With a backbone in both commercial and recreational fishing, it should come as no surprise that fishing is big in Southport. This small community’s love of fishing is visible around every corner – from the specials boards of local restaurants, to the antiquated fishing gear that’s found in area museums like the NC Maritime Museum.
And with this pedigree of fishing, visitors will also find that angling opportunities are everywhere in Southport – from the local creeks, to the Cape Fear River waters, to the Atlantic Ocean beaches found just a few miles away. So pack along the rods and reels, and get ready for a vacation where dropping a line and relaxing with a waterfront view is all part of the local culture.
About Southport Fishing
Southport’s terrain is nicely varied. The small community borders miles of the Cape Fear River, the Intracoastal Waterway, a network of creeks and marshes, and is also nicely close to the Atlantic Ocean beaches. As a result, the fishing is both outstanding and diverse, and can range from small brackish creeks to open ocean fishing charters that travel miles offshore.
The first thing an angler will need to start a fishing adventure, however, is a North Carolina saltwater fishing license, formally known as a North Carolina Coastal Recreational Fishing License (CRFL.) This license is required to fish in any body of saltwater, which includes almost all bodies of water in the Southport region.
The good news is that a saltwater fishing license is easy to obtain, and relatively inexpensive. For example, a 10-day fishing license is just $5 for North Carolina residents, and $10 for out-of-state residents who are vacationing in the area. Discounts are also available for lifetime licenses for a myriad of citizens, including veterans, seniors, and youths. Visitors should also note that saltwater fishing licenses are only required for anglers age 16 and older.
A saltwater fishing license is also easy to obtain. Visitors can pick one up at virtually any local bait and tackle store in the Southport / Oak Island area once they have arrived, or can pick one up online well before their vacation at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/recreational-fishing-licenses-and-permits, which is the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries website. (For a complete list of license types and fees, visit http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/recreational-fishing-license-types-and-fees.)
Local Piers and Fishing Spots
The Southport region has a number of public parks, piers, and wild areas where it’s easy to drop a line with little effort. For an easy fishing trip, check out these spots where enjoying a morning, afternoon or evening of fishing is a breeze.
S. Howe Street, Southport
The Southport Pier is located adjacent to Waterfront Park, and is a popular public pier that extends into the wide Cape Fear River. The pier is situated in the heart of downtown Southport, (which makes it easy to reach for all visitors), and is a popular spot for local and visiting anglers alike.
Dutchman Creek Park
4750 Fish Factory Rd SE, Southport
Dutchman Creek Park is located on the edge of the relatively skinny Dutchman Creek, and is a popular launching spot for kayaks, boats, and a variety of fishing adventures. The site has a nice long waterfront where it’s easy to cast a line, as well as on-site boat ramps for easing into the water.
Kingsley Street Park
Kingsley Street, Southport
Head to the small dock which extends into the Intracoastal Waterway at this park for a chance to drop a line into miles of local waters. Though a passive park, this downtown site borders the water’s edge, which makes it a convenient destination for water lovers.
Sunset Beach Town Park
206 Sunset Blvd N, Sunset Beach
This public park on the edge of the Intracoastal Waterway features a boardwalk along the water’s edge which is suitable for dropping a line, as well as a kayak launch and nearby boat ramp for on-the-water fishing expeditions.
Ferry Landing Park
Shallotte Boulevard and 7th Street, Ocean Isle Beach
This public park that borders the Intracoastal Waterway has an on-site fishing pier for anglers who want to drop a line, as well as a shaded gazebo and a scattering of picnic tables for a break from the action.
McGlamery at Ocean Dr, Oak Island
This park in the heart of Oak Island offers public parking and an easy stroll to the ocean-facing beaches, where plenty of great surf fishing opportunities are waiting.
Oak Island Nature Center
5202 East Yacht Drive, Oak Island
Head behind this Oak Island center to reach a T-shaped fishing dock that hovers over salty creeks and salt marshes. Walking trails are also available which lead to additional and secretive fishing spots.
Spring Lake Park
200 Pine Road, Boiling Spring Lakes, NC 28461
Located inland, this popular park borders one of the largest lakes in the region. The site features a boat launch for kayak or canoe expeditions, as well as picnic areas and public restrooms.
Ocean Crest Fishing Pier
1409 E Beach Drive, Oak Island
This fishing pier in the heart of Oak Island extends 893’ ft. into the Atlantic Ocean, and ends with a 50’ ft. T-shape at the end of the structure. The pier is fully lighted for nighttime fishing, and is generally open seven days a week from March when the first fish are sighted until December 1.
Sunset Beach Fishing Pier
101 W Main St, Sunset Beach, NC 28468
This oceanfront fishing pier in the heart of Sunset Beach extends 900’ ft. into the ocean and is renowned as the southernmost fishing pier in the state of North Carolina. Additional amenities include an on-site tackle shop and store, pool tables, and a bar and grill.
Area Boat Launches
Mariners who want to launch on a fishing expedition, or paddlers who want to reach skinny creeks and popular fishing grounds, will find ample launch sites in addition to the privately owned marinas dotted throughout Southport. Start a fishing adventure off right by heading to these public ramps and launch sites that make accessing the water an easy task.
May Moore Park
Barbee Blvd. & Elizabeth Drive, Oak Island
Located just a few miles away from Southport, this launch site borders the Intracoastal Waterway and features a kayak and canoe dock.
