Anyone travelling around the Wilmington, N.C., area has got to cross at least one of three rivers — the Cape Fear, Northeast Cape Fear and Brunswick — but because very few boats are visible from the bridges across those rivers, fishing is often under the radar for many, which is a terrible mistake.
The rivers provide good fishing year-round, and occasionally, fishermen are treated to one of those, “You had to be there to believe it,” days.
Stuart Caulder of Gold Leader Guide Service specializes in catching the fish that call the area home. One of his favorite places to fish is the area from the I-140 bridges across the Cape Fear and Northeast Cape Fear downstream to the power lines that cross the Cape Fear below the State Ports, an area that includes the full length of the Brunswick River.
“Most of the year, there are trout, reds and flounder in much of the water around Wilmington,” Caulder said. “Flounder fishing begins to slow in the late fall, but the others continue, and stripers arrive in the winter, sometimes by Thanksgiving, and add an extra dimension.”
Stripers can’t be creeled in the Cape Fear, and with cold-stun events causing the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries to close the keeper season on speckled trout until June 18, those two species are available on a catch-and-release basis only.
“But it’s good fishing all year, with the opportunity to catch some stripers through the winter and spring, and there’s always the potential for a big one,” Caulder said.
The water in the rivers around Wilmington is tidal water, and Caulder said the stage and flow of the tide is important. One morning last March, he launched before daylight at the Dram Tree Park Ramp