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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - RecGuide mobile

Marine Fisheries

recreational pier fishing

N.C. Recreational Coastal Waters Guide
for Sports Fishermen
— Mobile Device Edition —

View more pages on your mobile device here.

Current Version Effective: Oct. 13, 2016
(Website chart reflects the most recent changes to size and bag limits)

For inland fishing regulations, contact Wildlife Resources Commission 919-707-0220
or visit their website www.ncwildlife.org

Coastal Recreational Fishing License: Persons engaged in recreational fishing in North Carolina coastal waters are required to possess a Coastal Recreational Fishing License in accordance with G.S. 113-174.2

 State Coastal Waters
(Internal and 0-3 Miles)
Exclusive Economic Zone EEZ
(3-200 miles)
Finfish Species
(note symbols)
Minimum LengthBag Limits
(Per Person)
Minimum LengthBag Limits
(Per Person)
Alewife and
blueback herring
NoneUNLAWFUL TO POSSESSNoneUNLAWFUL TO POSSESS
Amberjack, greater
28" FL1/Day28" FL1/Day
(A)(A)UNLAWFUL TO POSSESS
Bluefish
None15/Day
Only 5 greater than 24" TL

None

15/Day
Cobia (M)
UNLAWFUL TO POSSESSUNLAWFUL TO POSSESS
Dolphin (B)
None10/DayNone10/Day
Drum, black
14"-25" TL (C)10/Day14"-25" TL (C)10/Day
Drum, red
(Channel bass,
puppy drum)
18-27" TL (C)1/DayUNLAWFUL TO POSSESS
Eel, American
9" TL25/Day9" TL25/Day
Flounder
Gulf, Southern, summer
15" TL6/Day15" TL 6/Day
Grouper (H, I, J, K)
UNLAWFUL TO POSSESS
SHALLOW WATER GROUPER
JAN. 1 THROUGH APRIL 30
(SEE NOTE J)
UNLAWFUL TO POSSESS
SHALLOW WATER GROUPER
JAN. 1 THROUGH APRIL 30
(SEE NOTE J)
Grouper;
Red, scamp, yellowfin, yellowmouth grouper and tilefish (no size limit on tilefish)
20" TL

3/Day (all grouper combined; includes 1 golden tilefish and no more than 1 black or gag grouper, individual or combined)
(J) & (K)

20" TL

3/Day (all grouper combined; includes 1 golden tilefish and no more than 1 black or gag grouper, individual or combined)
(J) & (K)

Grouper
black and gag
24" TL1/Day (See above)24" TL1/Day
(See above)
Grouper, snowy (K)
1/vessel/day (included in 3 grouper aggregate)
Harvest allowed May 1 through Aug. 31
1/vessel/day (included in 3 grouper aggregate)
Harvest allowed May 1 through Aug. 31
 
UNLAWFUL TO POSSESSUNLAWFUL TO POSSESS
Hogfish
(Hog snapper)(I)
12" FL5/Day12" FL5/Day
Mackerel, king (I)
24" FL3/Day24" FL3/Day
Mackerel, Spanish (I)
12" FL15/Day12" FL15/Day
Marlin, blue (G)
99" LJFL1/vessel/trip either Blue or White Marlin99" LJFL
State rules apply when landing
Marlin, white (G)
66" LJFL1/vessel/trip either Blue or White Marlin66" LJFL
Mullet
(Striped and white)
None200/Day
(species combined)
None 
Porgy, red
(Silver snapper, pinky)
14" TL3/Day14" TL3/Day
Sailfish (G)
63" LJFL1/Day63" LJFL 
Scup
(North of Cape Hatteras only)
8” TL50/Day9” TL50/Day
Seatrout, spotted (speckled)
14” TL4/Day14” TL4/Day
Sea bass, black
(North of Cape Hatteras) (D)
12.5" TL15/day12.5" TL
15/day
Sea bass, black
(South of Cape Hatteras)
13" TL7/Day

