Dead and red

To restore its overfished red drum population, North Carolina capped commercial landings at the historic harvest, said Lee Paramore, the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries' red drum biologist.

"The commercial cap is 250,000 pounds annually, which is the historic landing," Parmamore said. "The trip limit is seven fish with a length between 18 and 27 inches. Red drum must be landed only as bycatch, with at least 50 percent of the catch by weight flounder or striped mullet."

There is no recreational quota or cap. There is a one-fish recreational bag limit with a length between 18 and 27 inches.

Based on numerous studies, the NCDMF estimates a 10 percent mortality rate for red drum released by hook-and-line anglers and for red drum released alive from gill nets.

In 2005, the commercial gill net harvest was 30,000 fish. Dead discards that could not be landed were 25,866 fish, or 46 percent of the total red drum removed from the population.

In 2005, the recreational harvest was 55,800 fish, and 395,000 fish were released. Dead discards were calculated at 10 percent of the fish released, or 35,900 fish, 39 percent of the total red drum removed from the population.

Landings vary from year to year, but the percentages of dead discards to landings in both fisheries remain consistent. Dead discards are reduced in the commercial gill net fishery by the cap, which resulted in a landing closure in 2008-09 when the cap was exceeded. Dead discards are also reduced by net size, placement, attendance rules and seasons.

Dead discards in the recreational hook-and-line fishery are reduced by gear restrictions and recent rules to protect spawning fish in Pamlico Sound. Any hook larger than 4/0 used at night must be a circle hook with a weight pegged in place on the leader within 6 inches of the hook connection. This leader arrangement prevents most deep hooking of large red drum.