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Summer Flounder

Summer FlounderNC State Record
Flounder 20 lb. 8 oz Carolina Beach 1980 Harold Auten
Summer Flounder -- Like all flounders, the summer flounder has both eyes on the same side of its head; in this case, the left side. The eyed side of the fish is brownish with conspicuous black spots; the eyeless side, which rests on the bottom, is almost white. However, the fish can use color adaptation to match the bay or ocean bottom. It also may partially bury itself to camouflage. Also called "fluke", the summer flounder is one of the larger flounders. It feds on fish, squid, shrimp, and crabs, and may grow to 37 inches and 26 pounds.

Winter Flounder This brown fish is the most common shallow-water flatfish in North America. It is a right-sided flounder, which means that it has both eyes on the right side. The tail area on the eyeless side of some individuals, especially larger ones, is yellow, which is why the fish is often called "lemon sole". The winter flounder spends its adult life in the ocean during the summer, but moves into estuaries in the winter, where it spawns in late winter/ early spring. Its small mouth restricts its food to worms, some small fish, and crustaceans. This fish, along with the summer flounder, supports a large sport fishery and one of the most important commercial flounder fisheries in the United States. It may grow to 25 inches long and 8 pounds.

Red Drum

Red Drum

NC State Record
Drum, Red* 94 lb. 2 oz Hatteras Island 1984 David G. Deuel

Also known as redfish, channel bass, and puppy drum. The red drum is North Carolina's official saltwater fish. Red drum derive their name from their color and the fact that during spawning time, males produce a drum-like noise by vibrating a muscle in their swim bladder. The color of red drum ranges from a deep blackish, coppery color to nearly silver. The most common color is reddish-bronze. Red drum is the accepted common name for this species by the American Fisheries Society, but they are also called channel bass, spottail bass and redfish. Juvenile red drum, those aged 1 to 4 years, are called puppy drum. Red drum are related to black drum, spotted seatrout, weakfish, sea mullets, croaker and spot, most of which also make drum sounds. Red drum live in coastal and estuarine waters, feeding on the bottom for crabs, shrimp, menhaden, mullet and spot. Most red drum reach sexual maturity during their fourth year, when they are about 30 to 37 inches long. Spawning takes place in the waters around the coastal inlets and in some areas of Pamlico Sound during the fall. Their eggs hatch within 24 hours and are carried throughout the sounds and estuaries by the tides and winds. Estuaries are areas where a river meets the sea. Here salty ocean water mixes with fresh river water, creating one of the earth’s most productive environments, where young animals find abundant food and shelter in the brackish marshes along the sounds.

Black Drum

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NC State Record
Drum, Black 100 lb. 1 oz Cape Fear River 1998 Charles R. Dycus

Black Drum reach a maximum size of just over 100 pounds but the "bulls" usually range in the 25 to 40 pound range. They have deep bodies with 4 or 5 broad black bars on there sides. They look very similiar to sheephead but get much larger. They also have barbel around the mouth unlike sheephead. Black Drum feed on a variety of things, such as, small fish, crustaceans, and oysters. They can be found over sand or mud bottoms in bays and marshes and on the beaches. Spaghetti worms are common in large black drum and, they are not harmful to humans but this leads many angler to release the larger fish.

Spot

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NC State Record
Spot 1 lb 13 oz Manns Harbor 1979 Hubert Basnight

Spot are sought after for their great taste. Fishing piers all along the North Carolina coast are packed in the fall when this popular fish are migrating south to warmer water. Spot have 12-15 dusky oblique bars on their upper side. They have a distinct dusky to black spot just behind the top of the gill opening on their body. Tail fin distinctly forked. Body rather deep and compressed. Maximum length of spot is 14 inches. Spot mature at ages two and three and lengths of seven to eight inches. Their maximum life span is about five years, although fish over three years of age are uncommon.

