freshwater fishing in north carolina

“The Ultimate Guide to Freshwater Fishing in North Carolina”

Exploring the Best Freshwater Fishing Spots in North Carolina

Freshwater Fishing North Carolina

North Carolina is an angler’s paradise that offers some of the best freshwater fishing in the country. With more than 50,000 miles of freshwater streams, rivers and over a hundred lakes, it’s no wonder why anglers from all over come to North Carolina to fish.

The state has something for everyone, from beginner fishers looking for easy access to fishing spots to the experienced ones who are looking for a challenge. Whether you prefer fly fishing, bass fishing, or catfishing, North Carolina’s freshwater bodies are home to a variety of fish species that will make your fishing expedition a memorable one.

Top Freshwater Fishing Spots in North Carolina

North Carolina Freshwater Fishing

1. Lake Norman

Lake Norman North Carolina

Lake Norman is the largest man-made lake in North Carolina and offers a great fishing experience. It’s known for its huge Largemouth Bass, Striped Bass, White Bass, Crappie, Bluegill, and Catfish. With over 500 miles of shoreline, there are plenty of fishing spots to explore. The lake has many marinas, launch ramps, and public fishing piers for the convenience of anglers.

2. Roanoke River

Roanoke River North Carolina

The Roanoke River is a popular fishing destination for its great Striped Bass fishery. As part of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission’s “Wade Fishing Program,” the river has excellent public-access spots for anglers to fish from the bank, making it one of the state’s most accessible and enjoyable fishing locations.

3. Fontana Lake

Fontana Lake North Carolina

Fontana Lake is a picturesque lake in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The lake offers an exceptional fishing experience. It’s well-stocked with Walleye, Trout, Smallmouth Bass, and Largemouth Bass. Fishing from a boat is the most popular way to fish in the lake, but for those who prefer fishing from the shore, there are many access points available.

4. Lake Gaston

Lake Gaston North Carolina

Lake Gaston is one of the best fishing spots in North Carolina and is home to an abundance of fish species, including Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass, Bluegill, Crappie, and Catfish. Anglers can access the lake through the public launch ramp and marinas along the lake’s shore. The lake is known for its breathtaking scenery, making it an excellent location for camping and fishing at the same time.

Fishing Licenses

To fish in North Carolina, anglers need a valid North Carolina fishing license. Resident and non-resident licenses are available for a fee. Licenses can be purchased online through the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission’s website or from licensed agents across the state.

In conclusion, North Carolina is an ideal freshwater fishing destination as it offers a vast array of fishing spots suitable for all types of anglers, from beginners to professionals. With fresh air, great scenery, and abundant fish species, every fishing trip in North Carolina is an unforgettable experience.

Types of Fish

Types of fish in North Carolina

North Carolina is a popular destination for freshwater fishing enthusiasts, and with good reason: it is home to a wide variety of fish species that can be found in its numerous lakes, rivers, and streams. Whether you are a novice or an experienced angler, you are sure to find a species that will satisfy your craving for adventure and excitement. Here are some of the most popular types of fish found in North Carolina’s freshwater bodies:

Largemouth Bass

Largemouth bass in North Carolina

Largemouth bass is one of the most highly prized freshwater game fish in North Carolina. They are known for their ferocious strikes and their tendency to create a strong resistance once hooked. Largemouth bass can be found in most of North Carolina’s freshwater bodies, including lakes, rivers, and ponds. Some of the best areas to catch largemouth bass in North Carolina include Lake Norman, Cape Fear River, and Yadkin River.

Channel Catfish

Channel catfish in North Carolina

Channel catfish is another popular freshwater fish species found in North Carolina. They are also known for their aggressive strikes and their ability to put up a good fight once hooked. Channel catfish can be found in most of North Carolina’s freshwater bodies, including lakes, rivers, and ponds. Some of the best areas to catch channel catfish in North Carolina include Lake Gaston, Pungo River, and Pamlico River.


