Sarah Gagliardo

Releases – November 17, 2016

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It’s a time-honored tradition on the coast: Thanksgiving dinner with oyster dressing. State environmental officials are encouraging those who partake in this seasonal ritual to take some common sense precautions when buying, storing, and preparing oysters to prevent illnesses caused by environmental bacteria. The same is true for clams.

Vibrio vulnificus and Vibrio parahaemolyticus are common, naturally occurring bacteria found in coastal waters worldwide and are most abundant when water temperatures are warm. In rare instances, these bacteria can cause serious gastrointestinal illnesses or wound infections.

During the past several years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported an increase in Vibrio infections across the United States. People with compromised immune systems are most at risk, particularly for the more serious illnesses caused by Vibrio vulnificus. However, everyone is susceptible to less severe illness caused by pathogenic strains of Vibrio parahaemolyticus.

Before they indulge, consumers should remember these tips from the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries’ Shellfish Sanitation and Recreational Water Quality Section:

(1) Thorough cooking destroys these naturally occurring Vibrio bacteria. Those with the following conditions are at higher risk for illness from raw or undercooked oysters and clams and are advised to fully cook all shellfish: Liver disease (from hepatitis, cirrhosis, alcoholism or cancer); Diabetes; Iron overload disease (Hemochromatosis); Cancer (including lymphoma, leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease); Stomach disorders; and any illness or treatment that weakens the immune system. If you are unsure of your risk, ask your doctor.

(2) Only purchase oysters and clams from reputable dealers, retailers, grocers, markets, or restaurants. It is illegal for shellfish harvesters to sell directly to the public without a dealer license and certified facility. These facilities are regulated to ensure sanitation and temperature control is maintained on the shellfish.

(3) By law, a shellfish tag must be removed by the vendor at the last point of sale. However, you may ask to see the tag to ensure you are receiving a fresh product. For the best quality, shellfish should be consumed within 10 days of harvest. If properly refrigerated, they are still safe to eat for longer, but the quality will start to diminish.

(4) Keep oysters and clams refrigerated at 45 degrees Fahrenheit or below until you are ready to prepare them. The Vibrio bacteria commonly found in shellfish can multiply rapidly if left exposed to air temperatures above 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

(5) Thoroughly wash shellfish prior to cooking. Remove all mud and dirt from the shell using water and a stiff brush. Many dealers will wash oysters for a nominal fee when you purchase them. The mud and dirt may contain Vibrio bacteria, so it is important to clean the shellfish prior to serving or cooking.

(6) Prior to cooking or raw consumption, discard any dead shellfish. Dead shellfish will have slightly gaping shells that will not close when tapped.

For those who harvest

Harvest of oysters by hand methods from public bottom opened at sunrise on October 15.

Those who hold proper commercial fishing licenses may harvest oysters from sunrise to sunset Monday through Friday each week. Commercial hand harvest limits are different for some waters, and fishermen should see Proclamation SF-5-2016 for specific hand harvest regulations.

Recreational hand harvest is allowed sunrise to sunset seven days a week. The harvest limit is one bushel of oysters per person per day or two bushels per vessel per day if more than one person is on a boat. No license is required for recreational harvest, but the oysters may not be sold.

The minimum size limit is 3-inches shell length.

Some waters may temporarily close to shellfish harvesting due to high bacteria levels associated with rainfall and storm water runoff. Fishermen should check here for shellfish closures. Fishermen should continue to frequently check for shellfish closures throughout the year, particularly after heavy rains. They may also call the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries at (252) 726-7021 or (800) 682-2632 to check for closures.

The season opened Nov. 14 for mechanical harvest of oysters. Those who hold the proper commercial fishing licenses should see Proclamation SF-06-2016 for more information. Mechanical harvest of oysters is not allowed without a commercial fishing license.

For more information about shellfish safety, contact Shannon Jenkins, the division’s Shellfish Sanitation and Recreational Water Quality section chief, at (252) 808-8148 or Shannon.Jenkins@ncdenr.gov.

For more information about this year’s oyster season, contact Tina Moore, with the division, at (252) 808-8082 or Tina.Moore@ncdenr.gov.


The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries has certified a new state record cubera snapper and the first state record rainbow runner.

Randal Harmon, of Morehead City, caught the cubera snapper on Sept. 28 while fishing off Atlantic Beach on the Capt. Stacy head boat.

The fish weighed 58 pounds, topping the previous state record by 11 pounds, 8 ounces. The previous state record was caught in the Atlantic Ocean in 1993. The world record cubera snapper weighed 124 pounds, 12 ounces, and was caught off of Louisiana in 2007.

The fish measured 39 inches total length (tip of the nose to the tip of the tail) and had a 34-inch girth. Harmon caught it using cut mackerel on 80-pound test line with a Seastriker 50-pound class rod and Penn 6/0 reel.

Bruce Vosburgh, of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, caught the rainbow runner on Sept. 12 while fishing at the Manuela wreck on the charter boat Drumstick out of Ocracoke.

This fish weighed 23 pounds, 13 ounces, and was deemed large enough to establish the first state record rainbow runner.

To establish a state record fish, the angler must submit an application that is then reviewed by N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries staff and a N.C. Saltwater Fishing Tournament Advisory Board. The fish must be exceptionally large for North Carolina waters and within a reasonable range of the world record.

The world record rainbow runner weighed 37 pounds, 9 ounces, and was caught off of the west coast of Mexico in 1991.

The new record fish measured 46 inches fork length (tip of the nose to the fork in the tail) and had a 20.5-inch girth. Vosburgh caught the fish using a Williamson Benthos 7-ounce single hook butterfly jig on 80-pound braided test line with a Seastriker Billfisher spin rod and a Penn Spinfisher V 7500 reel.

For more information, contact Carole Willis, with the North Carolina Saltwater Fishing Tournament, at (252) 808-8081 or Carole.Y.Willis@ncdenr.gov.


The International Women’s Fishing Association’s 21st annual Light Tackle Tournament was held on October 16–19, 2016, out of the Islamorada Fishing Club in the Florida Keys. Twenty-two anglers competed in the tournament.

First place was won by Connie O’Day of Pearland, Texas. Barbara Moore, of Oriental, North Carolina, took second place. And the top fly angler was Jing Torn of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Eligible species for the tournament were bonefish, redfish, tarpon, snook, permit, ladyfish, jack crevalle, and speckled trout.

For more information about the International Women’s Fishing Association, you can go to the website at www.iwfa.org or find them on Facebook.


The Elizabeth City office of the Divisions of Coastal Management and Marine Fisheries is closing for facility repairs and will remain closed for an undetermined amount of time.

Members of the public seeking a CAMA permit or fishing license may go to the Department of Environmental Quality’s Washington Regional Office at 943 Washington Square Mall in Washington, or call (252) 946-6481.

Those seeking a fishing license also may go to the Division of Marine Fisheries’ Manteo Field Office, 1021 Driftwood Drive, Manteo, or call (252) 473-5734.

Additionally, Coastal Recreational Fishing Licenses may be purchased at many sporting goods and bait and tackle shops; online at http://www.ncwildlife.org; or by phone, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., at (888) 248-6834.

Coastal Management and Marine Fisheries staff may be reached through the Washington Office at (252) 946-6481 or by email.