Inshore Kayak Fishing NC Spots

Inshore Kayak Fishing NC SpotsWelcome to North Carolina’s coastal waters, a premier paddleboard location and a haven for inshore kayak fishing enthusiasts. In this article, we will explore the top spots for inshore kayak fishing in NC, starting with the renowned Fort Fisher.

Known for its shallow waters and abundant marine life, Fort Fisher offers an ideal setting for navigating your kayak. With an average depth of only five to six feet, you can easily explore the area and cast your lines for slot-sized reds, flounder, and trout. Keep an eye out for oversized reds, some exceeding 30 inches in length. However, be sure to stay mindful of the tides to avoid any grounding mishaps when the tide recedes.

Top Paddling Destinations in North Carolina

North Carolina offers a range of top paddling destinations in its coastal waters. Among these destinations, Wrightsville Beach stands out as a premier paddleboard location. Not only does it provide a picturesque setting, but it also hosts events like the Carolina Cup, attracting paddling enthusiasts from around the country. With its barrier islands, Intracoastal Waterway, and numerous creeks, rivers, inlets, and backwaters, North Carolina offers a diverse and expansive environment for kayak and canoe angling.

Wrightsville Beach, with its pristine coastline and crystal-clear waters, sets the stage for an unforgettable paddleboarding experience. From tranquil paddles in the soundside marshes to thrilling rides in the open ocean, there are options for paddlers of all skill levels. Whether you’re a beginner looking for calm waters or an experienced paddler seeking a challenging adventure, North Carolina’s coastal waters provide the perfect backdrop.

Aside from Wrightsville Beach, there are many other notable paddling destinations along the North Carolina coast. Beaufort, for example, offers paddlers the chance to explore the historic waterfront and the nearby Rachel Carson Reserve. Cape Fear River, with its rich history and diverse wildlife, is another popular option for paddling enthusiasts. From hidden coves to secluded beaches, North Carolina’s coastal waters abound with opportunities for paddling and exploration.

Table: Top Paddling Destinations in North Carolina

Destination Highlights
Wrightsville Beach Premier paddleboard location, Carolina Cup
Beaufort Historic waterfront, Rachel Carson Reserve
Cape Fear River Rich history, diverse wildlife

Kayaking Routes along the Intracoastal Waterway

The Intracoastal Waterway offers a range of kayaking routes along the Southeast Coast Saltwater Paddling Trail (SECT) in North Carolina. This trail spans approximately 300 miles and covers the Carolina segment, which includes natural and cultural features such as the famous Outer Banks, Cape Lookout, and Cape Hatteras.

Kayakers can explore the stunning coastal scenery and experience the diverse ecosystems of this region. The Intracoastal Waterway intersects the trail in several segments, providing opportunities to paddle through tidal marshes and navigate scenic rivers.

Table: Key Features along the Intracoastal Waterway

Location Features
Outer Banks Famous for its pristine beaches and historic lighthouses
Cape Lookout Home to the iconic Cape Lookout National Seashore with its unique natural beauty
Cape Hatteras Renowned for its rugged landscapes and world-class surf

Embarking on these kayaking routes allows paddlers to immerse themselves in the scenic beauty and rich history of North Carolina’s coastal region. Whether exploring the expansive beaches and dunes of the Outer Banks, witnessing the wild horses of Cape Lookout, or taking in the dramatic cliffs and shipwrecks near Cape Hatteras, these routes offer a truly unforgettable kayaking experience.

Exploring the Barrier Islands and Sounds

Kayakers in North Carolina have the opportunity to explore the breathtaking barrier islands and sounds along the coast. From the scenic Brunswick Islands to iconic destinations like Cape Fear, Cape Lookout, Cape Hatteras, and the Outer Banks, there are countless possibilities for immersive kayaking adventures.

The Crystal Coast is a particularly captivating area, offering crystal-clear waters and a diverse range of fish species to encounter. Kayakers can navigate through the calm and shallow waters of the sounds, including Currituck Sound, Albemarle Sound, Roanoke Sound, Croatan Sound, and Pamlico Sound. These serene environments provide the perfect setting for a peaceful and picturesque kayaking experience.

