Unlocking the Secrets: When Does Fishing Season Start in North Carolina?

When Does Fishing Season Start in North Carolina?


Fishing enthusiasts and outdoor lovers eagerly await the start of fishing season each year. In North Carolina, this beautiful southeastern state known for its diverse natural resources, pristine lakes and rivers, and abundant fish population offers an exciting fishing experience. To make the most of your time on the water, it’s essential to know when fishing season officially begins in North Carolina.

Fishing Regulations in North Carolina

Understanding Fishing Regulations

Before diving into the specifics of when fishing season starts, it’s crucial to understand the regulations set by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC). These regulations ensure sustainable management of fish populations and protect ecosystems while promoting recreational angling opportunities.

Licensing Requirements

To legally fish within state waters in North Carolina, anglers aged 16 and older need a valid fishing license issued by the NCWRC. Licenses can be obtained online or at various authorized retailers throughout the state. It is important to stay updated with any changes or updates regarding licensing requirements.

Freshwater Fishing Season Start Dates

Inland Game Fishes (Non-trout)

For inland game fishes such as bass, catfish, sunfishes, crappie, and other non-trout species that inhabit rivers, lakes, and ponds across North Carolina – their fishing season typically commences on July 1st each year.

However, we recommend visiting NCWRC’s official website before planning your trip, as there may be exceptions or additional restrictions depending on specific locations or bodies of water.

Trophy Trout Waters & Delayed Harvest Trout Waters

North Carolina boasts some exceptional trout fisheries labeled as Trophy Trout Waters or Delayed Harvest Trout Waters. These areas offer anglers an opportunity to catch larger trout or enjoy extended seasons.

The fishing season on Trophy Trout Waters and Delayed Harvest Trout Waters is typically divided into three parts: spring, summer/fall, and winter. Spring season usually begins in early March while the summer/fall period commences around June 1st. The winter season starts in early October, providing ample opportunities for trout enthusiasts throughout the year.

Saltwater Fishing Season Start Dates

Inshore & Nearshore Fisheries

North Carolina’s vast coastline provides excellent saltwater fishing opportunities, attracting anglers from across the country. Inshore and nearshore fisheries targeting species like red drum (redfish), speckled trout, flounder, Spanish mackerel, and king mackerel have their opening seasons dictated by specific regulations set by the NCWRC.

While these open seasons may vary slightly each year due to changes in fish populations or conservation efforts, they generally start between February 15th and April 30th, depending on species and location. It is crucial to consult with local bait shops or check official resources before planning your coastal fishing trip.

Gulf Stream & Offshore Fisheries

For those seeking thrilling offshore adventures in pursuit of pelagic species such as tuna, mahi-mahi (dolphinfish), wahoo, billfishes (marlin and sailfish), North Carolina offers access to the Gulf Stream – a warm ocean current flowing along its coast.

The Gulf Stream fishery remains relatively consistent throughout the year; however, prime times tend to be from May through September, when migratory fish are more abundant. Weather conditions play a significant role in determining when it’s safe for boats to venture out into deeper waters, so always check with local charter captains or fishing guides.


In North Carolina, the official start of fishing season varies based on whether you’re targeting freshwater or saltwater species. Whether you prefer exploring inland lakes for bass or casting a line into the Atlantic Ocean for trophy fish, understanding the regulations and starting dates is essential.

Remember to stay informed by checking the NCWRC’s website regularly for any updates regarding seasons, restrictions, and licensing requirements. With careful planning and knowledge of when fishing season starts in North Carolina, you can maximize your angling adventures while enjoying the breathtaking natural beauty this state has to offer.