The Spring Bite Is On!

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RALEIGH, N.C. – With spring in full bloom, now is the time to get out the rods and reels, purchase a fishing license and head for the nearest body of water to wet a line.

Despite the drought, North Carolina still offers abundant opportunities for anglers eager to cast for their favorite fish – from sunfish in coastal rivers to largemouth bass in Piedmont ponds to brook trout in mountain waters.

However, knowing where to go and what to fish can mean the difference between catching the limit or going home empty-handed.

The premier fishing destination east of I-95 is the Roanoke River. Striped bass are currently making their annual spawning run up the river. Anglers fishing this river are finding that if they put in at the Commission’s boat ramp at Weldon and drift downstream, they’re catching good numbers – and sizes – of stripers. The area between the “big rock” and Troublefield Gut has yielded particularly good results over the last couple of weeks.

A weekly fishing report from Weldon is posted here every Thursday through the end of May.

A good crappie bite has already begun in the Cashie River, and biologists expect largemouth bass and pumpkinseed fishing to be excellent in Lake Phelps.

Fishing for largemouth bass and sunfish in the Tar River around Greenville and in the Neuse River around Fort Barnwell is good this spring. Water levels have come up some with recent rains, and American shad and striped bass have responded to warming temperatures by migrating into the upper Neuse River. Anglers can expect to catch both species from Raleigh to Goldsboro if rivers flows remain high.

  • Other fishing spots to try out in eastern North Carolina:
    Sutton Lake in New Hanover County offers anglers good catches of big flathead catfish and largemouth bass
  • Lower Neuse River near New Bern harbors some striped bass, although relatively small in size compared to their Roanoke River cousins
  • Lake Waccamaw provides good fishing for white and yellow perch, black crappie, redear sunfish, pumpkinseed and largemouth bass.

The Cape Fear River provides good fishing for largemouth bass, sunfish and catfish. Spring is the peak season for catching largemouth bass in the river. Largemouths up to 8 pounds have been caught in the river but usually average between 1 1/2 to 3 pounds. Bass can also be caught around the mouths of some of the larger tributary creeks (Turnbull Creek, Hammonds Creek, Sturgeon Creek, Livingston Creek, upper reaches of Town Creek), just before or after a light rain.

During the spring spawning season, anglers catch abundant numbers of bluegill below the lock and dams on the Cape Fear using red worms, crickets and night crawlers. The Cape Fear also harbors sizeable populations of channel, blue and flathead catfish, particularly from Lillington to the mouth of the Black River. These fish are classified as a non-game fish in inland waters, with no size or creel restrictions regarding harvest, except in Community Fishing Program lakes. April, May, September and October are the best months for catfishing.

Jordan Lake, in the Piedmont, is fished heavily for a reason – it harbors excellent black crappie, largemouth bass, striped bass fisheries and a good channel catfish fishery. Excellent largemouth bass fisheries can also be found in smaller lakes, such as Lake Lucas in Asheboro, Lake Devin in Oxford, and Brandt and Townsend lakes in Greensboro.

The Eno River near Durham has some nice-sized Roanoke bass while Lake Gaston supports a multi-species fishery consisting of largemouth bass, striped bass, black crappie, white crappie, various sunfish (panfish) species, channel catfish, blue catfish, white catfish, bullheads, white and yellow perch, and walleye.

Lake Gaston rarely fluctuates more than ½ foot and all of the boat ramps are usable. Most of Lake Gaston is in North Carolina, although some is in Virginia. The Commission has a reciprocal license agreement with Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

Crappie fishing on High Rock Lake is getting better by the day and the largemouth bass fishing has really picked up. Badin Lake has some good blue catfish that are biting and also the striped bass fishing should be picking up as well.

Despite ongoing drought conditions, anglers should find that fishing in the many streams and rivers of the mountain region will be comparable to previous years. Trout fishing should be prime as the warming waters accelerate the metabolism of wild trout, leading to more frequent strikes. In addition, all hatchery-supported and delayed-harvest trout streams have been recently stocked by the Commission, and many will receive additional fish through early June. Check the North Carolina Inland Fishing, Hunting and Trapping Regulations Digest and the Commission trout maps for a complete listing and locations.

For weekly trout stocking summaries, click here. Note that stocking information appears online for only seven days, and updates are posted only after fish are stocked

Smallmouth in the Little Tennessee, Nolichucky, and New Rivers should be on the bite, as well as smallmouth and spotted bass in the Yadkin River. The Commission Web site (link at bottom of story) provides detailed information on boat/canoe access and the fish species present in our major rivers. Also, be sure and give fishing a try on one of the numerous small coolwater rivers and streams in the mountains and foothills. The Roaring, Mitchell, and Dan rivers are just a few that contain good populations of smallmouth, rock bass, and redbreast sunfish. These smaller rivers often receive limited pressure, and sometimes the fishing can be pleasantly surprising.

Largemouth and smallmouth bass fishing on Fontana remains excellent, and anglers targeting largemouth bass should continue to expect quality-sized fish on Lake Rhodhiss and Lake Hickory. In addition, the Commission annually stocks Rhodhiss and Hickory with fingerling striped bass. Although crappie are moving back out to deeper water after spawning, the bluegill beds should start up soon on practically all of the mountain and foothill lakes. Most of the bluegill are small, but they can be great a way to get a child hooked on fishing and the fish aren’t bad in the frying pan either – so don’t forget your popping bugs!

If catfishing is your thing, then try out the Yadkin River between W. Kerr Scott reservoir and Idols Dam for bullhead catfish (the numbers are astounding), or fish for flathead catfish below Idols Dam. Both Lake Rhodhiss and Hickory are also good spots for bullhead catfish, as well as channel catfish.

  • Anglers who want to cast a line this spring can purchase a fishing license by:
    Calling the Wildlife Resources Commission at 1 (888) 248-6834. Hours of operation are: 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday (from May through September, Monday-Sunday);
  • Clicking here;
  • Visiting a local Wildlife Service Agent. Most are located in bait-and-tackle shops, hunting and sporting good stores and larger chain stores.

For more information on fishing in public, inland waters, visit the fishing page, or call the Division of Inland Fisheries, (919) 707-0220.