Visitors who want to spend a chunk of their vacation dropping a line will find plenty of opportunities to go fishing in Wrightsville Beach. Surrounded by water, home to numerous charter businesses, and featuring roughly four miles of beaches, fishing is easily one of this coastal town’s most popular activities.
On your next vacation, spend a day at the beach or at Johnnie Mercer's Pier, or head out to the outlying shipwrecks on an offshore charter trip to target the big catches – regardless of your angling ambitions, Wrightsville Beach has every fishing adventure covered, and then some.
What you’ll Need to Fish in Wrightsville Beach
The first thing an angler needs to land before they go on a Wrightsville Beach fishing expedition is a Coastal Recreational Fishing License – (also known as a CRFL or just a “saltwater fishing license.”) A saltwater fishing license is required in the state of NC to drop a line in any salty body of water, which in Wrightsville Beach, includes the ICW and Atlantic Ocean, as well as the smaller connecting creeks and channels like Lees Cut and Big Lollipop Bay. (Note: a saltwater fishing license may not be required for a charter fishing trip, as the captain’s license traditionally covers all anglers on board.)
Obtaining a fishing license is easy to do, and can be completed online before a Wrightsville Beach vacation begins.
Anglers can go to the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries website at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/recreational-fishing-licenses-and-permits to purchase a license and to review the various options and fees. Essentially, there are two different rates for licenses – in-state and out-of-state rates – and licenses can be purchased on a 10-day, annual, or lifetime basis. The cost for either the in-state or the out-of-state option is nominal - for example, a saltwater fishing license is just $5 for NC residents for 10 days, and $10 for out-of-state visitors for 10 days.
In addition, visitors can also pick up a fishing license at a number of locations in and around Wrightsville Beach once they arrive for their vacation. Stop by local marina ship stores and / or area bait and tackle stores, or head to larger inland stores like Dick’s Sporting Goods. With little effort required, a fishing license is easy to acquire regardless, and is the first step to enjoy a Wrightsville Beach fishing vacation.
What you’ll Catch in Wrightsville Beach
The range of catches that an angler can reel in is dependent on the season, but as a general rule of thumb, fishermen can expect to catch a wide variety of predominantly saltwater species regardless of whether they head towards the ocean or the area sounds.
Popular “inshore” species that can be caught from a vessel or fishing pier in the area sounds and / or Cape Fear River include red drum, striped bass, speckled trout, flounder, cobia, and even catfish, while anglers along the oceanfront can look forward to king and Spanish mackerel, bluefish, mullet, croaker, blowfish, drum, and sea bass.
Spring, summer, and especially fall are arguably the best times for fishing, and visitors can find out about size limits, popular species, and seasons online via the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries website at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/recreational-fishing-size-and-bag-limits.
Local Fishing Piers and Boat Ramps
While veritably any spot along the oceanfront can serve as a find place to cast a line, the Wrightsville Beach and surrounding Cape Fear area is also home to a number of fishing piers and boat ramps where it’s easy to launch on a fishing adventure.
Make the most of your fishing trips, and check out these local hotspots where it’s easy to launch a kayak or vessel, or just drop a line, in the hope of landing an unforgettable catch or two.
Johnnie Mercer's Pier
23 E Salisbury St, Wrightsville Beach, NC 28480
This all-concrete pier extends 945’ ft. into the Atlantic Ocean and features an on-site shop for supplies, as well as a restaurant and arcade. Located in the heart of Wrightsville Beach, Johnnie Mercer's Pier is the easiest fishing pier for local visitors to access.
Carolina Beach Fishing Pier
1810 Canal Drive, Carolina Beach, NC 28428
This pier south of Wrightsville Beach Extends 700’ ft. into the Atlantic Ocean and features an on-site shop for supplies, as well as a grill, snack bar, game room, and a bar area / lounge.
Kure Beach Fishing Pier
Avenue K, Kure Beach, NC 28449
This pier is located on the ocean south of Wrightsville Beach, and is 712’ ft. long. Additional amenities include an on-site tackle shop, grill, and arcade with pool tables. Alcohol is NOT allowed on the premises.
Wrightsville Beach Boat Ramp
Channel Walk Drive, Wrightsville Beach, NC 28480
This boat ramp on the edge of the Wrightsville Beach causeway features five launch lanes and 68 parking spaces for vehicles with boat trailers. The launch site connects with the ICW and outlying ocean waters.
Trails End Park
621 Trails End Road, Wilmington, NC 28409
This public launch area is across from Masonboro Island, and features a launch lane, parking for roughly 40 vehicles, and an on-site fishing pier for anglers.
River Road Park Boat Ramp
River Road Park, Wilmington, NC 28412
Located on the edge of the Cape Fear in Wilmington, this destination features a boat ramp, an on-site fishing pier, and public facilities which includes restrooms and picnic pavilions.
