Carolina Beach fishing charters have something for everyone, from family groups fishing for Flounder to seasoned pros venturing out to the legendary waters of the Gulf Stream. Take your pick of the area’s great fish species, and you can pretty much guarantee there is a local guide who specializes in catching them. North Carolina’s famous fishing pedigree definitely shows itself here, with a diverse fleet and a generations-old fishing scene the locals are rightfully proud of.
Carolina Beach fishing actually predates the town itself and the town didn’t even exist until a fishing club was established here in 1882. But don’t think for a second that fishing is all this classic east coast tourist town has to offer. The seafront is flanked by a scenic boardwalk – frequently voted one of the best in the best in the country – a beautiful pier, and of course, mile after mile of beautiful sandy shores.
We weren’t joking when we said there’s something for everyone here. Permanent populations of Flounder, Red Drum, and Speckled Trout will keep shallow-water anglers happy, while offshore aficionados battle big “smoker” King Mackerel, White Marlin, and Tuna. And that’s without even getting started on the great reefs and wrecks littering the surrounding waters.
With so many options, it can sometimes be difficult to know where to start. But don’t worry, we’ve gathered together some of our favorite fishing spots to help you make the most of your time in town.
Connecting the Intracoastal Waterway with the Cape Fear River, the trench is a great place to go if you fancy bagging some big “doormat” Flounder without heading out to the open water of the surrounding reefs. The area is also blessedly protected from nets and trawlers by its strong currents and the assorted debris they bring with them. What it lacks in nets, it can sometimes make up for in hooks, though, and you will not be the only boat fishing these waters by a long shot.
Meares Harris Reef
Commonly known as “The Liberty Ship”, this artificial reef is located an easy 3.5 miles from town and is made up of old tires, concrete “reef balls”, and an assortment tugs, ships, and barges up to 440 feet long. They sit in around 50 feet of water and draw in King and Spanish Mackerel, as well as Bluefish, Cobia and a various bottom-dwellers, all of which make great table fare. The size of this reef and the large schools of baitfish drawn in by the shelter of the wrecks mean it can sustain several boats with ease.
5-Mile and 10-Mile Boxcars
These inventively-named reefs were first constructed in the 80’s, with railroad boxcars sunk five and ten miles from shore. Black Sea Bass, King Mackerel, Spanish Mackerel, and Barracuda are their main residents, but you can also find Cobia, big, ocean-going Flounder, Amberjack, and even Mahi Mahi and Sailfish at the ten-mile mark. This signals the start of Carolina Beach’s awesome offshore fishing.
There are several spots to choose from when fishing offshore, but the Steeples really take the cake when it comes to Carolina Beach gulf stream fishing. Found a solid 60 miles from town, these rocky ridges draw in an awesome mix of big game pelagic species. You can find Bluefin, Blackfin, and Yellowfin Tuna (depending on the time of year), as well as huge Mahi Mahi, Wahoo, Sailfish, and White Marlin (maybe even a Blue Marlin, if you're lucky!) This incredible deep sea
action does come at a price, though, as you will need at least 10 hours to really enjoy the fishing here.
Carolina Beach Fishing Pier
On the other end of the scale, you can enjoy some great hookups without ever leaving dry land. The local fishing pier is perfect for solo anglers looking to bag some tasty Flounder, hard-fighting Bluefish, and Sheepshead – lots of Sheepshead. The pier also has its own tackle shop, which makes fishing here almost too easy.
Carolina beach inshore fishing charters cost a lot less than you would expect. Entry-level trips aboard one of the town’s small flats boats can be as little as $300, or $500 for a full day trip. These are great for navigating the local creeks and intracoastal waters, but if you want more flexibility or have a larger group you may want to switch up to a center console. You can expect to pay around $400 for a half day, and anywhere from $550 to $750 for a full day, depending on how far out you’re going.
After this, you start getting into the big leagues, but trips still don’t cost the earth. Carolina Beach fishing charter prices generally don’t go above $600 for a half day trip aboard even the most luxurious cruiser. If you’re heading offshore to the renowned waters of the Gulf Stream, a 12-hour charter will cost you around $1500. This may sound like a lot but once you factor in 100+ miles of fuel, a world-class crew, and the latest fishing tech, you start to wonder how these guys make their money.
Most of the deep sea fishing Carolina Beach offers focuses on trolling. Dressed Ballyhoo and heavy tackle rule the waves, especially for Bluefin Tuna, where you can expect heavy 80-pound reels and beefy mono line. King Mackerel are another favorite of Carolina Beach fishing guides. Big, “Smoker Kings" are usually caught on heavy-tipped spinning rods, with live Menhaden and sturdy treble hooks. Smaller Menhaden are also used to fish for big “Doormat” Flounder, with a variety of methods to match the depth you are fishing in.
Need to Know
Most Carolina beach fishing charters come with licenses included, especially on bigger, offshore boats. Live bait is also usually included and is sourced ahead of time on most trips. Beyond this, you will need to bring whatever you need for the day: food, drinks, sunscreen, and an extra layer or two.
Fly anglers are not hugely well catered for in Carolina Beach. You will be able to bring your own equipment aboard many local charters, but you will be hard-pressed to find a boat with fly fishing equipment included.