skip to main content | skip to footer
North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

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

Marine Fisheries

SHELLFISH and CRUSTACEANS

STATE COASTAL AND EEZ WATERS
(Internal and 0-200 miles)

Minimum Size

Bag Limits (per person)

BLUE CRAB (F)

5” Carapace Width

50 Crabs/Day not to exceed 100 Crabs/Vessel/Day

STONE CRAB CLAWS (J)

2 ¾ Propodus Length

UNLAWFUL TO POSSESS from June 15 – August 15
(no possession limit during open season) 

HARD CLAM

1” Thick

100 Clams/Day not to exceed 200 Clams/Vessel/Day

OYSTER (I)

3” Shell Length

1 Bushel Oysters/Day not to exceed 2 Bushels Oysters/Vessel/Day

BAY SCALLOP

SEASON CLOSED – UNLAWFUL TO POSSESS

CONCHS and WHELKS

None

10/Day not to exceed 20/Vessel/Day

MUSSELS

None

100/Day not to exceed 200/Vessel/Day

SHRIMP

Closed Shrimping Area

None

4 quarts (heads on) or 2 ½ quarts (heads off) of shrimp per person per day (Cast Net Only)

Open Shrimping Area

None

48 quarts (heads on) or 30 quarts (heads off) of shrimp per person per day or if vessel is used, per vessel per day (RCGL max. limit of 2/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 except 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” TL. Unlawful to gig, spear, or gaff red drum. One black drum per person per day over 25” TL is allowed.

(D) For aggregate creel limits for American shad and hickory shad, see the most recent DMF proclamation. Unlawful to take or possess American shad from the Atlantic Ocean.

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

(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, tunas, billfishes, swordfish and sharks (excluding Atlantic bonito, little tunny (false albacore), and blackfin tuna): https://hmspermits.noaa.gov/ 978-281-9370.

(G, continued:) Prior to removal from vessel, all billfishes, swordfish and bluefin tuna must be reported at NC HMS reporting stations. DMF website for more details. For seasons, bag limits, size limits or closures for tunas, billfishes, and sharks contact NMFS Highly Migratory Species Division 800-894-5528.

(H) For seasons, bag limits and size limits on snapper, grouper, and mackerels contact the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council 843-571-4366 or www.safmc.net, and see the most recent Snapper Grouper recreational DMF proclamation.

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

(J) Propodus (forearm) length is measured by a straight line from elbow to the tip of the lower immoveable finger. The propodus (forearm) is defined as the largest section of the claw assembly that has both a moveable and immovable finger and is located farthest from the body of the crab. Unlawful to possess stone crab bodies or fail to immediately return to the waters from which taken. Unlawful to use a device to take stone crabs that can puncture, crush, or injure the crab body, such as gigs, spears, grabs, hooks, or similar devices. Unlawful to remove, take or possess stone crab claws from June 15 through August 15 (no possession limit during open season).

triangle so pretty  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. (Diagram)

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 mullet when used for bait and hickory shad when 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.

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.

THIS DOCUMENT IS EFFECTIVE MARCH 1, 2018 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

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

STATE AND FEDERAL REGULATIONS CAN ALSO BE FOUND AT www.FishRulesApp.com

(Updated 03/05/18)

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

Pages: 1  2  

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

NC logo

38337 FEEDBACK

Your input is valuable to us. Please send us your feedback.

What type of feedback would you like to send?*

Ask a Question Report a Problem Have a Concern Make a Comment

(If you would like us to respond please include your phone or e-mail.)

Your Question has been sent. Thank you!

An internal server error prevented Your Question from being sent.
Please try again later, or call Toll-Free (877) 623-6748 for immediate assistance.

Please complete all highlighted items

Your Problem has been sent. Thank you!

An internal server error prevented Your Question from being sent.
Please try again later, or call Toll-Free (877) 623-6748 for immediate assistance.

Please complete all highlighted items

Your Concern has been sent. Thank you!

An internal server error prevented Your Question from being sent.
Please try again later, or call Toll-Free (877) 623-6748 for immediate assistance.

Please complete all highlighted items

Your Comment has been sent. Thank you!

An internal server error prevented Your Question from being sent.
Please try again later, or call Toll-Free (877) 623-6748 for immediate assistance.

Please complete all highlighted items

*If you are a DENR employee with an I.T. issue, please submit a DOTS ticket.