Red drum spring fishing season canceled in NC

The Associated Press

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SWANSBORO, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina officials have canceled the spring red drum fishing season because so many of the species were caught during the fall.

That means commercial fisherman will go nearly a year without a red drum season, The Daily News of Jacksonville reported (http://bit.ly/1izGt3j).

Commercial fisherman C.R. "Buzz" Frederick said commercial fishermen will have to throw back any red drum they catch, dead or alive, which he says is a waste.

The impact goes beyond the fisherman, he said. With the closure, local fishermen are not bringing in any fresh, local red drum to be sold at market. "The consumer is the big loser," he said.

The state's red drum plan splits the commercial harvest into two seasons: a Sept. 1 to April 30 season is allocated 150,000 pounds and a May 1 to Aug. 31 season is allocated 100,000 pounds.

The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries closed the 2013 fall/winter season Nov. 23 after numbers from electronically reported trip tickets showed fishermen had caught more than 144,000 pounds of the 150,000-pound limit. Later, calculations showed the catch was almost 261,000 pounds, more than what is allowed annually.

"While this was a very strong year for red drum, the extraordinary level of harvest during this short period was unexpected," Louis Daniel, director of the state Division of Marines Fisheries, said in a news release. "We are currently analyzing the fisheries data to determine what management changes may be needed to avoid this occurrence in the future."

Greg Hurt, president of the Coastal Conservation Association of North Carolina, said the large amount of extra red drum that was caught makes him suspicious, especially since red drum is a by-catch. That means fishermen can keep some red drum while catching another species.

The association is "obviously very concerned about the significant amount that the commercial red drum quota was exceeded," Hurt said. "The amount of overage is of a level that confirms some commercial fishermen are clearly targeting red drum."

Frederick said fishermen want to protect the resource and maintain healthy fisheries. "No fisherman wants to destroy any fishery," he said.

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Information from: The Daily News, http://www.jdnews.com

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