Carolina Beach Fishing Guide

Carolina beach boasts of some of the best spots for a variety of fishing options. The beach connects to three main water regions-the Intracoastal Waterway, Capefear River, and the Atlantic Ocean. All three are home to an abundance of fish species, and you will thoroughly enjoy the experience. Whether you are a skilled angler or a beginner, fishing in Carolina Beach will not disappoint. 

How to Acquire a Fishing License in Carolina Beach?

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A license is a mandatory requirement under the laws of the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries. It is known as Coastal Recreational Fishing Licence or Saltwater fishing license. Although the cost is relatively affordable, it is different for residents and outside visitors. 

The license duration is either 10-days, annual, or lifetime issued to people 16 years and older. You can combine it with other licenses issued by the Wildlife Resources Commission to save costs. 

To pick up a license in person, head to a Division of Marine Fisheries office or get it from local sporting goods stores or tackle and bait shops. You can also purchase it online from the N.C Wildlife website. 

The price of the license depends on the type and duration limit. For example, an annual license for Carolina residents is $15. For outsiders, the rate is $30. A lifetime CRFL license is the most cost-effective.

There are a set of rules that anglers must comply with after purchasing a CRFL license. Anglers must follow the state’s recreational size and possession limits. You are only allowed to take finfish for personal consumption. The selling of such fish is prohibited. The CRFL license is non-transferable and cannot be re-assigned. 

Fishing in Carolina Beach

Carolina Beach, NC fishing offers a delightful time for everyone in the family. Whether you wish to indulge in the action yourself or would like to see professionals battle it out in a contest, there are various activities to keep you busy.

Surf Fishing

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Popular among professionals and casual anglers, surf-fishing involves trolling close to the shore side. It is inexpensive and does not require a lot of work. All you need is your license, bait, tackle, and then head to the beach. Find a spot with open water, away from swimmers. For safety reasons, first-time learners should start at the shore.

Pier Fishing

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If you plan to fish during a vacation, pier fishing is the best option. You do not need to purchase a license or bring any equipment with you. The pier license covers the need for you, and you can get fishing bait, tackle, and rods directly on site. Some fishing piers even have small restaurants if you would like to grab a meal.

Charter Boat Fishing

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If you are in for some adventure, then fishing offshore in a charter will satisfy that urge. There are plenty of Carolina beach offshore fishing charters to choose from. Captains owning the charters know the region very well and carry modern fishing equipment. They can take you to the best casting spots. Add to the fun and take along family members or friends.

Fishing Tournaments at Carolina Beach

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Various fishing tournaments grace Carolina beach every year. During spring, it is the Cape Fear Disabled Sportsmen Fishing tournament nearby Kure Beach fishing pier. The Annual East Coast, Got-Em-On Classic King Mackerel tournament is held in summer, challenging fishers to cast big mackerel. 

The fall season welcomes the Fisherman’s Post Carolina Beach Inshore Challenge held at Inlet Watch Marina and the Pleasure Island Surf Fishing Challenge. Check out the events calendar if you wish to participate.

The “Catch” in Carolina Beach

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The Carolina Beach area is home to distinct exotic fish species and what you catch depends on the season and site to choose to fish. 

The best time is usually the spring and fall seasons. Summer is an ideal occasion for charter boat fishing, surf, and pier fishing. 

The Adventure Begins Offshore

The North Carolina coastline borders the Gulf stream, which merges into the Atlantic ocean, which is the perfect spot for offshore fishing. If you wish to hunt the bigger players, high a charter boat and get going.

The Gulfstream and its surrounding coast is home to:

  • Blue, yellow, and blackfin tuna 
  • Dolphins
  • Sailfish
  • Barracuda, 
  • Spanish and king mackerel 
  • Amberjack
  • White and blue marlin 
  • Bluefish cobia
  • Various species of sharks 
  • Bottom fish like grouper, sea bass, trigger, and tilefish

Inshore Fishing for a Safer Experience

Are strong tidal waves not your thing? No problem. Inshore fishing in Carolina beach is just as fun. Popular inshore fishing spots include the Cape Fear River, Intercoastal Waterway, Docks near Boat Basin, and Carolina Beach Inlet. Expect to cast some red and black drum, sheepshead, flounder, Croaker, Trout, bluefish, Spanish and mackerel, and even some sharks if you’re lucky.

Relaxed Surf Fishing Shoreside

If you like to dine, recline and fish one after the other, it is best to stay close to the oceanfront. You can either bring your gear or purchase supplies from a store at a pier. You will find frolicking mullet, drum, bluefish, pompano, croaker, sea bass, king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, cobia, perch, and more. 

Carolina Beach Fishing Piers

If you would like to fish in a pre-arranged setting, where you do not have to worry about accommodation, license, carrying fishing equipment, or food, a fishing pier is your ultimate destination. Here are some of the best Carolina Beach fishing piers.

Ocean Crest Pier

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Located 1411 East Beach Drive, Oak Island, Ocean Crest pier stands on a 1000 ft. area with a full-service motel, tackle shop, and a T-covered zone for king mackerel catchers. Disabled anglers can fish for free. 

Kure Beach Pier

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It is among the most renowned piers on Carolina beach, covering a 711 ft. area. The pier is equipped with a tackle shop. Alcohol is not allowed on site. A highlight of the pier is the 200 gallons live bait tank for anglers open from April 1-Nov 30. It is located at Avenue K, Kure Beach, NC.

Carolina Beach Fishing Pier 

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Based in 1810 Canal Drive, this pier stands on a 700 ft. ground-space and features a tackle and bait shop with rod and reel rentals, snack bar, grill alongside a game room. 

Johnny Mercer’s Pier

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Based at 23 East Salisbury St, this pier is spread across a 1200 ft area and is the longest pier in the Wrightsville Beach area. It features a restaurant, tackle shop, and an arcade.

Seaview Fishing Pier

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The pier is based at 124 Fishing Pier Lane on a 1000 ft-area and offers its guests parking for 150 visitors, a tackle and bait store, and a restaurant. A no-alcohol rule applies to all. 

Sunset Beach Fishing Pier

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The 900 ft long structure is located at 101 West Main Street and has cleaning sinks, a bait and rod rental store, a game room, grill, and an ATM. Electric scooters are available on site for the elderly and disabled anglers.

Inshore and Offshore Charters in Carolina Beach

Inshore charter boats can entertain about two to six passengers and are available for hire on a half-day, 3/4th day, or full-day trip. Inshore charters are less expensive than offshore charters and stay on the Intercoastal waterways, Cape Fear River, and areas nearby.

Offshore fishing is a more expensive option but is worth the cost. All supplies, including equipment, bait, and tackle, are part of the trip package. An offshore trip can take between six to eight riders, and the charter sails through the Gulfstream and shipwrecks far into the Atlantic Ocean. 

An advanced booking is mandatory for either charter, and you can make a reservation through local marinas or online through fishing service providers. 

To book your own charter boat, click here.


The beautiful open waters at Carolina Beach await anyone who has a liking for fishing. The best part is, you get to take your catch home with you. There are no long waiting lines and no crowds. Just plain fun.