Where else in a single river can anglers during the summer land spotted sea trout, flounder, puppy drum, "old" red drum, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, gray trout and, yes, tarpon.
Now and during June all those species of saltwater fish will be available in basically a brackish-water river and sound (151,000 surface acres, including the river and its feeder creeks).
"Our seatrout fishing has been dynamite already," said Oriental guide Gary Dubiel (252-514-3484, Spec Fever Guide Service, www.specfever.com). "We're catching specks everywhere, and it's been no problem putting a couple limits of keeper fish in the boat and releasing many more. May and June are two of the best trout months."
Dubiel said he's routinely having 30-trout days with anglers landing specks by using soft-plastic and scented grubs on leadhead jigs and underneath popping corks. Early morning produces topwater bites and sub-surface hard lures also work well.
"Redfishing is also good, and we've had several nice days over the last few weeks with fish to 30 inches," he said. "We're also starting to see flounder show up in many of those same spots we're catching specks and reds and we're still catching stripers closer to New Bern."
What makes the Neuse River so unusual, actually, is the presence of striped bass all year long. Normally in North Carolina and other eastern seaboard states, rockfish migrate each spring up rivers to spawn, then head back to the ocean to spend the rest of the year. But for some reason, they really like the Neuse River near New Bern and never leave.
"We'll be slammed with stripers around New Bern, especially near the bridges in town," Dubiel said. "That's going to continue through June."
It's apparently a resident population of rockfish that never leaves the area.
Flounder will be active and hit leadhead jigs with scented baits and also some scented soft plastics on popping corks.
"Puppy drum wil hit the same lures," Dubiel said.
Bluefish, gray trout and Spanish mackerel will be on deepwater structures, such as the artificial reef just outside Oriental's harbor.
Scented soft plastics with leadhead jigs, small spoons or speck rigs will land all three species.
"The first tarpon should show up around July 1 and we'll see lots by the end of the month," Dubiel said. "Old (large) drum will appear at the end of July, too."