Fishing on Ocracoke. Photo by P. Vankevich

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Coastal recreational fishermen hooked fewer fish in 2016 than they did in 2015, the state Division of Marine Fisheries has announced.

Anglers brought an estimated 8.5 million fish to the docks in 2016, a decrease of 18 percent from 2015.

The estimated weight of these landings inched up, increasing by 2 percent to 12.2 million pounds. Anglers also released 1.5 percent more fish in 2016 than in 2015.

Fishermen also took 16.2 percent more fishing trips in 2016 than they did in 2015. This trend continued even in the fall following Hurricane Matthew.

The top five recreational species harvested, by pounds, remained the same as in 2015. They were dolphin, bluefish, yellowfin tuna, cobia and wahoo.

Yellowfin tuna harvest increased 145 percent from 2015. Anglers harvested 60,134 yellowfin tuna with a total weight of 2.3 million pounds. Bluefish harvests increased by 18 percent to 1.2 million fish (862,558 pounds), and wahoo harvests increased by 21 percent to 23,809 fish (640,807 pounds).

Landings for two of the top five species decreased significantly.

Anglers harvested 263,278 dolphin, with a total weight of 2.8 million pounds in 2016. That was a 39.4 percent decrease in the number of dolphin anglers brought to the docks. This dip in harvest may have resulted from the greater availability of yellowfin tuna and other offshore species, such as king mackerel, wahoo and blackfin tuna.

Also, the number of cobia landed fell by 42.5 percent, in 2016 to 9,288 fish (293,544 pounds).

In another notable change, estimated spotted sea trout harvests for 2016 increased by 342 percent over 2015, which were the lowest recreational spotted sea trout landings on record. Anglers brought 386,021 (2.3 million pounds) spotted sea trout to the docks in 2016.

Landings can fluctuate from year-to year based on many factors, including environmental conditions and fishing effort.

The Division of Marine Fisheries estimates recreational fishing harvests through broad-based intercept surveys, where port agents talk to fishermen on the beach, at the piers and at boat ramps, and through mail surveys to license holders.

For a full landings report, click on the 2016 Annual Fisheries Bulletin link here.

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