaller bodies of water between the barrier islands and the mainland from Cedar Island south to the mighty Cape Fear River also hold an abundance of fishing situations, in particular some of the finest site fishing in the state. Not as subject to the turbulence of the bigger bodies of water to the north, sandy shallow waters in such places as the Core and Bogue Sounds and the many intra-coastal waters in the southern half of the state stay clear all summer long. For those anglers looking to stalk the flats for redfish, the waters near Morehead City, Swansboro and Wrightsville are ideal. Not to be left out, the mighty Cape Fear River has plenty of excellent spring and summer fishing as does the waters from the Cape Fear to the South Carolina border. Southport; for example, often can boast the finest flounder fishing in the state.
With spring as in summer, anglers can find so many ways to enjoy fishing in North Carolina, from the rush of a leaping blue marlin, to the thrill of a speedy mackerel, to any one of the great feelings every angler encounters during a day on the water. Whether you're with your family on the beach catching spots, or a serious angler looking for his best red drum, spring and summer angling opportunities await you on the coast of North Carolina.
Capt. Gary Dubiel is the owner and operator of Spec Fever Guide Service in Oriental, N.C., and the coastal fishing expert for VisitNC.com.