If you’re an avid angler looking for a great fishing destination, surf fishing North Carolina is a fantastic choice. With miles of pristine coastline and some of the best fishing spots in the country, it’s no surprise that the Tar Heel State is a top destination for surf fishing enthusiasts. Just up the atlantic coast from Florida, with its miles of sandy beaches and a diverse range of fish species, it’s no wonder that surf fishing has become a popular pastime in North Carolina.
But with so many spots to choose from, where is the best surf fishing in North Carolina?
Follow along and we’ll explore some of the top locations for surf fishing and provide tips on when to go, what to catch, what to expect when surf fishing in the state, and what you need to know to make the most of your time on the water.
So, let’s take a closer look at some of the best surf fishing spots in North Carolina.
Introduction to Surf Fishing North Carolina
Surf fishing North Carolina is a unique experience that offers a wide range of opportunities for anglers of all skill levels. From the rugged coastline of the Outer Banks to the tranquil waters of the Crystal Coast, there’s no shortage of great fishing spots to explore. Let’s do a general overview of what you can expect when surf fishing in North Carolina.
Local North Carolina Surf Fishing Information
Wherever you plan on surf fishing in the world, it is always a good idea to get some local information. The following are good local sources of information on surf fishing North Carolina. Everything from accommodations, best baits, lures, times, fish species and where to go. If you’re considering a surf fishing trip to North Carolina, I highly recommend you check the information they provide. It will be a great help in your planning and preparation.
What is Surf Fishing?
Before we dive into the specifics of surf fishing in North Carolina, let’s take a moment to define what surf fishing actually is. Put simply, surf fishing is the act of casting a line into the ocean from the shore. Unlike other forms of fishing, surf fishing typically involves using heavier gear and longer rods to cast farther distances and target larger fish species.
You will most likely be dealing with waves and currents along the beach front so keep safety in mind. A personal flotation device is a good idea if you will be wading the surf. It may not be cool or manly, but it could save your life. And, no fish is worth your life.
What Species Can You Catch When Surf Fishing in North Carolina?
One of the things that makes North Carolina such a great surf fishing destination is the wide variety of fish species that can be caught making it an ideal location for anglers of all skill levels. Depending on the time of year and location, anglers can expect to catch species such as:
- Red Drum
- Spanish Mackerel
- Black Drum
- Striped Bass
- King Mackerel
When is the Best Time to Go Surf Fishing in North Carolina?
While surf fishing can be enjoyed year-round in North Carolina, there are certain times of the year that are better than others. Generally speaking, the best time to go surf fishing in North Carolina is during the spring and fall months when the weather is mild and the fish are active.
Summer can also be a great time to fish, but the heat and humidity can make for uncomfortable conditions. When it comes to seasonal and migrating species is that they tend to head north for the summer, and tend to head south for the winter. This is why the late spring, early summer, and fall are arguably the best times for surf fishing North Carolina.
Best Surf Fishing Spots in North Carolina
Now that we’ve covered the basics of surf fishing North Carolina, let’s take a look at some of the best surf fishing spots in the state. From the Outer Banks to the Crystal Coast, there is something for everyone. From remote beaches to the more popular tourist destinations. Here are just a few of the top spots:
The Outer Banks is a stretch of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina, known for its long stretches of sandy beaches and excellent surf fishing opportunities. Some of the best spots include:
- Oregon Inlet – The most popular inlet on the Outer Banks, Oregon Inlet offers numerous fishing locations for anglers. The northern beach is a great location for surf fishing, the sandy beach wraps around from the oceanside to the soundside, and 4WD vehicles are allowed with a permit. The southern beach is also great for surf fishing, the beach turns into a bulk head in the inlet and the soundside has a small sandy beach access. The southern side is better for anglers who want to park their vehicle in a parking lot and walk onto the beach, whereas the northern side is better for those who want to drive out onto the beach.
