North Carolina’s coastal waters provide a perfect kayak and canoe angling environment, if you know where to go.
With the barrier islands, the Intracoastal Waterway, and hundreds of feeder creeks, rivers, inlets, and backwaters, getting the plastic and fiberglass hulls salty should not be an issue. Wrightsville Beach has already established itself as a premiere paddleboard location, hosting the Carolina Cup which brings in paddleboard competitors from all over the world to race around Harbour Island, Money Island, or Wrightsville Beach for up to 13 miles.
But this is about fishing, and the same thing that brings the competition brings in the fish.
While even a non-paddler may expect locales such as Florida, Chesapeake Bay, and Hawaii as kayak angling havens, North Carolina boasts what many consider one of the best spots for fishing saltwater. Getting kudos from various websites and making finalist lists for locations awards is Fort Fisher.
Due to the shallow waters averaging five to six feet deep depending on the tide, only a few skiffs and flats boats actually fish the area. According to Matthew Frazier, owner and guide for Living Waters Outfitters (704-923-4926), the shallow water makes it ideal for navigating. While Frazier guides mostly on rivers in the foothills of the state, he heads to Fisher to get his salt on. “There is excellent fishing with plenty of slot sized reds, flounder, and trout in the area. There are oversized reds to be had there also. My largest ever caught there was just over 30 inches" explains Frazier.
One must be warned though; always be aware of the tides. It is easy to get grounded when the tide goes out and you could be stuck for a while waiting for the tide to come back in.
Just to the south, Dean Radford of Morganton likes to target redfish, flounder and trout in the creeks around Bald Head Island. “It is somewhat of an odd situation, as getting out there is challenging. Crossing the Cape Fear River inlet from Southport or Oak Island is difficult if not questionable via a kayak. When I fish there I usually catch a ride or transport my kayak via a skiff to the creeks” Radford says. “When there, I can reach places the skiff cannot and I am usually rewarded with a great day.”
It is not much different than venturing anywhere with a kayak that other boats cannot. With a harder to access area, the fish are much less pressured and by fishing the island, it is not as accessible from the mainland.
Just off Sunset Beach near the North Carolina and South Carolina line lays Tubb’s Inlet, in which Jinks Creek, Still Creek, and the Eastern Channel all funnel water between the Atlantic and the Intracoastal Waterway. Again, the same species wait in ambush. Ed Parrish, Jr. of Graham only gets to head to the coast a few times a year, but when he does, Tubb’s is his paddling destination. “I fish with my kids and there are lots of creeks and holes a short paddle for us. Mason, my ten year old, likes targeting redfish” says Parrish.
The kayak fishing is not all based on the southernmost shores though. Parrot Swamp, Queen Creek, and Bear Creek near Swansboro offer excellent fishing as well. Tim Teramelli owns NC Pierman’s Outdoor Adventures (910-325-0822) out of Hubert. He regularly takes clients and friends out on the flats. If you are not worried about the weather, neither is Teramelli, because the fish are swimming regardless of what is going on above the water. Teramelli has a passion for tails wagging in the waters, and loves fishing for redfish.
He notes the drum are crazy during their winter patterns and will stay that way through April before breaking off. When they are there though, it is worth every bit of the paddle. “The feeling you get when a drum is sneaking up behind your Top Dog Jr. is an adrenaline rush” he exclaims. He likes working the Top Dog Jr. 808 medium slow across the marshes and flats in early morning or late evening while the reds are there.
He also gets some big Hatteras blues to hit. He tempts them in with Power Team Lures JP Hammer Shad in colors such as Bubble Gum Flash and Money. He has done well with the new Electric Chicken color also.
So when you are hitting the beaches this summer for the family vacation, be sure to bring your tackle and paddles. It could turn out to be one of your premiere fishing experiences.