13" TL

7/Day
Shad, American (O)
None(O)UNLAWFUL TO POSSESS
Shad, hickory (O)
None(O)None10/Day
Sharks (E,I,L)
(excluding smoothhound sharks (smooth dogfish) and Spiny Dogfish)
(E, I, L)1/Vessel/Day(E, I, L)1/Vessel/Day
Sharks, Atlantic sharpnose, smooth dogfish and bonnethead (E)
None(E)None(E)
Sheepshead
10” FL10/DayState rules apply when landingState rules apply when landing
Snapper-Grouper Complex Species Includes spadefish, gray triggerfish, white grunt, knobbed porgy and more (see notes H and I)
N/A20/DayN/A20/Day
Snappers:
Gray, cubera, queen, yellowtail, silk and blackfin
12" TL10/Day
(Species combined)
12" TL10/Day
(Species combined)
Snapper, mutton
16" TLSee Above16" TLSee Above
Snapper, lane
8" TLSee Above8" TLSee Above
Snapper, red
UNLAWFUL TO POSSESSUNLAWFUL TO POSSESS
Snapper, vermilion
12" TL5/Day12" TL 5/Day
Tarpon
None1/DayNone1/Day
Tuna (I); bluefin(G), yellowfin and bigeye
Yellowfin 27" CFL
Bigeye 27" CFL
Bigeye and Yellowfin 3 per dayBigeye and Yellowfin tuna
27" CFL
Yellowfin Tuna
3 per day
Wahoo
None2/DayNone2/Day
Weakfish
(gray trout)
12" TL

1/Day

12" TLState rules apply when landing
Wreckfish (P)
None1/Vessel/DayNone
1/Vessel/Day
  STATE COASTAL WATERS
(Internal and 0-3 miles)
    EXCLUSIVE ECONOMIC ZONE-EEZ (3-200)
EEZ restrictions noted in italic are Federal Rules
SNAPPER GROUPER COMPLEX SPECIES
Includes spadefish, white grunt, knobbed porgy and more (see note H and I)
N/A 20/Day N/A 20/Day
Gray Triggerfish
(see note H and I)
12” FL 12” FL
Mullet, striped and white   200/Day (species combined)    
FINFISH SPECIES
(note symbols)
Minimum Length Bag Limits
(per person)
Minimum Length Bag Limits
(per person)

Prohibited Finfish Species

Coastal Waters
(Internal waters and Atlantic Ocean out to 3 miles
Federal Waters / EEZ
(Atlantic Ocean more than 3 miles)
Sharks; (whale, basking, white, sand tiger, bigeye sand tiger, Atlantic angel shark, bigeye sixgill, bigeye thresher, bignose, Caribbean reef, Caribbean sharpnose, dusky, Galapogos, longfin mako, narrowtooth, night, sandbar, silky, sevengill, sixgill, and smalltail), sturgeon, Nassau grouper, goliath grouper (jewfish), warsaw grouper, speckled hind and red snapper.
Sharks; (whale, basking, white, sand tiger, bigeye sand tiger, Atlantic angel shark, bigeye sixgill, bigeye thresher, bignose, Caribbean reef, Caribbean sharpnose, dusky, Galapogos, longfin mako, narrowtooth, night, sandbar, silky, sevengill, sixgill, and smalltail), red drum, striped bass, sturgeon, Nassau grouper, goliath grouper (jewfish), red snapper, speckled hind, warsaw grouper and longbill spearfish.
Shellfish and Crustaceans
State Coastal and EEZ Waters Internal and 0-200 miles. No recreational license needed.
Species
(note symbols)
Minimum Size Bag Limits (Per Person)
Bay Scallops
SEASON CLOSED — UNLAWFUL TO POSSESS
Blue Crab
5" Carapace Width (Minimum)50 crabs/day not to exceed 100 crabs/vessel/day
Conchs and WhelksNone10/day not to exceed 20/vessel/day
Hard Clam1" Thick100 clams/day not to exceed 200 clams/vessel/day
MusselsNone100/day not to exceed 200/vessel/day
Oyster (N)3" Shell Length1 bushel/day not to exceed 2 bushels/vessel/day
Shrimp
(Closed shrimping area)
None4 quarts (heads on) or 2 ½ quarts (heads off) of shrimp/day (Cast net only)
Shrimp
(Open shrimping area)
None48 qts. heads on, 30 qts. heads off (Per person or vessel per day except RCGL max. 2 limits/vessel)
Explanation of Symbols