- Cape Point – Cape Point is the infamous Outer Banks surf fishing spot. At the Point the land jets out into the Atlantic Ocean and then takes a sharp curve back towards the shore, creating north and south facing beaches. The Labrador Current and the Gulf Stream meet just off the Point, making Cape Point one of the best surf fishing spots on the East Coast. A 4WD vehicle and beach driving permit is the easiest way to access the Point, otherwise be prepared to walk a long distance from the public access parking area.
- Hatteras Island – Hatteras Island is another top surf fishing spot on the Outer Banks that’s known for its excellent Red Drum and Bluefish fishing. The island also has a number of piers and jetties that can be great spots to fish from.
- Ocracoke Island – Ocracoke Island offers some of the best fishing on the Outer Banks. The miles of undeveloped shoreline allow for ample surf fishing options.
- Cape Lookout National Seashore – Located on the southern end of the Outer Banks, Cape Lookout National Seashore is a prime surf fishing destination that offers some of the best fishing opportunities in the state. Here, anglers can target species such as Red Drum, Spanish Mackerel, and Bluefish.
The Crystal Coast is a scenic stretch of coastline that spans from Cape Lookout to Emerald Isle. This area is known for its clear waters and abundant fish species, making it a popular spot for surf fishing. Some of the best locations include:
- Bogue Inlet – Because the Bogue Inlet connects the open ocean with the Bogue Sound, anglers can expect to catch a large variety of fish, including seasonal puppy, red and black drum, trout, Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, pompano, cobia, croaker, spot, sea mullet, bluefish, and more.
- Atlantic Beach – Being able to drive on the beach helps anglers easily move up and down the beach to find hot fishing holes. Setting your rod holders up on the beach or wading out into the waves gives you a chance to catch some flounder, pompano, blue fish and speckled trout.
- Morehead City – Popular fishing destination with everything from beaches for surf fishing to inshore waters for wading or boating.
If you’re looking for a more tranquil surf fishing experience, Topsail Island is a great choice.
Located south of the Outer Banks, Topsail Island is home to miles of pristine beaches that offer excellent fishing opportunities for species such as Flounder, Red Drum and Pompano.
Wrightsville Beach is a popular surf fishing spot that’s located just a short drive from Wilmington. Here, anglers can target species such as Red Drum, Spanish Mackerel, and Bluefish from the beach or from one of the area’s many piers.
Cape Fear is another prime location for surf fishing North Carolina.
This area is located on the southern coast of the state, and its warm waters attract a wide variety of fish species. Some of the top spots to fish include:
- Carolina Beach – With miles of Atlantic Ocean facing beaches, there’s arguably a fishing spot everywhere you turn in this small island community. And, on the oceanfront, Carolina Beach Fishing Pier you can catch King mackerel and Spanish mackerel, drum, mullet, bluefish, croaker, blowfish, sea bass, pompano, perch, cobia and the occasional tarpon or false albacore.
- Kure Beach – You can drive out on Freeman Park and plant your fishing rods in holders. Or go down to Fort Fisher and try your hand on the beach down there. Surf fishing here can bring in all types of fish including, Blue fish, Spanish Mackerel, Drum, Flounder, Speckle Trout, even some sharks
Surf Fishing Tips and Techniques
Now that you know where to go, let’s take a look at some surf fishing tips and techniques to help you make the most of your time on the water.
Use the Right Gear
One of the most important things to consider when surf fishing North Carolina is your gear. Since you’ll be casting from the shore into deeper water, it’s important to use a rod that’s long enough to reach the fish you’re targeting. A surf rod in the 9-12 foot range is ideal, and you’ll also want to use a reel that’s designed for saltwater fishing. Use the right gear: Make sure you have a sturdy rod, strong line, and the right bait for the fish you’re targeting.
Use the Right Bait
Another key to success when surf fishing North Carolina is using the right bait. Depending on the species you’re targeting, you may want to use live bait such as shrimp, sand fleas, or mullet. Artificial lures can also be effective, especially for species such as Bluefish and Spanish Mackerel.
