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N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - Recreational Fishing Size and Bag Limits

Marine Fisheries

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.
See up-to-date list of polluted areas / closures here.
Species
(note symbols)
Minimum Size Bag Limits
(Per Person) No shellfish license required for these quantities and less
Bay Scallops (N) None 1/2 bushel/day, not to exceed one bushel per vessel
Blue Crab (M)
Identification Help
Recreational crabbing: 
Read regulations and requirements.
Call 252-726-7021 for details.
5" Carapace Width (Minimum) 50 crabs/day not to exceed 100 crabs/vessel/day
Conchs and Whelks None 10/day not to exceed 20/vessel/day
Hard Clam 1" Thick 100 clams/day not to exceed 200 clams/vessel/day
Mussels None 100/day not to exceed 200/vessel/day
Oyster (N) 3" Shell Length 1 bushel/day not to exceed 2 bushels/vessel/day
Shrimp
(Closed shrimping area)
None Two (2) quarts of shrimp/day (Cast net only)
Recreational Use of Cast Nets
Shrimp
(Open shrimping area)
None 48 qts. heads on, 30 qts. heads off
(Per person or vessel 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: 2 per person per day at 28” TL minimum; Other coastal areas (excluding Inland Waters-regulations set by Wildlife Resources Commission), 2 per person per day at 18” TL minimum and unlawful to possess between 22” – 27” TL in Joint waters. Moratorium in Cape Fear River system. Season October through April, statewide by proclamation (except Cape Fear River). Includes hybrid bass.

(B) Limit of 10/person/day or 60/trip, whichever is less. On headboats, limit is 10/person/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) North of Cape Hatteras scup recreational season is July 6 through September 26.  In state coastal waters the minimum size is 8” TL and the bag limit is 50/day. In the EEZ, the minimum size limit is 10” TL and the bag limit is 30/day. 

For black sea bass NORTH of Cape Hatteras, the season is closed and final regulations are pending.

(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 Proclamation FF-10-2014

(F) Mature female crabs are exempt from minimum size. 

(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. DMF website for more details.

(H) Reef complex species: whitebone porgy, jolthead porgy, knobbed porgy, longspine porgy,  gray triggerfish, yellow jack, bar jack, almaco jack, lesser amberjack, banded rudderfish, white grunt, margates, spadefish and scup (south of Hatteras). 20 per person per day in combination.

(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 Proclamation FF-19-2014

(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 currently prohibited.

(K) Grouper in the management unit include:  red, yellowfin, yellowmouth, black, snowy, 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 one golden tilefish per person per day. No possession of Nassau, Goliath and warsaw grouper, and speckled hind. No possession of golden tilefish effective June 3, 2013 through 12:01 A.M. January 1, 2014.

(L) It is unlawful to possess 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) One crab pot may be used from private property or private pier, without a license – Reference 15A NCAC 3J .0302.

(N) Contact DMF or visit http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/proclamations for seasons, areas, or other restrictions.

(O) For aggregate creel limits for American shad and hickory shad, see Proclamation FF-15-2014.

(P) Season open July 1 – August 31.

(Q) Season open January 1-August 31

Size and creel limits for spotted seatrout, flounder, red drum and gray trout taken in joint and coastal waters are the same as the recreational limits for those species in adjacent inland waters.
Possession of spotted seatrout is currently prohibited by Proclamation FF-9-2014. The Fisheries Director intends to reopen the recreational fishery June 15, 2014.

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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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