December 3, 2023

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The Complete Guide To Carolina Beach Fishing

Reading Time: 10 minutes

While Carolina Beach is a part of Cape Fear, there’s nothing scary about this angling paradise. Fishing in Carolina Beach offers something for everyone. Families can target Flounder inshore, while seasoned veterans can venture out into the Gulf Stream. Generations of anglers have been mastering their craft for decades. Nowadays, locals proudly show off everything Carolina Beach has to offer.

In fact, Carolina Beach didn’t even exist until 1882 when a fishing club was established here, predating the town itself. To be fair, this is not only a prime fishing destination. Take a walk on the scenic boardwalk at the seafront or spend your day relaxing at one of the beautiful sandy beaches. Alternatively, try hiking on Flytrap Trail.

In this guide, we’ll talk about everything you need to know when it comes to fishing in Carolina Beach. This includes types of fishing, our favorite catches both inshore and offshore, seasonality, spots, and more. Let’s go!

What can I catch while fishing in Carolina Beach?

Carolina Beach is home to fish species of all shapes and sizes. Let’s focus on what the shallows, offshore waters, reefs, and wrecks here have to offer and talk about some of the favorites.


Whatever inshore species you’re hoping to tempt, you need to find a good spot for it. Luckily, Carolina Beach is nothing short of generous in that aspect. Popular locations include the docks near Boat Basin, Carolina Beach Inlet, Intercoastal Waterway, and the Cape Fear River to name a few. In addition, you can check out any of the flats, piers, and beaches around Carolina Beach for a healthy dose of anything from Flounder to Sharks.


A young angler wearing a hat and holding a freshly caught Flounder while standing on a fishing boat on a cloudy day in Carolina Beach, NC

Every Carolina Beach angler knows that when it comes to fishing for Flounder, you need a bucket of patience. A typical Flounder fishing plan begins with picking the right bait. A lot of locals use live bait, such as mullet and mud minnows or peanut menhaden, and other small pinfish and croakers. Lures and rigs for trolling, along with spinner baits and spoons also work for those who fish with artificials.

Once you have all your bait and tackle prepared, you can head to a good spot to anchor up within suitable casting distance. While fishing for Flounder, you need to take tides into consideration. When the water isn’t moving, the bite might be much harder. Spots like the Inlet and Snow’s Cut can be pretty productive, where you can achor up or do some drifting.

Make sure you plan your Carolina Beach Flounder trip according to the season. The best time to target these fish is from July until September, although you can still try your luck any time of the year. There are minimum size and bag limits, which you’ll need to check in advance.


Two male anglers wearing sunglasses and holding a large Redfish while fishing in Carolina Beach, Nc

First of all, Redfish are North Carolina’s state fish, which explains a lot. They hardly need an introduction, especially along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. If you’re chasing Flounder during the peak season, it can be pretty hard to resist targeting a couple of Reds, too. Summer months are great for a Redfish trip. The Cape Fear region can sometimes also stay warm late in the year, offering good opportunities to fish for Reds.

Ask any local how to catch these fish, and they’ll probably tell you all you have to do is to entice them to hit. In general, locals recommend working the spots where you see the most bait activity. Look for the small creeks that join the inland waterway or cast right by the docks. Alternatively, you can fish the points and straight banks.

When it comes to bait, you can go for the smallest egg sinkers when fishing the shallow spots. Another important thing is to keep an eye on the tides. Finally, make sure to check with your guide which bag and size limits apply if you want to keep your catch.

Speckled Trout

A young angler wearing a hat and holding a freshly caught Trout while sitting on a fishing boat in Carolina Beach, NC

Speckled Trout are the main attraction in Carolina Beach whenever the bite is on. When conditions allow for it, you can fill the limits in a couple of hours. In some cases, anglers can come back to the docks with a mixed bag of Redfish and Speckled Trout, since fishing for them can be pretty similar.

Specks bite best during the colder months, especially from October to December. Live finger mullet on a Carolina Rig, stingsilvers, and diamonds jigs are most used in the area, although you can always experiment with your bait. The most important thing is catching the right tide; a lot of Speckled Trout anglers head out at the start of the rising tide.

Local piers are good spots to target Specks, along with the Dredge Pond south of Snows Cut. Locals also go to the Fort Fisher Rocks, the Cove, and the Carolina Beach Yacht Basin. Whichever spot you choose, make sure you know the bag and size limits if you’re not practicing catch-and-release.