Whether you’re seeking a tranquil paddle or hoping to reel in a trophy fish, the barrier islands and sounds of North Carolina offer a wealth of opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts to truly connect with nature.

Destination Characteristics
Brunswick Islands A collection of picturesque islands with beautiful beaches and diverse wildlife.
Cape Fear A historic area known for its stunning landscapes and rich maritime history.
Cape Lookout Home to the iconic Cape Lookout Lighthouse and pristine sandy beaches.
Cape Hatteras Famous for its towering lighthouse and renowned surf breaks.
Outer Banks A long and narrow strip of barrier islands offering unparalleled natural beauty.
Crystal Coast A picturesque region known for its clear waters and abundant marine life.

Kayaking Trails in Rivers and Creeks

North Carolina is home to several rivers and creeks that offer excellent kayaking trails. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced kayaker, these waterways provide opportunities to explore diverse habitats, encounter wildlife, and enjoy the natural beauty of the state. Here are some of the top kayaking trails in North Carolina:

Barnard’s Creek

Located in the Cape Fear region, Barnard’s Creek offers a tranquil kayaking experience. With its calm waters and scenic surroundings, paddlers can immerse themselves in the rich ecosystem and spot various bird species along the way. The trail is approximately 11 miles long and is suitable for kayakers of all skill levels.

Black River

The Black River is known for its pristine beauty and abundant wildlife. As you paddle along this trail, you’ll be surrounded by towering cypress trees, Spanish moss, and diverse plant life. The river is home to many species of fish, including largemouth bass and catfish. The Black River kayaking trail spans approximately 45 miles, offering a truly immersive experience.

Brunswick River

Flowing through the Brunswick Forest area, the Brunswick River offers a scenic and peaceful kayaking experience. Paddlers can explore the winding waterway, lined with marshes and dense vegetation, and enjoy the serene beauty of the coastal landscape. The trail is suitable for both beginners and experienced kayakers, with various launch points available along the river.

Lumber River

The Lumber River is a designated National Wild and Scenic River, known for its beautiful blackwater paddling trails. As you navigate through the cypress swamps and hardwood forests, you’ll have the opportunity to spot a variety of wildlife, including turtles, birds, and maybe even an alligator. The Lumber River kayaking trail spans approximately 115 miles, with multiple access points for kayakers to start their journey.

Alligator River and Milltail Creek

The Alligator River and Milltail Creek offer kayakers a unique and remote paddling experience. Located in the coastal plain region, this trail provides opportunities to observe wildlife in their natural habitat, including black bears, red wolves, and a wide variety of bird species. With its diverse ecosystem and breathtaking scenery, this kayaking trail is a must-visit for nature enthusiasts.

These are just a few examples of the kayaking trails available in North Carolina. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful paddle through a serene river or an adventurous journey through a wild and scenic waterway, North Carolina has something to offer for every kayaker.

Kayaking Trail Location Length Difficulty
Barnard’s Creek Cape Fear 11 miles Beginner
Black River Black River Basin 45 miles Intermediate
Brunswick River Brunswick Forest Varies All levels
Lumber River Robeson County 115 miles Intermediate
Alligator River and Milltail Creek Coastal Plain Varies All levels

Inshore Fishing at the Crystal Coast

The Crystal Coast, located in North Carolina, is a renowned destination for inshore fishing. With its picturesque beaches and diverse marine habitats, it offers anglers a memorable fishing experience. From the stunning Cape Lookout National Seashore to the charming Emerald Isle, the Crystal Coast is a haven for fishing enthusiasts.

One of the standout features of inshore fishing at the Crystal Coast is the variety of fish species available throughout the seasons. Spring brings the excitement of targeting cobia, a prized catch among anglers. As the weather transitions to summer, anglers can enjoy the thrill of catching large flounder. The fall season is dominated by black drum, providing anglers with ample opportunities to reel in these powerful fish. In the winter months, striped bass and speckled trout are the main targets, offering a unique challenge for anglers.

