Serious anglers and want-to-be’s alike will find exciting fishing prospects at Oak Island. Thrilling surf, pier, and deep-sea fishing experiences yield some exciting salt-water stories, plus a real meal!

In 2007 licensing for those over 16 includes the new annual CFRL (Coastal Recreational Fishing License: $15 NC residents, $30 non-residents) or a temporary license ($10 for 10 days). No change to the fresh water licensing (1 day for $10, 3 days for $15, and annual for residents at $15, $30 for nonresidents.) Some exceptions apply. Contact North Carolina Wildlife Organization or 888-248-6834 for more information. Happy Angling!

Freshwater fishing:

Fishing is permitted year-round in all fresh-water areas in the Cape Fear Region with one exception: Small-mouth bass season in Sutton Lake, near Wilmington, is closed from Dec. 1 through March 31. For creel limits and size restrictions, see a state license agent or the Wildlife Resources web site.

North Carolina requires a fishing license for hook-and-line fishing in fresh water. This includes the Cape Fear River and its tributaries upstream from the major highway bridges near downtown Wilmington. Consult a license agent or fishing guide if in doubt.

Licenses can be purchased through the Wildlife Resources Commission web site, or from a state license agent. Most sporting goods, tackle and gun shops sell hunting and fishing licenses.

Saltwater fishing:

Regulated by N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries. Among Marine Fisheries' duties is enforcing quotas to protect fish stocks. This involves managing the balance between commercial and recreational fishing.

In 2002, our region (between Camp Lejeune and the South Carolina line) is exempted from a Marine Fisheries ban on recreational offshore flounder fishing.

See Fisheries web site for updates and detailed regulations, size and catch limits.

Oak Island Accommodations offers a wide selection of fishing charter and headboat fishing opportunities for our guests.

Boating regulations:

Intracoastal Waterway Boating regulations are enforced by N.C. Wildlife Resources officers, sheriff's deputies and the U.S. Coast Guard.

  • Alcohol: State law sets the same standard for boat operators as for drivers: a maximum blood alcohol level of .08 percent. Wildlife officers and sheriff’s deputies patrol waterways and enforce boating regulations.
  • Wakes: Boaters are responsible for any damage caused by their wakes. In the aftermath of several fatal accidents caused by the wakes of big boats in the Intracoastal Waterway, local and state law enforcement agencies are urging skippers to slow down in congested areas, especially if smaller craft are nearby.
  • Water scooters: Personal watercraft operators must be at least 16, or 13 if they have a valid boater safety certificate. Speeds are limited to 5 mph in marshes, near piers, shores, swimmers or surf fishermen.
  • Boat Smart Course: The Cape Fear Power Squadron offers a boating-safety course, which qualifies teens age 13 through 16 to operate personal watercraft. It covers nautical rules and regulations and "courtesies of the sea." Dates have not yet been announced for the 2003 summer course. Information: 256-9702.

Tackle & Technique:

The Gulf Stream (50+ miles) is home to “bluewater” fish: yellow fin tuna, white and blue marlin, sailfish and wahoo. March-May and October-November are prime seasons. Baits include rigged ballyhoo and lures trolled at 5 to 9 knots. You could hook a 5 pound mahi-mahi or a 500 pound blue marlin!

Offshore waters (3 to 50 miles) offer a huge variety of species: king mackerel, amberjack and cobia. Kings are caught by slow trolling (1 to 1.5 knots) live bait. Other species are caught while targeting kings. Cobia, amberjack, and mahi mahi frequently will light your reel up. Expect good bottom-fishing action almost any time, but spring and fall tend to be best. Grouper, sea bass and snapper will hit a variety of fresh or frozen baits. Check with your local tackle shop for current catch limits and size restrictions.

Near shore (out to 3 miles) is perfect for the small boater or novice angler. Spanish mackerel and bluefish provide plenty of action, April through October. Although smaller than kings, Spanish more than make up for their size in numbers and tasty flesh. Troll “clark spoons” or similar artificials at about 5 knots just off the beach in 20 to 40 feet of water. The lighter the tackle you use, the more fun these fish are.

Surf and pier fishing is productive March through November, but fall is best for variety and larger fish. In spring, look for bluefish, flounder, trout and red drum. Warm summer water brings more species in close. Spanish and king mackerel, cobia, tarpon, and amberjack are routinely caught from piers. Fall brings the annual southern migration of tasty pan-size spots. Bloodworms or fresh shrimp on a two-hook bottom rig will fill your cooler when the run is going on.

Creeks and sounds: Easily reached by the small boater, flounder, puppy drum, trout, blues and more are caught nearly year round. Live minnows on any typical flounder rig will take blues, trout, flounder and puppy drum. The same bottom rig used on piers works just fine off the boat or bank for spots, croakers and other bottom dwellers.

Area Fishing Tournaments

Wildlife Bait & Tackle Flounder
September 11 - 12, Southport: 910-457-9903

U.S. Open King Mackerel
September 30 - October 2, Southport: 910-457-7945

Captain Charlie's Kid Fishing
October 2, Southport: 910-457-7945

Fall Brawl Kingfish
October 22 - 23, Holden Beach: 910-754-6644

Thanksgiving Inshore Classic
November 26 - 27, Ocean Isle Beach: 910-575-3474


Explore Oak Island

The NC Coastal Recreational Fishing License is required for saltwater rod and reel fishing. The license can be purchased on a 10-day, annual or lifetime basis. We've included some helpful links below for your fishing needs:

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8901 East Oak Island Drive
Oak Island, North Carolina 28465

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