The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries interviews anglers throughout the coast to estimate marine recreational fishing catch. The following regional fishing reports are updated weekly and compiled by DMF port agents as they observe and interview fishermen at access sites along the coast — more than 500 anglers are interviewed each week.
Please note: New fishing reports are posted each week during the height of fishing season.
Interested in fisheries statistics, including updated recreational tuna and billfish landings? Learn more on the Fisheries Statistics page.
For more information regarding the Northern District Fishing Reports, please contact Brian Melott.
Anglers can catch plenty of yellowfin tuna, as well as wahoo, in the winter when conditions permit. Atlantic bluefin tuna have made their presence known and offer a great opportunity. Offshore bottom fishing can be excellent in the winter, as well. In midrange waters, anglers target striped bass (if they migrate to North Carolina waters), and red drum fishing can be very good during warmer periods. Anglers should 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 guide.
When weather permits, fishing will be heavy with anglers targeting striped bass. Striped bass fishing was good this fall at Mann’s Harbor and surrounding areas and in the Roanoke, Croatan and northern Pamlico sounds. Fishing was especially good near bridges or any other structure. Striped bass anglers should check out the Wanchese Harbor, as well. Striped bass fishing is managed through a quota, so anglers should also check with the Division of Marine Fisheries before heading out. Other good winter catches are spotted seatrout and red drum. Good places to fish include around the bridge at Pirates Cove, barrier islands, Roanoke Sound and Oregon Inlet's Green Island Slough and rock jetty. Fishing is generally best from pre-dawn to mid-morning hours, then again just before dark.
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 are taken from the surf in the winter. Bluefish blitzes can happen this time of year, but it’s been a long time since North Carolina observed this kind of activity. There is also the possibility of some excellent speckled trout surf fishing on the beaches from Rodanthe southward.
For more information regarding the Central District Fishing Reports, please contact Jacob Stain.
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 they are already here. 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.
Spotted seatrout fishing was good this fall and there were plenty of nice trout around as well. The upper creeks of the White Oak, New, Neuse, Bay, Pamlico and Pungo rivers should offer good spotted seatrout fishing. Creek fishing for spotted seatrout is a specialized skill, and anglers may want to consider using a local guide to improve fishing opportunities.
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 more information regarding the Southern District Fishing Reports, please contact Dennis Trowell.
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. Anglers should 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.
As the water temperature falls, things begin to slow down a little. Most anglers target trout and drum in the winter. Most of the trout action will take place around 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.
Shore fishing is 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.