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N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - Weakfish - stock status report

Marine Fisheries

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Weakfish Gray Trout

Weakfish (Gray Trout)

Stock Status – Depleted – The most recent stock assessment for weakfish was completed in 2009 and indicates that weakfish are in an extremely depleted state. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) Weakfish Management Board has accepted five conclusions with regard to the weakfish stock report for management purposes: 1) the stock is declining; 2) total mortality is increasing; 3) there is little evidence of overfishing; 4) something other than fishing mortality is causing the decline in the stock; and 5) there is a strong chance that regulating will not, in itself, reverse the decline. Commercial and recreational landings along the Atlantic coast have plummeted in recent years and are currently at the lowest level on record.

Average Commercial Landings and Value 2001– 2010 – 672,315 lbs./$434,461

2010 Commercial Landings and Value – 106,319 lbs./$105,282

Average Recreational Landings 2001– 2010 – 139,104 lbs., 2010 – 49,284 lbs.

Average Number of Citations (5 lbs./24 inches^) 2001– 2010 – 16, 2010 – 1

Status of Fisheries Management Plan (FMP) – In North Carolina weakfish are included in the Interjurisdictional FMP, which defers to ASMFC FMP compliance requirements. Weakfish are currently managed under Addendum IV to Amendment 4 to the ASMFC FMP, adopted in November, 2009. Due to the depleted stock size, Addendum IV requires management measures aimed at aiding in any recovery of the weakfish stock. Addendum IV recognizes that natural mortality, rather than fishing mortality, appears to be the primary culprit in the current stock decline. As a result, the ASMFC Weakfish Management Board has implemented strict coastwide harvest limits that are intended to limit fishing pressure to aid in the recovery should conditions governing the high natural mortality subside.

Research and Data Needs – Studies to further understand the current influences in the stock decline. Stock identification studies are needed to determine coastal movements and the extent of stock mixing. Studies to define spawning locations and habitat preferences are also needed.

Current Regulations –Commercial: 12 inches total length (TL) minimum size limit with a seasonal, 10 inches TL for estuarine pound net and long haul seine fishermen; all commercial harvest is as bycatch only; weakfish weight can't exceed 10% of the total weight of all finfish landed up to a maximum of 1,000 pounds of weakfish per day or trip whichever is longer; Recreational: 12 inches TL minimum size limit/1– fish bag limit.

Harvest Season – Year round

Size and Age at Maturity – 7– 8 inches TL/1 year

Historical and Current Maximum Age – 17 years/12 years

Juvenile Abundance Index 2001– 2010 – 37.2, 2010 – 32.5 (not validated)

Habits and Habitats – Weakfish are estuarine– dependent members of the drum family that include Atlantic croaker, spot, red drum, black drum and spotted seatrout. Weakfish migrate south and offshore during winter months and inshore and north during spring and summer. Weakfish spawn throughout the spring and summer and the larvae and juveniles are dependent on estuarine habitat as critical nursery areas. During winter, young– of– the– year move offshore into nearshore ocean waters to overwinter. Following their first winter, the one– year– old fish move into the inlets and sounds to spawn for the first time.

^Citation weight requirement reduced from 6 lbs. to 5 lbs. and 24 inch release category added in 2008

For more information, contact Lee Paramore at Lee.Paramore@ncdenr.gov or (252) 473-5734.
 

N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries • 3441 Arendell Street • Morehead City, NC 28557 • (252) 726-7021 or 1-800-682-2632

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