North Carolina has some of the best saltwater fishing in the entire USA. Our state has one of the most diversified array of both inshore & offshore fish species from around the globe. North Carolina anglers can choose to fish from land, piers, bridges, boats & kayaks. Many North Carolina anglers have their own boats, but there are plenty of NC fishing charters & NC fishing guides that span our entire coastline. These captains will be glad to take local anglers or anglers from far, far away. These dedicated captains will provide their services for a fee to both experienced and inexperienced clients. Hiring a local North Carolina fishing captain can greatly increase a person’s odds of catching fish. Not only do they fish daily and know where your best chances of hooking up are, but most of the time they can tell you what type of NC fish species you’ll have the best success at pursuing.

At this time in NC, certain anglers need to have a saltwater fishing license. Click here for more information on whether or what type of license you may need…. North Carolina Saltwater Fishing License In the paragraphs below, I’ll describe some of the many options NC anglers have to choose from, while saltwater fishing in our state. For more detaied information on what type of fishing each fishing charter provides, just click on the captains website or give them a call. In fact, check out several charters until you find the type of fishing, type of boat, price of each trip and success of that boat, and maybe have gotten information about that captain and crew from other anglers that had chartered the same boat with success.

North Carolina Offshore Fishing boats

North Carolina Offshore Fishing boats

I’ll start with North Carolina’s inner most bodies of water known as the inner banks. This large body of water can be salty, slightly salty known as brackish, or fresh water. During the spring, summer and fall many trophy game fish move into North Carolina’s estuaries to spawn. Some of the most favorite fish to catch by North Carolina anglers in the inshore waters include speckled trout(also known as spotted seatrout), striped bass(rockfish), gray trout(weakfish), flounder, red drum (redfish), bluefish, spot, mullet(whiting), black drum, croaker, sheepshead, cobia and sometimes tarpon in Pamlico Sound & the Neuse River in late summer. The majority of fishing in North Carolina sounds and inlets is from boats. But, there are a few good fishing piers, legal fishing bridges, fishing off of islands and surf fishing near inlets & beaches.

Most NC inshore fishing charter boats are not as large as the ocean boats. Typical size might be 16′-28′. A typical inshore boat on most trips has only one captain and no mate. Average number of clients runs from one to four anglers. When you book a charter, be sure to discuss with the captain what type of fishing species you’d like to catch. It is also a good idea to discuss what type of fishing gear you’d like, such as spinning, fly fishing, baitcasting, drifting and trolling. Most fishing guides and captains provide most fishing gear for a trip, but if you have your own quality fishing gear and want to use it, on most boats it’s not a problem. But, the captain does provide most bait. If the crew isn’t happy, the caption isn’t happy, so he/she will do all possible to make the trip fun and enjoyable.

Catch and release of nice red drum.

Catch and release of nice red drum.

Next we will discuss inshore fishing around the inlets and within eight miles of the ocean shoreline. In general the size of these boats are a little bigger than the sound boats, but not as large as the gulf stream boats, going anywhere from 18′ to 38′. The number of anglers on these boast is usually anywhere from two to six. Some of the ocean inshore fish overlap with the sound and river inshore fish, including striped bass, speckled trout, gray trout, flounder, red drum, bluefish, spot, mullet, black drum, croaker, sheepshead, cobia and tarpon. At certain times of the year all of these fish can be caught inshore. Adding to the mix of inshore ocean fishing are the hard hitting king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, dolphin (mahi) and a few tuna.

Around some of the wrecks, fishing can be good for sharks, amberjack, flounder, cobia, black sea bass, king & spanish mackerel and an assortment of bottom fish including snappers, groupers, grunts, trigger fish and more. Most of this type of fishing involves drifting baits near wreck reefs or trolling baits close by. At many locations along North Carolina outer banks there’s another option called fishing on a head boat. These charter boats are larger, running from 60′-130′. This type of fishing allows more anglers per boat, with anywhere from 20-100 anglers onboard. The cost of the fishing trip cost less per client, as it is spread among more people. Another very exciting fish to try and catch in the inshore ocean is the false albacore, or albies and Lil’ Tunny. In the fall around Harkers Island, this area is world famous for this speedster! An easy way I like to spend some days fishing is drifting baits for flounder around the many NC inlets. Also, in the colder months large stripers come down from up north for some fantastic fishing close to the ocean shore.

