The state Division of Marine Fisheries is making several changes to its saltwater fishing tournament criteria that go into effect May 1.
The tournament, often called the citation program, is not a competition but a certification program that recognizes notable saltwater catches. Catches that meet minimum weight or release length requirements, along with other qualifications, are eligible for a certificate that is suitable for framing.
The division provided the following information Thursday regarding changes to the requirements:
- Atlantic bonito and striped bass will no longer be eligible for citations.
- Atlantic croaker will be eligible for a citation at 1 pound, 8 ounces.
- Black drum will only be eligible for a release citation. The minimum release length is 40 inches.
- Gag grouper will be the only species eligible for a grouper citation. The minimum weight is 20 pounds.
- Sea mullet will be eligible for a citation at the minimum weight of 2 pounds.
- Sharks will only be eligible for a release citation. The minimum release length is 80 inches.
- Gray tilefish a will be eligible for a citation at the minimum weight of 12 pounds.
- Blackfin tuna will be eligible for a citation at the minimum weight of 25 pounds.
The division also announced Thursday a new online application for anglers who have released qualifying species. Anglers are encouraged to use the online application for released fish but must visit a weigh station for fish that require a minimum weight.
The division periodically reviews and changes the saltwater fishing tournament criteria to reflect requests from anglers and input from division biologists as well as to better the program and benefit its participants.
The tournament year runs from Jan 1 to Dec. 31 each year. Any citation-size fish caught in 2021 prior to May 1 will be eligible under the previous citation guidelines.
For more information, go to the N.C. Saltwater Fishing Tournament webpage or contact Carole Willis, sportfishing specialist with the Division of Marine Fisheries, at 252 808 8081 or Carole.Y.Willis@ncdenr.gov.