Fishing on the Crystal Coast is a popular pastime for both locals and visitors. From the White Oak River, creeks, and inlets to the surf – there is ample opportunity and fun to be had. No matter what time of the year it is, there are always fish to be caught, so bring your fishing rods because you just might land a big one!
Cast a Line Off a Pier or in the Surf
The most popular time of the year for fishing is during the Fall months. The water temperature is starting to cool down and the days are pleasant. You can fish in the surf, off a pier, or on one of the popular charters.
You don’t have to be a skilled angler to find remarkable fishing along our coastline. Our sound, surf, and piers offer every fisherman or woman an opportunity to reel in a prize fish!
To get an incredible view of our coastline while waiting for the fish to bite – these rare wooden fishing piers are the place to be. The Bogue Inlet Pier in the heart of Emerald Isle as well as the Oceana Pier in Atlantic Beach offer unique fishing experiences. To fish from our 1000 foot piers you don’t even need a fishing license or even a fishing pole! These one-stop fishing spots have rods available for rent and bait waiting for your big catch.
Going Out to Sea
For the Crystal Coast, charter fishing is not just a leisure sport – it’s a lifestyle. With the bevy of tournaments held here, our sparkling waters are a playground to many sport fishers around the world.
With the Gulf Stream currents less than 40 miles from many parts of our coast, underwater beauties such as Yellowfin tuna, Mahi Mahi, Giant Blue Fin Tuna, King Mackerel, Marlin, Sailfish, and Wahoo are popular trophies. Smaller fish that are caught in deeper waters include Red Snapper, Grouper, Triggerfish, and Sea Bass. There are many charter services on the eastern end of the county that will offer half-day, full-day, and specialty fishing adventures.
“Head boats” offer larger excursions that can take up to 50 anglers out to sea while smaller vessels accommodate private parties both offering unique fishing experiences. Specialty charters can include Sportsfishing, Shark Fishing, and even Mahi-Mahi. Spending the day miles away from shore, just waiting for that “big one” to take a bite… is an escape you won’t soon forget! Try a charter fishing expedition while you’re here for an exhilarating unmatched experience.
Fishing on Emerald Isle in September, October, and November
Surf fishermen can expect to catch Red Drum, Flounder, Pompano, Sea Mullet, and Bluefish. Live bait is best for catching Red Drum and Flounder. Shrimp and Sand Fleas are fantastic for Pompano and Mullet.
Larger fish such as Spanish and King Mackerel can be caught from the pier during September, and as we move through October, Bluefish, Black Drum and the famous Spots are present and plentiful.
November brings Speckled Trout and Puppy Drum to both the surf and pier. Bottom fishing offers a variety of fish throughout the Fall season including Black Drum, Bluefish, Pufferfish, Pompano, and Sea Mullet. Shrimp bait for bottom fishing seems to be the most popular bait.
December, January, and February
Fishing begins to slow down as the water becomes cooler. But when the Winter is mild and the days are sunny, there’s still fish out there willing to take the bait. Fishing off the surf can bring in Sea Mullet and Pufferfish, again, using Shrimp as bait. Whereas, Red Drum can be found near the beachfront and inlets with Gulp bait or lures.
Speckled Trout are mainly found in creeks and it’s been said they love Gulp Jerk Shads and Zoom Flakes.
March through August
Once the temperatures begin to warm up you’ll find Sea Mullet and Pufferfish moving back in. If you’re up for a little adventure, Skates and Rays can be caught by using double hooked shrimp in the surf.
Of course, Summer is a great time of year for fishing, and as the days get hotter there is always something different to be caught. During the early part of summer, surf and pier fishers can expect to land smaller Spanish Mackerel, Bluefish, and maybe a Flounder or two. Red Drums have been easily in the marshes during the early Summer and in the White Oak River near oyster beds using live bait. Mid-Summer offers Sea Mullet and small Flounder as well as the possibility of catching Tarpon with live bait from the pier.
Moving through late-Summer and into early Fall you’ll see more of the Spanish Mackerel, as well as Bluefish, larger Flounder, and Speckled Trout. You can use jigs for small Spanish Mackerel and Bluefish, although Bluefish will bite at Shrimp bait as well!
Summer is also a great time of the year for bottom-fishing. There is a nice variety of fish throughout the season including Sea Mullet, Croakers, Pompano, Black Sea Bass, Gray Trout, and Gag Grouper.
Try Fishing on the Crystal Coast
Fishing is a wonderful way of passing the time and enjoying the outdoors. Fish are plentiful along our beautiful Crystal Coast and no matter what time of the year you’re here, you’ll find there is always someone fishing.
As you’re planning your vacation, be sure to add your rods to the list of items to pack along with your fishing license. If you don’t already have one, that’s okay, too. Local tackle shops provide fishing licenses as well.
We really do have it all!
Public Boat Launches
Emerald Isle Intracoastal Waterway 6800 Emerald Drive
- Morehead City Intracoastal Waterway (behind Crystal Coast Visitors Center) 3407 Arendell Street
- Cedar Point (Swansboro) Intracoastal Waterway 144 Cedar Point Boulevard
Beaufort (Taylor’s Creek) 2370 Lennoxville Road
Where to Get an NC Fishing License
Individuals 16 years of age or older using any type of bait or gear to catch finfish while fishing in North Carolina’s public waters must possess a valid North Carolina fishing license. This license requirement does not apply to private ponds. Individual residents who receive Food Stamps, Medicaid, or Work First Family Assistance may obtain a written waiver (Annual Subsistence License Waiver) from this fishing license requirement through the county Department of Social Services. A $2 transaction fee may be added to your total order (NCGS 113-270.1B).
Some licensed piers such as the Bogue Inlet Fishing Pier and Oceanana Pier require you to purchase a pass to use their facilities and because of this, their pass may cover your NC-CRFL.
Where to Get Your NC Fishing License
- Purchase a license in person at one of the offices of the Division of Marine Fisheries. Fishing licenses are also available at many local bait and tackle shops as well as sporting goods stores.
- Purchase a license online on the NC Wildlife website. Once you’re on the site, just click on the green “Purchase Licenses and Permits” button.
- Call to purchase a license at (888) 248-6834 during the hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Will you give fishing a try while you’re on the Crystal Coast? Let us know in the comments!