The Crystal Coast is definitely home to some of North Carolina’s most exciting and diverse saltwater fishing opportunities. If you’re feeling the call of the ocean, then head out off the beach for world-class fishing for cobia, mackerel, mahi, tuna, billfish, grouper, and more. If inshore fishing is your pursuit, you can stay in the calm waters of the sound and estuary rivers and chase down flounder, redfish, trout, sheepshead, spots, and bluefish for light-tackle action that is second to none in the Carolinas. Add to it the fact that many of these fish can be caught here year-round in a beautiful, unspoiled environment, and it is easy to see why the Crystal Coast is a premier saltwater fishing destination.
There are several top notch marinas and tackle shops in our area, and they are great places to find friendly people willing to provide some local information on what’s biting, and the best baits and techniques to use. Be sure to grab your recreational fishing license while you’re there too. You will need one to do any saltwater fishing except on most piers and charter boats, who usually provide a blanket license. Oceanside piers rent out rods and reels, and they will always have bait, tackle, and an up-to-date fishing report. If you have your own equipment, then surf fishing from the beach is a great option, and there is never a cover charge. You can also take a ferry to one of the State Park islands such as Hammocks Beach for some truly unspoiled surf fishing. For a great experience with friends or family, try camping out under the full moon in September and October and night fishing for big redfish in the surf. During the spring, summer, and fall, surf-casters are hooking up with red drum, black drum, spots, bluefish, whiting, spanish mackerel, speckled trout, grey trout, and flounder. A standard bottom rig with cut bait or shrimp will always get bites, but digging up some of the sand-fleas scurrying along the beach or catching some small baitfish with a cast-net to use for live bait can give anglers the upper hand.
For those who have their sea-legs ready, there are several ways to get out on the water at the Crystal Coast. If you want in on the action, but don’t have your own boat, there are many local fishing guides and charter boats that put clients on fish year-round both inshore and offshore. Depending on the time of year, the charter option can put you and your family or friends on redfish, speckled trout, flounder, and sheepshead inshore, or mackerel, cobia, mahi, tuna, wahoo, grouper, and bottom fish offshore. There are also options for more extreme fishing like bow-fishing, flounder-gigging, and spearfishing. Even anglers with their own boat can always benefit from the tips and tactics learned by taking a charter and applying them to their personal fishing trips. Our area has several free public boat ramps, and most all of them are in excellent shape.
The fishing season typically begins in the spring as red drum, speckled trout, and flounder begin to ease their way out of the rivers and estuaries towards the sound. At the same time sea mullet, grey trout, flounder, redfish, black drum, and bluefish are moving into the inshore waters from the ocean. Further into the Atlantic, big yellow-fin tuna and wahoo can be found by trolling in the Gulf Stream, while bottom fishing for grouper, snapper, black sea bass, and triggerfish heats up as well. During the summer, the Crystal Coast is a fisherman’s dream. Flounder, red drum, black drum, speckled trout, and sheepshead, can all be caught inshore in the sounds, inlets, and waterways. Offshore fishing heats up as bluefish, spanish and king mackerels, cobia, amberjack, barracuda, mahi, wahoo, grouper, bottomfish, and billfish are all eager to give you a great fight. As the fall approaches, most of these fish stay in the area and just get bigger and more aggressive. This is also when the famous Crystal Coast spot run kicks into gear. Spots are great for kids and first-time fishermen, but I also know 50-year Captains that love to go spot fishing. The spots make their run down the beach and through the main waterways, so they are easy to find, and they will eat just about any piece of bait you offer up, especially shrimp and bloodworms. Spots fry up great, making a delicious treat that catches easy. Even the winter time our area offers good fishing opportunities for redfish and trout inshore, and wahoo and bottomfish in the ocean.
No matter what time of year it is, the Crystal Coast is an absolute paradise for recreational fishing, and offers anglers of any age or experience a chance to catch big fish! With so many different species to catch and a year-round fishery inside and out, you can believe that the Crystal Coast is ready…it’s just waiting for you to get out and go fishing!
Written by: Captain Rob Koraly,
Sandbar Safari Fishing Charters – 252-725-4614