Mullet is the preferred cut bait of choice and should be chunked in cubes/strips for hook placement. Bloodworms can also be very effective! Check with the local bait and tackle shops, or other anglers, for the latest up to date information.
Pay Attention to the Tides and Currents
Tides and currents play a major role in surf fishing, and it’s important to pay attention to these factors when choosing where to fish. As a general rule, incoming tides tend to be more productive than outgoing tides. But tidal movement is key. Fish are more active during periods of tidal movement than slack tide periods. Additionally, fishing around structures such as jetties and piers can help to concentrate fish in a specific area.
Surf fishing requires a bit of patience, and it’s important to be willing to wait for the fish to come to you. This means being willing to move around and try different spots, as well as being patient and waiting for the fish to take the bait so bring a chair or something to sit on and enjoy the scenery while you wait for a bite. And, be aware, North Carolina has strict fishing regulations, so be sure to familiarize yourself with the rules before you head out.
Essential Surf Fishing Gear:
- Surf Fishing Rods, surf rods are typically longer and heavier duty than standard rods. – read more.
- Surf fishing Reels,larger and stronger with greater line capacity to handle big fish. – read more.
- Surf fishing Rod and Reel Combos, pre-matched rod and reel set ups for surf fishing – read more.
- Sand Spike Rod holder, holds your rods securely while you wait for that big bite. – read more.
- Surf Fishing Rigs, terminal tackle for fishing the surf. – read more.
- Surf fishing Carts, for beaches that won’t allow vehicles you need a way to carry your gear – read more.
- Rod Racks for Vehicles, carry your rods out of harms way and easy to access- read more.
- Beach Camping Gear, in case you want to fish all night or for several days – read more.
Surf Fishing North Carolina: FAQs
Do I need a fishing license to surf fish in North Carolina?
Yes, a fishing license is required for all anglers age 16 and older to fish in North Carolina, including when surf fishing.
What is the best time of day to surf fish in North Carolina?
Early morning and late afternoon tend to be the best times to surf fish North Carolina.
When is the best time of year to go surf fishing in North Carolina?
Surf fishing can be good year-round in North Carolina, but the best time to go depends on what you’re targeting. For example, spring and fall are often good times to catch red drum, while summer is a popular time for Spanish mackerel.
Can you fish for sharks when surf fishing North Carolina?
Yes, sharks can be caught when surf fishing in North Carolina, but it’s important to follow all regulations and guidelines when targeting these species.
What is the bag limit for Red Drum in North Carolina?
The bag limit for Red Drum in North Carolina is one fish per person per day, with a slot limit of 18-27 inches.
Can you rent surf fishing gear in North Carolina?
Yes, many shops and outfitters in North Carolina offer surf fishing gear rentals.
What should I bring with me when surf fishing in North Carolina?
In addition to your fishing gear and fishing license, be sure to bring sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, water, and snacks.
Surf Fishing North Carolina: Final Thoughts
North Carolina is a fantastic surf fishing destination that offers anglers a wide range of opportunities to catch a variety of fish species and some of the best surf fishing in the country. Whether you’re a seasoned angler or a beginner, there’s something for everyone when surf fishing North Carolina. By following the tips and techniques we’ve outlined here, you’ll be well on your way to a successful day on the water.
From the Outer Banks to Cape Fear, there are numerous locations to choose from.
And, by following the tips and recommendations in this article, you can have a successful surf fishing trip and create unforgettable memories.
So grab your gear and head out to one of North Carolina’s top surf fishing spots for an adventure you won’t forget.
Remember to always practice responsible fishing and respect the environment to ensure these pristine locations are preserved for generations to come.
As always, stay safe, enjoy the journey and please try to leave it cleaner than you found it. If you have any comments, questions, ideas or suggestions please leave them in the comment section below and I’ll get back to you asap. You can follow us on Facebook: Rex The Beach Angler, Instagram: thebeachangler7, Twitter: @AnglerBeach, and YouTube: Man Art Creations.