Category Archives: North Carolina Fisheries

Chefs Tent Featured at NC Seafood Festival

north carolina fisheries

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E-Ching Lee, 919/515-9098,

Posted Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011.  See the related event posting.

Plan to attend the Cooking with the Chefs event, Oct. 1-2, as part of the North Carolina Seafood Festival in Morehead City. North Carolina Sea Grant is a cosponsor of this event.

Chefs from the North Carolina coast will demonstrate recipes using local seafood. These chefs represent the four local seafood branding programs — Carteret CatchBrunswick CatchOcracoke Fresh and Outer Banks Catch. Also, featured this year are the 42nd Street Oyster Bar of Raleigh; Watts Grocery of Durham; and Sheri Castle, a UNC Press food writer.

Other organizations will have booths in the tent, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service, FishWatch and NOAA in the Carolinas.

Overall, the N.C. Seafood Festival opens on Friday, Sept. 30, and runs through Oct. 2, with seafood, crafts, music and more.


North Carolina Sea Grant: Your link to research and resources for a healthier coast

New Community Supported Fisheries Resource


There’s a new development in the Community Supported Fisheries arena. The website links CSF programs across North America and provides resources to communities that want to start their own.

For background on the CSF concept, read North Carolina Sea Grant’s Winter 2010 Coastwatch story that documents initial research and pilots in North Carolina and the early community programs in Northeast states. A year and a half later, lists — and links to — 62 programs (and growing) in North America.

The organization’s steering committee has several partners that have worked with Sea Grant on CSF programs, including Joshua Stoll and Lisa Campbell.

Stoll is a current National Sea Grant College Program Knauss Fellow from North Carolina and co-founder of Walking Fish CSF.

Campbell is a Duke researcher. North Carolina Sea Grant funded her study of Down East Carteret County that provided the groundwork for the ongoing www.SaltwaterConnections.o​rg economic development efforts in the state.

Her research was covered in a Holiday 2010 Coastwatch article. Stoll was one of the graduate students who worked with Campbell.

This new website is separate from the Local Catch: North Carolina Seafood Availability cards. To find Sea Grant’s seasonal availability cards, visit: and search for “local catch.”

Time to Clam Up

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Available year-round, the native hard clam, or quahog, has always been a coastal favorite. Its scientific name, Mercenaria mercenaria, comes from the Latin word for “wages.” Native Americans once used quahog shells to make beads that were used as wampum, or money.

Today clams may be bought in the shell or shucked. Those in the shell should be heavy and tightly closed, or should close when tapped lightly. They should have a pleasant, briny odor. Discard any with open or broken shells.

Clam meat is translucent. Its color ranges from ivory to golden brown. The liquid should be clear or slightly opaque.

Markets classify hard clams by size. The smallest, under 2 inches, is called the littleneck, after Little Neck Bay on Long Island, where they were once plentiful. Cherrystones are 2 to 3 inches and are named after Cherrystone Creek in Virginia. Topnecks are 3 to 3 ½ inches. Any quahog larger than 3 ½ inches is called a chowder clam.

The smaller clams, littlenecks and small cherrystones, are firm but tender with a mild flavor. They can be steamed, broiled, baked, grilled, used in clambakes or other cooked dishes, or on the half-shell. Large clams are less tender, so it’s best to chop them for chowders, fritters or stuffed clams. In addition to their great taste and versatility, clams are low in calories, fat and cholesterol.

If you enjoy steamed clams, oysters and mussels, you may want to buy a shellfish steamer. It’s a large two-section pot (much like a double boiler). The bottom part holds water. The top part is much bigger, usually more than twice the height of the bottom pot. It has holes in the bottom that allow steam to rise and surround the shellfish. You can buy an inexpensive, enamel one at specialty shops, large general merchandise stores and many hardware stores.

Many of you will buy your clams already shucked. For recipes calling for cooking clams in the shell, you can buy imitation shells at many specialty or kitchen stores. You can also use individual ramekins, dividing the clams into serving portions, but the effect is not the same. If you do this, increase the cooking time as necessary.

Remember to cook clams only until tender. Overcooking toughens them. Also, watch the amount of salt you add to clam dishes. Many clams taste salty naturally, and any additional salt will be too much.

Adapted from Mariner’s Menu: 30 Years of Fresh Seafood Ideas

Contributed by Joyce Taylor

The Biology of Bluefish

North Carolina Fisheries


Credit: Duane Raver

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Bluefish are characterized by a blue-green back with silvery sides and belly, a pointed snout and sharp, compressed teeth. They are found along the U.S. Atlantic coast from Maine to Florida. Bluefish are aggressive predators and feed on squid and fish, especially menhaden.

Bluefish can live as long as 12 years, reach up to 39 inches in length and weigh as much as 21 pounds. They migrate seasonally according to changes in water temperature. During winter, large bluefish tend to remain in the mid-Atlantic region and then move south to North Carolina around March. Small bluefish will move farther south during winter. As water temperatures rise, they will migrate northward.

