From the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains in the west to the gorgeous outer banks, North Carolina is full of great fishing spots. Freshwater fishing enthusiasts have many choices where to go fishing for large and smallmouth bass in the many lakes and reservoirs. Those with a passion for streams and hiking have thousands of miles of waterways, most with stunning rainbow and speckled trout. The best fishing spots in North Carolina are easy to find, too.
If all that fishing is not enough, there is the vibrant music scene. While bluegrass may be what most people think of when someone mentions North Carolina, you can listen to any musical genre you want while discussing your big catch over a craft brew from one of the state’s many breweries. The vibe here is very different from other places like the east coast fishing areas in Connecticut or Maine.
Get ready for a great fishing trip because North Carolina offers some excellent opportunities for saltwater fishing. You can fish from the shore or pick a guided trip for some deep-sea fishing that you will never forget. So, start packing up your tackle and gear because after reading this list, you’ll want to go fishing in N.C.
1. Lake Fontana
With more than 400 miles of shoreline and a size of 10,230 acres with a ton of different branches, Lake Fontana is the place for bass fishing. You can even try your hand at trout fishing at one of the many different streams that feed into the lake. Record-breaking fish are common, making this best fishing spots in North Carolina. Make sure you are properly geared for your trip and make sure your fishing gear can stand up to some of the larger fish in the area.
You can also pull up your boat and explore the ruins of old homesteads or hike a huge network of trails. The best part about Lake Fontana is that you have many options for camping and fishing. You may see these types of fish at Lake Fontana:
- Largemouth or smallmouth bass
- Lake Trout
While there, be sure to visit Fontana Dam, which is the tallest dam on the eastern seaboard. When you are not fishing, it is worth the trip to take in this wonder. Be sure to check out Fontana Village for a bite to eat while you are there, too.
2. Jordan Lake
Jordan Lake is a 13,940 acre reservoir in the New Hope Valley just west of Raleigh. It is a popular destination for those who want to get out of town for some quality fishing time. It has a depth that averages 14 feet and maxes out at 38 feet, so this is a shallow lake in an area that gets hot in the summer. You can hook these types of fish at Jordan Lake:
- Largemouth or smallmouth bass
- Channel catfish
- Black or white crappie
- White or striped bass
- Yellow perch
3. Lake Norman
Lake Norman is a 32,000 acre lake that draws many anglers because it is an excellent place to fish for bass. While there are some big catfish in this lake, it also has an abundance of white perch. Although this lake can be crowded at times, you can get good results when you put in a day fishing here. With 500 miles of shoreline, you can go off by yourself to fish and get away from the popular spots.
Excellent access and a variety of catfish means this is one of best fishing spots in North Carolina to wet a line. The types of fish you can catch at Lake Norman include:
- Largemouth, striped, white or spotted bass
- Channel, blue or flathead catfish
- Black crappie
- Yellow Perch
4. Lake James
Lake James is 6,800 acres and boasts depths of up to 120 feet. This makes Lake James the home to many different species of fish. For those who want something beyond the typical bass fishing experience, there is the northern pike and tiger muskie. Lake James is popular for a lot of reasons beyond fishing. It is easy to access and has plenty of boat rental and camping facilities. It also has more than one marina, unlike a lot of lakes. Here’s what you can expect to find on the end of your line at Lake James:
- Largemouth, white or smallmouth bass
- Blue catfish
- Black or white crappie
- Northern pike
- Tiger muskie
5. Lake Chatuge
Lake Chatuge is 7,480 acres and is a scenic lake on the North Carolina and Georgia border offers anglers over 7,000 acres of fishing. Spotted, white, largemouth bass and hybrid bass are the most common fish you will find there. But don’t be surprised to see a walleye on your line, too. You can use a Georgia or North Carolina fishing license, so it is a popular spot for anglers from both states. These are the species of fish you could catch at Lake Chatuge:
- Largemouth, smallmouth, spotted or hybrid strips ass
- Channel catfish
- Black Crappie
6. High Rock Lake
High Rock Lake is 15,180 acres and the deep water lake has some excellent schools of bass. The large size means there is a lot of room to find your own special fishing hole to reel in the big ones. With 365 miles of shoreline, there is so much to explore. You don’t even need a boat to wet a line. You’ll want to check in on the boating regulations depending on what type of watercraft you plan to use.
