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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - 07 Sheepshead SSR 2016

Marine Fisheries

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Sheepshead

Sheepshead — 2016

Stock Status Unknown – Sheepshead are a highly sought after recreational fish and captured in many commercial fisheries. Recreational landings increased by approximately 70,000 pounds (lbs.) compared to 2014. For recreationally caught sheepshead in 2015, the mean length was 14.2 inches and the average fish weighed 2.9 lbs. The commercial landings in 2015 were slightly above the ten-year average but lower than previous years. The average size fish caught commercially was 14.6 inches, and weighed 3.1 lbs.

Average Commercial Landings and Value 2006-2015 – 122,370 lbs./$93,177

2015 Commercial Landings and Value – 124,836 lbs./$139,333

Average Recreational Landings 2006-2015 – 323,116 lbs., 2015 – 217,148 lbs.

Average Number of Award Citations (8 lbs.) 2006-2015 – 125, 2015 – 186

Status of Fishery Management Plan (FMP) – No fishery management plan has been developed. Sheepshead were removed from the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s (SAFMC) Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan in 2012.

Research and Data Needs – Continue monitoring of recreational and commercial catches, collect aging structures, update maturity schedule and develop biological reference points, tagging study to determine migration patterns, juvenile and adult abundance indices, and stock assessment to determine sustainability.

2015 Regulations – In 2015, the Marine Fisheries Commission implemented a 10 inch (FL) minimum size limit for both recreational and commercial fisheries. A recreational bag limit of 10 fish per person per day or per trip (if trip occurs over more than one calendar day) was established. Commercial fishing operations were limited to 300 pounds per trip with two exceptions; gig and spear operations are limited to 10 fish per person per day or trip (if trip occurs over more than one calendar day), and pound net operations are exempt from the commercial trip restrictions.

Harvest Season – Open all year

Size and Age at Maturity – 10 inches FL/ 2 years – L-50
14 inches FL/ 3 years – L-100

Maximum Age –27 years (unpublished)

Juvenile Abundance Index – Not Available

Habits and Habitats – Sheepshead are found in coastal waters year-round in North Carolina waters based on recreational catches. Sheepshead are generally found from inshore brackish waters to offshore around rock and hard substrate. During the winter, adult sheepshead migrate to oceanic waters to spawn. Spawning occurs February through May. After the spawning season, sheepshead typically return to inshore waters.

For more information, contact Anne Markwith at Anne.Markwith@ncdenr.gov (800-248-4536 or 910-796-7292).

N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries • 3441 Arendell Street • Morehead City, NC 28557 • 252-726-7021 or 800-682-2632

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