Croaker

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NC State Record
Croaker 5 lb. 0 oz Oregon Inlet 1981 Daniel Graber

The Atlantic croaker inhabits Atlantic coastal waters from Massachusetts to Florida and into the Gulf of Mexico around Texas. Large concentrations can be found in the Chesapeake Bay and the Mississippi River delta. From March to October, croaker will be found over sandy or grassy shallows of the Chesapeake Bay and move into deeper water in the winter. The bulk of the catch from the Mid-Atlantic is usually taken in July, August, and September. The name croaker is descriptive of the noise the fish makes by vibrating strong muscles against its swim bladder, which acts as a resonating chamber, much like a drum. During spawning season (August to December), croakers turn a distinct golden color, hence the name golden croaker. At maturity (three to four years), croakers reach between 1-1/2 feet long and 4-5 pounds, with the average size being 1/2-2 pounds.
The Croaker we catch in North Carolina average smaller than the Croaker caught in the Chesapeak Bay in Virginia. I am told that this may be because otter trawls, a type of shrimping net boats are not allowed to fish the Chesapeak bay, thereby saving the Croakers prime spawning grounds. Is this the reason? If so, we need some changes in the netting laws in North Carolina. This is a big issue between comercial fishery and the recreational fishery.

Bluefish

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NC State Record Bluefish
* 31 lb. 12 oz Cape Hatteras 1972 James Hussey

The bluefish, a trophy species hotly pursued by anglers due to it's reputation as a champion battler and voracious predator, is native to both the American and European-African coasts of the Atlantic Ocean. Both the upper and lower jaws are fully armed with large conically shaped canine teeth. Bluefish rarely exceed 20 lbs. and 40 inches in length. The North American record bluefish, caught in North Carolina, weighed 31 lbs 12 ounces. The larger fish caught during a given year generally run between 10-15 pounds. Both male and female bluefish reach sexual maturity by the time they are 2 years old. Bluefish inhabit both inshore and offshore areas of coastal regions, with young of the year fish (those in the first year of life), called "snappers", often frequenting estuaries and river mouths. Bluefish normally travels in large schools, which may contain up to several thousand individuals. Bluefish generally feed in schools, actively pursuing prey in tidal rips or inshore shallows where food is easier to catch. The feeding behavior of this species is legendary. Bluefish are reputed to dash wildly about within schools of prey species, biting crippling, and killing numerous small fish that do not get eaten. They frequently drive schools of prey species into the shallow inshore areas where it becomes easier to cripple or catch fish that are trying to escape. Occasionally, during particularly frenzied feeding activity, schooling fish such as menhaden will literally be driven to shore, leaving a number of fish beached along the wave line. Although this occurs relatively infrequently, an occasional beach littered with dead fish has given rise to the bluefish's exaggerated reputation as a vicious predator.

Pompano

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NC State Record
Pompano, Florida 8 lb. 0 oz Carolina Beach 2001 John F. Vickers

Pompano are deep-bodied fish, grayish, blue on the back shading to silver on the side with yellow beneath. The average size is one to two pounds. The North Carolina state record is eight pounds caught at Carolina Beach in 2001.

Sea Mullet

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NC State Record
Mullet, Sea 3 lb. 8 oz Bogue Banks Pier 1971 Ted Drinnon

Sea mullet are an inshore fish, caught easily by surf casters. The torpedo-shaped body has an underslung mouth and pointed nose, a perfect design for rooting around on the bottom for food such as sand worms and mole crabs. They like to feed just behind or even in the breakers. Rarely will they hit a lure, and most are caught on fresh bait. Bloodworms and fresh cut shrimp are at the top the local bait menu. Mole crabs or "sand fleas" are excellent bait for sea mullets and my personal favorite. And you can't beat the price. Surfcasters can usually dig an adequate supply of sand fleas right at their feet. Sea mullet can be caught anywhere, but beaches that are dotted with a series of sandbars and deep holes, consistently produce most of the fish. Certain sections of each island will consistently have the right combination of holes and sand bars, but the exact location of these "hot-spots" may vary from week to week. Your best bet for success is to check in with any of the local tackle shops before heading for the beach.

Sheepshead

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NC State Record
Sheepshead 19 lb. 4 oz Off Oregon Inlet 1999 Chris Robbins

The sheepshead is a member of the porgy and seabream species which are among the 120 species that make up the Sparidae family. The Sparidae have a worldwide distribution in temperate and tropical waters, but are most common in warm coastal seas. The sheepshead reaches a maximum weight of about 20 pounds. It’s coloration is silvery to yellowish white, with an olive-brown back and five or six dark slightly diagonal bars along each side. It is found close inshore, often in the brackish zones of estuaries. It uses it’s flat long teeth to crush mollusks and crabs and to scrap barnacles from rocks and pilings.