The Crystal Coast boasts an abundance of red drum, also known as redfish. These fish can be found year-round in the shallow waters and winding marsh creeks of the area. Whether you are a novice angler or a seasoned pro, inshore fishing at the Crystal Coast provides a diverse range of fishing opportunities in a breathtaking natural setting.

Fish Species Available at the Crystal Coast

Season Fish Species
Spring Cobia
Summer Large Flounder
Fall Black Drum
Winter Striped Bass, Speckled Trout
Year-Round Red Drum

In conclusion, the Crystal Coast of North Carolina is a premier destination for inshore fishing. With its stunning coastal landscapes, a wide variety of fish species, and the opportunity for year-round angling, it offers an unforgettable experience for fishing enthusiasts. Whether you are seeking the thrill of catching cobia in the spring or the challenge of reeling in striped bass during the winter months, the Crystal Coast is a must-visit destination for any angler.

Tips for Inshore Kayak Fishing

When engaging in inshore kayak fishing in coastal North Carolina, there are several tips to enhance your experience and ensure a successful outing.

Hiring a Guide

If you are new to the sport or unfamiliar with fishing in North Carolina’s coastal waters, hiring a guide can be extremely beneficial. Guides have the necessary licenses, safety gear, and local knowledge to help you navigate the best fishing spots and increase your chances of a successful catch.

Fishing Licenses

Before embarking on your inshore kayak fishing adventure, make sure to obtain the proper fishing licenses. North Carolina requires anglers to have a valid fishing license, which can be easily obtained online or at local bait and tackle shops. Adhering to fishing regulations ensures the sustainability of the local fish populations.

Chart and Tide Chart

Carrying a chart and tide chart is essential for safe and productive inshore kayak fishing. A nautical chart provides valuable information about the coastal area, including underwater structures and potential fishing hotspots. Additionally, a tide chart helps you plan your fishing trip around the tides, maximizing your chances of finding feeding fish.

Polarized Sunglasses

Polarized sunglasses are a must-have accessory for inshore kayak fishing. These sunglasses not only protect your eyes from harmful UV rays but also reduce glare on the water’s surface, allowing you to see beneath the surface and spot fish more easily.

Boat Rental, Kayak Fishing, and Paddleboard Fishing

If you don’t own a kayak or prefer not to bring your own, many marinas offer boat rentals specifically designed for fishing. Alternatively, you can explore the growing popularity of kayak fishing and paddleboard fishing. These activities provide a unique and exhilarating way to experience inshore fishing while enjoying the tranquility of the coastal environment.

By following these tips and making the most of the resources available to you, you can have a rewarding and memorable inshore kayak fishing experience in the coastal waters of North Carolina.


Inshore kayak fishing in North Carolina offers anglers an abundance of premier fishing destinations and diverse habitats to explore. From the crystal clear waters of the coastal areas to the shallow rivers and creeks, this state provides a treasure trove of opportunities for avid anglers. Whether you’re casting your line in Fort Fisher or navigating the barrier islands and sounds, North Carolina promises an unforgettable fishing experience.

With its renowned spots like Cape Lookout National Seashore and the Crystal Coast, North Carolina stands out as one of the top destinations for inshore kayak fishing. The variety of fish species, including red drum, black drum, flounder, striped bass, and speckled trout, ensures there’s always a chance for a thrilling catch.

What sets North Carolina apart is not only the premier fishing destinations but also the diverse habitats that provide a vibrant ecosystem for fish and other marine life. The state’s clear waters allow for excellent visibility, enhancing the experience of casting your line and reeling in your catch.

If you’re a seasoned angler or a newbie looking to try something new, inshore kayak fishing in North Carolina is an adventure you won’t want to miss. So pack your gear, launch your kayak, and get ready to immerse yourself in the beauty of these crystal clear waters.

Richard Dodds

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