Fishing for red snapper this weekend? Donate the carcass

The 'SS Fish Witch II' passes through Greenville Sound on the north end of Masonboro Island, 7:14 p.m., August 28, 2018. (Port City Daily photo | Mark Darrough)
A charter fishing service, SS Fish Witch II, passes through Greenville Sound on the north end of Masonboro Island. (Port City Daily/Mark Darrough)

SOUTHEASTERN N.C. — The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries is asking recreational fishermen to deposit carcasses during this weekend’s mini red-snapper season, opening at midnight July 9 and closing at midnight July 12. Donation freezers are set up around the southeastern coast, including five in the immediate area.

The carcasses help the division assess resources and stock across the state. Biologists take measurements, determine the sex, and can tell fishes’ ages by removing and analyzing ear bones. The information helps scientists understand reproduction and informs population and growth rates.

Deposits can be made at temporary freezers located across town, including at Wrightsville Beach’s Bridge Tender Marina and Carolina Beach’s Municipal Docks. Permanent locations can be found at Sea View Crab Company and Tex’s Tackle in Wilmington. Fishermen who have access to the military base can donate at the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point — Environmental Affairs Office.

Each freezer includes information on how to make deposits; donors should leave pertinent details about how and when the fish were caught. Fish should be intact with head and tail, as well as guts left in, when possible.

Anglers are allowed to keep a fish a day, without minimum or maximum size limit. For-hire vessel captain and crew are instructed to follow the recreational bag limit. The division obtains data from commercial fishermen at fish houses in season (from July 12 through Jan. 22, 2022, or when the quota is met)

South Atlantic red snapper stock has been rebuilding over the last eight years since its mortality rates rose between 2012 and 2014, when overfishing was occurring. Harvest wasn’t allowed in the South Atlantic in both 2015 and 2016.

According to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, the red snapper population has grown since the mid-’90s, but is 22% below target and will need more time for aged, fertile fish to populate.

All regulations must be followed for commercial, for-hire and recreational snapper-grouper fishing. Specific recreational harvest regulations can be found here and commercial ones, here.

Gear regulations were put in place last year for fishing red snapper-grouper. According to the NC Division of Marine Fisheries, new regulations require:

  • A descending device be on board and readily available for use while fishing for or possessing snapper-grouper species
  • Use of non-offset (also called inline), non-stainless-steel circle hooks when fishing for or possessing snapper-grouper species with hook-and-line gear and natural baits, regardless of tackle or lure configuration. A non-offset circle hook is a hook with the point directed perpendicular back towards the shank, with the point and barb in the same plane as the shank (see diagrams). Offset circle hooks and stainless-steel circle hooks are not allowed for snapper-grouper fishing.

The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries will give donors who leave their names and addresses with their red-snapper carcass donations an N.C. Saltwater Fishing Tournament certificate that recognizes exceptional catches in North Carolina.

The division accepts other carcasses throughout the year, including Atlantic croaker, black sea bass, cobia, kingfishes, red drum, snapper/grouper complex, spotted seatrout, black drum, bluefish, gray triggerfish, king mackerel, sheepshead, Spanish mackerel and weakfish (gray trout).

An app, MyFishCount, is available free for download, to track recreational trips and catches. The app reports harvested and released fish — critical data the marine fisheries can use to estimate catches.

More about North Carolina’s red-snapper carcass collection program can be found here.

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