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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.

Local Charter Boats

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Fishing Charters

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.

Southport NC waterfront

About Southport Fishing and Licenses

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 here, which is the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries website. (For a complete list of license types and fees, visit this site.)

Local Piers, Parks, Docks 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.

Southport NC waterfront


Southport Pier and Riverwalk
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.

Fishing adjacent to Dutchman Creek Park


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.

Sunset Beach Town Park

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

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.

Commissioner's Park

Commissioner's Park
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.

Spring Lake Park

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

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

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 kayak launch

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

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.

Dutchman Creek Park boat launch

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.

Sunset Harbor boat launch

Sunset Harbor
356 Riverview Drive, Bolivia
This inland site is on the border of the Intracoastal Waterway and has parking spaces for 33 vehicles with trailers.

Rice's Creek launch

Rices Creek
797 Gordon Lewis Drive, Winnabow
This inland launch site north of Southport accesses Rices Creek, and has parking spaces for 20 vehicles with trailers.

Holden Beach boat launch

Holden Beach
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.

Bricklanding Rd boat launch

Bricklanding Road
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 boat launch

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.

Sunset Beach boat launch

Sunset Beach
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

Pireway boat launch

9700 River Gate Drive, Ash
Located inland, this launch site borders the Waccamaw River and features parking for 25 vehicles with trailers.

Alton Lennon Boat Launch

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 Kayak/Electric Boat Launch

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.

Kayak Fishing

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 and Riverwalk, 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.

Victory Beach Vacations

Visitors who are on the hunt for the postcard-perfect vacation rental in the heart of the Carolina Beach or Kure Beach area will find an enticing selection and plenty of friendly customer service when they rent through Victory Beach Vacations. Based in Carolina Beach in the coastal Cape Fear region, Victory Beach Vacations has more than 100 vacation rentals in all shapes and sizes to ensure that every vacationing family can find their dream home away from home on the beach.   When you book your Cape Fear getaway with Victory Beach Vacations, the fun doesn’t end when you leave the beach, it continues with an array of privately-owned properties outfitted with all of the amenities needed for a fabulous beach vacation.   Jenna Lanier, General Manager, explains that her family first opened the rental and property management business in 2002. At the forefront of Victory Beach operations is Lanier’s mother, Caroline Meeks. Meeks is both the Broker in Charge and co-owner with husband, Buck Meeks, who manages the Field Services team with Lanier’s husband, Scott.   For nearly 20 years, the Victory Beach team has worked tirelessly to establish a network of top-of-the-line rental properties for Cape Fear visitors to enjoy. “As far as our properties go,” explains Lanier, “they are all updated, well-furnished and appointed. “We have always performed post-cleaning inspections and since the pandemic, have put freshly laundered duvets over all of the comforters between rentals.”   Lanier emphasizes how important the guests experience is “we strive to give our guests a relaxing, stress free, memorable vacation.” This emphasis on customer service has led to Victory Beach Vacations having a 4.8 Google rating with over 300 reviews by happy owners and guests.In addition to Victory Beach’s superior sanitation practices, the company offers properties for every type of visitor. Choose from luxury oceanfront houses and condos to more reasonbly priced 2nd row properties with oceanviews. Many properties include pools and hot tubs as well, perfect for outdoor entertaining, and many are dog friendly.   Lanier also notes that all properties are within walking or driving distance to Pleasure Island’s main attractions – Carolina Beach and Kure Beach. The former, as described by Lanier, is the more commercialized of the two destinations and features a boardwalk, outdoor dining options and a plethora of weekly activities including fireworks, live music, amusement park pop-ups, and movies under the stars. Kure Beach offers a more residential feel with its fishing pier, intimate restaurants and family favorite, North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher.More water fun awaits, too. “There is a harbor and a canal that feed into the intercoastal. We have several properties on the harbor so guests can bring their boat, kayak, [or jet ski] and travel between islands,” says Lanier.   A stay with Victory Beach Vacations is an annual pilgrimage for most. “A large percentage of guests are previous guests. Some even reserve the same property for the next year as they’re checking out,” Lanier says. “It’s almost like it’s their personal vacation home.”   Even before guests arrive at their vacation destination, the Victory Beach Vacations’ website greets them with a live beach cam and exquisite aerial footage of both Carolina and Kure Beaches. See for yourself by scanning the QR code and call Victory Beach Vacations at 910.458.0868 to book your Cape Fear getaway. Start making your memories today! —Grace Silipigni

Southport, NC Boating Guide
Southport, NC Rainy Day Activities
Fort Fisher State Historic Site