Crappie in North Carolina

Crappie is a smaller freshwater fish species that is highly sought after by anglers who prefer a more relaxed fishing experience. They are known for their delicious taste and their tendency to congregate in large schools, making them an easy target for those who know where to look. Crappie can be found in most of North Carolina’s freshwater bodies, including lakes, rivers, and ponds. Some of the best areas to catch crappie in North Carolina include Lake Waccamaw, Neuse River, and Fontana Lake.


Trout in North Carolina

Trout is a freshwater fish species that is popular among fly fishermen due to their behavior and their preference for clear, cool water. They are known for their excellent fighting abilities and their tendency to be caught in fast-flowing streams and rivers. Trout can be found in most of North Carolina’s mountain streams and rivers, including Elk River, Watauga River, and Nantahala River.

In conclusion, North Carolina is home to several species of freshwater fish that can provide anglers with exciting and unique fishing experiences. Whether you are looking for a challenge or a more relaxed fishing experience, there is a fish species in North Carolina that will suit your preferences. So, grab your fishing rod and head out to one of North Carolina’s many freshwater bodies to try your luck at catching the fish of your dreams.

Lake Norman

Lake Norman Fishing

Lake Norman is a beautiful lake located in the central part of North Carolina and is known for its vast range of fish species. It covers a massive 50 square miles with over 500 miles of shoreline. The lake is also quite deep, reaching depths of up to 130 feet, making it a great place for those looking for a more adventurous fishing experience.

Some of the most popular fish species in Lake Norman include largemouth and smallmouth bass, spotted bass, striped bass, crappie, and catfish. Fishing tournaments are often held on the lake, and it is not uncommon to see anglers lining the shores during peak fishing season.

If you’re looking for a good spot to cast your line, check out the Hot Hole located near the Cowans Ford Dam, or try the underwater bridge near the Lake Norman State Park. Just be sure to obtain a North Carolina fishing license before you start fishing.

The Roanoke River

Roanoke River Fishing

The Roanoke River is a popular fishing spot known for its abundant variety of fish. The river is located in eastern North Carolina and covers over 410 miles, starting from the Virginia border and ending in Albemarle Sound.

The Roanoke River is especially famous for its massive striped bass, also known as rockfish, which can grow up to 50 inches long and weigh over 50 pounds.

One of the best places to catch striped bass in the Roanoke River is the area between Weldon and Roanoke Rapids Dam. Other common fish species found in the river include largemouth bass, catfish, and crappie.

During peak fishing season, the Roanoke River attracts thousands of anglers from all over the country. There are many fishing guides and outfitters available for those who are new to the area, and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission regularly stocks the river with fish to keep populations healthy.

Fontana Lake

Fontana Lake Fishing

Fontana Lake is a picturesque lake located in western North Carolina, spanning over 10,000 acres and surrounded by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The lake is renowned for its scenery, as well as its abundance of various fish species.

Some of the most popular fish species in Fontana Lake include smallmouth and largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie, walleye, rainbow trout, and brown trout. The lake also has a thriving population of striped bass, which can often be found in the deeper waters of the lake.

Fontana Lake provides a wealth of opportunities for both shore and boat fishing, and there are many fishing guides and outfitters available for those who are new to the area. Some of the best spots for fishing include the east shore area near Almond, the mouth of Forney Creek, and the numerous coves around the lake.

No matter what type of angler you are, Fontana Lake has something to offer – from adventurous deep-sea fishing to leisurely shore fishing, you’ll be sure to find a spot that caters to your needs.

Fishing Regulations

Fishing in North Carolina

North Carolina is well-known for its diverse fishing opportunities. From the mountain streams to the coastal waters, there is no shortage of places to go fishing. However, it is crucial to follow the state’s fishing regulations. These regulations vary depending on the location and the species of fish being targeted, and it’s essential to follow them to ensure the sustainability of the natural resources for future generations.

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) is responsible for managing the state’s fish populations and setting fishing regulations. Before heading out to your preferred fishing spot, it’s essential to consult the NCWRC website or contact them directly to check the latest regulations. The regulations are updated annually, and it’s important to stay informed to avoid hefty fines or legal action.

