By Peter Vankevich
For the first time since last November, red drum is once again for sale at the Ocracoke Seafood Co. (the Fish House) and can be ordered at most of the island’s restaurants.
The new commercial season resumed on Sept. 1 with some added restrictions from last year.The reason for red drum’s scarcity for so long is that red drum exceeded its commercially harvested quota for North Carolina last November. As a result, the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries closed the commercial fishing for this species until Sept. 1.
In North Carolina, commercial fishermen are not allowed to target red drum, but when the season is open, they are allowed to retain a certain number of them caught incidentally while fishing for other species such as flounder, mullet, bluefish or black drum.
Another part of the regulation is concerns the total fish caught. The weight of the red drum cannot be more than the total of the other fish.For example, a fisherman might catch 16 flounders, four blues and six mullets that weigh a total of 32 pounds. If the seven or so red drum in the catch weigh a combined 58 pounds, that would be more than the combined total of the other fish and is a violation. Some of the drum would have to be thrown back.
For the last several years, the daily allowance has been 10 fish; this season it will be only seven fish.
“Red drum has been available most days since the new season opened,” said Patty Johnson Plyler, retail manager at the Ocracoke Fish House.
Morty Gaskill, a local commercial fisherman, has been supplying fish almost every day he has been out.
“There are plenty of red drum out there,” he noted. “I expect to get most of the daily by-catch quota especially now that the flounder season has opened up.”