North Carolina's commercial and recreational fishermen saw harvests decline slightly in 2011, but for-profit fishing continued to lead all landings by weight and income by a large margin.

The commercial harvest dropped about six percent to 67.5 million pounds, according to the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, which estimated the dockside value of the harvest at $72.8 million.


Recreational anglers' landings in 2011 dropped about three percent to 13.2 million pounds, according to NCDMF estimates. According to the report, recreational fishermen caught 18.1 percent of all fish by weight.


Dr. Louis Daniel, director of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, said the overall slight decrease in landings corresponded to a decrease in effort.


"Commercial trips were down by 11 percent, and recreational trips were down by 17 percent in 2011," he said. 


The report showed that recreational fishermen bought 439,251 licenses, paying $4,304,585 in license fees. The report did not include stats for 2011 commercial licenses, but in 2010, the last year figures were available, 5,747 commercial licenses were sold, but only 3,552 commercial license-holders engaged in for-profit fishing.


Blue crab topped the state's commercial harvest in pounds and value. Fishermen landed 30 million pounds of blue crab, with a dockside value of $21 million. Shrimp took the No. 2 spot, followed by Atlantic croaker at No. 3. Commercial fishermen landed 5.1 million pounds of shrimp, which had an estimated dockside value of $11 million. Fishermen landed 5 million pounds of croaker, valued at $3.1 million.


Commercial landings of menhaden jumped 172 percent over 2010 as netters landed 3,529,967 pounds of pogies in 2011. The total pushed menhaden to No. 4 in the top commercial species list. Analysts from NCDMF said a demand for bait in the crab-pot fishery created the increase. 


The state legislature recently closed reduction-fish, purse-seine fishing for menhaden off the North Carolina coast. Summer flounder rounded out the top 5 commercial species landed in 2011 with 2.9 pounds brought to the dock with a value of $6 million.


Dolphin led recreational landings in 2011 with 3.5 million pounds, a 7.6-percent increase over 2010. Striped bass were No. 2 in landings due to cooler water temperatures that caused fish to spend more time in state waters; fishermen caught 2 million pounds, up 350 percent.


Bluefish, yellowfin tuna and Spanish mackerel rounded out the top 5 species landed by recreational fishermen. Bluefish landings were up 4.4 percent to 993,543 pounds; tuna was down 1.5 percent to 811,673 pounds, and Spanish mackerel was down 17 percent to 470,647 pounds.

 Catches of cobia were down 70 percent, as were porgies and amberjack.