Spotted or Speckled Trout

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NC State Record
Trout, Speckled 12 lb. 4 oz Wrightsville Beach 1961 John R. Kenyon

The Speckled Trout is one of the most popular gamefish of coastal North Carolina and ranges from New York through the Gulf of Mexico. It is a sturdy fish with an elongated, streamlined body. The mouth is large with a larger lower jaw and an upper jaw with two prominent canine teeth. The dorsal fin is divided by a deep notch. The Speckled Trout is silvery in color with olive green tints on the back. It has a lateral line which runs from just behind the gills to the tail, above which are numerous black spots which extend onto the second half of the dorsal fin. The fish prefers water temperatures in the 65 to 75 degree F. range. They can be found in just about any inshore or near shore waters. From the surf and jetties, grass flats and shell banks to inland coastal rivers and tidal creeks. The average fish ranges in size from 14" to 20" and can weigh from about a pound up to five pounds. Larger fish can be found and the world record is 17 pounds 7 ounces. Speckled Trout is a good quality seafood and is a favorite dish for many people. It is targeted by commercial fishing as well as sportfishing. The methods and equipment for catching these trout are widely varied. You can use spinning gear, baitcasting gear or flyfishing gear. They can be caught by still fishing, casting or drifting, from shore, bridge or boat. Live shrimp is the bait of choice for many trout fishing. These are sometimes fished below a popping cork. Dead bait such as mullet strips, shrimp and pinfish can be fished much the same way as live bait. Artificials which take numerous trout can include silver or gold spoons, plastic tail grubs, bucktail jigs and plugs. The relatively new Gulp Saltwater baits are also excellent baits. Fly fishermen use a variety of popping bugs and streamer flies. Speckled Trout can hit with a strong force and the first instinct is to set the hook hard. Don't do it! They have a relatively soft mouth which tears easily. Set the hook gently and don't try to winch them in.

Spanish Mackerel

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NC State Record
Mackerel, Spanish* 13 lb. 0 oz Ocracoke Inlet 1987 Robert Cranton

Spanish mackerel are a highly valued fish throughout their range from North Carolina to Texas. Recreational anglers catch Spanish mackerel from boats while trolling or drifting and from boats, piers, jetties, and beaches by casting spoons and jigs and live-bait fishing. A favorite method of catching these swift fish is jiggin' from a pier or boat with Got-Cha plugs. Spanish mackerel are similar in appearance to small King mackerel They are very similar in shape and coloration. They may be distinguished as follows: The lateral line on Spanish mackerel slopes gradually from the top edge of the gill to the tail. In contrast that of the king mackerel takes an abrupt drop at mid-body. The first (spiny) dorsal on Spanish mackerel has a prominent black patch. The King mackerel has none. Spanish mackerel have prominent yellow spots on the flanks at all sizes. Young King mackerel have similar, but slightly smaller spots; these fade away on individuals weighing over 10 pounds (4.5 kg), but they may still be seen as spots of slightly darker green on the upper back from some angles of view.

Pinfish

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NC State Record
Pinfish 2 lb. 14 oz. Off Beaufort Inlet 2006 Hope l. Sanderson

The pinfish is a spiny, bony fish found in all North Carolina Coastal waters. They are plentiful, and are regarded as a nusience by most anglers. However, they can provide some fast and furious action for childeren who just want to catch a fish. They will eat most anything that you can put on a hook, sometimes biting a bare hook. Pinfish are often overlooked as a bait for other larger fish. Flounder, red drum, black drum, and even speckled trout will eat a rigged pinfish. Some anglers cut off the spiny dorsal fin with a kitchen scizor. The pinfish claim to fame, is a Pinfish Fishing Tournament held in Sneads Ferry, North Carolina, sponsored by the Sneads Ferry Lions Club. The angler who catches the heaviest pinfish, will win a new fishing boat.

