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North Carolina Seafood

Updated on December 20, 2014

North Carolina Seafood - Shrimp, Crabs, Clams, Oysters, Fish

North Carolina is known for its seafood. Shrimp, blue crabs, stone crabs, bay scallops, clams, oysters and fish are harvested from inshore waters.

North Carolina saltwater fish include redfish, Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, bluefish, flounder, striped bass, croaker, speckled trout, gray trout, spot and other species.

Farther out to sea, fishermen harvest tuna, wahoo, mahi mahi, grouper, snapper, amberjack, sea bass and other delicious fish.

jimmy crabs
jimmy crabs

Blue Crabs

Blue crabs are the most economically important of North Carolina seafood. Blue crabs grow to as much as 8 inches wide, 4 inches long and 1 - 2 pounds. The back of the blue crab is dark or brownish green and is drawn out on each side into a large spine. The abdomen and lower legs are white. Crab claws are various shades of blue or red, depending on sex.

North Carolina watermen use crab pots or trot lines to catch crabs, depending on the season and location. Hard crabs are the main target, although a big market in some areas is the soft crab fishery. Crabs near molting, called "shedders" or "peelers" are caught and kept in captivity until they shed their hard shell. The soft crabs are then rushed to market fresh, or frozen for later sale.

Blue Crab Terms

A mature male crab is called a "jimmy" and is easily recognized by the brilliant blue colors on its on shell and claws.

Female crabs are called "sooks" (adult) or "she-crabs" (immature) and can be distinguished by the rounded aprons on their underside and red tips on their claws.

Sponge crabs are females that carry an egg mass on their abdomen.

North Carolina Saltwater Fish

Atlantic Croaker or "hardhead" are popular saltwater fish common in North Carolina. They are known to have wild population fluctuations. The fish get their names because of the "croaking" noise the make when removed from the water. Croaker are caught with gill nets and trawls, largely in the ocean.

Southern flounder occur from North Carolina to the mouth of the Rio Grande and southward into Mexico. Female of the species may reach lengths up to 36 inches and weigh over 20 pounds while males seldom exceed 12 inches in length.

Summer flounder landings are important to NC commercial fishing.

Golden Tilefish are brilliantly colored blue, green, yellow and rose. The species occurs in the deep waters of the Atlantic from Nova Scotia south to Florida and in the Gulf of Mexico. Golden Tilefish live in burrows in the bottom which occur at depths of 250-1500 feet. Tilefish are slow growing and may live up to 45 years. Mature tilefish weigh up to 50 pounds, though 20 to 30 pounds is more common.

Blueline or gray tilefish are another species of tilefish. They also burrow and sometimes live in communities along the bottom. Adults weigh an average of 10-25 pounds. Blueline Tilefish have firm, white meat with a mild flavor.

Black sea bass are highly sought after by NC commercial fishermen. Primary gear includes sea bass pots, otter trawls, and hook and line. Bycatch in the pot fishery is minor as the gear is not usually baited. Bycatch in trawl fisheries are dependent on mesh size. The black sea bass fishery in the EEZ fishery is jointly managed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council. Managers recognize two stocks which are divided at Cape Hatteras, NC.

Spot occur along the Atlantic coast in estuarine and coastal waters from the Gulf of Maine to Florida, although they are most abundant from Chesapeake Bay south to South Carolina. Spot are caught commercially in gill nets and pound nets.

Red snapper is one of the most sought after fish landed in NC. They may attain lengths of 36 inches or more and weigh up to 50 lbs. The fish are long lived, sometimes reaches ages exceeding 50 years.

Red snapper are primarily harvested with hook and line. Commercial fishermen typically fish a leader armed with multiple hooks which is weighted at the bottom. Red snapper are also harvested with longlines, by spearfishing and other methods that are allowable under current gear restrictions. In 2006, Over 4.5 million pounds of red snapper, valued at over $13 million, were caught commercially in the USA.

Fresh Shrimp
Fresh Shrimp

North Carolina Shrimp

Three species of Penaeidae shrimp are harvested in North Carolina. They are the brown shrimp (Penaeus aztecus), the pink shrimp (Penaeus duorarum), and the white shrimp (Penaeus setiferus).

North Carolina Seafood Festival

The North Carolina Seafood Festival is held to recognize the importance of seafood to eastern North Carolina. The festival is held annually in Morehead City, N.C. on the first weekend in October. Food at the event includes items such as clam chowder, shrimp burgers, charcoal mullet, sea urchin on a stick, calamari and marinated eel.

sea scallop shell
sea scallop shell

North Carolina Sea Scallops

North Carolina waters mark the southern end of American sea scallop fishing. According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, 2008 scallop landings were 53.5 million lbs., making the U.S. Atlantic sea scallop fishery the world's largest scallop fishery by market value. The commercial fishery is conducted year round, primarily using scallop dredges. Sea scallops are shucked at sea on board the vessels and sold fresh upon landing or processed on shore.

North Carolina Commercial Fishing and Seafood Regulations

The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, one of eight regional councils, manages fish stocks from three to 200 miles offshore of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and east Florida.

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    • profile image

      fishvish 3 years ago

      I vote for crabs.

    • Vortrek Grafix profile image

      Vortrek Grafix 5 years ago

      You got our attention. We are also seafood lovers. Thanks for posting this :-)

    • robertzimmerman2 profile image

      Robert Zimmerman 5 years ago from SE Florida, USA

      I vote for Shrimp 'n Grits!

    • profile image

      VillaDejaBlue 6 years ago

      Nice lens.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I do love my Sea Food.