“Ethical behavior is doing the right thing when no one else is watching- even when doing the wrong thing is legal.”

-Aldo Leopold 


This quote is the opening line on CCA NC’s website on their “Release Over 20” tab. 


So, I guess CCA is telling anglers who keep a speckled trout over 20” that they are doing the wrong thing. Shame on you for wanting to keep and eat a speckled trout that may just happen to be over 20”.


According to the 2021 NCDMF Speckled Trout Fisheries Management Program (FMP) update says the speckled trout stock is doing just fine. The last stock assessment in 2014 said speckled trout are not over fished and overfishing is not occurring. The report goes on to say that most speckled trout in NC are mature by age 1 at 7.9” for males and 9.9” for females. They are also batch spawners which means each individual is capable of spawning multiple times a season. Also, these fish grow fast. Fish length at age 0 to 1 ranged from 4”-25” with a mean size of 12”. A speckled trout over 20” may not even be a year old! 


Another part of the Division’s speckled trout FMP is to maintain a sufficiently-high spawning stock biomass of a 20% spawning potential ratio. This alone assures that there are enough eggs produced by the speckled trout stock to assure harvest is sustainable. 


Yes, HARVEST means you can keep the fish. Yes, HARVEST means you can eat the fish! And this FMP does not include “releasing over 20” and yet it still assures there will be trout available in the future. And I’ll add some common-sense opinions, trout are everywhere and they taste good! Let’s take advantage of some of the best trout fishing we have ever seen!


Another quote from the CCA of North Carolina in their “Release over 20” campaign;


“Those who are familiar with CCA North Carolina have no doubt heard us speak out in our efforts to urge for more reasonable, conservative management strategies for our declining fish stocks” and “we still have a long way to go to truly bring our fisheries back to the world class levels that they should be and we are still at the mercy of a system that is slow, partisan, and in our opinion, broken. When dealing with a broken system like this, it is easy for sportsmen and women



all across our state to get discouraged amid the continued decline of our fisheries.”



More reasonable? More conservative? A long way to go? Continued decline?


Folks, these people don’t want anybody eating fresh fish. 


First, not all of our stocks are declining. In fact, the main target of the CCA “Release Over 20” campaign is the speckled trout! The trout populations are booming and the bag limit is high enough that you can actually keep enough to make a meal! In 2021 an estimated 500 plus citation sized red drum were caught in just 4 hours at the Sarah James Fulcher Red Fish Tournament in Cedar Island! Heck, two potential world record sized fish were caught in North Carolina in the past month alone!


Sounds like NC fish stocks aren’t doing as bad as the CCA would like you to believe!


Well except maybe the need for “more reasonable, conservative management” part.


I thought something had to be reasonable before it could be “MORE reasonable”. I guess it’s not reasonable enough to keep just one red drum a day. Maybe CCA is opting for a “more reasonable” daily bag limit of zero? I guess with a booming old drum stock that hasn’t allowed harvested since I can’t remember when and good populations of puppy drum that it’s not reasonable to maybe look at a higher daily bag limit for recreational fishermen who just want to harvest and eat fish.


The speckled trout FMP is about to be updated here in NC in the next year or so. Is CCA going to ask for a “more reasonable” bag limit on those too? Maybe a slot limit where the “wrong thing” of keeping a fish over 20” will then be illegal? South Carolina has bag limit of 10 fish, Georgia keeps 15 a day, Virginia bag limit is 5. Looks to me like we already have the “most conservative” bag limit in town!


In fact, North Carolina already has the “most conservative” recreational bag limits on everything! And guess who you can thank for that? Yes, the same people who bring you the “Release Over 20” campaign, the NC CCA. It is the CCA who is sending their representatives to the NC Marine Fisheries Commission to fill seats that are supposed to be representing recreational anglers. These representatives



are pushing their agenda of catch and release fishing onto all North Carolina anglers. They are the ones who keep telling you fish stocks are declining and you



should feel bad if you want to take a few fish home to eat. The CCA says your bag limits need to be even “more reasonable “and “more conservative”. 


Give us a break!



If CCA members want to practice catch and release that’s fine and dandy, but don’t you think they should educate their members on how to actually do it properly? Nowhere on their website did I see anything about proper handling techniques for successful catch and release and I saw very little information on hook sizes and hook styles for catch and release. Nowhere did I see rates for catch and release discard mortality (19%, 11%, and 12% from just a few studies) or how to have a “more conservative” discard mortality rate.


Maybe they should change their tab to “Catch and Release Information” to educate their members about this practice and leave their opinions on what is “wrong and legal” and “reasonable and conservation” out of it.


 But no, they are too smug to accept that they impact our environment and fish stocks just like everyone else. Their catch and release practices kill fish too. Maybe more than the angler who catches their limit and goes back to the dock. They refuse to admit that water quality and coast-wide stock trends are currently having some of the biggest effects on our fish stocks here in North Carolina.


The biggest failure I see of the CCA is not acknowledging and rewarding our state’s recreational anglers when the opportunity to harvest more fish presents itself. It’s time for North Carolina’s recreational anglers to stand up and represent themselves instead of letting NC CCA keep pretending that they have the recreational anglers’ best interests at heart. All CCA NC does is clog the wheels of fisheries management at each and every turn. Most recreational anglers want the same thing as commercial fishermen want. Fish today and fish tomorrow. 


Thomas Newman

NCFA Fisheries Liaison



The General Assembly has adjourned but has left the door open to come back and address certain issues if needed. Fisheries issues are not on the list of


issues that could possibly be considered if they come back briefly before the long session begins in 2023.

The one issue that remains unresolved is the budget. Although passed by the Senate and House, the budget bill has not yet been signed by Governor Cooper. He has until Monday the 11th to sign it, veto it or just let it become law without his signature.

Representative Grier Martin, Democrat from Wake County, resigned from his House seat on July 8th to take a job at the Pentagon. Governor Cooper will name his replacement soon. That person will serve only until the end of the year. More info on that as it becomes available.

We cannot emphasize enough how important it is for commercial fishermen and others associated with the seafood industry to take an active interest in the November general election. Find out who the candidates are and where they stand on the issues that are important to you. If you need to know who is on the ballot this November for the NC Senate and House in your district, let us know and we’ll get that information to you. Candidates need your support by your vote and financially.

God bless,