North Carolina is known as a place with fantastic fishing. One such place is Pamlico River, located near the coast of North Carolina. This entire area is an angler’s dream, a fishing haven if you will. You see, the Pamlico River is a tidal river formed by the Tar River and several nearby creeks. Then it runs into Pamlico Sound, which is one of the largest estuaries in the country. From there, anglers can boat past the barrier islands known as the Outer Banks and reach the bountiful Atlantic Ocean. Spend any amount of time near the Pamlico water system, and you’re bound for the best fishing of your life!
To understand the Pamlico River, let’s first take a look at the Tar River. This 215-mile long river flows southeast towards the coast. The most popular species caught here is the largemouth bass, although catfish is a close second. The water is slow moving and most anglers will fish from the banks of the Tar River. Or you can get a drift boat with a shallow hull that will allow you to access more parts of the river.
Tar River picks up speed and becomes the Pamlico River under the Highway 17 bridge in Washington, North Carolina. Many local guides refer to both rivers as one: Tar-Pam, combining the two as easily as they flow from one to the other. Near Washington, anglers will catch freshwater species such as bass and catfish. As the river approaches the sound, more saltwater species appear.
If you’re looking to catch largemouth bass on the Pamlico River, head northwest towards Washington and the Tar River. The salinity of the river as it gets closer to Pamlico Sound does not support this particular bass species. However, striped bass can survive in brackish water, and are abundant throughout the Pamlico River and Pamlico Sound. Although they are stocked annually throughout North Carolina water systems, we recommend practicing catch-and-release so the population continues to stay healthy. The fun thing about fishing for stripers is the variety of ways they can be fished. Anglers can use top water plugs and drift bait along the tide, or employ bottom fishing techniques, trolling, and even fly fishing. However you decide to fish for striped bass, you’re sure to be smiling when you land your trophy!
Other top species found in the Pamlico River include redfish, speckled trout, and flounder. Redfish are known locally as puppy drum when smaller, or red drum. This is because redfish are part of the drum family, and are known to make grunting noises. Oftentimes anglers can spot “tailing” red drum, and sight fish them as their back and tail emerges from the water. Drift your bait along the tide waters and wait for the red to strike.
Speckled trout is another top favorite, known locally as “specks” or simply “trout”. These fish show up in good numbers and it’s not unheard of for an angler to bring in more than a dozen in just a few hours. A popping cork above your bait can help bring specks to the line. The popping noises act as a dinner bell and tell the trout that food is nearby. Once you’ve set the hook, keep the rod up and the line tight as you reel in your trophy. Again, we recommend all anglers practice catch-and-release to help with conservation efforts.
Other species caught throughout the river include, but are not limited to, sheepshead, bluefish, spanish mackerel, spadefish, tautogs, and more. Anglers can fish the river twelve months of the year, weather permitting. It’s never a bad day when you’re fishing the Pamlico River!
For anglers fishing the Pamlico River by boat, the main way to get on the water is by traversing other waterways. As mentioned, the Tar River is just one access point to the Pamlico River. There are also several creeks and inlets throughout the river that give anglers access. And many fishermen and women will come from the mighty Pamlico Sound to fish this incredible river.
Small towns are found dotted along the river, with Bath, North Carolina about mid-point between the sound and the Tar River. Marshes and lowlands make up most of the shoreline, so finding a place along the bank to cast a line may prove difficult. But once you do find a good fishing spot along the shore, make sure it’s not private land, and you have all appropriate licenses and permits.
There’s nothing quite like fishing the Pamlico River. You can fish both freshwater and saltwater species all in one trip if you wanted! For a really great day of fishing, consider hiring a local guide – they’ll have everything you need and can take you right to where the fish are feeding. Don’t wait… adventure awaits when you fish Pamlico River.