The general fishing regulations include size and creel limits, gear restrictions, and fishing seasons. For example, largemouth bass can only be kept if they are at least 14 inches long, and the daily creel limit is five fish per person. Catfish, on the other hand, must be at least 12 inches long, and there is no daily creel limit. There are also restrictions on the types of gear that can be used, such as live bait, artificial lures, and flyfishing equipment. Additionally, fishing in protected areas, such as hatcheries and game lands, is prohibited without permission.

In addition to the general fishing regulations, there are specific rules for certain bodies of water or species of fish. For example, the NCWRC has implemented different regulations for trout fishing in western North Carolina, which is a popular destination for anglers. The regulations vary depending on the type of stream and the type of trout, and it is crucial to understand these regulations before fishing in these areas.

Another important aspect of fishing regulations is maintaining a fishing license. Every angler in North Carolina must have a valid fishing license, regardless of age or residency. There are different types of licenses available, depending on the type of fishing, duration, and age of the angler. You can obtain a fishing license online or through an authorized agent, such as a tackle shop or outdoor store.

Furthermore, it is important to practice ethical fishing techniques to protect the natural resources and fish populations. Catch and release is a popular practice among anglers, and it helps maintain healthy fish populations. Anglers should also properly dispose of their fishing-related waste, including lines, hooks, and bait containers.

In conclusion, fishing regulations are important to maintain a healthy ecosystem and ensure the sustainability of the state’s fish populations. Understanding the regulations, obtaining a valid fishing license, and practicing ethical fishing techniques will not only protect the natural resources, but also make for a more enjoyable fishing experience.

Bait and Tackle

Bait and Tackle in North Carolina

Freshwater fishing in North Carolina is a popular activity for both locals and tourists alike. With the plethora of different fish species found in the state’s waterways, anglers have a variety of options when it comes to bait and tackle. Whether you prefer to use live bait, lures, or flies, there are plenty of choices available to enhance your fishing experience.

Live Bait

Live Bait for fishing

Live bait is a popular choice for many fishermen, as it can be highly effective in enticing fish to bite. North Carolina anglers often use live bait such as worms, crickets, and minnows. When fishing for larger fish, such as bass or catfish, using live bait such as shad or bluegill can also be productive. Live bait can be purchased at most bait and tackle shops throughout the state or can often be found in the wild. When using live bait, it’s important to keep it alive and fresh for the best results.


Freshwater fishing lures

Lures are another popular choice for freshwater fishing in North Carolina. Unlike live bait, lures are artificial bait designed to mimic the look and movement of natural prey. There are many different types of lures available for a variety of fish species. Spinnerbaits and jigs are popular for bass fishing, while small spinners and spoons can be effective for trout and panfish. Topwater lures are another option for enticing fish to the surface, making for an exciting and visual fishing experience.


Fishing flies for trout

If you’re looking for a more challenging and traditional method of fishing, then fly fishing may be for you. In North Carolina, fly fishing can be enjoyed in the state’s rivers and streams, particularly in the western part of the state where the Appalachian Mountains provide ideal natural habitats for native trout. Fly fishing typically involves the use of lightweight rods and synthetic flies that resemble various types of insects, which are then cast onto the water’s surface in a gentle and natural manner.

Rods and Reels

Fishing rods and reels

The type of rod and reel you use will depend on the type of fishing you are doing. Spin casting rods and spinning reels are popular for general freshwater fishing, while baitcasting rods and reels are often used for larger fish such as bass and catfish. Fly fishing typically requires a lightweight fly rod and reel. When selecting a rod and reel, consider the weight and strength needed for the type of fish you will be targeting.

Other Essential Tackle

Fishing tackle

Along with bait and rods, there are other essential items you will need for freshwater fishing in North Carolina. Hooks, sinkers, and bobbers are important for rigging your bait properly, while a tackle box can keep everything organized and easily accessible. A landing net can also be helpful for safely handling and releasing fish that you catch. Don’t forget about other important items such as sunscreen, insect repellent, and a first aid kit to ensure a safe and enjoyable fishing experience.

