North Carolina’s coastal waters provide a perfect kayak and canoe angling environment, if you know where to go. With the barrier islands, the Intracoastal Waterway and hundreds of feeder creeks, rivers, inlets, and backwaters, getting the plastic and fiberglass hulls salty should not be an issue. 

Wrightsville Beach has already established itself as a premiere paddleboard location, holding the Carolina Cup, which brings in paddleboard competitors, from all over the world to race around Harbour Island, Money Island or Wrightsville Beach for up to 13 miles.

But this is about fishing, and the same thing that brings the competition brings in the fish. While even a non-paddler might expect locales such as Florida, Chesapeake Bay and Hawaii to be fishing havens for kayakers, North Carolina boasts what many consider one of the best spots for fishing saltwater anywhere. Getting kudos from various websites and making lists as a top destination is Fort Fisher. 

Due to shallow waters that average only five to six feet deep, depending on the tide, only a few skiffs and flats boats actually fish the area. According to Matthew Frazier, the owner of Living Waters Outfitters (704-923-4926), the shallow waters make it ideal for navigating. While Frazier guides mostly on rivers in North Carolina’s Foothills, he heads to Fort Fisher to get his salt on. 

“There is excellent fishing, with plenty of slot-sized reds, flounder and trout in the area. There are oversized reds to be had, also. My largest ever caught there was just over 30 inches” Frazier said.

One must be warned; always be aware of the tides. It is easy to get grounded when the tide goes out, and you could be stuck for a while waiting for the tide to come back in.

Dean Radford of Morganton likes to target redfish, flounder and trout in the creeks around Bald Head Island. 

“It is somewhat of an odd situation, as getting out there is challenging. Crossing the Cape Fear River inlet from Southport or Oak Island is difficult, if not questionable, via a kayak,” he said. “When I fish there, I usually catch a ride or transport my kayak via a skiff to the creeks. When there, I can reach places the skiff cannot, and I am usually rewarded with a great day.” 

It is not much different than venturing anywhere with a kayak that other boats cannot. With an area that’s tough to access, fish are much less pressured.

Just off Sunset Beach near the North Carolina-South Carolina border is Tubbs Inlet, where Jinks Creek, Still Creek and the Eastern Channel all funnel water between the ocean and the waterway. The same species wait in ambush. Ed Parrish Jr. of Graham only gets to head to the coast a few times a year, but when he does, Tubbs is his paddling destination. 

“I fish with my kids, and there are lots of creeks and holes a short paddle (away) for us. Mason, my 10-year-old, likes targeting redfish,” he said.

Kayak fishing is not all based in the southernmost shores. Parrot Swamp, Queen Creek and Bear Creek near Swansboro offer excellent fishing as well. Tim Teramelli, who owns NC Pierman’s Outdoor Adventures out of Hubert, regularly takes clients and friends out on the flats. If you are not worried about the weather, neither is Teramelli (910-325-0822), because the fish are swimming regardless of what is going on above the water. He has a passion for tails wagging in the waters, and loves fishing for redfish.

Teramelli said red drum are crazy during their winter patterns and will stay that way through April before breaking off. When they are there though, it is worth every bit of the paddle. 

“The feeling you get when a drum is sneaking up behind your TopDog Jr. is an adrenaline rush” said Teramelli, who likes working a TopDog Jr. slowly across the marshes and flats in early morning or late evenings while the reds are there.

He also gets some big Hatteras blues to hit. He tempts them in with Power Team Lures JP Hammer Shad in colors such as bubble-gum flash and money. He has done well with electric chicken also.

So when you are hitting the beaches this summer for the family vacation, be sure to bring your tackle and paddles. It could turn out to be one of your premiere fishing experiences.