Fishing on the Crystal Coast

fishing on the coast of nc, crystal coast fishing

Fishing on the Crystal Coast

Fishing on the Crystal Coast is a popular pastime for locals and visitors. From the White Oak River, creeks, and inlets to the surf – there is ample opportunity for fishing and fun. No matter the time of the year, there are always fish to be caught, so bring your fishing rods because you might land a big one!

Cast a Line Off a Pier or in the Surf

fishing off the pier on the crystal coast

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 and the Oceana Pier in Atlantic Beach offer unique fishing experiences.

To fish from our 1000-foot piers, you don’t need a fishing license or pole! These one-stop fishing spots have rods for rent and bait waiting for your big catch.

Going Out to Sea – Fishing Charters 

Deep sea fishing and fishing charters

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 worldwide.

So, if you are looking for that big fish, the kind you don’t have to fib about the size of, a charter is calling your name! From inshore and nearshore to offshore options and Large 50+ person “Headboats” for deep-sea bottom fishing to more specialized sportfishing boats that can target those large pelagic fish such as King Mackerel, Mahi Mahi and Blue Marlins, there is an option that fits any budget and style of fishing you’re looking for.

With the Gulf Stream currents less than 40 miles from many parts of our coast, underwater beauties such as Yellowfin tuna, Giant Blue Fin Tuna, Sailfish, and Wahoo are popular trophies. Smaller fish caught in deeper waters include Red Snapper, Grouper, Triggerfish, and Sea Bass.  Many charter services on the county’s eastern end will offer half-day, full-day, and specialty fishing adventures.


ALSO SEE: Coastal Angling | Emerald Isle Fishing Charters


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 and Atlantic Beach in September, October, and November

Bluefish and Pompano caught on the beach

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 in Emerald Isle and Atlantic Beach

beach fishing, fishing on the beach

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. In comparison, 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.

Fishing March through August

fishing on the white oak river

Once the temperatures warm up, you’ll find Sea Mullet and Pufferfish moving back in. If you’re up for some adventure, Skates and Rays can be caught by using double-hooked shrimp in the surf. 

Of course, Summer is an excellent 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.

For Red Drum, some of the best live bait includes mullet and shrimp. When using live bait for Red Drum, it’s important to match the size of the bait to the size of the fish you’re targeting.

For Flounder, some of the best live baits include small mullet, and shrimp. As with Red Drum, it’s essential to use a bait size that matches the size of the fish you’re targeting. In general, live bait that is natural to the area and matches the size of the fish you’re targeting will be the most effective for catching Red Drum and Flounder.

Mid-Summer offers Sea Mullet and small Flounder and the possibility of catching Tarpon with live bait from the pier.

Moving through late-Summer and into early Fall, you’ll see more Spanish Mackerel, Bluefish, larger Flounder, and Speckled Trout. You can use jigs for small Spanish Mackerel and Bluefish, although Bluefish will bite at Shrimp bait, too!

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.

Surf Casting

Fishing on the shorelines of Emerald Isle and Atlantic Beach

Surf casting is a type of fishing that involves casting a line from the shoreline into the surf or waves. This technique targets fish found in the nearshore waters, such as bluefish, red drum, and flounder, to name a few.

Surf casting requires specialized equipment, such as a long surf rod, a heavy-duty reel, and heavy sinkers or lures that can be cast beyond the breaking waves. It also requires some skill in reading the water and understanding fish behavior to locate and catch fish. Surf-casting is a popular form of fishing in many of our coastal areas and can be enjoyed by experienced and novice anglers alike.

