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South Atlantic Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Snapshot

October 11, 2017

South Atlantic saltwater recreational fisheries fact sheets highlighting recent regional trends, economic impacts, fishing opportunities, and issues of interest in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and east Florida.

Saltwater Recreational Fisheries in the South Atlantic

In the South Atlantic Region, thriving recreational fisheries support vibrant coastal economies.
With 100 species of fish available to saltwater recreational fishermen at any time of year,
many unexplored recreational opportunities await anglers in the Southeast United States.
While some species like blueline tilefish, greater amberjack, and shallow water groupers
have specific seasons, many others like mackerels, dolphinfish (mahimahi), wahoo, and black
sea bass can be caught year-round along the Atlantic coast. NOAA Fisheries partners and
collaborates with the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, the Atlantic States Marine
Fisheries Commission, and state agencies to manage fisheries in the South Atlantic.

Fishing Trips in the South Atlantic:

53% Shore, 44% Private, 3% For-Hire

Primary Target Species

These 10 popular species were targeted in about a third (32%) of all recreational fishing trips in the South Atlantic. Of those trips, the primary target species breakdown is as follows:

South Atlantic fact sheet fish caught pie chart Red Drum 33% Spotted Seatrout 14% Kingfish (Whiting) 11% Mahimahi 9% Spot 6% Spanish Mackerel 6% Bluefish 4% Atlantic Croaker 1% Yellowtail Snapper 1% Black Sea Bass <1%
Source: Marine Recreational Information Program


Popular Recreational Species in the South Atlantic

South Atlantic fact sheet fish harvested and released information.JPG
Sources: Marine Recreational Information Program and the *Southeast Fisheries Science Center


2015 Economic Impacts in the South Atlantic

South Atlantic fact sheet economic information.JPG


South Atlantic fact sheeet  economic impact by state.jpg


Diving Deeper

Mahi mahi

Mahimahi remains one of the most prized game fish available to recreational anglers in the South Atlantic. From their acrobatic fights, to delicious table fare, this pelagic fish is an angler favorite. Mahimahi are prolific spawners, grow quickly, and have short life spans, which has helped sustain the population throughout its range. Since populations
have remained relatively constant over the past decades, Annual Catch Limits have remained high, with a 2017 quota of 13.8 million pounds for the South Atlantic. This has offered anglers continued opportunities to fish without closed seasons and allowed generous bag limits of 10 fish per person. Recent recreational landings, along with anecdotal information from fishermen, indicate a noticeable decrease in the number of mahimahi being caught in the South Atlantic. NOAA Fisheries will work with state partners and fishermen to monitor this change in order to determine the cause and ways to address this trend.

Learn More

In the South Atlantic Region, NOAA Fisheries works closely with the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and their member states.

For more information visit NOAA Fisheries Southeast Region website.

Sean Meehan: Southeast, Gulf of Mexico, and U.S. Caribbean Recreational
Fisheries Coordinator, sean.meehan@noaa.gov, (727) 824-5330

Kim Amendola: Southeast Recreational Fishing and Communications Specialist,
kim.amendola@noaa.gov, (727) 551-5707

Ken Brennan: Southeast Fisheries Science Center Recreational Fisheries
Coordinator, kenneth.brennan@noaa.gov, (252) 728-8618

Last updated by Office of Sustainable Fisheries on 07/09/2022