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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

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Marine Fisheries - 31 Spotted Seatrout SSR 2014

Marine Fisheries

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Spotted Seatrout - 2014

Stock Status – Depleted – The 2009 North Carolina Spotted Seatrout Stock Assessment indicated that the stock in North Carolina and Virginia has been overfished and that overfishing has been occurring throughout the entire 18-year assessment time series. Much of the overfishing has been in recent years when recreational fishing effort and discard numbers have increased. Recent spawning potential ratio’s (SPR) are below the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s (ASMFC) recommended criteria of 20%. It should be noted that cold stun events appear to have a large influence on spotted seatrout population dynamics with winter cold shock cited as a primary factor in local and coastwide periodic declines in spotted seatrout. The consecutive cold stun events of 2010 and 2011 likely had a negative impact on the spawning stock biomass of North Carolina’s spotted seatrout population. A new stock assessment is underway and should be peer reviewed by the beginning of 2015.

Average Commercial Landings and Value 2004-2013 – 248,107 lbs./$411,176

2013 Commercial Landings and Value – 367,412 lbs./$817,601

Average Recreational Landings 2004-2013 – 698,618 lbs., 2013 – 652,102 lbs.

Average Number of Award Citations (5 lbs./24 inches^) 2004-2013 – 373, 2013 – 162 (13% of the 2013 citations were released)

Status of Fishery Management Plan (FMP) – The state Spotted Seatrout FMP is the first fishery management plan developed for spotted seatrout in North Carolina. However, spotted seatrout have been managed along the Atlantic Coast through an Interjurisdictional FMP developed by the ASMFC. The ASMFC Spotted Seatrout FMP was initially approved in 1984, and has been reviewed annually since 2001. Amendment 1, approved by the ASMFC Policy Board on November 1991, developed a list of goals for coastwide management but allowed each state that had an interest in the spotted seatrout fishery (Florida through Maryland) to manage their stocks independently. North Carolina followed the recommendation of the ASMFC Spotted Seatrout FMP Amendment 1 to maintain a spawning potential ratio (SPR) of at least 20%. North Carolina’s spotted seatrout stock is considered to be overfished when the stock falls below a threshold of 20% SPR and overfishing is considered to be occurring if fishing mortality rates rise above a threshold associated with the 20% SPR. North Carolina’s management strategy is to reduce fishing mortality to maintain a 20% SPR which will increase the likelihood of sustainability through an expanded age structure and an increase in the spawning stock biomass.

Research and Data Needs – Develop a validated index of juvenile abundance; tagging studies to verify estimates of natural and fishing mortality; size specific fecundity rates; fishery independent data; cold stun research; incorporate cold stun event information into modeling of the population.

2013 Regulations – It was unlawful for a commercial fishing operation to possess spotted seatrout less than 14 inches total length or to posses more than 75 spotted seatrout per day. It was unlawful to possess more than four spotted seatrout per person per day taken commercially by hook and line in joint and coastal fishing waters of the state. It was unlawful for a commercial fishing operation to set gill nets in the joint fishing waters of the state as well as possess or sell spotted seatrout for commercial purposes from midnight on Friday to midnight on Sunday each week; the joint fishing waters of the Albemarle and Currituck Sounds were exempt from this restriction.

It was unlawful for recreational fishermen to possess spotted seatrout less than 14 inches total length, and unlawful to possess more than four spotted seatrout caught by hook and line or for recreational purposes.

Harvest Season – Year round. Peak catches occur in the fall, although May and June are also productive months.

Size and Age at Maturity – 7 to 9 inches fork length (FL)/less than 1 year
Males mature at a younger age, smaller size, and earlier in the season, than females.

Historical and Current Maximum Age – 12 years/9 years

Juvenile Abundance Index – Not available

Habits and Habitats – Estuarine dependent member of the Sciaenidae family that includes kingfish, spot, croaker, red drum, black drum, and weakfish. Peak catches occur in the fall, although May and June are also productive months. North Carolina spotted seatrout have a protracted spawning season which extends from late April through early October. Juveniles are dependent on estuarine seagrass habitat as critical nursery areas. Catastrophic mortalities of spotted seatrout have been attributed to cold shock, hurricanes, excessive fresh water and red tide conditions.

^Citation weight requirement increased from 4 lbs. to 5 lbs. and added 24 inch release category effective 2008

For information, contact Michael Loeffler at Michael.Loeffler@ncdenr.gov or 800-338-7805 or 252-264-3911.

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

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