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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - nr-90-2018 Sheepshead

Marine Fisheries

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Release: Immediate
Contact: Patricia Smith
Date: Oct. 30, 2018
Phone: 252-726-7021

State urges fishermen to learn the difference
between black drum and sheepshead

8-point rule

 

 

MOREHEAD CITY — The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries is asking fishermen to make sure they know how to distinguish between black drum and sheepshead before keeping one of the fish.

Confusing these two fish is problematic because of there is a 4-inch difference in the minimum size limit.

The legal-size limit for black drum is a minimum of 14 inches and a maximum of 25 inches total length (except one fish per day may be over 25 inches). Total length is measured along the midline from the tip of the compressed tail to the tip of the snout.

The minimum size limit for sheepshead is 10 inches fork length. Fork length is measured from the fork in the tail to the tip of the snout.

The bag limit is 10 fish for both species.

Fishermen who get these species mixed up may face up to $255 in fines and court costs. To avoid this, fishermen need to learn to tell the difference between the two fish.

While both fish have vertical black stripes, there are easily identifiable differences. On a sheepshead, the first and second dorsal fin (upper-most fins) is fully connected; on a black drum, the first dorsal fin is distinct from the second dorsal fin. Sheepshead have prominent, human-like, front teeth, while the black drum teeth are not as prominent and are located in the back of the throat. Also, black drum have chin barbels (whisker-like filament), and sheepshead do not.

A color graphic showing the difference can be downloaded here.

nr-90-2018

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

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