The State Fish of North Carolina

North Carolina Actually Has Two Different Official Fish

Freshwater Trout, the most recent state fish.
Jan Hakan Dahlstrom / Getty Images

Two species of fish have been chosen to represent the state of North Carolina, one adopted in 1971, the other in 2005. One is the only freshwater fish native to North Carolina, while the other could actually be illegal to sell. Both of these fish are native to the state of North Carolina, with one being found in the mountain areas, and one more along the coastal waterways. One is a fairly common and popular fish for local anglers, while one actually has fairly strict legislation on the purchase/selling of it (thanks to its federally protected status).

In 1971, the North Carolina General Assembly designated the Red Drum Channel Bass as the official state saltwater fish. Found mostly along coastal waters, the bass (also known as Redfish, Spottail Bass or just Red) can weigh up to 75 pounds. In 2007, due to dwindling numbers, President George W. Bush made the fish a federally prohibited species, meaning that one caught in federal waters cannot be sold. Ones caught in state waters, however are legal to sell. So if you're fishing for these with the intent to sell the meat (which many people do), be aware of who owns the water that you're in!

Locals know these as channel bass, spottail bass and redfish. At a mature age, these fish can grow up to be 100 pounds and be 5 feet long! The Outer Banks of North Carolina are home to legendary tales of red drum, and it's what most people wading in the waters are looking for.

In 2005, the North Carolina General Assembly adopted the Southern Appalachian Brook Trout as the official Freshwater Trout of the state. The trout was chosen because it's the only species of freshwater fish native to North Carolina. Since it does tend to thrive in cooler waters, it's often found in the North Carolina mountains. Locals call these fish “specks,”“speckled trout,” or “brookies.” You'll know these fish by their distinctive color: an olive green upper side with dark green markings on their backs and tails that sort of look like worms.

Fishermen like these because they have especially delicate flesh and an excellent flavor, plus they're usually pretty willing to take either artificial or natural bait. For the most part, they don't grow larger than 6 inches, and don't weigh more than a half pound.

Think it's a bit unusual that North Carolina has an official state fish (and two at that!)? That's just the beginning. Check out the rest of North Carolina's state symbols, including the official drink, the official dance, the North Carolina state bird, reptile, dog, and more. Here's a look at all of North Carolina's state symbols.

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