The estuaries and rivers of Eastern North Carolina have excellent year round fishing for a number of different species including Speckled Trout, Red Drum, Flounder, Striped Bass, American and Hickory Shad, and Tarpon. Come explore the quaint and scenic towns North Carolina’s Inner Banks. Washington, Bath, Belhaven, Swan Quarter, Aurora, and Hobucken all offer visitors different perspectives of the Pamlico Estuary.
Peak Fisheries on the North Carolina’s Pamlico & Pungo Rivers:
Speckled Trout (Year-Round))
Speckled Trout or “spotted sea trout” or “specs” can be caught in the Pamlico and Pungo Rivers year-round. In the rivers, two distinct groups of fish are present: those that inhabit the rivers year-round and those that leave the estuary during the late fall for the nearshore waters of the ocean and return in the late spring to spawn.
Striped Bass (Year Round)
Striped Bass can be caught year-round in the Pamlico and Pungo River, as there is a resident population of mixed age fish. Excellent opportunities exist year-round, with the best fishing occuring in the fall and the spring. Topwater fishing is also a possibility almost any time. One of the highlights of striper fishing in the Tar-Pamlico is the spring spawning run. Just like the Neuse and the Roanoke River, the stripers make their annual spawning migration upriver to their spawning grounds between Tarboro and Rocky Mount. spring fishery in Weldon, heavy sinking line and weighted flies are a must. At the conclusion of the spawning run in late May and early June, the stripers can be caught in the lower Tar River after they return from their trip to the spawning grounds between Tarboro and Rocky Mount.
Shad (February & March)
The season begins in late February and March with the first showing of American and Hickory Shad in the lower portions of the Tar River. The shad has often been called the “poor man’s tarpon” for its ability to jump out of the water and make screaming runs. It is truly a great fighting fish on light to ultralight conventional or fly tackle. The shad run continues through early April and ends with the beginning of the striped bass spawning run in early April which usually peaks in late April and continues throughout May.
Tarpon (July -August)
During July and August, the elusive “silver king” moves into the Pamlico to spawn after a long migration from the southern tropical waters. You don’t have to travel to South Florida to catch these amazing gamefish. We have them here in North Carolina in the summer and as they migrate up the eastern seaboard to spawn in the Pamlico Sound. While they can sometimes be elusive, other times they show themselves right here close to Washington. Bring your straw hat, sunscreen, and lots of cold beverages for a day in the mid-summer heat. Be prepared for some long battles on heavy tackle. If you are interested in catching a great fighting fish in the 80-150 pound class, you should give this fishery a try.
Puppy and Slot Drum (May-October)
Puppy and slot red drum, otherwise known as “redfish” or “spottails” in other areas of the Southeast are some of the most sought after sportfish in the country.
Giant Red Drum (August – September)
If giant Red Drum turn you on, then the Pamlico Sound “old drum” catch and release fishery is what you need to experience. These fish are the largest red drum within their geographic range. The first fish show up in July, with the best fishing being from mid-August to early October. These are the adult spawning class of drum that live in the ocean for most of the year and return to the Pamlico Sound each summer to spawn. They range in size from 30 to 60 pounds and multiple hookups and double digit releases are common. We fish at night and during the day. This fishery is an absolute must if you enjoy catching big fish and lots of them. You can be engaged with the fishing or simply sit back and relax, sip some cool ones, and wait for the “heavy strike” and that familiar drag screaming as the rod doubles over.