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North Carolina

Fishing

Warmwater Game Fish Regulations

State waters are classified as: inland, joint and coastal (see “Gen­eral Information” on Inland Fishing Regulations). These state waters are collectively referred to as public fishing waters. Certain fishes, including large­mouth bass, crappie and mountain trout are designated inland game fish and under the jurisdiction of the Wildlife Resources Com­­mission in all public waters; whereas, other species, including striped bass, white and yellow perch, flounder and red drum, are desig­nated as inland game fish only in inland waters (see list on Inland Fishing Regulations).

Warmwater Game Fish

Location

Size Limit

Daily Creel Limit*

Largemouth Bass

All public waters except those listed below

14-inch minimum, except 2 may be less than 14 inches

5, including only 2 less than 14 inches

In the following waters and their tributaries:

  • Currituck, Roanoke, Croatan, and Albemarle Sounds
  • Roanoke River downstream of Roanoke Rapids Dam
  • Chowan River (including the Meherrin River)
  • Yeopim River
  • Pasquotank River
  • Perquimans River
  • Little River
  • Big Flatty Creek
  • North River
  • Northwest River
  • Scuppernong River
  • Alligator River (including the Alligator/Pungo Canal (Intra- coastal Waterway) east of the N.C. Hwy 264/45 bridge)
  • All other associated tributaries and canals to the waters listed above.

Pungo Lake (Washington and Hyde counties)

New Lake (Hyde Co.)

Lake Raleigh (Wake Co.)

Sutton Lake (New Hanover Co.)

14-inch minimum

5

Buckhorn Reservoir (Wilson and Nash counties)

16-inch minimum

5

Cane Creek Lake (Union Co.)

Lake Mattamuskeet and associated canals (Hyde Co.)

16-inch minimum, and only 1 may be greater than 20 inches

5, including only 1 greater than 20 inches

Lake Thom-A-Lex (Davidson Co.)

18-inch minimum

5

Lake Hampton (Yadkin Co.)

Shearon Harris Reservoir (Chatham and Wake counties)

14-inch minimum, except 2 may be less than 14 inches and none between 16–20 inches may be possessed

5, including only 2 less than 14 inches

Lake Phelps

14-inch minimum and none between 16–20 inches may be possessed

5

New River (Alleghany Co. portion downstream of Fields Dam in Grayson Co., Va.)

No minimum size, none between 14–22 inches may be possessed, and only 1 largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, or spotted bass may be greater than 22 inches

5 largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and spotted bass in combination, including only 1 largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, or spotted bass greater than 22 inches

Lake Cammack (Alamance Co.)

No minimum size limit, and only 2 may be greater than 14 inches

10, including only 2 greater than 14 inches

Lake Holt (Granville Co.)

Lake Santeetlah (Graham Co.)

No minimum size limit, and only 5 largemouth bass and smallmouth bass in combination may be greater than 14 inches

No daily creel limit for largemouth bass and smallmouth bass less than 14 inches, and only 5 largemouth bass and smallmouth bass in combination may be greater than 14 inches

Lake Chatuge (Clay Co.)

12-inch minimum

10 largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, Alabama bass, and spotted bass in combination

Jean Guite Creek and associated canals within the Town of Southern Shores (Dare Co.)

No largemouth bass may be possessed

No largemouth bass may be possessed

Ponds associated with Martin Marietta Park (Craven Co.)

Smallmouth Bass

All public waters except those listed below

14-inch minimum, except 2 may be less than 14 inches

5, including only 2 less than 14 inches

New River (Alleghany Co. portion downstream of Fields Dam in Grayson Co., Va.)

No minimum size, none between 14–22 inches may be possessed, and only 1 largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, or spotted bass may be greater than 22 inches

5 largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and spotted bass in combination, including only 1 largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, or spotted bass greater than 22 inches

Lake Santeetlah (Graham Co.)

No minimum size limit, and only 5 largemouth bass and smallmouth bass in combination may be greater than 14 inches

No daily creel limit for largemouth bass and smallmouth bass less than 14 inches, and only 5 largemouth bass and smallmouth bass in combination may be greater than 14 inches

Lake Chatuge (Clay Co.)

No minimum size limit

10 largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, Alabama bass, and spotted bass in combination

Alabama Bass and Spotted Bass

All public waters except those listed below

None

None

New River (Alleghany Co. portion downstream of Fields Dam in Grayson Co., Va.)

No minimum size, none between 14–22 inches may be possessed, and only 1 largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, or spotted bass may be greater than 22 inches

5 largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and spotted bass in combination, including only 1 largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, or spotted bass greater than 22 inches

Lake Chatuge (Clay Co.)

No minimum size limit

10 largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, Alabama bass, and spotted bass in combination

Redeye Bass

All public waters

14-inch minimum, except 2 may be less than 14 inches

5, including only 2 less than 14 inches

Striped bass and Bodie bass (striped bass hybrid)

Inland impoundments and tributaries

Impounded inland waters and their tributaries except those listed below

20-inch minimum

4 in combination

In the following waters:

  • John H. Kerr Reservoir
  • Dan River (Caswell Co.), downstream of Danville, Va.

