Trout Fishing in North Carolina (NC) – Top Spots with Map

The clear mountain streams are exactly the types of scenic areas that anglers look for in their quest for great trout fishing in North Carolina. This state has some world class brook trout fishing, as well as stocked rainbow and brown trout in many creeks and rivers.

Trout Fishing in North Carolina (NC) - Top Spots with Map

With so many different trout fisheries available to the public, it can sometimes be difficult deciding where to go fishing. There is a huge variety of rivers, streams, creeks, and lakes to choose from. Here are a few of the best fishing spots that North Carolina has to offer!

Top Locations for Trout Fishing in North Carolina

1. Watauga River

The Watauga River is an excellent spot for both beginner and veteran anglers because it is a wide river and hatchery supported. It has plenty of easily accessible water with easily caught fish, as well as wild water for anglers looking for a challenge. 

Considered one of the best trout waters in the state, the river is trout heaven because of its high elevation and cold feeder creeks that come in from the mountains. This grows plenty of trout, and plenty of trophy sized fish as well. 

Trout fishing in Watauga River NC
Watauga River (NC)

There are plenty of public access points to the Watauga River, and a few popular ones are at Valle Crucis Community Park and the Watauga River Gorge Access Area. Anglers with a simple map will find no shortage of places to fish and will have a great time pursuing this river’s big trout.

2. Linville River

Much like the Watauga River, the Linville River is a great trout fishery because of its cold waters and feeder streams from the high mountains. This river is home to both wild and stocked trout, making it plenty full of fish to be caught.

While the Linville River is considered one of the best trout locations in the state, it is not very easy to access. This means that fish have a chance to grow very big without so much fishing pressure, and it is not uncommon to catch trophy sized fish.

Trout fishing on Linville River
Linville River (NC)

Anglers can fish the Linville River year round, and for the avid angler who is not afraid of wading and exploring water, it is an excellent choice to go and catch rainbow, brown, and brook trout.

3. Davidson River

Fly fishermen around the state are drawn to the Davidson River in the Pisgah National Forest because of its wild and stocked trout fishing and it’s easy accessibility. Here you can find plenty of both wild and stocked brown, rainbow, and brook trout. 

The Davidson River is located near the town of Asheville and has many different public access points. The section above Avery Creek is managed as a wild trout stream and is catch and release, fly fishing only. This is a great spot for anglers looking for a challenge. 

The Davidson River is open to trout fishing year round, and it also is a popular spot for canoers, kayakers, and tubers. For the angler looking for a wide variety of water, fishing, and other recreational activities, this river is a great choice!

4. Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail

For the avid fly fishermen, there is no better fishing than the first fly fishing trail in the United States. The Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail in Jackson County is a giant network of over fifteen trout streams connected to the Tuckaseigee River.

This giant trail has more than 4,600 miles of streams that are full of wild and stocked rainbow, brown, and brook trout. With over 31 public access points, this trail is easy for fly fishermen of any skill level to experience.

The trail contains waterways of varying shapes and sizes, so there is plenty of diversity and situations to accommodate whatever an angler is looking for. For an avid fly fisherman, this truly is a trout fishing paradise.

5. North Toe River

The Toe River is a popular trout stream located high in the mountains that is famous for its wild trout populations. Because of this, it is not frequently fished by many and is a great spot to avoid the crowds.

While the wild rainbow trouts caught in the Toe River are usually relatively small, big brown trout have been caught over 20 inches long. All of these fish are wild-born fish, as the state does not stock this stream anymore because of the remote area and great fish populations.

Another great thing about the Toe River is that it can be fished year round, but spring seems to be the best time to fish here due to the hatches of aquatic insects.

6. Wilson Creek

Wilson Creek is a small trout stream that is located on the beautiful Pisgah National Forest. This creek has crystal clear water and is filled to the brim with big rainbow, brown, and brook trout that are available in most areas of the creek.

Many anglers enjoy fishing in Wilson Creek because of the variety of fishing locations it provides. There are pools, alternating riffles, and long runs that give fishermen plenty of different conditions to fish in. 

