The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission voted at its May 11-13 meeting in Raleigh to go along with federal guidelines for weakfish management.

That was a reversal from its decision in March to refuse to recognize a federal mandate to reduce commercial and recreational catch limits, a decision that brought North Carolina into a state of "out of compliance" with the feds.

Weakfish, which are often called gray trout, have been in decline in the past decade, and the ASMFC voted last fall to restrict commercial landings to 100 pounds per trip and recreational limits to a single fish per angler per trip.  These restrictions were to have been implemented by the individual states by May 1, but at its March meeting, the Commission moved to not comply with the federal directives.

At the ASMFC's meeting the first week of May, North Carolina was ruled to be out of compliance, and sanctions were discussed.  

Dr. Louis Daniel, director of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, issued a proclamation changing recreational creel limits and commercial harvest restrictions effective on Sunday, May 16.

Daniel said that the Commission's initial reason for not going along with the federal directives was because of the potential for large amounts of gray trout discarded as commercial by-catch, and therefore wasted.  

This is not a new position for the Commission. Daniel made a motion at the fall 2009 ASMFC meeting to raise the commercial trip limit for gray trout to 150 pounds, but it died without a second.

Daniel said that even though the Commission voted to go back into compliance with ASMFC directives, members also directed him to continue working with the ASMFC, looking at different alternatives to reduce the commercial catch and prevent the waste. 

The recreational creel limit has been reduced from six fish to one fish per fisherman per day. The 12-inch size minimum did not change.

The commercial trip limit was dropped to 100 pounds, with a 12-inch size minimum, except for April 1-Nov. 15, when the minimum size is 10 inches caught in internal waters by pound nets or long-haul seins. It is also illegal to use fly nets in the fishery from Cape Hatteras south to the North Carolina-South Carolina border.