Oct. 1–May 31: 20-inch minimum

June 1–Sept. 30: No minimum size limit

Oct. 1–May 31: 2 in combination

June 1–Sept. 30: 4 in combination

Lake Gaston

Oct. 1–May 31: 20-inch minimum

June 1–Sept. 30: No minimum size limit

4 in combination

Roanoke Rapids Reservoir

Lake Norman, Hyco Lake, Moss Lake, Mountain Island Reservoir, Oak Hollow Lake, Lake Thom-A-Lex, Lake Townsend, and Salem Lake

16-inch minimum

4 in combination

Lake Chatuge (Clay Co.)

No minimum size limit, and only 2 fish may be greater than 22 inches

15 in combination, including only 2 greater than 22 inches

Coastal Rivers and Impoundments

Roanoke River Striped Bass Management Area including:

  • Roanoke River from Roanoke Rapids Dam downstream to mouth of the river at Albemarle Sound and its tributaries
  • Cashie, Middle and Eastmost rivers and their tributaries

Season - March 1–April 30 (unless closed or extended by proclamation):

18-inch minimum, no fish between 22–27 inches

Season - March 1–April 30 (unless closed or extended by proclamation):

2 in combination including only 1 greater than 27 inches

Albemarle Sound Striped Bass Management Area (including Roanoke Sound, Croatan Sound, Albemarle Sound, Currituck Sound and Chowan, Yeopim, Perquimans, Little, Pasquotank, North, Alligator and Scuppernong rivers and their tributaries)

Established by Division of Marine Fisheries

Central-Southern Striped Bass Management Area, inland waters including:

  • Tar-Pamlico River and tributaries from Rocky Mount Mill Dam downstream to N&S Railroad Bridge at Washington
  • Neuse River and tributaries from Falls Lake Dam downstream to Pitchkettle Creek
  • Pungo River upstream of the US 264 bridge at Leechville
  • Cape Fear River and tributaries from Buckhorn Dam downstream to Lock and Dam #1
  • All other unlisted inland waters of coastal rivers and tributaries

No striped bass may be possessed.

Central-Southern Striped Bass Management Area, joint waters including:

  • Neuse River and tributaries from Pitchkettle Creek downstream to Southern Railroad Bridge at New Bern
  • Pungo River downstream of the US 264 bridge at Leechville to Smith Creek
  • Cape Fear River from Lock and Dam #1 downstream to the US 17-74-76 bridge at Wilmington
  • All other unlisted joint waters of coastal rivers and tributaries

No striped bass may be possessed.

Central-Southern Striped Bass Management Area, coastal waters including:

  • Tar-Pamlico River downstream of the N & S Railroad Bridge at Washington, including Pamlico Sound and tributaries designated as coastal waters
  • Neuse River downstream of Southern Railroad Bridge at New Bern, including Pamlico Sound and tributaries designated as coastal waters
  • Cape Fear River downstream of the US 17-74-76 bridge at Wilmington
  • Pungo River downstream of Smith Creek
  • All other unlisted coastal waters

Established by Division of Marine Fisheries

In the following waters:

  • Pee Dee River and tributaries downstream of Blewett Falls Dam
  • Lake Mattamuskeet

18-inch minimum

3 in combination

Ponds associated with Martin Marietta Park (Craven Co.)

No striped bass may be possessed.

Sunfish (except species listed below)

All public fishing waters except those listed below

None

In the following waters and their tributaries:

  • Roanoke River downstream of Roanoke Rapids Dam
  • Tar River downstream of Tar River Reservoir Dam
  • Neuse River downstream of Falls Lake Dam
  • Haw River downstream of Jordan Lake Dam
  • Deep River downstream of Lockville Dam
  • Cape Fear River
  • Waccamaw River downstream of Lake Waccamaw Dam
  • Lumber River, including Drowning Creek
  • All public waters east of I-95, except Tar River Reservoir (Nash Co.)

None

30 in combination, including no more than 12 redbreast sunfish

Crappie (black and white)

All public fishing waters except those listed below

None

In the following waters and their tributaries:

  • Tar River downstream of Tar River Reservoir Dam
  • Neuse River downstream of Falls Lake Dam
  • Haw River downstream of Jordan Lake Dam
  • Deep River downstream of Lockville Dam
  • Cape Fear River
  • Waccamaw River downstream of Lake Waccamaw Dam
  • Lumber River, including Drowning Creek
  • Lake Norman
  • All other public waters east of I-95, except Tar River Reservoir (Nash Co.), Sutton Lake (New Hanover Co.) and Roanoke River (see below)
  • Hyco Lake
  • Lake Ramseur
  • Cane Creek Lake (Union Co.)
  • All public waters west of I-77, except Lake Chatuge (Clay Co.) (see below)
  • Lake Hampton (Yadkin Co.)

