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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - Central District

Marine Fisheries

Central District Fishing Report —
Pamlico, Craven, Carteret and Onslow Counties

Contact: Jesse Bissette (Jesse.Bissette@ncdenr.gov)

Winter of 2016-17

Ocean: There will be plenty of excellent fishing opportunities onboard charter boats during the winter. The central area of the coast has become known for its Atlantic bluefin tuna fishery. Usually cold weather has an impact on when those giants show up, but this season there were already landings in November. How long they stay around will depend on the weather, as well. Other offshore species, such as king mackerel, yellowfin tuna and wahoo, will be available to anglers fishing the Gulf Stream. Bottom fishing for a variety of reef fishes is also excellent during the winter months. Several head boats operate throughout the year. Some of the best snapper and grouper catches occur during the winter. Extended and overnight fishing trips are offered. Also, bluefin tuna head boat trips are sometimes offered. Anglers on private boats can enjoy many of the same opportunities as those fishing on charter boats. Anglers fishing offshore will have access to excellent catches of king mackerel, snapper, grouper and other reef fish. In past years with very cold temperatures, striped bass appeared on Cape Lookout Shoals. Anglers shouldn’t forget about the fishing on the eastern side of Cape Lookout. December should provide good false albacore fishing.

Inlets/Sounds/Bays: Speckled trout fishing was good this fall and there were plenty of nice trout around as well. Hurricane Matthew pushed a lot of trout to the coast through extensive riverine run-off. Striped bass fishing in the Neuse, Pamlico and Pungo rivers will also be a favorite when the impacts of Hurricane Matthew are done and the rivers return to normal. The upper creeks of the White Oak, New, Neuse, Bay, Pamlico and Pungo rivers will probably not offer the speckled trout fishing like in past years. Lower salinities throughout the year and from Matthew floods will likely keep these fish to the east. However, with warm and dry weather lingering into December, that could change. Anglers should do a little research before setting out. Creek fishing for speckled trout is a specialized skill, and anglers may want to consider using a local guide to improve fishing opportunities.

Piers/Shore: Most piers close for the winter season. Some may allow access, but catches will be limited. Shore fishing activity will be limited, as well.

For the fishing year, all owners/operators of vessels recreationally fishing for and/or retaining regulated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species (Atlantic tunas, sharks, swordfish and billfish) in the Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea, must obtain an Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Angling permit. This permit has replaced the Atlantic tunas Angling category permit. In North Carolina, additional Highly Migratory Species harvest reporting requirements are also in place. To obtain a permit go to: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/compliance/permits_reporting/index.html

Report a tagged fish

Please note: Anglers sometimes confuse small king mackerel with Spanish mackerel. King mackerel and spanish mackerel have different size and catch limits. Make sure you properly identify the mackerel you are catching. (Tips here)

A recreational fishing license went into effect Jan. 1, 2007 for all of the state's coastal and ocean waters.

Click here for the latest seasons, size and bag limits.

Please note: New reports are usually posted by early Monday afternoon.

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N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries • 3441 Arendell Street • Morehead City, NC 28557 • 252-726-7021 or 800-682-2632

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