Sarah Gagliardo

Releases – April 13, 2017

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New size and bag limits will go into effect May 1 for the recreational cobia fishery in North Carolina waters.

The minimum size limit will increase to 36 inches fork length (measured from the tip of snout to the fork in the tail). The possession limit will decrease to one fish per-person per-day, with a maximum of four fish per-vessel per-day, if four or more people are on board a vessel.

The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission voted in February to tighten recreational cobia regulations after the federal government closed federal waters (ocean waters beyond 3 miles from shore) north of the Georgia-Florida line to recreational cobia harvest. The federal closure took effect on Jan. 24 and will remain for the rest of the year.

The federal action was taken to account for overages in the recreational annual catch limit and total annual catch limit of Atlantic migratory group cobia in 2016. For more information on the closure in federal waters, go to http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/fishery_bulletins/2017/004/index.html.

In addition to the regulatory changes, the commission asked anglers to report the length and weight of all cobia harvested in state waters on a catch card, which can be found at official North Carolina Citation Weigh Stations or online at www.ncrecfish.com/cobia. A list of participating weigh stations can be found at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/recreational-fishing-tournaments.

The recreational cobia season will close in state waters at 12:01 a.m. on Sept. 1.

For specific state regulations, see Proclamation FF-13-2017.

For more information on the cobia season in state waters or the 2017 Cobia Catch Reporting Program, contact Steve Poland, cobia staff lead with the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, at (252) 808-8159 or Steve.Poland@ncdenr.gov.


The American Sportfishing Association’s (ASA) Board of Directors voted in favor of supporting the NC Sound Economy initiative at their spring meeting in late March. The NC Sound Economy is a newly formed and growing coalition of recreational fishermen, business leaders, and concerned citizens that work together to urge state legislators to adopt fisheries management policies that both grow the fishery in North Carolina’s sounds and maximize its economic benefits.

Recreational fishing is an important component of the large and diverse fishing economy in North Carolina’s coastal areas, creating important travel, tourism, and manufacturing jobs. Unfortunately, the state’s management of fisheries resources has led to dramatic fish declines and a struggling fishing economy.

“ASA is proud to work with our members and partner organizations in North Carolina to focus on revamping the state’s fisheries management system in a way that will provide for better fisheries conservation and angler access,” said Scott Gudes, Vice President of Government Affairs at ASA. “Many of North Carolina’s coastal fisheries are depleted, harming both the recreational and commercial fishing industries. The NC Sound Economy is focused on improving the health of fisheries resources and, in turn, maximizing their economic benefits to the state.”

According to the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries’ data, only three out of thirteen North Carolina state-managed coastal finfish and shellfish stocks can currently be considered “viable.” The NC Sound Economy believes the legislature should reform fishery management laws to address this problem, make it the state’s top priority to grow the fishing economy in a sustainable way, and streamline regulatory decision-making using the best and latest scientific research.

“The struggles North Carolina’s fisheries are experiencing are not unique. They are not unsolvable, either. ASA looks forward to working as part of the NC Sound Economy Coalition to put in place a well-functioning fisheries management system that improves the health of the state’s fisheries resources and the economy it supports,” concluded Gudes.

ASA became an official sponsor of the NC Sound Economy on March 24, 2017.


Twelve lucky fishermen won $100 each in a recent N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries’ Multi-Species Tagging Program yearly drawing.

The tagging program randomly selected tag numbers from more than 930 fish tags that were turned in by fishermen in 2016. Three tag numbers were drawn from each of the four species that are tagged by the program.

The $100 winners who turned in tags from red drum were: Bryan Murphrey of Greenville, Jason Shannon of Wilmington, and Sam England of Weston, WV.

The $100 winners who turned in tags for striped bass were: Brian Brosenne of Goldsboro, Andy Kirkland of Hobgood, and Helen Browning of Wilmington.

The $100 winners who turned in tags for southern flounder were: Glenda Bright of Jacksonville, Michael Gooden of Morehead City, and William Whichard of Chocowinity.

The $100 winners who turned in tags for spotted seatrout were: Keith Bruno of Oriental, Milton Miller of Pink Hill, and Virginia Moser of Hillsborough.

The Multi-Species Tagging Program began in October 2014 and is funded by a Coastal Recreational Fishing License grant. Staff and volunteers place yellow or red tags on 15,000 fish each year.

Fishermen who catch the tagged fish and return the tags with required information to the division receive a letter and personalized certificate with information about the fish, as well as a reward. Those who return a yellow tag marked with “NCDMF” receive either $5, a tagging program hat, fish towel, or fish pin. Those who return a red tag marked with “NCDMF” and “$100 REWARD” receive a $100 monetary reward.

Fishermen must record the species, tag number, date, location captured, total length of the fish, fate of the fish (released or harvested), and the type of gear used to capture the fish. Yellow tags may be reported by phone, but red tags must be cut-off and returned to the division for the fisherman to receive the reward.

Information gathered from tag returns allows researchers to determine species migration patterns, mortality, population structure, and habitat use.

This year, the division added cobia to the Multi-Species Tagging Program. Fishermen returning cobia tags in 2017 will be eligible for the next $100 annual drawing.

Go to http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/tagged-fish to learn more about the Multi-Species Tagging Program, or contact Ami Staples at (252) 948-3913 or Ami.Staples@ncdenr.gov.


The Region 4 Strategic Habitat Area Advisory Committee to the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries will meet at 10:00 a.m. on April 21 at the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality’s Wilmington Regional Office, 127 Cardinal Drive Extension, Wilmington.

The committee will begin discussing the process of selecting strategic habitat areas in the southeastern coastal waters of the state.

Strategic habitat areas (also called strategic coastal habitats) are locations of individual fish habitats or systems of habitats that provide exceptional habitat functions or are particularly at risk due to imminent threats, vulnerability, or rarity. The N.C. Coastal Habitat Protection Plan calls for the state to identify strategic habitat areas so that agencies can focus non-regulatory conservation and restoration efforts on them.

For more information, contact Anne Deaton with the division’s Habitat and Enhancement Section at (910) 796-7311 or Anne.Deaton@ncdenr.gov.


Thom Teears has been named the 2017 North Carolina Sea Grant/North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries joint fellow. He will perform a stock assessment of sheepshead, in collaboration with DMF.

Found year-round in North Carolina’s coastal waters, sheepshead, Archosargus probatocephalus, are harvested by commercial and recreational fishermen. Despite their popularity, limited data on their abundance currently exist, prompting Teears’ study.

“Accurate assessment of data-limited species like sheepshead is vital for allowing fishing, while preventing overfishing of the natural fish stocks,” Teears explains. He will gain experience with techniques specific to these types of data-limited stock assessments, and how the results can be applied to marine fisheries management in North Carolina.

Teears recently earned his master’s degree from James Madison University in Virginia, under the advisement of Christine May. He hopes to apply skills in statistics acquired during his graduate studies to the fellowship.

He also holds a bachelor’s degree in biology with a marine emphasis from Western Washington University. Teears grew up in West Palm Beach, Florida, where he developed a love of the ocean and curiosity about marine life.

This fellowship, based in Morehead City, is patterned after the national Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship. The projects provide a professional education and training opportunity to the fellow, and assist the state in marine fisheries management concerns.

For more information, visit www.ncseagrant.ncsu.edu/ncsg-dmf-fellowship.