Tarpon are now catch and release only in NC waters

Anglers catching tarpon in NC waters are now required to release them. (photo courtesy of Capt. Addison Rupert)

NC anglers were previously allowed to harvest one tarpon per day

As of March 23, 2021, anglers catching tarpon in North Carolina waters are required to release the fish.

As stated in NCDEQ’s news release:

“The North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission rule 15A NCAC 03M.0509 was amended, prohibiting the possession of tarpon. The rule also makes it illegal to gaff, spear, or puncture tarpon by any method other than hook and line.”

Anglers catching tarpon in North Carolina waters had been allowed to keep one per day. That rule was somewhat controversial because tarpon have virtually no food value. They are also visitors to North Carolina’s waters, spending a small fraction of the year in the area.

The new rule had a wide range of support. However, some of the North Carolina piers opposed the measure. Tarpon are sometimes caught off the piers, and hoisting one onto the pier is often a death sentence for the fish, even for anglers who don’t intend to keep them. But the pier operators understand that anglers want to get a close look at a fish before releasing — or attempting to release it.

These big fish often die after long fights with anglers

Hooking up with a tarpon usually leads to a long fight which takes its toll on the big fish. Pulling it out of the water for photos puts another strain on them. The new law does not prohibit temporarily removing them from water to take a photo. But it will hopefully lead to anglers being much more careful to release it unharmed.

Capt. Jot Owens of Jot It Down Charters based in Wilmington is happy with the ruling.

“Protecting this magnificent fish while it spends time in our North Carolina waters is a great move by the NC Division of Marine Fisheries Commission Board. Thank you to everyone who supported this amendment. And a special thanks to the Commission board members who voted in favor of this ruling,” Owens (910-233-4139) told the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, an organization dedicated to protecting tarpon.

“A lot of them are killed when caught from ocean fishing piers while migrating north and south,” Owens said.

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About Brian Cope 1998 Articles
Brian Cope is the editor of CarolinaSportsman.com. He has won numerous awards for his writing, photography, and videography. He is a retired Air Force combat communications technician, and has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina. You can reach him at brianc@sportsmannetwork.com.

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