Every action has an impact, and the same is true with fishing. You can help reduce the impact of your fishing by practicing ethical angling techniques. This page will provide you with information on how to fish responsibly, how to rig a line for bottom fishing or catching red drum, as well as things you can do to help fish habitat. You can also watch videos on protecting the resource, as well as catch and release practices that ensure the survival of released fish.

Ethical Angling Brochure

Ethical Angling Brochure - Spanish Version

Best Practices for the Ethical Angler

Hooks, Lines and Sinkers: A Rigging Guide

Proper Red Drum Handling Techniques

A Guide to Responsible Fishing

Tab/Accordion Items

  • Make sure you have a valid Coastal Recreational Fishing License or are covered under an exemption.
  • Check the latest size and bag limits on the DMF website, or download the FishRules App. These regulations can change frequently.
  • Become familiar with the fish species commonly caught in North Carolina waters so that size and bag limits can be properly applied. View the Coastal Recreational Angler's Guide for a list of commonly caught fish species.
  • Stock your tackle box with a pair of needle-nose pliers or a dehooking device, a tape measure, and a glove or towel.  

  • Use circle hooks to help prevent the fish from swallowing the hook. Pinch the barb down on all hooks.
  • Do not fight a fish into exhaustion; instead tighten the drag and land it as quickly as possible.
  • Practice catch and release. Do not take your entire bag limit if you are not going to consume them. Most released fish survive to be caught another day. 
  • Do not discard previously caught legal fish for a larger legal fish to remain within the bag limit. This is called high-grading and is an unnecessary waste of fish.
  • Call the N.C. Marine Patrol at 800-682-2632 if you witness fishing violations or are uncertain of any laws. Do not try to handle the situation yourself.

  • Handle the fish as little as possible and keep it out of the water as little as possible. Leave the fish in the water to release it if conditions are feasible. 
  • When handling the fish, use a wet towel or wet glove to gently but firmly grip the fish below the gills. This will keep the fish from thrashing around. The wet towel or glove will preserve the protective slime on the fish. 
  • Use a pair of needle-nose pliers or a dehooking device to grip the hook and gently back the hook out. Do not twist the hook.
  • If the hook has been swallowed, cut the fishing line; the hook may dissolve in the fish's digestive system.
  • Gently slide the fish back in the water head first, allowing water to pass over its gills. 

Fish need healthy habitats to thrive. Here are some tips on what fishermen can do to reduce impacts to valuable fish habitat.

On the water

  • Dark patches visible from above the water’s surface may be shallow oyster reefs or grass beds. Avoid boating over these areas to prevent damaging these critical fish habitats.
  • If you must boat in the shallows, trim your propeller up and slow down.
  • Set anchor securely so it does not drag through grass and oyster beds.
  • Remove loose grass from the prop before trailering your boat. This helps reduce the risk of spreading non-native species from one waterbody to another.
  • Never leave or throw trash overboard. Take it ashore and dispose of it properly. This includes old fishing line, six-pack drink yokes, leaders and hooks, bottles, cans, plastic shopping bags, or anything else that could harm fish or wildlife.
  • Avoid spilling or dumping pollutants, such as oil and gasoline, into the water.
  • Report any pollution or environmental damage to the appropriate authorities.
  • Never harm marine mammals, birds, or sea turtles, even if they are trying to steal your bait or catch.

Off the water

  • Recycle your oyster shells. DMF will put your collected oyster shells back in the water to restore oyster habitat.
  • Help protect coastal water quality by not overusing fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.
  • Plant and maintain natural vegetation along shoreline property to trap sediment and other pollutants carried in stormwater runoff.
  • If shoreline stabilization is necessary, try a marsh sill rather than a bulkhead. It will help juvenile fish survive to grow up and breed.
  • Take your boat out of the water before cleaning. Many cleaning chemicals and bottom paints contain chemicals toxic to fish.

Part 1: Protecting the Resources

Part 2: Catch and Release

Part 3: Circle Hooks