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AKA: channel bass, redfish, puppy drum, spottail bass

Description: The red drum, or channel bass, is North Carolina’s state saltwater fish. Red drum are iridescent silvery-gray overall with a coppery cast that appears darker on the back and upper sides. They have an inferior mouth, no barbels on the chin and one or more black ocellated spots on the upper side near the base of the tail.

Size: Red drum grow to 5 feet and 100 pounds. 

Sometimes confused with: large Atlantic croaker

Habitat: Found in coastal and estuarine waters from Massachusetts to Key West, Fla., and in the Gulf of Mexico.

Eating habits: Red drum are generally bottom feeders that eat small crabs and shrimp but also will feed in the water column on small fish. Red drum can be found “tailing” with their head down in the grass and the tail exposed to the air when feeding in shallow water.

Life cycle: Females reach sexual maturity at age 3 and spawn at dusk in coastal waters near passes, inlets and bays, from late summer to early fall. Winds and currents carry the larvae into the estuaries where the young fish remain for 6 to 8 months.

Fishing tips: Anglers catch red drum while surf fishing or sight casting with traditional flyfishing rods. Angling success for red drum along the Outer Banks is legendary and a catch-and-release fishery targeting fish in excess of 50 pounds has developed in Pamlico Sound around the mouths of the Neuse and Pamlico rivers.

N.C. Saltwater Fishing Tournament

Award for live release of fish, 40 inches or longer.

Apply for a release citation online


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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