Cape Fear River, NC

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Ron Antonucci
Ron Antonucci's picture
Cape Fear River, NC

New to the site, absolutely loving it so far, you guys are definitely my kind of peeps. I'm keeping a year/life list, I'm not going to go back and dig up all my old photos of every species I've caught ever, but I've started keeping track this year.

I want to spend some time this year growing my list and casing non-game species, problem is I don't really know what is available in my area. Seems like a lot of you guys fish in the mississippi river drainage system, what are some micro/rough/cool species that I can target in Southeast NC, specifically the cape fear river? Those familiar with the river will be aware of its...troubled past and questionable reputation. What are my options?

Corey's picture

Welcome, Ron! I know some members live or have fished down there, and you've got some very cool species in the area.

drawer.bli's picture
Welcome! I'm not very

Welcome! I'm not very familiar with NC (from NJ) but a good place to start would be looking online for biological surveys, etc. You could also just get out there and see whats willing to bite; you could microfish small streams or fish worms, bottom rigged in a variety of waterways (can't really go wrong with that). NC is pretty diverse, so if you're just starting species fishing you're bound to get plenty of new ones quickly. 

Mack in N.C.
Mack in N.C.'s picture

micro  you could go after the Cape fear shiner but you would need to go higher up the drainage and hit the deep or Rocky rivers. It is a species of concern in nc.   You could go over to the Pee Dee river and try for Robust Redhorse or smallmouth buffalo .   lots and lots of micros in canals around Fairbluff  and the Lumber and Wacamaw rivers have pleanty of species only availabe there.

santee chub , Ironcolor shine, coastal shiner is in the cape fear

Taillight shiner is in some of the cape fear tribs and Waccamaw 

the sandhills chub is just west in the lumber river basin 

the spotted sucker is all aroud the rivers of SE NC

broadtail madtom and swampfish are in the cape fear and waccamaw

`Waccamaw killfish in waccamaw lake and river

bluefin and least killfishes are around Wilmimgton

Waccamaw silverside is in Waccamaw lake

Dollor and spotted sunfish in SE NC

Carolina Pygmy Sunfish is in the Waccamaw and just east of there.

Everglades Pygmy Sunfish in same as above

Waccamaw Darter in Same

swamp darter in eastern nc

If  a fish has Waccamaw in its name you can be pretty sure it is only found in 2 places in the world,  the lake and the river.   Waccamaw lake is a natural lake with many species found only there and in the river.

SE NC has many and I mean many "Bay lakes"  these are all natural lakes.  Get on google earth and seach SE NC of to the middle of eastern NC and you will see ALOT of Oval lakes and depressions.  Lots are filled in now with tress etc but you can still see the oval shape of the lakes that are now naturally filled in.   These are called Bays and the ones still with water are called Bay lakes.  Waccamaw Lake is one of the least acidic of these bay lakes but the ones that are acidic have some unique species as well....

Hope this helps. 




Graceclaw's picture
Robust Redhorse?!?!?!?

Hold on while I book my flight.....

andy's picture
Robust Redhorse Endangered

I am fairly certain that Robust Redhorse are a NC state endangered species and are unlawful to legally target.  Please do not attempt to intentionally angle for them.

NickP27's picture

Check out ...  I always use it as a starting point when planning to fish anywhere in the US.  It will list all species found in any watershed you search.


Andy is right ... Robust Redhorse is state endangered.  Waccamaw Darter and Waccamaw Silverside are also state threatened.  Can find a full list of endangered and threatened species in NC here ...

ncangling's picture
Cape Fear drainage

Hi - I fish the Cape Fear drainage quite a lot.  The roughfish potential is sort of limited but there are plenty of interesting things to target.  

In Raven Rock State Park there are plenty of micros.  White, Satfinin, Whitefin, Sandbar Shiners, Bluehead and Creek Chubs, and a few others like Tessellatted Darter.  Piedmont Darters, Crescent Shiners, Coastal Shiners, Dusky Shiners, Highfin Shiners, and more are present in various tributaries such as the Haw River, Rocky River, Little River, and South River.  PLEASE do not attempt to catch Cape Fear Shiners.  These are one of the most endangered cyprinids in the country.  

We have tons of gar and bowfin all around the area.  Suckers are limited but there are spotted suckers, notchlip redhorse, slender redhorse and a couple undescribed species of carpsucker in the cape fear drainage.  

Flat Bullhead and Snail Bullhead are two very common species in this drainage.  Snail Bullhead are very common in rivers such as the Haw while Flat Bullhead typically prefer calmer backwaters.  Margined Madtom are common in any clean, fast creek in the area. 

The further south you get, the swampier the tributaries get, and you can get some interesting fish.  Spotted Sunfish, Redfin Pickerel, Chain Pickerel, Flier are all common in these areas.  Check out the Lumber River drainage as well.  As for micros you can catch Lined Topminnows, Dollar Sunfish, Bluespotted Sunfish, Banded Sunfish, Blackbanded Sunfish and Mud Sunfish.  

Carp and Flathead Catfish, two invasive species, are quite common throughout the Cape Fear river as well.  

Good luck!


the pyromaniac
the pyromaniac's picture
In your area you're also only

In your area you're also only about 5 hours from the upper Roanoke drainage in Virginia, which has TREMENDOUS RoughFish potential, and several of us from the site live & fish in the area.  Give me a shout if you want to head up this way.




Let there be fire!

Ron Antonucci
Ron Antonucci's picture
Awesome info here guys, thank

Awesome info here guys, thank you all so much! I'm definitely going to do some lifer sunfish hunting this summer. I really want Flier, Mud, Spotted, etc...

And don't worry I certainly won't be targeting any threatened species