Beautiful white marlin real bill fish on atlantic water sport fishing

Beautiful white marlin real bill fish on atlantic water sport fishing


That brings us to the big league of fishing offshore, going after many of North Carolina’s famous big game fish. Some of these trips can take thirty minutes or up to three hours if the fishing charter is running to the gulf stream. Most of these boats are larger too, running anywhere from 40′ to 90′ long. The typical number of anglers on these fishing charters running far offshore is six anglers. That helps spread the more expensive cost of the trip between them. Once arriving at the gulf stream, the color of the water is a gorgeous blue. The gulf stream is a river of warm water loaded with bait & fish. This stream of warm water in the ocean, flows from the gulf of mexico around the tip of Florida past North Carolina. The gulf stream distance from shore is the closest on the east coast besides the tip of Florida and comes within 20-60 miles of North Carolina’s coast line.

Some of the outstanding North Carolina big game fish include blue marlin, white marlin, dolphin fish (Mahi-mahi), wahoo, yellowfin tune, sailfish, mako shark, swordfish, bluefin tuna and bigeye tuna. North Carolina’s blue marlin, white marlin and sailfish put on spectacular aerial acrobatics as they try to dislodge the hook when there’s a strike from these world famous big game fish. Although in some parts of the globe these fish are eaten, most charter boats catch & release this species, unless the fish is way above average weight and lenght. Even then if it is a really large fish, exact measurements can be taken from the fish to build a mount of your trophy fish and he lives to fight another day. North Carolina has some of the best eating fish available, including tuna, wahoo, dolphin, shark, grouper and snapper. During the colder months bluefin tuna come into North Carolina waters for an North Carolina angler to have a chance at a tuna worth multi thousand dollars.

Some of the favorite towns and launching areas of the northern coastal area includes Swan Quarter NC, Washington NC and Elizabeth City NC in the Inner Banks area, comprising of water in the Albemarle Sound, Alligator River, Currituck Sound, Croatan Sound, Roanoke Sound and Currituck Sound. On the North Carolina Outer Banks, Nags Head NC, Manteo NC, Oregon Inlet NC, Avon NC, Buxton NC, Hatteras NC and Ocracoke NC are some favorite areas to access the ocean and inlets. Don’t forget to check out the beauty of the world famous Currituck Beach Lighthouse, Bodie Island Lighthouse, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and Ocracoke Lighthouse.

In the central coastal Inner Banks area comprised majority of the Pamlico Sound, Pamlico River, Core Sound, Neuse River, Bogue Sound in North Carolina. Some local towns Oriental NC, New Bern NC, Bayboro NC, Aurora NC near the Inner Banks and Atlantic NC, Harkers Island NC, Cape Lookout NC, Beaufort NC, Morehead City NC, Atlantic Beach NC, Crystal Coast NC, Emerald Isle NC and Swansboro NC are some local towns. Again don’t forget to take time to see the Cape Lookout Lighthouse, standing on the Cape Lookout National Seashore.

In southern coastal North Carolina, Sneads Ferry NC, Topsail NC, Wrightsville NC, Wilmington NC, Cape Fear NC, Southport NC , Holden Beach NC, Ocean Isle NC, Sunset Beach NC, Cape Fear River NC and Calabash NC are locations with fantastic North Carolina saltwater fishing. Again, be sure to check out North Carolina’s Oak Island Lighthouse, Bald Head Island Lighthouse, Price Creek Light, Cape Fear Light, Frying Pan Shoals Light and Federal Point Light.


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