The Carcass Collection Program is a statewide effort funded by proceeds from sales of the N.C. Coastal Recreational Fishing License. Carcasses donated by recreational fisherman are a critical source of data for the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries. The division has placed freezers at designated sites across coastal areas to allow anglers to donate fileted fish carcasses. From fish that are donated to the program, biologists can collect length, age, and sex data that can be used in stock assessments to better manage the fisheries resources of the state. As the program continues to expand there will be additional collection sites available to anglers. If you have questions, please contact staff at

Freezer Locations

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Step 1: Once back to the dock, fillet your fish. If you are part of a charter or headboat party please let your fish cleaner know you’d like to donate your carcass. 

Step 2: Keep the head and tail intact and, if possible, leave the guts in the fish. This is important to the biologist collecting data.

Step 3: While your catch is still fresh, take the carcass to the nearest donation location. 

Step 4: All of the needed supplies are found inside of the Carcass Collection freezers. Use a pencil to fill out the provided carcass card in full. Please include as much information about your trip and number of species harvested as possible.

Step 5: Place the fish carcass or carcasses and the completed catch card into the plastic bags provided. If more than one bag is needed, please include a catch card in each bag.

Step 6: Tie the bag closed, and place your closed bag in the collection freezer. All supplies are located inside of the freezer.

Download Carcass Collection brochure

The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries regularly collects information about fish stocks in state waters. This information, such as age, size, and reproductive potential, is vital to assess the number of fish in the population. Age information about fish are collected by analyzing scales or hard body parts, like otoliths (ear bones) and spines, for annual growth rings. By determining the age of a fish, biologists can begin to get an idea about the age-structure of the population and the growth rate of the fish. This information is then used in stock assessments and fishery management plans (FMPs) to help officials better mange the fisheries resources of the state. 

Left: Biologist removing otoliths from a carcass. | Right: Spotted Seatrout whole otoliths.

Healthy populations will have fish of all ages represented while missing age classes may indicate a problem with that stock.