North Carolina Game Fishing Regulations

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    • The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, comprised of biologists, engineers, administrators and enforcement officers, is responsible for upholding fishing regulations in the state. Certain regulations cover game fish species.

    Game Fish Species

    • North Carolina designates many of its species as game fish. These include three types of bass-smallmouth, largemouth and spotted-as well as the white and black crappie. Panfish such as the redear sunfish, redbreasted sunfish, bluegill, green sunfish and pumpkinseed are considered game fish.The designation also applies to brook trout, brown trout, rainbow trout, Kokanee salmon, pickerel, muskellunge, sauger, white perch, yellow perch, and shad.

    Size and Possession Limits

    • Regulations regarding the minimum size of the fish you may keep and how many fish you can catch depend on the species and the area in which you're fishing. For example, when fishing in the Cape Fear River, you cannot keep a largemouth bass less than 14 inches long. You also cannot possess more than five bass, or any combination of largemouth, spotted or smallmouth bass that totals more than five. However, at Lake Thom-A-Lex in Davidson County, the minimum length for the same species is 18 inches. There is no minimum length or possession limit on species such as pumpkinseed. The legal length for a muskellunge in public waters is 30 inches, with the exception of portions of the French Broad River, where it is 46 inches. You need need to familiarize yourself with the various regulations.

    Hook and Line

    • Anglers can catch inland game fish species in North Carolina only with a hook and line. Regulations prohibit the snagging of fish in which a person pulls a device with one or more hooks through the water and tries to impale fish. An angler may use a landing net to secure the fish she catches on a hook and line setup.

    Mountain Trout Regulations

    • The western portion of North Carolina, where the terrain is much higher than on the coastal plains of the eastern sections, is Designated Public Mountain Trout Waters. These areas contain wild trout or trout stocked by the agency. Various regulations apply to these waterways, which are marked with conspicuous signs. In some stretches, anglers may only fish for trout with artificial lures or artificial flies, while others permit the use of natural bait. North Carolina regulations define natural bait as any plant or animal (or its parts), dead or alive, used to entice fish to bite by appealing to their senses of smell or taste. Artificial lures cannot have any substances on them designed to attract fish by smell or taste.

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