8-inch minimum

20 in combination

John H. Kerr Reservoir

9-inch minimum

25 in combination

B. Everett Jordan Reservoir

10-inch minimum

20 in combination

Roanoke River (downstream of Roanoke Rapids Dam), Cashie, Middle and Eastmost rivers and their tributaries

Lake Mattamuskeet and associated canals (Hyde Co.)

Buckhorn Reservoir (Wilson and Nash counties)

None

20 in combination

Lake Chatuge (Clay Co.)

None

30 in combination

Rock bass and Roanoke bass

All public fishing waters except those listed below

None

All public waters east of I-77

8-inch minimum

2 in combination

White bass

All inland fishing waters

14-inch minimum

10

White Perch

All inland fishing waters except those listed below

None

None

All public fishing waters in and west of Haywood, Buncombe and Rutherford counties

No live white perch may be possessed, transported or released.

American and hickory shad

All inland fishing waters except those listed below

None

10 in combination, including no more than 1 American shad

Cape Fear River and its tributaries

None

10 in combination, including no more than 5 American shad

Tar-Pamlico River, Pungo River, Pee Dee River, and their tributaries

None

10 in combination

Lake Gaston

No American shad may be possessed

Roanoke Rapids Reservoir

John H. Kerr Reservoir

Spotted sea trout, flounder, and red drum

All inland fishing waters

Same as those recreational limits established by Division of Marine Fisheries in adjacent joint and coastal fishing waters. For current limits, visit portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/recreational-fishing-size-and-bag-limits or call 252-726-7021 or 800-682-2632.

Walleye

All public fishing waters except those listed below

None

8

Lake James and tributaries

15-inch minimum

8

Linville River upstream from N.C. 126 bridge

None

4

Lake Gaston

18-inch minimum

5

Roanoke Rapids Reservoir

John H. Kerr Reservoir

Muskellunge

All public fishing waters

42-inch minimum

1

Sauger

All public fishing waters

15-inch minimum

8

Kokanee salmon

All public fishing waters

None

4

BLACK BULLHEAD, BROWN BULLHEAD, FLAT BULLHEAD, SNAIL BULLHEAD, WHITE CATFISH, AND YELLOW BULLHEAD

All inland fishing waters

None

10 in combination

All other warmwater game fishes

All public fishing waters

None

Regulations for Mountain Trout

Brook, brown and rainbow trout require cold, clean water and are therefore generally restricted to mountain streams and lakes. Those mountain waters that support trout and are open to public fishing are designated as “Public Mountain Trout Waters” by the Wildlife Resources Commission and are man­aged for public trout fishing. A significant number of trout fishing opportunities in western North Carolina are located on private property. These landowners have generously allowed public access for fish­ing. Please respect their property. Your cooperation is needed
to protect fishing opportunities for future generations. The Commission conspicuously marks Public Mountain Trout Waters with regulation signs that indicate locations for public access. When anglers encounter “posted against trespass” signs along these designated sections on private lands, they should respect the property owner’s rights and choose another location along that stream to fish. Maps of trout water and their classifi­cations may be viewed at ncwildlife.org/trout.

Mountain Trout

Location/Season

Size Limit

Daily Creel Limit*

Lures/Bait Restrictions*

HATCHERY SUPPORTED TROUT WATERS

Aug. 1, 2021 – Feb. 28, 2022

7 a.m. April 2, 2022 – July 31, 2022

  • All Hatchery Supported Trout Waters not listed below

None

7

None

March 1, 2022 – April 1, 2022

**No fishing allowed

  • All Hatchery Supported Trout Waters not listed below

**

**

**

No closed season

  • Linville River and tributaries within Linville Gorge Wilderness Area
  • Power reservoirs and municipal water supply reservoirs

None

7

None

WILD TROUT WATERS

No closed season

7 inches

4

Artificial lures with a single hook.

WILD TROUT NATURAL BAIT WATERS

No closed season

7 inches

4

Artificial lures or natural bait with a single hook. No live fish allowed as bait.

DELAYED HARVEST TROUT WATERS

Oct. 1, 2021 – June 3, 2022

**No trout may be possessed

**No fishing allowed from ½ hour after sunset on June 3, 2022, to 6 a.m. on June 4, 2022

**

**

Artificial lures with a single hook. Natural bait may not be possessed.

**

Aug 1, 2021 – Sept. 30, 2021

June 4, 2022 – July 31, 2022

(Note: youth under 18 years old only fishing from 6 a.m. until noon on June 4, 2022)

None

7

None

CATCH AND RELEASE / ARTIFICIAL FLIES and Lures ONLY TROUT WATERS

No closed season

**No trout may be possessed

**

**

Artificial flies and lures with a single hook. Natural bait may not be possessed.

SPECIAL REGULATION TROUT WATERS

No closed season

  • Catawba River from Muddy Creek to Morganton water intake dam

14 inches

2

None

  • Apalachia Reservoir

None but only one trout may be greater than 14 inches

3 including only one trout greater than 14 inches

None

Undesignated TROUT WATERS

No closed season

None

7

None