Nearshore and Offshore

Two male anglers on board a charter fishing boat, holding a freshly caught Amberjack in Carolina Beach, NC

Carolina Beach happens to be within a comfortable shot of some excellent nearshore and offshore fishing grounds on the east coast. The NC coastline borders the Gulf Stream, which, in turn, merges into the mighty Atlantic Ocean. 

From nearshore to the deep blue waters, you can find excellent opportunities to target anything from Kingfish, Snapper, and Amberjack to Tilefish, Cobia, Mahi Mahi, and Tuna. With a constant supply of migrating fish and easy access to the Gulf Stream and the Atlantic, Carolina Beach nearshore and offshore fishing almost never disappoints.


A group of three male anglers all wearing hats and sunglasses, holding a freshly caught Marlin, while another angler is trying to measure the catch, a charter fishing boat in Carolina Beach, NC

Carolina Beach is home to some of the most prized game fish out there – Sailfish and Marlin. In fact, during the heat of late July and August, the area becomes known as “Sailfish Central” by local anglers.

Sailifishing here is done by trolling Ballyhoo, which is a pretty common method along the coast. There’s no need to pack heavy tackle: if you want to test your angling skills, try catching Sailfish with light tackle, as a lot of locals do. NC Sailfish average somewhere between 25 and 30 pounds, although you can come across a 40-pound fish if you’re lucky.

The best spots to target Sailfish may change on a daily basis; local captains tend to find the baitfish first and then look for Sails. In general, you can find the fish anywhere from 12 to 20 miles off the beach, and even beyond.

White and Blue Marlin are two other prized Billfish that you can target during the summer months. While the window is short, you can still head out anytime from June through August for a healthy dose of Marlin. These monsters require heavy-duty tackle and a longer boat ride, since they hang out further in the Atlantic.


A male angler wearing a cap and sunglasses and holding a freshly caught Grouper while standing on a charter fishing boat in Carolina Beach, NC

While it’s hard to narrow down the list of potential nearshore and offshore catches in Carolina Beach, Groupers are definitely among the top species. Gag and Black Grouper are the mainstays of any bottom fishing trip, especially in the spring and the fall.

While you can find Groupers pretty close to shore, they are much more subtle in the shallows. Finding them is another challenge, so you might need an experienced captain by your side. Grouper tend to get comfortable on the structure and it takes a special skill to make them leave the comfort of their home to chase a bait.

Locals usually position the boat above the fish, anchor up, and drop natural bait. Cigar minnows, Boston Mackerel, and Spanish sardines work well with Groupers. As we mentioned earlier, bottom fishing is the most common method, although some captains carry a couple of jigging rods just in case.

Where should I go fishing in Carolina Beach?

A view of Kure Beach in North Carolina with pink and light blue sky

With so many fishing spots to explore, it can be hard to know where to start. Here’s a quick list of our favorite Carolina Beach fishing spots you might want to consider:

  • Snow’s Cut. As a prime location to fish for Flounder, this trench connects the Cape Fear River with the Intracostal Waterway. The area is known for its strong currents and debris, and can get pretty busy when the “doormat” bite is strong.
  • The Steeples. If you’re looking for a good spot to target a large selection of deep sea species, head 60 miles offshore to the Steeples. Although you might need an extended full-day trip to enjoy what it has to offer, you can be rewarded with anything from Marlin to Tuna.
  • Meares Harris Reef. This artificial reef is commonly known as “The Liberty Ship,” located just over 3 miles from the shore. The Meares Harris sits in around 50 feet of water hosting a variety of residents, including Cobia, Bluefish, Kingfish, and many other species.
  • 5-Mile and 10-Mile Boxcars. As the name suggests, these reefs were actually constructed with railroad boxcars. The five-mile mark is home to Black Seabass, Spanish Mackerel, and Kingfish. As you move towards the 10-Mile Boxcar, you can add Mahi Mahi, ocean-going Flounder, and Sailfish to the list.
  • Yaupon Reef. Sitting just five miles from the mouth of the Cape Fear River, Yaupon Reef offers year-round fishing opportunities. Here, you can target Black Seabass and Sharks, along with Cobia in the spring and even Sheepshead during the winter months.

How can I go fishing in Carolina Beach?

Before you start planning your Carolina Beach trip, let’s talk about some of the ways you can fish in the area. Your fishing method, of course, will depend on several factors, including seasonality, the desired species, and so on.

