Fishing Information


Lillington (2)

On this web page you will find links to web sites that give up-to-date information about fishing locations and boat services.  Visit a site to learn about their services, experience, and other matters,  Most allow you to book a fishing trip right from their web site.  This page also provides extensive information about the types of fish species that can be found along different parts of the river; as well as seasonality.

Fishing North Carolina: Cape Fear River

The 202 mile Cape Fear River is an angler’s paradise. It is possible, and quite a common occurrence, that multiple species can caught along its water system; both fresh and salt. Along the upper stretches, largemouth bass are plentiful. Here the water tends to have little to no salinity. This provides opportunity to catch many of your favorite freshwater species such as bass, bream, catfish and more. Further down the river, the water becomes a bit brackish.

Here, depending on the time of year, you will start getting a mix of both fresh and salt water species co-existing. Not only may you hook a largemouth bass, but redfish and sheepshead are often times found among the same structure. This makes for some exciting fishing as you never know what you’re going to hook. Take the river down even further, and you find yourself near the mouth of the river as it empties into the Atlantic Ocean near Cape Fear; hence the river’s name. Here the salinity levels are much higher and pretty much eliminates the chance at catching any largemouth bass. And while redfish, trout, flounder, sheepshead all reign supreme in this area, bass fishing is still to be had.

In early spring and fall, striped bass fishing tends to take over. Stripers are an anadromous species. This means that they live their lives in the saltwater, but make the migration into the freshwater rivers to spawn. This makes the ideal time to target striped bass. So regardless of your fish species of choice, a trip to the Cape Fear River can offer up a smorgasbord to any angler looking to feel the tug on the other end of the line. A truly unique slam involves a largemouth bass, redfish and striper. See if you can catch them all!

Raven Rock 4

Fishing Opportunities in the Coastal Region of North Carolina

The Cape Fear River forms at the confluence of the Deep and Haw rivers in the Piedmont Region of North Carolina and flows southeasterly for approximately 170 miles, where it discharges into the Atlantic Ocean near Southport. Below Fayetteville, the river is regulated during low and moderate stages by three federal navigation locks and dams. The river varies in width from approximately 400 feet at the N.C. 401 bridge in Lillington to more than 2 miles at its mouth. The average depth is fairly uniform due to maintenance dredging of the river for barge traffic and varies between 12 and 15 feet from Fayetteville to Wilmington.

The Cape Fear River provides good fishing for largemouth bass, sunfish, catfish and American and hickory shad. Spring is the peak season for catching largemouth bass in the river. Largemouth bass up to 8 pounds have been caught in the river but usually range between 1½ to 3 pounds. Bass can also be caught around the mouths of some of the larger tributary creeks (Turnbull Creek, Hammonds Creek, Sturgeon Creek, Livingston Creek, upper reaches of Town Creek) just before or after a light rain.  Bluegill are the most abundant sunfish in the Cape Fear River. Large numbers of these fish are caught below the lock and dams during the spring spawning season on red worms, crickets and nightcrawlers. Bluegills between ½ and ¾ of a pound are caught fairly often and redear sunfish approaching one pound are not uncommon.

Some of the better catfish fishing in North Carolina occurs in the Cape Fear River. This river is “home” to the three largest members of the freshwater catfish family—the channel, blue and flathead. All three species are abundant from Lillington to the mouth of the Black River. Catfish are classified as nongame fish in inland waters and there are no size or creel restrictions regarding their harvest. They can be taken by a variety of fishing methods. April, May, September and October are the best months to fish for catfish.  Seasonally important commercial and recreational sport fisheries exist for American and hickory shad in the lower Cape Fear below Wilmington. Both species are taken by recreational fishermen below each of the three locks and dams as the fish move upstream to their traditional spawning grounds. Small white-and-yellow “shad darts” on light spinning tackle and light line can be very productive.

JordanDam - TJH (67)

Cape Fear Fishing Guide

Whether a visitor lands in the inland regions of Wilmington and mainland New Hanover County, or the coastal vacation hotspots of Carolina Beach and Wrightsville Beach, fishing is always readily available – and celebrated – in the Cape Fear area.

A favorite activity for locals and visitors alike, the sheer variety of waters and terrain ensures that anglers of all tastes will never be too far away from a local fishing hole or a full-fledged fishing adventure.  Discover why this pastime is so popular, and bring along a rod, reel, and a little luck for a vacation that’s filled with great catches and great seafood feasts.

What an angler catches is heavily dependent on the season, and where they go. There are ocean waters, sounds, saltwater rivers, estuaries, freshwater lakes, and virtually everything in between in the Cape Fear area, which means that the fishing possibilities are seemingly endless.

Freshwater anglers will be treated to bass, beam, catfish, and crappie, while saltwater anglers near the Cape Fear River will want to look for catfish, red drum, striped bass, speckled trout, sheapshead, flounder, and even blue crabs.  Suffice it to say, there is a huge variety of catches available – in virtually every major body of water – so anglers, regardless of their destination, will have plenty to cast for.