Overall, freshwater fishing in North Carolina offers a variety of options when it comes to bait and tackle. Whether you prefer the ease and effectiveness of live bait, the versatility of lures, or the traditional practice of fly fishing, there are plenty of opportunities to catch fish in the state’s pristine waterways.

Renting Fishing Equipment

Renting Fishing Equipment

For those who prefer not to invest in their own fishing equipment, many outfitters in North Carolina rent rods, reels, lures, and other gear to visitors. These rental shops offer a wide variety of equipment to suit every type of fishing experience. Some outfitters offer complete packages that include everything you need for a day on the water, while others allow visitors to rent individual pieces of equipment as needed.

When considering equipment rental for your fishing trip, it’s a good idea to inquire about the quality of the gear. You’ll want to make sure the equipment you rent is in good condition and will function properly. Additionally, be sure to ask about rental rates, availability, and whether any additional accessories are provided with the rental.

Some of the most popular outfitters for renting fishing gear in North Carolina include Fontana Village Resort, which is located near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and High Country Angler, which is located near Boone and Blowing Rock in the western part of the state.

Fishing Guides

Fishing Guides

If you’re new to fishing in North Carolina or just want to improve your chances of catching a big one, hiring a fishing guide can be a great investment. A fishing guide is an experienced angler who offers expert advice on where to fish, what types of bait and lures to use, and how to properly handle and release fish that are caught.

Guides can be particularly helpful for new anglers who may not know where to go or what to look for. They can also be beneficial for more experienced anglers who want to learn specific techniques or explore new areas.

Many fishing guides in North Carolina offer half-day and full-day trips, and most provide all the necessary equipment and bait. Some guides specialize in fly fishing or targeting certain species of fish, while others offer a more general approach.

Some of the top fishing guides in North Carolina include Great Smoky Mountains Fly Fishing, which offers guided fly fishing trips to streams and rivers in and around the Great Smoky Mountains, and Captain Dave’s Sportfishing Charters, which offers ocean and sound fishing trips off the Outer Banks.

Fishing Charters

Fishing Charters

Fishing charters are another great option for anglers looking to explore new waters or target specific species of fish. A fishing charter is essentially a private boat rental, usually equipped with all the necessary fishing equipment, that also includes the services of a captain and crew.

Charter fishing trips in North Carolina range from full-day excursions off the coast of the Outer Banks to half-day trips in the state’s many freshwater lakes and rivers. Some charters focus on specific types of fishing, such as offshore trolling for tuna or inshore fishing for redfish and trout.

One of the advantages of charter fishing is that the captain and crew have extensive knowledge of the local waters and the best spots for fishing. They also handle all the logistics, including providing licenses and permits, cleaning and storing fish, and navigating unfamiliar waters.

Some of the top fishing charters in North Carolina include Full Pull Charters, which offers offshore and inshore fishing charters in the Wilmington area, and Carolina Beach Fishing Charters, which specializes in nearshore and backwater fishing in the Carolina Beach area.

Online Resources

Online Resources

Whether you’re renting equipment or hiring a guide or charter, it’s important to do your research beforehand. Fortunately, there are many resources available online for fishing in North Carolina.

Several websites, such as and Carolina Sportsman, offer forums where anglers can connect with each other, exchange tips and advice, and ask questions about fishing in North Carolina. These forums can be a valuable resource for learning about local fishing conditions, techniques, and regulations.

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission also provides a wealth of information on its website, including maps of public fishing areas, tips on fishing for specific species, and regulations and licensing requirements.

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned angler, there are many resources and options available for freshwater fishing in North Carolina. With the help of rental outfitters, guides, and charters, and the wealth of knowledge available online, anglers can enjoy a rewarding and unforgettable fishing experience in the Tar Heel State.

1. Rivers and Lakes: A Fisherman’s Paradise


North Carolina is a freshwater fishing haven, with more than 50,000 miles of rivers, streams, and lakes that are home to a variety of fish species. From the smallest creeks to the largest lakes, anglers can find a wide range of habitats that are perfect for different types of fish.

