If you want many species of bass, trout, shad, catfish, crappie, and perch, cast your line in North Carolina. Shallow fly fishing streams are bounteous in this state, and with hundreds of miles of coast saltwater fishing is also a favored pastime. North Carolina annually stocks six million fish to populate its waterways and lakes, and has an abundance of naturally thriving inland and coastal species.
Beautiful mountains allow for trout fishing while surrounded by a glorious landscape. The west coast of the state is home to an array of waterways used by brown, rainbow, and brook trout. South Holston River is one of America’s best rivers for trophy sized brown trout. Roughly $100 million of North Carolina’s economy comes from vibrant, scenic trout fishing!
Tar Creek has notably heavy trout waiting to be caught. Nolichucky is a year round location for trout, especially rainbow trout during winter. Much of the state’s inland trout fishing is accessed through private lands – always be respectful of those who allow anglers to use their property.
Striped, spotted, large and smallmouth bass, are in ample supply in North Carolina. There is also the uncommon Roanoke bass, whose native habitat is extremely limited (Roanoke, Chowan, Tar, and Neuse Rivers, with isolated populations elsewhere, such as the Uwharrie River). Holston River is a great smallmouth bass point. The Watuga River is another popular spot for sizable striped bass, as well as trophy brown and rainbow trout.
American and hickory shad are known to inhabit the Roanoke and Tar Rivers. Both of these rivers play a part in the migratory shad runs. The state record American shad was almost eight pounds in 1974 from Tar River.
The eastern coast of North Carolina allows for vigorous salt water fishing. The state’s record breaking striped bass, a sixty-two pounder, was caught off Hatteras Island. Red drum, or channel bass, are huge once matured and are so plentiful that they are the state saltwater fish. The state record red drum was nearly a hundred pounds!
Troutlines, set hooks, and other set lines are regulated by North Carolina law. Most species have daily catch limits, as well as minimum and/or maximum lengths required for removal, so please check local legalities before removing fish.
Anyone sixteen years or older must have a fishing license. Both residents and non-residents may opt for an inland or coastal ten day recreational fishing pass, annual, or even a lifetime license (at any age)! People are considered residents when they have lived in North Carolina for six months, or have owned property within the state for two months. Students attending within-state college may apply for a resident license. Any members of the Armed Forces on leave for a month or less is exempt from licensing.
Salt water fishing requires its own license (the North Carolina Coastal Recreational Fishing License), although one should note additional licensing privileges are required for some species (such as the swordfish and tuna). Most licenses are available online, via telephone, and by visiting a licensing agency of the state (except for salt water licenses which cannot be picked up in person, and youth/infant lifetime licenses which are not available online).
North Carolina has one free fishing day annually on the fourth of July, and a Tackle Loaner Program to make fishing accessible to everyone. Also, to promote trout fishing the state offers the Mountain Heritage Trout Water program which allows residents and non-residents to fish in designated locations for three days for only $5.
North Carolina – To be caught, rather than seem caught..
Whenever you head out fishing to a new place, it's always best to speak to local anglers. Use fishing forums to ask questions and learn about the most accurate and up to date conditions.