(A) Albemarle Sound Management Area: contact DMF for seasons, areas or other limits; Atlantic Ocean year-round: 1 per person per day at 28” TL minimum;
Other coastal fishing waters; 2 per person per day at 18” TL minimum and unlawful to possess between 22” – 27” TL in Joint Fishing Waters. This Includes hybrid bass.
Season: October through April, statewide by Proclamation. Moratorium in Cape Fear River system.

(B) Limit of 10 per person per day or 60 per trip, whichever is less. On headboats, limit is 10 per person per day. No sale of recreational bag limit on vessels operating as charter or headboats.

(C) Unlawful to possess red drum greater than 27 inches total length. Unlawful to gig, spear, or gaff red drum. One black drum per person per day over 25” TL is allowed.

(D) Black sea bass NORTH of Cape Hatteras, open in TWO harvest seasons: 12:01 A.M. May 15 through midnight September 21, 2016 AND 12:01 A.M. October 22 through midnight December 31, 2016

(E) See prohibited species list above; Legal sharks include: tiger, blacktip, spinner, lemon, bull, nurse, smooth and scalloped and great hammerhead, blacknose, finetooth, bonnethead, shortfin mako, blue, thresher, porbeagle, and oceanic whitetip. One (1) Atlantic sharpnose (no minimum size) and one bonnethead (no minimum size) per person per day may be landed in addition to allowable bag limits for other sharks. See most recent Proclamation.

(F) Mature female crabs are exempt from minimum size limit.  It is illegal to possess immature female crabs at any time and it is illegal to possess dark sponge crabs from April 1-April 30.

(G) In state or federal waters, federal permit required for Highly Migratory Species, excluding Atlantic bonito, little tunny (albacore), and blackfin tuna: 978-281-9370. Prior to removal from vessel, all billfishes, swordfish and bluefin tuna must be reported at NC HMS reporting stations.

(H) SNAPPER-GROUPER COMPLEX SPECIES:
Whitebone porgy, jolthead porgy, knobbed porgy, saucereye porgy, scup (south of Hatteras only), gray triggerfish, bar jack, white grunt, margate, sailor’s choice and spadefish. 20 per person per day in combination when the species are open to harvest. (see note I below). It is unlawful to possess whitebone porgy, jolthead porgy, knobbed porgy, saucereye porgy and scup (south of Hatteras only) effective September 3, 2016 through midnight December 31, 2016. It is unlawful to possess almcaco jack, lesser amberjack and banded rudderfish effective August 9, 2016 through midnight December 31, 2016.

(I) For seasons, bag limits, size limits or closures for tunas, billfishes and sharks, contact NMFS Highly Migratory Species Division 800-894-5528. For snapper, grouper and mackerels, contact the South Atlantic Council 843-571-4366 or www.safmc.net, and see the most recent FF-Snapper Grouper recreational proclamation. Possession of red snapper is prohibited.

(J) Shallow water grouper species (gag, black, red, scamp, rock hind, red hind, coney, graysby, yellowfin, and yellowmouth grouper ) harvest is prohibited January 1–April 30. Possession of red snapper is prohibited.

(K) Grouper in the management unit include: snowy, red, yellowfin, yellowmouth, black, yellowedge, misty, gag, scamp, red hind, rock hind, graysby, and coney. The three (3) grouper bag limit also includes blueline, golden and sand tilefish. Maximum of one golden tilefish per person per day and one snowy grouper per vessel per day (when season is open). Unlawful to possess golden tilefish effective 12:01 A.M. August 27, 2016 through midnight December 31, 2016. New regulations establish a May 1 through August 31 season for snowy grouper and blueline tilefish. No possession of Nassau, goliath and warsaw groupers and speckled hind.

