9 Best Freshwater Fishing Destinations in North Carolina
by Capt. Tyler Brady
Whether you’re planning a trip to North Carolina or live there full-time, bookmark this page to check off my top nine favorite freshwater fishing destinations in our state.
These are my favorite freshwater locations in North Carolina, which I’ve rediscovered over the past 15 years of fishing in the mountains, the piedmont and the coast.
Because I live along the coast, leaving saltwater in the back yard isn’t easy for me, but North Carolina has plenty of freshwater fishing destinations that are well worth a road trip. If you reside near the coast, don’t worry, there are enough productive fishing holes within a few hours’ drive.
Before we begin, let’s review some essential information you’ll need to remember before wetting a line in North Carolina.
What You Should Know Before You Leave
North Carolina Fishing License
You first need to obtain a North Carolina fishing license, which can be purchased online via the NC Wildlife site. You have the option to buy a three-day or seven-day tourist permit if you are visiting for only a few days.
North Carolina Fishing Regulations
Next, be aware of your catch’s size restrictions and bag limits. North Carolina has various size and creel limitations for rivers and oceans, so double-check the fishing rules before heading out. In addition to licenses and restrictions, you’ll want to pick appropriate fishing gear for the region you’re visiting. Finally, check out these NC fishing reports to understand what fish are biting.
Now let’s get down to business and talk about my nine favorite freshwater fishing destinations in North Carolina!
The 9 Best Freshwater Fishing Spots in North Carolina
Lake Fontana is about 30 minutes from the Tennessee border and outside Bryson City in North Carolina, just off Route 43. This lake has a variety of fish species, including bass, trout, crappie, walleye, muskie, carp and catfish. Crappie fishing is what this lake is known for though.
Fontana is a beautiful lake in western North Carolina, with emerald-green water and a stunning view of the Great Smoky Mountains. Much of the shoreline is undeveloped and in pristine natural form, which explains why Fontana Lake is ranked No. 1 on our list.
Lake Glenville is a manmade reservoir located in Jackson County. It was created in the 1940s when the Tuckasegee River was dammed to provide hydroelectric power to the region. Nowadays, Lake Glenville is a recreational hotspot for boaters and fishermen alike. The lake itself is pretty extensive, measuring 26 miles in length. It’s also quite deep, with a maximum depth of 150 feet.
Several public boat ramps are located around the lake, making it easy to access the water. Glenville’s most popular fish species include bass, trout and walleye.
Lake Norman is a manmade reservoir created in 1963 when the Cowans Ford Dam was built on the Catawba River. At 34 miles long and up to nine miles wide, Lake Norman is the largest manmade body of water in North Carolina. It’s also quite deep, with a maximum depth of 130 feet.
The lake is located just north of Charlotte and is a popular destination for locals and visitors. Numerous public boat ramps and marinas make it easy to get out on the water. Lake Norman is home to various fish species, including bass, catfish, crappie and striped bass. The lake also has a healthy population of muskies, a popular target for anglers.
Lake Chatuge is especially popular for bass fishermen. This lake is a very productive fishing ground for smallmouth, largemouth and hybrid bass, so bring a spinning reel for bass.
The lake is located in the mountains of Western North Carolina, just north of Georgia. It covers 7,500 acres and has over 120 miles of shoreline. Several public boat ramps and marinas are located around the lake for easy access.
The Nantahala River is one of the most famous trout streams in North Carolina. It’s located in the western part of the state, near the town of Bryson City. The river is stocked with trout regularly, making it an excellent destination for anglers. There are also plenty of opportunities to catch wild trout.
The Nantahala River is a beautiful stream with crystal-clear water and scenic views. It’s also quite famous for whitewater rafting and kayaking.
The Roanoke River is located in the eastern part of North Carolina, near the town of Roanoke Rapids. It’s a popular destination for both fishing and boating. The river is home to various fish species, including bass, catfish, crappie and striped bass.
The Yadkin River is located in central North Carolina, near Winston-Salem, and loaded with white crappies. Crappie fishing in the Yadkin River is the most popular species to target, but this river is also plentiful with bass, catfish and even chain pickerel.
The Neuse River, which flows through the eastern part of North Carolina, is named after a Native American tribe that once inhabited the region. Striped bass, Southern flounder, Atlantic croaker, bluefish, gray trout and channel bass may all be found south of New Bern.
In addition, north in New Bern, you may expect to find such freshwater fish as largemouth bass, catfish, and yellow and white perch.
The largest freshwater lake in North Carolina, Lake Waccamaw is a natural lake located about 45 minutes from downtown Wilmington. This lake is ideal for catching largemouth bass, catfish and crappie.
North Carolina is a great state for freshwater fishing, offering various destinations and fish species to target. Whether you’re looking for a quiet stream to fly fish or a large lake to boat on, you’ll find what you’re looking for in North Carolina.
Captain Tyler Brady am a licensed USCG captain from Annapolis, Maryland, now residing in Eastern North Carolina. He has extensive knowledge of not only fishing, but also the outdoors. Get more fishing tips and gear here.