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North Carolina Winter Saltwater
Fishing Forecast

Northern District  Dare, Hyde, Currituck, & Beaufort Counties
Contact: Eddie Chessick Winter Report

For the 2004 fishing year, all owners/operators of vessels recreationally fishing for and/or retaining regulated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species (HMS) (Atlantic tunas, sharks, swordfish and billfish) in the Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea, must obtain an Atlantic Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Angling permit. This permit has replaced the Atlantic tunas Angling category permit. In North Carolina, additional HMS harvest reporting requirements are also in place.

Please Note: Anglers sometimes confuse small king mackerel with spanish mackerel. King mackerel and spanish mackerel have different size and catch limits. Make SURE you properly identify the mackerel you are catching. (Tips here)

Lionfish Alert: Please visit our lionfish information

A recreational Saltwater Fishing License goes into effect Jan. 1, 2006 for all of the state's coastal and ocean waters. For more information on this license please view this fact sheet. .

Charterboats: There will be plenty of excellent fishing opportunities on-board charterboats during the winter in the Northern District. The striper fishing will be excellent both out of Oregon and Hatteras Inlets. Anglers wishing to fish "inside" will find plenty of charterboat operations offering striper fishing trips throughout Pamlico, Roanoke, Croatan, and Albemarle Sounds. Those targeting offshore species should find plenty of yellowfin tuna for the taking. Also, don't forget about the phenomenal winter bluefin tuna fishery. Those of you who have not "been there, done that" should give it a try.

Headboats:Most headboats will be closed for the season.

Private Boats:Last year and thus far again this year, the striper fishing has been extraordinary. Big striped bass will be landed all winter from Corolla to Ocracoke. Anglers catching their limits will be common. Fishing inside, Mann's Harbor and other parts of the sound will also hold some excellent striper fishing prospects. Try to come early when fishing Oregon Inlet. The Oregon Inlet Fishing Center boat ramp is frequently closed due to over-loading. The ramps at Pirates Cove, Manteo, and even Hatteras are other options.

Piers:Most piers are closed for the season. Some may allow access but catches will be limited.

Shore: The Outer Banks is known worldwide for its winter surf fishing. Large bluefish, striped bass, red drum, and speckled trout along with other species will be available. The northern beaches will offer access to stripers while anglers fishing from the southern beaches including Ocracoke, should see plenty of action on many species as well. The "Point" at Buxton has traditionally offered some of the best fishing. Contact your favorite tackle shop to find out what's going on.

Central District  Pamlico, Craven, Carteret, & Onslow Counties
Contact: Suzanne Hill Winter Report

For the 2004 fishing year, all owners/operators of vessels recreationally fishing for and/or retaining regulated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species (HMS) (Atlantic tunas, sharks, swordfish and billfish) in the Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea, must obtain an Atlantic Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Angling permit. This permit has replaced the Atlantic tunas Angling category permit. In North Carolina, additional HMS harvest reporting requirements are also in place.

Please Note: Anglers sometimes confuse small king mackerel with spanish mackerel. King mackerel and spanish mackerel have different size and catch limits. Make SURE you properly identify the mackerel you are catching. (Tips here)

Lionfish Alert: Please visit our lionfish information

A recreational Saltwater Fishing License goes into effect Jan. 1, 2006 for all of the state's coastal and ocean waters. For more information on this license please view this fact sheet.

Headboats: There are several headboats that operate throughout the year in the Central District. Some of the best snapper and grouper catches will be made during the winter months. Extended fishing trips (over-night) will also be offered. These are a lot of fun and really provide a quality fishing experience. Bluefin tuna trips have also been offered in the past. Check with your favorite fishing vessel.

CharterBoats:There will be plenty of excellent fishing opportunities on-board charterboats during the winter in the Central District. The central district has become home to North Carolina's unbelievable bluefin tuna fishery. Bluefin will be landed all along the central coast with the Cape Lookout area holding many fish. Multiple hook-ups and multiple fish days are the norm rather than the exception. Another species to make the scene in the Central District during the past couple of years is striped bass. Stripers will be taken from Cape Lookout shoals and other areas along the beach throughout the winter. Those targeting offshore species should find plenty of king mackerel action when they find the warm water. Other offshore species such as yellowfin tuna and wahoo will also be available to gulfstream anglers. Bottom-fishing for a variety of reef fish species is also excellent during the winter months.

Private Boats: Private boat anglers will enjoy many of the same opportunities as those mentioned for charterboat anglers. Nearshore bluefin tuna fishing will be excellent. Those fishing offshore will have access to excellent catches of king mackerel. Newly established striper fishing on the shoals of Cape Lookout will also be a favorite. Inside, the creeks of White Oak, Neuse, Bay, Pamlico and Pungo River will offer occasional excellent speckled trout fishing. Before going however, do a little research, this is a very specialized fishery.

Piers: Most piers are closed for the season. Some may allow access but catches will be limited.

Shore:Shore fishing activity will be limited

Southern District  Pender, New Hanover, & Brunswick Counties
Contact: Dennis Trowell Winter Report

For the 2004 fishing year, all owners/operators of vessels recreationally fishing for and/or retaining regulated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species (HMS) (Atlantic tunas, sharks, swordfish and billfish) in the Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea, must obtain an Atlantic Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Angling permit. This permit has replaced the Atlantic tunas Angling category permit. In North Carolina, additional HMS harvest reporting requirements are also in place.

Please Note: Anglers sometimes confuse small king mackerel with spanish mackerel. King mackerel and spanish mackerel have different size and catch limits. Make SURE you properly identify the mackerel you are catching. (Tips here)

Lionfish Alert: Please visit our lionfish information

A recreational Saltwater Fishing License goes into effect Jan. 1, 2006 for all of the state's coastal and ocean waters. For more information on this license please view this fact sheet.

Headboats:Some headboats may operate throughout the year in the Southern District. Most operate when they can get enough to make a trip. So give them a call to find out what's going on. The winter months offer some of the best snapper and grouper fishing available.

CharterBoats:There will be plenty of excellent fishing opportunities on-board charterboats during the winter in the Southern District. King mackerel and bottomfish are the most popular targets. While it's a long ride, Other offshore species such as yellowfin tuna and wahoo will also be available to gulfstream anglers. Bottom-fishing for a variety of reeffish species is also excellent during the winter months. Guide boats fishing inside during the winter have also developed some very successful tactics for targeting a variety of inshore species such as red drum, speckled trout and flounder. Call your favorite charter/guide boat Captain to determine what might be available.

Private Boats: Private boat anglers will enjoy many of the same opportunities as those mentioned for charterboat and guide boat anglers. Nearshore, bluefin tuna fishing could be an option. Those fishing offshore will have access to excellent fishing for king mackerel and bottomfish species. Inside, the creeks of the Intracoastal and coastal Cape Fear River may offer some good fishing opportunities for speckled trout, red drum, and flounder on pretty days or when things warm up. Striper fishing near Wilmington (a closely guarded secret) is also an option. Near the Exxon Terminal, old Ideal Cement plant and Smith Creek would be good places to start. Remember, if you're not getting "hung-up" you're not striper fishing. Also, don't forget about the shad fishing in the Cape Fear during late winter and early spring.

Piers: Most piers are closed for the season. Some may allow access but catches will be limited.

Shore:Shore fishing activity will be limited

 

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