When it comes to fishing techniques, these also depend on the species you’d like to target. In general, trolling and bottom fishing are the most common methods in these waters. While heavy tackle rules the waves offshore, where you can go for Tuna and Marlin, light tackle can be useful while fishing for Sailfish.

Surf Fishing

A smiling angler wearing a cap and sunglasses and holding a Flounder while fishing in Carolina Beach, NC

Surf fishing in Carolina Beach is essentially trolling from the shore. While this method doesn’t require a lot of preparation, you still need to grab your bait, tackle, and fishing license. As well as that, you’ll need to find a good spot to cast your line. Locals recommend picking a spot with open water, where you won’t be fishing near crowds of swimmers.

Oceanfront anglers can enjoy shore fishing any time of the year, although it’s better to tailor your trip to the species you’re after. Flounder bite best in the fall months, along with Speckled Trout and Striped Bass. Whiting, Redfish, Bluefish, and Black Drum can also be among the fall catches, although you can also target them in April and May. Summer is reserved for Spanish Mackerel.

Pier Fishing

A view of Kura Beach Pier on a sunset, North Carolina

Pier fishing is a good option for those who just want to wet a line during a vacation. The best part about pier fishing in Carolina Beach is that you only need to get a pier license ahead of time; in most cases everything else, including bait, tackle, and rods is available on site.

Kure Beach Pier and Carolina Beach Pier are good spots for some nice pier fishing. The Kure Beach covers a 711′ area with a tackle hop on sight. In addition to that, there’s a live bait tank open for a certain amount of time each year that anglers can use. Carolina Beach Pier is just slightly smaller, but also has a bait shop with rod and reel rentals.

Charter Fishing

A picture showing a fishing guide assisting a female angler while fishing on a charter boat in Carolina Beach, NC

Carolina Beach has a wide variety of fishing charters that any angler can book. Exploring the waters with a local captain, both offshore and inshore, is never a bad idea. A professional fishing guide knows the area better than anyone else. They also carry modern fishing equipment and know all the honey holes that you can use to your advantage.

When fishing with a charter captain, you won’t need to worry about which tackle to use or technique to go for. Normally, the crew provides all the necessary equipment, tackle, and bait in accordance with the targeted species. There’s simply no better way to get to know the waters of Carolina Beach than with a knowledgeable captain!

Carolina Beach Fishing F.A.Qs

Do I need a license to fish in Carolina Beach?
  • The majority of Carolina Beach fishing charters provide licenses for every angler on board, especially when you’re fishing on a bigger boat. When fishing by yourself, you’ll need to get a fishing license if you’re over the age of 16.
Are there any fishing tournaments in Carolina Beach?
  • Yes! There are various fishing tournaments that grace Carolina Beach every year. You can take part in the Annual East Coast, Got-Em-On Classic King Mackerel tournament in summer, the Cape Fear Disabled Sportsmen Fishing tournament nearby Kure Beach fishing pier in spring, or the Fisherman’s Post Carolina Beach Inshore Challenge during the fall season. And that’s not all!
Is fly fishing popular in Carolina Beach?
  • While you can cast a fly whenever you want, fly fishing isn’t really popular in Carolina Beach.
When’s the best time to go fishing in Carolina Beach?
  • The spring, summer, and fall seasons are overall best for fishing in Carolina Beach. Summer is especially perfect for charter, surf, and pier fishing. As for deep sea fishing, White and Blue Marlin, as well as Yellowfin Tuna, Wahoo, and Mahi Mahi bite best from late spring through early fall. July through October is best for Sailfish. Plan a trip for Bluefin and Blackfin during late fall or early winter.

Fishing in Carolina Beach: Flounder Madness and Sailfish Central All in One!

A female angler holding a freshly caught Redfish and a young angler holding a similar fish while standing on a fishing boat in Carolina Beach, NC

Carolina Beach prides itself on an impeccable coastal fishing culture. Whether you’re planning a fishing trip of a lifetime or just want to check what’s biting while you’re on vacation, fishing in Carolina Beach has something for you. We hope that by now you have a good idea of what you want to target and which fishing grounds you’d like to explore!

Have you ever been fishing in Carolina Beach? What’s your favorite catch? Which season do you prefer? Let us know in the comments below!

The post Fishing in Carolina Beach: The Complete Guide appeared first on FishingBooker Blog.

By: Lisa
Title: Fishing in Carolina Beach: The Complete Guide
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Published Date: Mon, 12 Dec 2022 13:41:00 +0000

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