There are plenty of hiking trails around the creek that gives you access to the water, and fish are usually stocked into the larger pools that are found just off of roadway access points. If you can fish here during an insect hatch, you are in for some excellent fly fishing!

7. Mitchell River

If you are looking for a picture-perfect and pristine location to find trout, look no further than the Mitchell River. Found in Surry County and the mountains found within, this river is home to plenty of big rainbows and brown trout. 

This river is so perfect, that it has been featured in many movies and tv shows. The famous Mitchell River House, found along the banks of the river, was the backdrop for the Hollywood movie “The Longest Ride”. 

The Mitchell River is best fished in the late spring and early fall due to its delayed insect hatches. There are plenty of great access points, many easy to get to right outside of major towns and cities like Greensboro and Charlotte. 

8. South Mills River

Found on the Pisgah National Forest in Transylvania County, the South Mills River is best known for its wild populations of rainbow and brown trout. It is a very remote and wild river, but not too far from towns like Asheville and Hendersonville. 

This is a wild trout fishery, so it has its own catch and release rules and limitations on the lures that you can use. It does have many deep pools, however, that can hold some giant sized trout. 

The spring is the best time to fish on the South Mills River, as the wild trout are very hungry after the winter. The fall can also produce some large brown trout if you work hard and get into the more remote areas of the river. 

9. Nantahala River

Found in western North Carolina, the Nantahala River is a very popular trout fishing location, especially in the lower regions. It is home to excellent populations of both rainbow and brown trout, drawing in crowds from all over the state. 

The Nantahala River has many different sections, and you can either wade through the sections or book a float trip to cover them all. There are many different insect hatches on the river, so lure selection will be important!

If you are looking for some of the best trout populations in the state, then the Nantahala River is a good bet. The lower sections have the most public access, as well as most of the fish!

10. Oconaluftee River

The Oconaluftee River is found on the Cherokee Indian Reservation and is one of the best trout fishing locations in the state of North Carolina. It is located in the Smoky Mountains, and there is plenty of rainbow and brown trout to be found.

On this river, there are more than 30 miles of crystal clear streams that are perfect for wading and fly fishing. It is also one of the longest private fisheries in the entire country. 

The melting snow in high elevations creates perfect trout habitat, giving anglers some of the best trout fishing combined with beautiful scenery anywhere to be found.

When Does Trout Season Start in North Carolina

Most trout water in the state of North Carolina is open to trout fishing year round. Some waters do have special regulations, but in general, most places offer a great year round opportunity to catch fish.

To fish in North Carolina, you will need either a resident or nonresident fishing license. These are relatively inexpensive and can be bought online, in person at a wildlife commission office, or at any number of approved dealers across the state. 

It is very important to thoroughly read and study the rules and regulations before fishing anywhere, including in North Carolina. For more up to date information on fishing regulations, check out North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission’s website at

Where to Buy a Fishing License in North Carolina

The easiest way to purchase a fishing license in order to fish North Carolina is to buy one online from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. This is the fastest and most efficient method. 

You can also purchase a fishing license in person at any Department of Environmental Quality office. There are five main offices around the state that you can visit. 

For more information on fishing licenses and how to purchase one, visit the NCDEQ website at to either purchase a license or find the nearest office to your location. 

How Much Is a Fishing License in Missouri

To fish for trout in Missouri, you must first purchase a trout permit. This will cost both residents and non-residents $7. After that, you can purchase your basic fishing license. 

  • Daily fishing permits also cost $7 for non-residents and residents.
  • Annual fishing permits only cost $12 for residents and $42 for non-residents. 
  • Lifetime licenses are available for both nonresidents and residents, depending on your age at the time of purchasing the license. 

To see how much a lifetime license would cost for you, or to see all of the available licenses and fees, visit the Missouri Department of Conservation’s website at

Final Thoughts

North Carolina is a beautiful state and is home to some of the most pristine, remote trout waters in the country. From its giant, slow rivers to tiny, crystal clear mountain streams, it has something for everybody. Any serious trout fisherman owes it themselves, if they can, to visit this great state and see it for themselves!

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