Castle Street Boat Ramp
Dram Tree Park (located on the corners of Castle Street and Surrey Street), Wilmington, NC 28401
This boat ramp is situated on the outskirts of Wilmington’s downtown area on the edge of the Cape Fear River, and features a boat ramp, a separate kayak area, and parking for 36 vehicles with trailers.
Federal Point / Buzzard Bay
2515 South Fort Fisher Blvd., Kure Beach, NC
This southern boat ramp is located south of Kure Beach / Fort Fisher, and features beach access as well as a boat ramp and parking for 36 vehicles with boat trailers.
Snows Cut Park & Ramp
220 Annie Drive, Carolina Beach, NC 28428
This site is located along the ICW, and features fishing areas and public restrooms / picnic shelters, as well as five launching lanes, a separate kayak launching area, and parking for about 100 vehicles.
Smith Creek Park
633 Shenandoah Street, Wilmington, NC 28411
Located in nearby Wilmington, this public park features a freshwater lake with on-site fishing pier, a floating dock for small vessels, (like kayaks), and public restrooms / picnic facilities.
Inshore Fishing Charters in Wrightsville Beach
There are several dozen inshore fishing charters, or fishing guides, that are based in the Wrightsville Beach and surrounding Cape Fear areas, and these businesses are a great option for anglers who want to explore the local waters that are located inland, or close to shore.
These charters target large surrounding waters like the Cape Fear River, Intracoastal Waterway / Masonboro Sound, and secretive channels like Lee’s Cut and Bradley Creek, which allows anglers to hunt for saltwater catches that frequent calmer areas and tidal flats. Generally less expensive than offshore charters, an inshore fishing trip can last anywhere from a couple of hours to a full day, and can accommodate smaller parties of about 6 fishermen or less.
Though these trips stick close to land, anglers can reel in a huge array of catches including drum, bass, catfish, Spanish and king mackerel, flounder, sheapshead, and other tasty saltwater fish. As a result, these trips are perfect for anglers who want a budget-friendly expedition, and who want to uncover the best fishing grounds that are close to home.
Reservations can often be made well in advance before a vacation begins, and visitors can also contact local marinas and tackle shops for options.
Offshore Fishing Charters in Wrightsville Beach
Because Wrightsville Beach is relatively close to the Gulf Stream, as well as a number of popular wrecks and fishing spots that are within 20 miles of the coastline, (like The Dredge Wreck, the Ten-Mile Boxcars, and The Liberty Ship), offshore fishing charters are very popular – and readily available – in this corner of the NC coastline.
Offshore charter trips typically last a full day, (although ¾ or even ½ day trips may be available), and head out to the open ocean waters about 10 miles or more offshore to target larger catches that congregate around the wrecks, and in the warm Gulf Stream transatlantic current.
Offshore anglers can expect to reel in the big boys, including marlin and sailfish, red snapper, yellowfin and black fin tuna, amberjack, and Mahi, and all the supplies needed for huge catches – including rods, reels, tackle and bait – are included in the trip.
Offshore fishing trips can generally accommodate parties of 6-8 people or less, and are typically more expensive than an inshore trip due to the amount of gas and supplies required to reach and catch the big species.
Offshore fishing trips can be booked online well in advance through individually owned charter businesses, and visitors can also contact area marinas for suggestions and recommendations on fishing trip providers. Because these trips target the biggest and baddest catches in the ocean, they’re the best option for anglers who want the most rewarding fishing experience possible.
Note that many offshore fishing charters are available solely in the warmer weather months from spring until fall, to coincide with the catches available.
Tips and Tricks for Wrightsville Beach Fishing
- Enjoy great fishing all vacation long with a Wrightsville Beach “soundfront” or waterfront vacation home. These properties often have on-site docks, launching areas, and instant access to the local waters.
- For a family friendly outing, book a clamming or crabbing trip. Many local boat tour companies or inshore charter fishing businesses can take visitors on trips to the clam tidal creeks, where scooping up clams (or crabs) is a relatively easy venture.
- There are tons of fishing tournaments in and around the Wrightsville Beach area, which launch from the local beaches, marinas, and / or Johnnie Mercer’s Pier. Check out local surf fishing or pier fishing tournaments, like the Wrightsville Beach Wild King Classic in August, to feed a competitive fishing spirit.
- Bait is easy to acquire in Wrightsville Beach. Try tossing a cast net into the local creeks and calm waters for baiting mullet and minnows, or digging into the sand next to the ocean wash for “sand fleas” or small crabs that can easily be used for surf fishing.
- Don’t forget that there are plenty of local fish markets and seafood stores where the day’s catch can be obtained for the ideal family seafood feast – and no effort is required!
Fishing is a favorite pastime in Wrightsville Beach, and anglers will find ample options to get out and explore the beaches and wide open waters that this region is known for. Grab a pole – or just rent or purchase one once you’re on the island – and spend your beach days taking advantage of the exceptional fishing scene that this coastal vacation destination is known for.