Because they’ve had so much success early in the season, commercial fishermen in North Carolina are going to have their daily trip limits cut from seven fish to four, beginning on Friday, Dec. 5.

“We cannot risk having the fishery close and disadvantaging fishermen in areas where last year’s closure had the greatest impact,” said Louis Daniel, director of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, which took the measure to slow commercial red drum landings while it tries to finish tallying landings from October and November.

State regulations allow for an annual harvest of 250,000 pounds in a season that begins Sept. 1. Of that, 150,000 pounds is allocated to the Sept. 1-April 30 period. However, the allocation for the fall/winter period has been reduced to 137,324 pounds this year because of 2013 overages.

The agency had to close the season last Nov. 23 when it showed that fishermen had caught almost  the entire 150,000-pound harvest. Later calculations showed that the fall fishery had exceeded the entire annual harvest limit.

NCDMF’s statistics show that fishermen have already caught 71,000 pounds of redfish this fall. In addition, the N.C. Marine Patrol arrested two men this week who had harvested 657 pounds of red drum that will count against the commercial allocation.

 “Our intent is to get as good a handle on fall landings and reassess the situation in January,” Daniel said. “If sufficient quota remains, we can raise the limit back to seven fish for the remainder of the season to minimize discards.”