(L) It is unlawful to possess blacknose, finetooth, blacktip, bull, lemon, nurse, spinner, tiger, blue, oceanic whitetip, porbeagle, shortfin mako and common thresher less than 54 inches (FL). It is unlawful to possess great, scalloped and smooth hammerhead sharks less than 78 inches (FL). It is unlawful to possess a great, scalloped or smooth hammerhead or oceanic whitetip shark while in possession of tunas, billfish or swordfish.

(M) Cobia, minimum 37 inches FL, private boat harvest allowed Mon/Wed/Sat of two fish per vessel or one per person per day if only one person is on board. Charter vessel harvest allowed 7 days/week, 4 fish per vessel per day or one fish per person per day if fewer than four people are on board.  Shore and pier anglers allowed 1 fish per person per day. See Proclamation FF-28-2016, season closes September 30, 2016.

(N) Contact DMF or visit www.ncmarinefisheries.net for seasons, areas, or other restrictions. Oyster season opens October 15-March 31 unless closed earlier by proclamation.

(O) It is unlawful to take or possess American Shad from the Atlantic Ocean. For aggregate creel limits for American shad and hickory shad, see most recent Proclamation.

(P) Season open July 1 – August 31.

(Q) Season open January 1 - August 31, except year round when taken by baited pots.

(R) Season open January 1 – October 15.

Size and creel limits for spotted seatrout, flounder, red drum and gray trout taken in inland waters are the same as the recreational limits for those species in adjacent joint and coastal waters.

Total length (TL) is measured from tip of snout with mouth closed to top of compressed tail. Fork length (FL) is measured from tip of snout to middle of fork in tail. Lower jaw fork length (LJFL) is measured from lower jaw to middle of fork in tail. Curved fork length (CFL) is the measurement of the length taken in a line tracing the contour of the body from the tip of the upper jaw to the fork of the tail.

Anglers cannot catch both a federal and state bag limit for the same species on the same trip.

Ocean boundary is defined as water seaward of the COLREGS Demarcation Lines as indicated on National Ocean Service navigation charts

No one may possess aboard a vessel or while engaged in fishing any fish subject to limits without head and tail attached, except for alewife and blueback herring used for bait provided not more than two fish per boat/operation may be cut at any one time – Reference 15A NCAC 3M .0101

IMPORTANT Check with Division of Marine Fisheries for most current minimum lengths and catch limits.
252-726-7021 or 800-682-2632.

For inland water limits contact Wildlife Resources Commission at 919-707-0220 or visit their website:
www.ncwildlife.org

This document is a public record under chapter 132 of the North Carolina General Statutes. Anyone who alters, defaces, mutilates or destroys it shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction subject to fines.

Please NOTE! If you bookmark this page or place it in your "favorites" list, and then return later you may NOT be seeing the latest version of this page. Click the "Refresh" or "Reload" button on your browser to be certain that you are reading the latest version.

THIS DOCUMENT IS EFFECTIVE OCT. 13, 2016 AND IS FOR GENERAL INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES AND HAS NO LEGAL FORCE OR EFFECT. FISHERY RULES ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE. THESE RESTRICTIONS APPLY TO FISH TAKEN FOR RECREATIONAL PURPOSES AND INCLUDE HOOK AND LINE. Updated State regulations can be found at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/recreational-fishing-size-and-bag-limits and updated Recreational Commercial Gear License information can be found at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/recreational-commercial-gear-license

(Updated 10/13/16)

Morehead City Office
(24 hours)
800-682-2632 or
252-726-7021
Elizabeth City Office
800-338-7805 or
252- 264-3911
Manteo Office
252- 473-5734
Pamlico Field Office
800-338-7804 or
252-946-6481
Wilmington Office
800-248-4536 or
910-796-7215
NMFS
(Fed. Reg.)
301-427-8505
N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries • 3441 Arendell Street • Morehead City, NC 28557 • 252-726-7021 or 800-682-2632

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