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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - RecFishReports

Marine Fisheries

Recreational Fishing Reports

Because fishing is generally slower in the winter there will not be regular updates from December to April. Instead of the weekly updates we have posted an overview of what one might expect during this time period.

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Northern District Fishing Report

Ocean: Winter anglers catch plenty of yellowfin tuna, as well as wahoo, when conditions permit, making for some good offshore action. Offshore bottom fishing can be excellent in the winter, as well. Midrange anglers target striped bass, if they migrate to North Carolina waters, and red drum fishing can be very good during warmer periods. Find a regional fishing website that reports daily catches or contact a local tackle shop for up-to-date fishing reports. Anglers may want to improve their chances of a great day of fishing by using the services of a charter boat or guides.

Inlets/Sounds/Bays: When weather permits, fishing will be heavy with anglers targeting striped bass. Striped bass fishing was on fire this fall at Mann’s Harbor and surrounding areas and in the Roanoke, Croatan and northern Pamlico sounds, especially near bridges or any other structure. Striped bass fishing is managed through a quota, and fishing has been so good this fall that a winter fishery closure is possible. Check with the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries before heading out. Also, there will likely be good winter catches of spotted seatrout and red drum. Good places to try include around the barrier islands, Roanoke Sound and Oregon Inlet's Green Island Slough from pre-dawn to mid-morning hours, and again just before dark.

Piers/Beaches: Piers are currently closed. Most will re-open around Easter. Beach anglers may have a tough time fishing this time of year due to rough surf and adverse weather, but when conditions permit, some of the largest red drum and striped bass are taken from the surf in the winter. Bluefish blitzes can happen this time of year, as well, and offer anglers some short-term active fishing. There is also the possibility of some excellent speckled trout surf fishing on the beaches from Rodanthe southward.


Central District Fishing Report

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 year they there were already landings in December. How long they stay around should still depend on the weather. 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 fish species 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, providing a quality fishing experience. Extended and overnight fishing trips are offered. Also, bluefin tuna head boat trips are sometimes offered. Anglers on private boats will 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. During years with very cold temperatures, striped bass have appeared on Cape Lookout Shoals.

Inlets/Sounds/Bays: Speckled trout fishing was good this fall -- lots of small fish – and should continue to be so this winter. Striped bass fishing in the Neuse, Pamlico and Pungo rivers will also be a favorite. The upper creeks of the White Oak, New, Neuse, Bay, Pamlico and Pungo rivers will probably not offer the speckled trout fishing as in past years. Lower salinities throughout the year kept these fish to the east. However, with warm weather lingering into December, things could change. Anglers should do a little research before setting out, as creek fishing for speckled trout is a specialized skill. Anglers may want to consider using a local guide to improve fishing opportunities.

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


Southern District Fishing Report

Ocean: Offshore fishing can be fantastic during the winter months. Bluewater trolling for wahoo can be very good, and vertical jigging and top water fishing for blackfin tuna is outstanding when weather conditions allow. African pompano and good numbers of cobia will bite on jigs, as well. King mackerel fishing can be outstanding around Frying Pan Tower. Look for king mackerel in water temperatures around 67 degrees Fahrenheit and warmer. Bottom fishing for black sea bass, groupers and other various reef fish is good in the winter months.

Inlets/Sounds/Bays: As the water temperature falls, things begin to slow down somewhat. Most anglers target trout and drum in the winter. Most of the trout action will take place around the Masonboro and Little River rock jetties. Those targeting red drum will find the bays and creeks behind Bald Head Island productive. Also, the striped bass fishery in the Cape Fear River heats up during the winter months. The most productive striped bass fishing occurs around downtown Wilmington.

Piers/Shore: Shore mode fishing will be very limited in the winter months. Most piers close after Thanksgiving weekend and do not reopen until March. For those that do stay open, catches likely will be limited to puffers, skates, and dog sharks. Fishing for puffers can be very good on piers during the winter months.


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

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