Inshore Charters head to the “inshore” or close to shore waters that can include the Cape Fear River, the Intracoastal Waterway, the myriad of creeks and channels in the area, and / or all of the above. These trips can typically accommodate a total of 6 passengers at most, (although head boat trips may be available in populated areas like Wilmington), and utilize smaller vessels to veer through the shallow sounds, estuaries, and river waters. Inshore charter trips are available throughout the Cape Fear area.  These fishing trips can last anywhere from a couple hours to a full day, and anglers on these trips will target a wealth of popular and tasty catches including drum, flounder, cobia, king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, sheapshead, and more.

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Cape Fear River (Fayetteville) Fishing Reports

This site provides information about recently shared catches and fishing spots in and near Fayetteville.  This page is part of Fishidy.  This is the place to find local fishing reports, log catches and spots on interactive fishing maps, and connect with local anglers! Their motto is “It is time to fish smarter.” Fishidy features information from across the country and includes the experiences of anglers in their own words. 

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 Cape Fear River Access Points

The Cape Fear River offers exceptional water-related outdoor activities. There are plenty of flat water sections mixed in with some Class I, II and II+ rapids at regular water flow. The choice of particular river sections is limited to river access points. Typically, the land around the river is privately or state owned, which restricts the access to the water. We operate on 25 miles of the river that has 4 access points. It allows us to offer trips from 1 hour to 2 days. Folks with personal vessels and means to transport the equipment are welcome to accommodate themselves. The information below describes 4 access points available on the Upper Cape Fear.

We are extremely proud to be a family owned and operated river outfitter offering tubes, kayaks, canoes and paddleboards on the upper Cape Fear River in central North Carolina. Additionally, we do whitewater kayaking and scenic rafting trips at particular water levels. We are fully prepared to get you outside for a great time on the wild and beautiful Cape Fear River. We offer robust and complete safety briefings for all trips and have all necessary safety equipment to ensure you are as prepared as possible to safely enjoy your time on the river. Top-notch paddling equipment is provided to each of our customers before hitting the water. Our employees are true professionals at delivering an outstanding customer service experience for every visitor, every time. Our whitewater guides are trained and equipped to safely enjoy the river in more advanced environment.

And don’t worry if you’ve got a large group of folks: we have plenty of equipment to accommodate big crowds whether you are tubing, kayaking or canoeing. Our self-guided river trips offer our customers flexibility. Trips can vary from simple, no-fuss flat-water family outings to full day river excursions. We even have a two-day canoe camping river trip! Come get up-close and personal with the wildlife, the history, the beauty. Come see Cape Fear River.

Cape Fear River (193)

NC Angler: Online Guide to Fishing in North Carolina

Welcome to, an online resource for sports men and women, young and old, who have a passion for fishing the waters of North Carolina. North Carolina Anglers, as well as visitors to our state who migrate here for the great fishing, will benefit from the shared tips and techniques of a collaborative online fellowship of fishermen. premiered online on January 1st, 2005. The goal was to build a website that would become the definitive resource for anglers from the mountains to the coast of our great state. Through the shared collaboration of saltwater, freshwater, kayak, and fly-fishermen coupled with informative articles, fishing tools & tips, we hope is your online guide to fishing in North Carolina.

Our goal is to learn from those more experienced and share what we know with those who ask. This is a family friendly website that may be viewed by young children. Posting inappropriate images or using profanity will result in the edit or removal of the material and banning of the user that submitted it. We also reserve the right to edit or delete posts in keeping with our family friendly policy. Also, views expressed on our websites are not necessarily those of the staff and management of It is the responsibility of the viewer to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of any information shared here. Thank you for participating.

Raven Rock (1)

Fishing Planet Earth: An Angler’s Guide

The Cape Fear River offers excellent freshwater fishing, with available species including largemouth bass, sunfish, catfish, herring and American and hickory shad. Spring is the peak season for largemouths, which usually range between 1.5 to 3 pounds. Bass can be located near the mouths of the larger tributary creeks, such as Turnbull, Hammonds, Sturgeon, Livingston and the upper reaches of Town Creek. Bluegill are also plentiful and are available during the spring spawning season near locks and dams. Bluegills average one-half to three-quarters of a pound.

American and hickory shad can be found in the lower Cape Fear River below Wilmington and can be taken below each of the three locks and dams above Wilmington. The three largest members of the freshwater catfish family — the channel, blue and flathead — can be found in the Cape Fear River from Lillington to the Black River. Catfish are considered non-game fish and therefore have no size or creel restrictions. They can be taken by a variety of fishing methods. April, May, September and October are the best catfish months.  Records have been set here for flathead catfish and white crappie.

Haw River (13)


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