Some of the most popular rivers for fishing in North Carolina include the Cape Fear River, the Roanoke River, and the Yadkin River. These waters are well-known for their large catfish, bass, and trout populations. In addition, numerous lakes throughout the state, such as Lake Norman and Lake Waccamaw, offer excellent opportunities for freshwater fishing.

2. Bait and Tackle Shops: Essential Gear for Your Trip


Before heading out on your freshwater fishing adventure in North Carolina, it’s essential to have the right gear. Luckily, there are numerous bait and tackle shops throughout the state that can outfit you with everything you need, from fishing rods and reels to live bait and lures.

Some popular tackle shops in North Carolina include Adam’s Bait Shop in Greensboro, Lake Norman Fishing Tackle in Mooresville, and Brad’s Bait and Tackle in Wilmington. These shops have knowledgeable staff who can help you choose the best equipment for your fishing trip and give you tips on where to find the best fishing spots.

3. Regulations and Licenses: Staying Legal on the Water


Before embarking on your freshwater fishing trip in North Carolina, it’s important to review the state’s fishing regulations and obtain the appropriate licenses. The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) is responsible for setting fishing rules and guidelines in the state, and they offer a variety of licenses and permits for anglers.

Some of the most common licenses include the Comprehensive Fishing License, which allows you to fish in all public waters in North Carolina, and the Lifetime Fishing License, which is a great option for anglers who plan to fish in the state for many years. It’s important to note that the NCWRC also enforces strict fishing quotas and size limits for certain fish species, so be sure to review the regulations carefully before heading out on the water.

4. Fishing Guides: Expert Knowledge at Your Fingertips


If you’re new to freshwater fishing in North Carolina, or if you’re looking to enhance your skills and knowledge, hiring a fishing guide can be an excellent choice. Fishing guides are experts in the local waters and can provide valuable insights on the best places to fish, the best times to fish, and the most effective techniques to use.

Some of the top fishing guides in North Carolina include Captain Dave Stewart of Wet Rooster Jigs, who specializes in bass fishing in the Lake Norman area, and Captain Joe Benton of Twister Charters, who offers guided trips for stripers and redfish in coastal waters.

5. Fishing Competitions: A Chance to Test Your Skills


For anglers who love a little competition, North Carolina offers a wide range of freshwater fishing tournaments and events throughout the year. These competitions are a great way to test your skills against other fishermen and potentially win some great prizes.

Some popular freshwater fishing competitions in North Carolina include the Catawba Catfish Club’s Annual Lake Norman Tournament and the Carolina Redfish Series in Wilmington. These events are open to anglers of all skill levels and offer a fun and enjoyable day on the water.

6. Family and Kid-Friendly Fishing: Making Memories on the Water


Freshwater fishing in North Carolina isn’t just for serious anglers. It’s also an activity that the whole family can enjoy. Many lakes and rivers throughout the state offer calm and shallow waters that are perfect for young children and beginner fishermen.

Some of the best family and kid-friendly fishing spots in North Carolina include Lake Johnson in Raleigh, which features a fishing pier and easy access to the water, and Lake Waccamaw State Park, which has a children’s fishing pond and fishing gear that can be rented for the day.

7. Conservation Efforts: Protecting Fish Populations for Future Generations


Finally, it’s important to recognize the efforts being made in North Carolina to protect and conserve the state’s freshwater fish populations. The NCWRC and other organizations are working tirelessly to ensure that these fish are around for future generations to enjoy.

Some of the most significant conservation efforts in North Carolina include the stocking programs for trout and catfish in various rivers and lakes throughout the state, as well as the monitoring of fish populations to ensure that they remain healthy and sustainable.



As you can see, freshwater fishing in North Carolina is an excellent activity that offers something for everyone. Whether you’re a seasoned angler or a complete beginner, there are plenty of opportunities to catch some great fish and enjoy the beautiful natural scenery that the state has to offer.

So grab your fishing gear, head to one of North Carolina’s many rivers or lakes, and experience the thrill of freshwater fishing today!

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