North Carolina Marine & Estuary Foundation

Red Drum

146% = STABLE

How It’s Calculated

FINDEX is a novel way to gauge whether a species’ abundance is trending up or down. The calculations compare the desired condition of a fish stock with its existing condition. Specifically, FINDEX measures the gaps between either Target or Threshold biological reference values necessary for population recovery and the current, or “Terminal”, estimates of those values. Biological reference points vary among species depending upon the available data.

For Red Drum, the FINDEX gap assessment compared Threshold and Terminal values of static Spawning Potential Ratio (sSPR, 3-year average) from the most recent stock assessment model developed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

The Threshold reference value used in the model to determine overfishing status was sSPR 30%. The Terminal year in the stock assessment model was 2013. The model estimated sSPR in 2013 to be 43.8% for the “northern stock” of Red Drum which includes North Carolina.

Here is the FINDEX formula used for Red Drum:

  • (0.438/0.30) x 100 = 146
  • FINDEX = 146%
  • 146% = STABLE

What does Stable mean?

Stable means the most recent stock conditions (2013 data in the case of Red Drum) have either met or exceeded the biological reference values established in the fishery management plan to end overfishing. FINDEX designation as “Stable” is assigned to any stock with a value reaching 100%. 

Note a significant time lag associated with updates to stock assessments for most of North Carolina’s fisheries. Periods between updates are usually 5 years and sometimes 10+ years. For this reason, FINDEX calculations may not accurately describe current conditions – instead, FINDEX evaluates the most recent scientific data available.

Commercial Red Drum Trends

The graph below illustrates commercial harvest trends for Red Drum from 1985 through 2020. In 2020, 617 commercial fishers recorded 7,541 trips harvesting 163,666 pounds of Red Drum valued at $434,984. The commercial harvest of Red Drum is executed as a bycatch fishery, with an annual landings cap of 250,000 pounds since 1990. Note that in years where landings reported in “Pounds” and “Value” are the same, the value of Red Drum averaged $1.00 per pound. Supporting data was sourced from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality.

Recreational Red Drum Trends

The graph below illustrates recreational harvest trends for Red Drum from 1985 through 2020. In 2020, recreational fishers harvested an estimated 413,419 Red Drum weighing 1,758,789 pounds. Mean length in 2020 was 21.2 inches and mean weight was 4.3 pounds per fish. The estimated number of Red Drum released in 2020 was 2,686,150 fish. Supporting data was collected through the Marine Recreational Information Program as sourced from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. Although not displayed graphically, note that the proportional standard error (PSE) of the recreational estimates averaged 35 over the period 1985-1997, and 18 from 1998-2020.

State Record

  • North Carolina’s state record Red Drum was landed off Hatteras Island near Avon in 1984 by David Deuel
  • The record-breaking fish, which weighed 94 pounds and 2 ounces, is also the all-tackle World Record 

Did you know?

  • In 1971, the North Carolina General Assembly designated Red Drum as the State’s official saltwater fish
  • The term “puppy drum” is often used to refer to smaller Red Drum aged 1-4 years
  • The maximum age observed for a Red Drum in North Carolina was 62 years for a male weighing nearly 88 pounds
  • Red Drum average 12-14 inches at age 1 and reach harvestable size (18 inches) by age 2

2022 Harvest Seasons for Red Drum

  • The recreational limit for Red Drum is currently 1 fish per day, between 18 to 27 inches total length. Circle hook rules are in effect when fishing with natural bait in the summer
  • Commercial Red Drum seasons in North Carolina are split to allow 100,000 pounds of harvest from May through August, and 150,000 pounds of harvest from September through April
  • Proclamations for Red Drum can be found here

What’s next?

FINDEX provides the most recent stock status updates for a variety of North Carolina’s finfish species. As new data is made available, FINDEX values will be revised. If you’re interested, FINDEX can be delivered to you each month if you subscribe to  Think Coastal.

Formed in 2017, the N.C. Marine and Estuary Foundation envisions North Carolina becoming the premier fishing destination in the country. We want our fisheries to support thriving coastal economies. To accomplish this goal, the N.C. Marine and Estuary Foundation equips citizens, researchers, legislators, policymakers, stakeholders, and other organizations with high-quality scientific information to help solve challenging fisheries issues. 

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