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AKA: sea mullet, whiting, Virginia mullet, roundhead

Description: The three kingfish species in North Carolina waters, combined here in one profile, are all medium-sized fish with slender bodies and backs that appear slightly elevated. The southern kingfish are the most abundant of the three in North Carolina. They have a cone-shaped snout, a small mouth and a single rigid barb on the chin. Body color varies with the habitat, generally silvery gray on top, sometimes black and white below with dusky markings on the side often in the form of seven to eight dark bars. Juveniles are darker than adults.

Size: Kingfish grow to 18 inches, but catches average at about 11 inches.

Sometimes confused with: Atlantic croaker

Habitat: Kingfish range from Cape Cod, Mass., to Texas and may be found in the estuaries or the ocean on muddy and sandy bottoms.

Eating habits: Kingfish are bottom feeders that consume various shrimp, crabs and other crustaceans, as well as worms and small fish.

Life cycle: Kingfish mature around age 1 and spawn offshore from April to October. Wind and water currents carry the larvae through the inlets into the upper reaches of the estuarine nursery areas for food and shelter.

Fishing tips: Anglers catch kingfish from piers, jetties and boats in the nearshore ocean, usually with two-hook bottom rigs baited with shrimp, mole crabs, bloodworms or squid. Anglers also use jigs or spec rigs to catch kingfish. Kingfish are often caught while fishing for weakfish.

N.C. Saltwater Fishing Tournament

Award for harvest of fish, 2 pounds or greater.

See the list of weigh stations


Persons engaged in recreational fishing in North Carolina coastal waters are required to possess a Coastal Recreational Fishing License in accordance with G.S. 113-174.2.

Current Proclamations

Recreational Size and Bag Limits

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