Spadefish

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NC State Record
Spadefish, Atlantic 9 lb. 1 oz. Off Oak Island 2001 Spencer Smith

Spadefish resemble a gigantic angelfish that has escaped from someone's aquarium. Beautiful in color, spadefish have four to six striking black vertical bars that contrast against a silver body. The fish is often confused with similar-sized black drum and sheepshead. However, you can tell the difference because spadefish lack the chin barbels of a drum and the dentures of a sheepshead. Spades average about 6 pounds, with anything over 9 pounds considered a trophy fish.

Striped Bass

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NC State Record
Bass, Striped 62 lb. 0 oz. Off Oregon Inlet 2005 David N. Hiebert

Striped bass spawn in freshwater and spend their adult lives in saltwater. They can also live exclusively in freshwater and currently flourish in many inland water bodies. It is believed that many of the rivers and tributaries that emptied into the Atlantic, had at one time, breeding stock of striped bass. One of the largest breeding areas is the Chesapeake Bay, where populations from Chesapeake and Delaware bays have intermingled. President of the United States George W. Bush in an Executive Order on October 20, 2007 designated the Striped Bass as a protected game fish. This prohibits sale of Striped Bass caught in Federal waters and encourages states to consider designating Striped Bass as a protected game fish within state waters. Striped Bass are seldom caught in the Topsail Island area, but are caught in the Cape Fear River near Wilmington, NC.

Tiger Shark

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Tarpon

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NC State Record
Tarpon 175 lb. 0 oz Bogue Inlet Pier 2005 Jesse J. Lockowitz

The Atlantic tarpon inhabits coastal waters, estuaries, lagoons, and rivers. It feeds on various fish and crabs. It is capable of filling its swim bladder with air and absorbing oxygen from it. The Atlantic tarpon is also known as the silver king. In appearance, it is greenish or bluish on top, and silver on the sides. The large mouth is turned upwards, and the lower jaw contains an elongated bony plate. The last ray of the dorsal fin is much longer than the others, reaching nearly to the tail. The Atlantic tarpon is found in the Atlantic ocean typically in tropical and subtropical regions, though it has been reported as far north as Nova Scotia and the atlantic coast of Southern France, and as far south as Argentina. Diet includes smaller fish and crustaceans. The Tarpon is prized by anglers for it's spectacular jumps when hooked. Tarpon are regularly caught in the waters near Topsail Island and sometimes from the islands piers.

Cobia

cobia

NC State Record
Cobia 116 lb. 8 oz Oregon Inlet 2006 Billy R. Lucas, Jr.

Cobia have elongate spindle shaped bodies and broad, flattened heads. Their eyes are small and their lower jaw projects slightly past the upper jaw. On the jaws, tongue and roof of the mouth are bands of fibrous teeth. Their bodies are smooth with small scales, their dark brown coloration grading to white on the belly with two darker brown horizontal bands on the flanks. These may not be prominent except during spawning when Cobia lighten in colour and adopt a more prominently striped pattern. When boated, the horizontal pelvic fins enable the Cobia to remain upright so that their vigorous and violent thrashing can make them a hazard. It is not uncommon for a boated cobia to completely destroy the console of the boat. Mature cobia have forked, slightly lunate tail fins with most fins being a dark brown. They lack air bladders.

Black Seabass

Black Sea Bass

North Carolina State Record
Bass, Black Sea 8 lb. 12 oz Off Oregon Inlet 1979 Joe Mizelle

Black seabass often school especially during spawning season. They will gather at near shore reefs and wrecks. Ocassionally a black seabass will be caught from a pier of even in the ICW near inlets. They are considered quite tasty by fish lovers. Although black seabass can reach eight pounds, a five-pound fish is considered a trophy, and three-pounders will draw the attention of other anglers. From Virginia to Texas, the artificial reefs, wrecks, and natural live bottom locations can be swarming with seabass. Most anglers use a two hook bottom rig, with 2/0 or 3/0 hooks. When the bite is "on" it is not unusual to catch them two at a time. Seabass are a favorite of party boat captains. They provide non-stop action and even the most inexperienced anglers can catch a limit of fish.

Smooth Dogfish

The smooth dogfish is a species of shark. This shark is olive grey or brown, and may have shades of yellow or grayish white. Females live to 16 years and males have a life span of 10 years.

Blacktip Shark

Black tip shark
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