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A Guide to Fishing the Neuse River



The Neuse is one of North Carolina’s most well-known and recognizable rivers. It is the longest river contained entirely in North Carolina and offers many excellent fishing opportunities to anglers and angling enthusiasts. The river is home to freshwater, saltwater, and even anadromous fish species (fish that spawn in freshwater and then migrate to saltwater).


If you want to try to put your fishing skills to the test in the Neuse, check out our handy guide below, detailing everything you need from the type of fish you can catch to the best fishing spots along the Neuse.


What Can You Catch in the Neuse River?

As we previously mentioned, the Neuse is abundant with many types of fish, from freshwater to saltwater. The river is also home to a few notable rare and endangered species, although these are best limited to wildlife spotting and not fishing. These include the dwarf wedgemussel, Tar River spinymussel, Roanoke bass, Carolina darter, and the shortnose sturgeon. You may also find some species that are endemic to the river, such as the rare Carolina madtom, the Neuse River waterdog and Carolina mudpuppy! These last two are aquatic salamanders that can only be found in the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico River basins.


On the freshwater side of the river, you could catch populations of largemouth bass, white bass, striped bass, crappie, yellow and white perch, bluegill, sunfish, catfish, and anadromous species like the American shad. Most freshwater species found in the river make for good eating — yes, even sunfish and catfish, although both are usually considered a delicacy in a lot of regions. Shad, perch, and freshwater drums are also great to use for cut bait.


For saltwater fish, meanwhile, you can find plenty in the lower basin of the Neuse near Pamlico Sound, such as striped bass, red drum, speckled trout, southern flounder, bluefish, croaker, cobia, rockfish, albacore, Spanish mackerel, and tarpon.


Most of these fish are safe to eat and some can even be enjoyed raw (when prepared properly), though tarpon is known to be very bony and is much more suited to be caught for sport than for food. Some species, like the flounder, should be easily identifiable, but it helps to have a fishing guide if you’re unsure of which fish you should be on the lookout for, or which one you just snagged on your line.


Fishing season on the Neuse starts in late fall in the creeks and tributaries in the freshwater areas of the Upper Neuse and continues until mid-spring. This is a popular time to catch many freshwater and anadromous species found in the Upper Neuse, like the ever-popular largemouth bass and yellow perch.


Around mid-spring, the fish move downstream towards brinier waters near New Bern and into Pamlico Sound. This is an excellent time to catch saltwater species like red drum and striped bass. The bays around Pamlico Sound are a popular spot for saltwater anglers and many have reported catching fish in astounding sizes and weights.


The Best Fishing Spots on the Neuse River

There are plenty of great fishing spots to be found along the Neuse River, whether you’re looking to catch some freshwater fish at the start of the season or trying your luck in the brackish waters around New Bern. The Neuse offers up to 275 miles of public water with plenty of ideal fishing spots to be had.


For freshwater fishing at the start of the season, the most popular fishing spots can be found upriver from New Bern in the many creeks and tributaries, such as in the Trent River, Upper Broad Creek, and Brice Creek. Here you’ll find many public boat launching ramps for private vessels looking to fish out on the river.


When it comes time to move downriver towards the mouth of the Neuse in mid-spring, you can’t do any better than in the waters around New Bern and the Pamlico Sound. In New Bern alone, there are many marinas and boat launching ramps that can deposit you right in the Neuse River or near enough to Pamlico Sound for some wonderful saltwater fishing. There’s Lawson Creek Park and Union Point Park in New Bern, as well as public boat ramps in Dawson Creek, Upper Broad Creek, Slocum (Havelock) Creek, Hancock Creek, and Oriental, all operated by the North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission (NCWRC).


Other than that, there are plenty of marinas on both sides of the Neuse that provide good starting points for boaters looking to fish in the river and the surrounding creeks and tributaries. Be aware though that the mouth of the Neuse is especially wide (in fact, the mouth is its widest point) and though the river is known for becoming a slow-moving estuary near Pamlico Sound, the current can still become fast-flowing and unpredictable at certain parts of the river.


Fishing in the Neuse River promises to be nothing short of a fun and enriching experience! If you’re looking for a great place to start off your saltwater fishing in the Neuse and Pamlico Sound, Northwest Creek Marina is the best place to stay, dock, and set off. Book a slip with us today and start your Neuse fishing adventure right!

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