The spotted seatrout fishing season will reopen in North Carolina waters Friday.

The recreational bag limit will be four-fish per person per day, and the minimum size limit will be 14 inches total length. All undersized or over the daily harvest limit fish caught must be immediately returned to the waters where taken, regardless of the condition of the fish.

For more specific recreational spotted seatrout fishing regulations, see FF-23-2018 on the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries’ proclamations webpage.

The commercial size limit is 14 inches total length, as well, but the commercial harvest limits and fishing days differ by water body and gear type. For specific regulations, commercial fishermen should see FF-24-2018 on the division’s proclamations webpage.

The division closed all coastal and joint waters to commercial and recreational spotted seatrout harvest on Jan. 5 due to widespread cold stun events.

Cold stuns are natural events that occur when there is a sudden drop in water temperature or prolonged periods of cold weather that makes the fish sluggish. During a cold stun, many fish die from the cold or fall prey to birds and other predators. Studies suggest that cold stun events can have a significant impact on spotted seatrout populations.

Under the N.C. Spotted Seatrout Fishery Management Plan, if a significant cold stun event occurs, the Division of Marine Fisheries closes all spotted seatrout harvests until June 15 to allow the fish that survive the cold stun event the chance to spawn in the spring before harvest reopens. Peak spawning occurs in May. The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission automatically closes spotted seatrout season in inland waters when it closes in adjacent coastal waters.

For more information on cold stun events, see the division’s Cold Stun Facts webpage.

For more information, contact division spotted seatrout biologist Steve Poland at 252-808-8159 or Steve.Poland@ncdenr.gov.