New Rules – Spot & Croaker

On 30March 2021, the North Carolina Department of Marine Fisheries (NCDMF) issued two new proclamations for the Spot and Croaker fishery. These new rules establish specific creel limits in the hook and line and the recreational fishery for both species.

These proclamations are effective, 12:01A.M., Thursday, 15April, 2021.

The first proclamation establishes the creel limit that makes it unlawful to possess more than fifty (50) spot per person per day by hook and line or for recreational purposes.

It also requires that all “Spot” caught over the daily limit shall be immediately returned to the water where taken, regardless of the condition of the fish.

And in addition, the rule states it is unlawful to possess aboard a vessel or while engaged in fishing to have this species without having a head or tail attached.

The second proclamation establishes the creel limit that makes it unlawful to possess more than fifty (50) “Croaker” per person per day by hook and line or recreational fishery.

It also requires that all “Croaker” caught over the daily limit shall be immediately returned to the water where taken, regardless of the condition of the fish.

And in addition, the rule states it is unlawful to possess aboard a vessel or while engaged in fishing to have this specie without having a head or tail attached.

The intent of these proclamations is to allow North Carolina comply with the requirements of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission/Sciaenid Management Board Addendums and amendments to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan.

As in all recreational fishing, please only harvest what the angler can use and release the ones you can’t use.

For more information on this rule and other rules, contact:  the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, P.O. Box 769, Morehead City, NC 28557, phone 252-726-7021 or 800-682-2632 for more information or visit the division website at

Until Next Time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

It’s Gear Time

The 2020 fishing season is finally coming to an end. Yes, it is almost the 2021 season but fishing been so good, who could complain about the long season. Well now that we have a breather, let’s talk about gear maintenance.

Fishing equipment maintenance is one project that should not be ignored. As we get close again to the start of the spring 2021 fishing season, now is the time to complete those unfinished jobs. If you let things go until now from the previous season, the job may take a little more effort but needs to be done to ensure a trouble free season kick off.

First, a complete evaluation should be done on the rod and reels. If there is any damage, minor cracks or even corrosion on either the rod or reel, it might be better to replace them now.

Disassembling the reel from the rod will permit a thorough examination and allow for cleaning. Check the butt, reel seat, guides and tip. If everything checks out, move on the reel.

The reel should be disassembled and thoroughly cleaned and oiled. Replace any damaged or worn parts. The drag washer should also be checked. And if found warned, either order a new one from the manufacturer or have a tackle shop replace it for you.

Many types of lures and hard bait hooks may not survive more than a year so focus closely on these items. Rusty rings, tangled lines or damaged components can result in potential loss of the catch. Sometimes it’s cheaper to replace the entire lure unless it’s your ‘go-to” catching machine. Then it’s an easy decision to just replace the hooks and rings. One tip: go with a single hook replacement and try to get away from those treble hooks. Makes for an easier release.

Tackle boxes and bags habitually get cluttered over the season with many of those “I must have those” gadgets or maybe the “favor of the month” lure. And even gear attached to leaders that were quickly changed out and too valuable to discard.

Your best option is empty the bag, sort through what’s salvageable and toss the rest.

Sinkers, loose terminal tackle, swivels, extra leader materials should be placed in separate containers for easy access next season. I like to use old plastic medicine jars or even z-lock baggies.

Pliers, scissors, line cutters, fish grabbers should be cleaned or at least organized in its proper place for quick access in the spring.

Remove all batteries on any electronic gear such as bait bubblers, night lights and bug zappers. It is good to look for battery corrosion. Sometimes you can clean the acid but best to replace completely.

Because most anglers have their own special fishing collections, I am sure we missed something but that’s what the offseason is for.

It is imperative that you address those issues before they cost you that trophy species next year.

Knives should be cleaned, sharpened, oiled and placed in a sheaths for protection. I typically only keep a bait knife in the bag and leave the filet knives for cleaning fish.

Large items such as coolers, cast nets, pier carts, cutting boards, rod holders and other large pieces need a good flushing, wiped off and stored properly. A mixture of beach and water does wonder in removing stains.

Finally, all metal surfaces should be coated with a rods, reels or other gear with an anti-corrosion protectant. Using a good protectant oil is well worth the expense.

Remember, the off season is the best time to find and replace worn or defective gear or equipment.  

Until Next Time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

Report Cold Stunned Trout

MOREHEAD CITY – Dec 21, 2020

The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries is reminding the public to report any cold stunned spotted seatrout they may see in North Carolina coastal waters.

During the winter, spotted seatrout move to relatively shallow creeks and rivers, where they can be vulnerable to cold stun events. Cold stun events have the potential to occur when there is a sudden drop in temperature or during prolonged periods of cold weather, making fish so sluggish that they can be harvested by hand.

Many fish that are stunned die from the cold or fall prey to birds and other predators. Studies suggest that cold stun events can have a significant negative impact on spotted seatrout populations.

No cold stun events have been reported so far this winter, but if there are concerning weather conditions in the upcoming weeks as described above then a cold stun event could occur in coastal rivers and creeks.

Spotted seatrout cold stun events can be reported at any time to the N.C. Marine Patrol at 1-800-682-2632 or during regular business hours to the division spotted seatrout biologist Tracey Bauer at 252-808-8159 or If reporting a spotted seatrout cold stun event, please provide where (the specific location) and when (date and time) the cold stun was observed, along with your contact information.

Under the N.C. Spotted Seatrout Fishery Management Plan, if a significant cold stun event occurs, the Division of Marine Fisheries will close all spotted seatrout harvest within a management area until the following spring. A significant cold stun event within a management area is determined by 1) assessing the size and scope, and 2) evaluating water temperatures to determine if triggers of 5 C (41 F) at eight consecutive days and 3 C (37.4 F) during a consecutive 24-hour period are met.  Data loggers are deployed statewide to continuously measure water temperatures in the coastal rivers and creeks prone to cold stuns. Closing harvest allows fish that survive the cold stun event the chance to spawn in the spring before harvest reopens. Peak spotted seatrout spawning occurs from May to June.

Under N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission rules, the spotted seatrout season automatically closes in inland waters when it closes in adjacent coastal waters.

Until Next Time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

Rockfish Season Extended

This week the North Carolina Department of Marine Fisheries (NCDMF) announced the re-opening of the Striped Bass Recreational Season effective Friday, January 1, 2021 at 12:01 A.M. in the Albemarle Sound Management Area.

During the spring season, striped bass maybe caught by hook and line or recreational commercial gear for recreational purposes all seven (7) days per week.

These fish must be at least 18 total inches and each angler may keep no more than one (1) fish in any one day.

The recreational spring fishing season will close when allowable landings are predicted to be reached or on April 30, 2021, whichever comes first.

Also, the Atlantic Ocean Striped Bass fishery remains open to all anglers at one (1) fish per day at greater than twenty-eight (28) inches and less than thirty-five (35) inches total inches.

Effective, January 1, 2021, non-stainless steel, non-offset circle hooks are required when using natural bait for the recreational fishery regardless of the tackle and lure configuration.

For more information on these new ocean fishery regulations, please check with your local tackle shop or North Carolina Dept. of Marine Fisheries.

Until next time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony