Down in the mouth! Fish are some of the biggest seafood eaters in the world! Squid, shrimp, and their neighbor fish are among their favorite foods.

The eyes have it! Fish don't have the best eyesight so bright and shiny lures help get their attention.

FINtastic! Fish swim by flexing their bodies and use their fins to help maneuver.

Gill skills. Fish breathe with their gills taking oxygen from the water as it passes over their gills.

Fish tails. Some fish have spots on their tails which confuses predators because the spots look like eyes. The predator doesn't know if he is looking at the front or back end of the fish and by the time he figures it out the fish has escaped!

The fish that swim in North Carolina’s coastal waters out to three miles offshore are part of the coastal fisheries and are a public trust resource. Migratory fish travel up and down the east coast, from 3 to 200 miles out and beyond.

Or, in scientific terms:

COASTAL WATERS: "North Carolina’s coastal zone includes the 20 counties that in whole or in part are adjacent to, adjoining, intersected by or bounded by the Atlantic Ocean or any coastal sound(s)."

MIGRATORY SPECIES: "Marine species whose life cycle includes lengthy migrations, usually through the exclusive economic zones of two or more countries as well as into international waters."

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There are good reasons for fishing laws. All are intended to conserve and improve fish populations. Fisheries biologists study bodies of water to check on fish numbers and the health of fish populations. If there is a problem with a fish stock, regulations are created to help keep the fish population healthy. Marine Patrol officers check to make sure that fishing regulations are being obeyed.

There are several types of fishing regulations. Limits on the number of fish that can be caught are meant to keep anglers from taking too many fish at one time. Size limits are meant to protect fish of spawning size before they are caught. Fishing seasons protect fish during spawning and limit the catch on heavily fished waters. Fishing laws are meant to protect fish and make sure there is fishing to be shared by everyone.

If you fish, it's important that you know the rules and regulations. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Fishing is a wonderful privilege; obeying fishing regulations is the responsibility that goes with it.

To check the size and catch limits for North Carolina's coastal waters you can go to the Recreational Size Limits page.

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.

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.