North Carolina anglers looking to capitalize on a redfish’s compulsion for crawfish should look first to areas where the tasty crustaceans live. Although Louisiana may turn mudbugs out by the bushel, many Tarheel State rivers have their fair share. The Neuse, New, and Cape Fear rivers are the big three in this category where reds are also found. If guide Jason Dail of Silver Spoon Charters had to take his pick, it would be the latter.

“If I’m looking to do that style of fishing, I’m going to be in the Cape Fear,” Dail said. “To have the most success with those crawfish lures, you have to mirror what you see in Louisiana as far as the habitat. You’re looking for where the vegetation transitions; that’s the biggest thing. You move from spartina grass, which is completely saltwater dependent, to a needlerush or bulrush plant that grows in brackish water to hydrilla and lily pads that grow in freshwater. Those transitions indicate what baits will work in that area.  

“In the lower part of the river, you have oyster beds and deep holes. As you travel upriver, you get fewer and fewer oyster beds when you get into that lower salinity. That’s when you transition over to fishing bars and points. Then, when you get even further upriver, you switch over and start fishing stumps and cypress knees.” 

The middle Cape Fear, where these conditions exist, can be accessed by the Dram Tree Park boat launch off Castle Street above the US 17 Business bridge in Wilmington. From the south, the Snow’s Cut boating access gives anglers a put-in point off Annie Drive, just east of the US 421 bridge.