Surf Casting Fishing Tips

  1. Choose your fishing location carefully. Fish from the beach or look for a spot with a good sandbar, where the water is not too deep and where you can see signs of fish activity like jumping or feeding. You can also ask local fishermen or bait shops for advice on the best spots.
  2. Choose the correct tackle. You will need a surf rod that is at least 9 feet long and has a heavy action to cast heavier weights and lures. A spinning reel with a high line capacity is also recommended. Make sure to spool the reel with a good quality fishing line suitable for the type of fish you are targeting.
  3. Choose your bait or lure. As mentioned earlier, live bait is often the most effective option for surf-casting. Shrimp, sand crabs, and mullet are all good options, depending on the type of fish you are targeting. If you prefer lures, use jigs, plugs, or spoons that mimic the movements of the baitfish in the area.
  4. Cast your line. Position yourself with your back to the wind, and hold the rod with both hands. Take a few steps back to give yourself room to cast, and swing the rod forward to launch the bait or lure into the water. Aim for the spot where you have seen signs of fish activity.
  5. Watch your line. As the bait or lure sinks, watch your line for any signs of movement. If you see the line go slack, it could mean that a fish has taken the bait, so reel in the slack and set the hook with a firm upward motion of the rod.
  6. Reel in your catch. Once you have hooked a fish, reel it in carefully, keeping the rod tip up and maintaining tension on the line. If the fish is too heavy to lift out of the water, wait for a wave to wash it onto the shore, then grab the fish by the mouth and remove the hook.
  7. Rinse and repeat. If you don’t get a bite on your first cast, don’t worry – try again from a different spot, change your bait or lure, or wait for the fish to start feeding. With a bit of patience and persistence, you should be able to catch some fish!


a young boy is fishing with a handline

Fishing with a handline is a simple and traditional form of fishing that involves using a single fishing line with a hook, sinker, and bait. Unlike fishing using a rod and reel, a handline is operated entirely by hand, without using a reel or other mechanical device. The technique involves casting the line into the water by hand and then using a series of jerks or pulls to simulate the movement of live bait and entice fish to bite. Once a fish is hooked, the angler must use their hands to pull in the line and land the fish. Fishing with a handline can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it requires a certain level of skill and patience to be successful.

To try handling fishing on the Crystal Coast using a piece of wood, choose a piece of wood that fits your hand. Next, carve out a notch so you can wind with the heavy line. All you need now is a hook and a sinker. Next, mimic the action you would typically take when fishing with a pole, cast your line out by giving it a good toss, and wait for your catch. You can catch anything from small bait fish, crabs, and even larger fish.

Cast Net Fishing on the Crystal Coast

Cast net fishing from the beaches of Emerald Isle

This technique is used to catch smaller bait fish or even blue crabs. You should first coil up the line and keep the weights nice and neat. Take time to straighten the line if need be. Grab the horn (the plastic circle at the top of the net) and place a nice size chunk in the hand holding the coiled-up line. (this should all start to look like a hose wrapped up.

Throw two handfuls of the net over your leg, grab it, then throw it over your shoulder. Grab about half of the rest of the net with your other hand and prepare to toss the entire net into the water at a wide disbursement.

Try Fishing on the Crystal Coast

Fishing in the beach surf

Fishing is a wonderful way of passing the time and enjoying the outdoors. Fish are plentiful along our beautiful Crystal Coast; no matter what time of the year you’re here, you’ll always find someone fishing. As you plan 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

public boat launch in NC

Get an NC Fishing License

One of the most important things to do before fishing on the Crystal Coast is to get your fishing license. North Carolina does require a fishing license and has size and daily catch limits for many species. Individuals 16 years or older using any 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 Division of Marine Fisheries offices. Fishing licenses are also available at local bait and tackle shops and sporting goods stores.
  • Purchase a license online on the NC Wildlife website. Once on the site, click the green “Purchase Licenses and Permits” button.
  • Call to purchase a license at (888) 248-6834 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.


Ready to book your stay in one of our cozy sound-front homes and fish to your heart’s desire? See all our sound-front vacation homes and pick the one that’s perfect for you, today! 



Crystal Coast Fishing, Emerald Isle Fishing

8 replies

Comments are closed.