Dutchman Creek Boat Launch
NE 55th and Yacht Drive, Oak Island
This popular boat launch that is easy to reach for Southport visitors borders Dutchman Creek and provides a straightforward route to the Intracoastal Waterway and Cape Fear River.
Oak Island Mainland
4650 Fish Factory Road, Oak Island
This launch site is located on the edge of the Intracoastal Waterway and offers 80 parking spaces for vehicles with trailers.
356 Riverview Drive, Bolivia
This inland site is on the border of the Intracoastal Waterway and has parking spaces for 33 vehicles with trailers.
797 Gordon Lewis Drive, Winnabow
This inland launch site north of Southport accesses Rices Creek, and has parking spaces for 20 vehicles with trailers.
103 S. Shore Drive, Supply
This launching site just inland of Holden Beach connects with the Intracoastal Waterway and features parking spaces for 15 vehicles with trailers.
1921 Bricklanding Road, Shallotte
Located in the southernmost portion of the state, this site borders the Intracoastal Waterway and features parking spaces for 23 vehicles with trailers.
Ocean Isle Beach
67 Causeway Drive, Ocean Isle Beach
This popular launch site is adjacent to the Intracoastal Waterway and features parking spaces for 58 vehicles with trailers.
101 Sunset Blvd., Sunset Beach
This site that’s just a few miles away from Southport connects with the Intracoastal Waterway and Fox Creek, and features parking for 26 vehicles with trailers
9700 River Gate Drive, Ash
Located inland, this launch site borders the Waccamaw River and features parking for 25 vehicles with trailers.
Alton Lennon Park
East Boiling Spring Road/Alton Lennon Road, Boiling Spring Lakes
Bordering a nice sized inland lake, this site is conducive for smaller vessels which includes non-motorized kayaks and canoes.
Spring Lake Park
Pine Road, Boiling Spring Lakes
This site also borders a larger inland lake, and features a small launch which can accommodate boats with electric motors, as well as kayaks and canoes.
Southport is a popular launching point for fishing charters, simply because the area has such close proximity to a myriad of waters including the Cape Fear River, Elizabeth River, and the Atlantic Ocean. Traditionally, there are two types of fishing charters available for anglers to choose from - inshore and offshore fishing charters.
Inshore fishing charters target the salty waters that are close to shore, (such as the Cape Fear River and the Intracoastal Waterway), as well as the creeks and lakes that are found inland. These charters can last anywhere from several hours to a full day, and can typically accommodate a maximum of six passengers at the most. Traditionally less expensive than offshore charters, which require more gas, equipment, and often a first mate, these charters target a range of inshore species including drum, flounder, mackerel, bass, and even traditionally freshwater species like catfish.
Offshore charters go well offshore, (up to 40 miles off the coast), for the larger species that congregate near structures in the middle of the ocean – like the Frying Pan Tower – as well as the Gulf Stream. These trips are generally a full-day endeavor, and can accommodate 6 or even 8 passengers at most, depending on the vessel. An offshore fishing trip has all equipment required, as well as a first mate to help gaff and reel in the big bulky catches. Anglers on these trips can look forward to targeting the biggest catches in the ocean, including sailfish, Mahi, big drum, snapper, blackfin and yellowfin tuna, amberjack, and more.
Regardless of what type of charter an angler chooses, multiple fishing charter providers can be discovered throughout the Oak Island and Southport regions. Contact local marinas for recommendations or availability, or consult the individual fishing charter provider’s website for fishing options.
Kayak fishing is popular in the Southport region, and can be especially productive for anglers who appreciate a quiet landscape and miles of room to roam. The area features several watersports companies in the heart of the downtown area which can provide weekly or hourly rentals, as well as additional equipment such as rods and reels.
Once launched, paddles will want to head to marshy creeks and canals where good saltwater fishing is often found. In addition, paddlers can scope out the more shallow regions of the local sounds and Cape Fear River for clamming and crabbing opportunities that can be abundant in regional tidal flats.
Tips and Tricks for Southport Fishing
- Not sure what’s biting? Stop by the piers, marinas, and local tackle shops. The area’s fishing shops and marinas are experts on what to target and how, and can point newcomers in the right direction.
- Many vacation rentals in the Southport and Oak Island areas have front-row access to great fishing, courtesy of waterfront docks along the Cape Fear River, or oceanfront beach access along the Atlantic. Book a vacation home for a full week of exceptional fishing opportunities.
- Last minute charters may be available for single or pairs of fishermen who want to “tag along” on an offshore fishing trip. Check with local marinas for availability.
- Fall is a great time to go fishing! In the fall months, a number of migrating fish make a semi-annual appearance – like red drum – and the beaches and local waters are nicely uncrowded.
- Don’t forget the cast net. A number of local docks and creeks are great spots for anglers to toss a cast net and hopefully scoop up some minors or small mullets for bait.
- Have some bad luck? Southport is home to a number of fish markets and restaurants where sampling the day’s catch is an easy affair, with no fishing required.
Fishing is a favorite activity for Southport locals and visitors alike, and it’s easy to see why. With miles of water to go around, and a wealth of opportunities to load up on bait, equipment, or to plot a guided expedition, it’s a simple task to enjoy all the exceptional fishing this region has to offer.
Grab a pole and head to the Southport Pier, or stop by the Southport Marina to see what charter trips may be available. From the inland lakes and creeks to the miles of blue Atlantic Ocean waters, there’s no shortage of angling opportunities in sunny Southport.