Bluefish are important to both recreational and commercial fishermen. Approximately 60 percent of bluefish are caught with hook and line, which has relatively low bycatch rates. This species is managed by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. In the Atlantic Ocean, bluefish populations are high and overfishing is not occurring.

For more information on bluefish, go to:

Contributed by Barry Nash

Carolina Mud Bugs (Freshwater Crayfish)

North Carolina Fisheries

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Crayfish are eaten worldwide. Like other edible crustaceans, only a small portion of the crayfish is edible.

In most prepared dishes, such as soups, bisques and étouffées, only the tail portion is served. At crayfish boils or other meals where the entire body of the crayfish is presented, other portions may be eaten.

Claws of larger boiled specimens are often pulled apart to access the meat inside. Another favorite is to suck the head of the crayfish, as seasoning and flavor can collect in the fat of the boiled interior.

A common myth is that a crayfish with a straight tail died before it was boiled and is not safe to eat. In reality, crayfish that died before boiling can have curled tails as well as straight, as can those that were alive, and may very well be fine to eat.

Boiled crayfish which died before boiling are safe to eat if they were kept chilled before boiling and were not dead for a long time. A good way to determine safety in crayfish meat is whether it is mushy, usually an indication that it should be avoided.

Over 90% of the domestic crayfish production occurs in southern Louisiana and the Florida panhandle. In 2009, North Carolina had four active crayfish growers with 30 acres in production. Total harvest (tail meat) was 10,200 pounds with a farm gate value of $35,700 or $3.50 per pound.

Contributed by David Green

Atlantic Sea and Bay Scallops


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Sea scallops are found in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean from Newfoundland, Canada to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.  Sea scallops are very prolific.  A single scallop can generate up to 270 million eggs during its lifetime and live up to 20 years. 

Sea scallops spawn in late summer to fall, and larvae grow rapidly.  Between ages three and five years, sea scallops grow to 50 to 80 percent of their shell height and may quadruple their meat weight.  They can reach a maximum size of 6.7 inches in height.  Juvenile and adults sea scallops are a food source for cod, flounder, crabs, lobsters and sea stars.

Currently the Atlantic sea scallop resource is healthy and sustainable.  This fishery is extremely important to our country’s economy and is the largest wild scallop fishery in the world.  In 2009, U.S. fishermen harvested 58 million pounds of sea scallop meats worth over $382 million. North Carolina watermen participating in this fishery in 2009 harvested 382 thousand pounds of meat having a market value of over $2.3 million to commercial fishermen.

The New England Fishery Management Council manages the sea scallop resource in cooperation with the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council.

Atlantic sea and bay scallops are filter feeders, meaning they strain plankton and other food particles from water by passing it over a specialized structure that traps food.  Cilia move the food toward the mouth and into the digestive tract.

Bay scallops live up to 26 months and grow up to four inches.  Early in life, larvae attach to the leaves and stems of sea grass. As they mature, scallops sink to the bottom and continue to grow. Environmental factors such as temperature, rainfall, and sea grass health play a critical part in scallop abundance and yearly landings can vary a great deal.

According to the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries, the status of the North Carolina bay scallop fishery is “recovering.”  The resource was compromised by a red tide in 1987 and several hurricanes in the 1990s.  Sampling in areas south of Bogue Sound in 2009 showed stock improvements in some areas.  Environmental disturbances and predation by cownose rays may still limit the spawning stocks in the central coastal region.

Contributed by Barry Nash

Rainbow Trout


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The rainbow trout is the best-known species of trout in the world. Beautiful iridescent colors, most vivid during spawning times, have given rise to this species’ common name.

The flesh is normally orange-pink in color due to a carotenoid pigment, astaxanthin, found in microalgae in the diet of trout.  Synthetic astaxanthin can be added to feed used to raise farmed trout.      

Trout aquaculture dates back over 400 years in Europe and over 160 years in the United States.  In 2000, rainbow trout aquaculture accounted for 10 percent of the $1 billion in farmed fish production in this country. 

Native to North American rivers draining into the Pacific Ocean, trout are now farmed across the United States for food and for sport.  North Carolina is the second largest producer of rainbow trout after Idaho.  They are grown in earthen or concrete, rectangular raceways supplied with clean, flowing water.  Without a good source of water, trout farming is impossible.

In North Carolina, Sunburst Trout Company  is among the top rainbow trout producers along the eastern seaboard.  Dick Jennings, a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, began raising trout commercially on his grandfather’s land in the western part of the state in 1948. 

Initially Jennings began supplying trout to recreational fishermen, but as the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids became better known, Mr. Jennings began selling to upscale supermarket chains along the East Coast and to high-end restaurants.

Besides boneless fillets, Sunburst also produces caviar, trout sausage, smoked trout spread, cold and hot smoked fillets and encrusted fillets for retail and mail-order customers. 

For more information on rainbow trout production in North Carolina, go to NC Department of Agriculture and Consumers Services.

Contributed by Barry Nash