There are numerous marinas to supply your every need. You can also rent a boat to get out in the deeper parts. Here’s the fish that live in High Rock Lake:
- Largemouth, white or striped bass
- Channel, flathead or blue catfish
- Black or white crappie
7. Ocracoke Island Outer Banks
If you want to get away from it all and enjoy some great deep sea or offshore fishing, go to Ocracoke. This remote community was once a popular hangout for pirates like the infamous Blackbeard. While there, visit Teach’s Hole for some great swimming near the shore and bountiful fishing further out.
Ocracoke is not for everyone due to its remoteness. There are a lot of vacation rentals on the island. However, they book up fast because it is the place to get away from it all. Anglers can count on catching:
- Spanish mackerel
- Sea mullets
On your way to Ocracoke try fishing near Swan’s Quarter. Most people take the ferry to get to Ocracoke. However, the remoteness and tranquility of Swan’s Quarter are worth fishing, if you have the time.
8. Smoky Mountains National Park
With thousands of miles of streams to fish, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a great place to explore. You may know this is the most visited park in the entire National Park system. However, most visitors only venture a few feet from their cars, leaving many places to drop a line in the water.
You can discover many trout fishing spots by getting on the trail and fishing further out than most people venture. A backpacking style fishing rod that collapses can help you have a more comfortable trip.
9. The Tuckasegee River
If you love to fly fish, head to the Tuckasegee River, which fans have nicknamed, “The Tuck.” This gorgeous river is home to some great fly fishing. In fact, it is one of the best fishing spots in North Carolina. For the bass fishing enthusiast, “The Tuck” offers some of the biggest smallmouth bass in the Smoky Mountain Region. This means you could catch bass that are close to eight pounds and 16 to 20 inches long.
This is a family-friendly river with good access. When you are not fishing, you can take rafting or tubing trips to cool off. Anglers on the river also enjoy catching the steelhead from Lake Fontana that start running into “The Tuck” in April. You’ll see trout and many other types of fish in the Tuckasegee. There are also many other great fishing spots in the area like Lake Fontana.
10. The Nantahala River
Just down the road from the Tuckaseegee is the Nantahala River. It offers some of the best trout fishing the state has to offer. This family-friendly river provides excellent fly fishing. You’ll want to avoid some parts of the river frequented by rafting trips, but there are plenty of choice spots.
This is a cold river, so you will want to wear some good waders,. You’ll also need some outdoor clothing, even during the spring and summer months. This river a great place to cool off from the summer heat, as well.
Last Minute NC Fishing Tips
Sometimes the best fishing spots in North Carolina are where you must hike to. People fish out the easy to reach spots sooner. So if you can, try to catch fishing holes that require a 30 minute to one hour hike to reach. Here are some more fishing tips for you:
- Pay attention to individual area rules. Fishing in N.C. is great but there are some areas that have different rules than others. Catch and release-only areas can sometimes be on one section of a river while on another, you can keep your catch if you meet the size limits.
- Some spots are becoming more crowded. North Carolina is a beautiful state that is wonderful to live in and the secret is out. With more people deciding to make their home in the area or vacation to N.C., some of the choice spots are crowded. Going at non-peak times can help, too. You can also find a spot closer yet far away away from the crowd.
- Book lodging, guided trips, and boat rentals well ahead of time. During busy times of the year boats and lodging, as well as guided fishing trips can book up quickly. If you are determined to go to a certain popular place, the sooner you book the better. Guided fishing trips can be hard to get, especially if you just show up. Check out Airbnb and VRBO for affordable rates on local lodging.
- Expand your fishing knowledge. There are a lot of great places that offer lessons and chartered trips if you want to learn a different way to fish or get out from the shoreline. If you have never fly fished, sign up with a guide to learn the best techniques.
If you have any spots that you think we’ve missed, feel free to drop us a line on Facebook or by email (subscribe to our list) and let us know!
Hey, look at that! You found me! Lucky for you, because when I’m not writing articles all about the wilderness life, I’m out in the bush. Camping, fishing, canoeing, and sometimes even getting lost. You know the drill.