North Carolina State Salt Water Fish

Channel Bass

by Steven Case and T. Mike Childs, 2013; Kelly Agan, 2015
NC Government & Heritage Library.

"Red Drum." Image from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The General Assembly of 1971 designated the Channel Bass (Red Drum) as the official State Salt Water Fish. (Session Laws, 1971, c. 274).

Channel Bass (Sciaenops ocellatus) are usually found in large numbers along the Tar Heel coastal waters, and have been found to weigh up to 75 pounds--although most large ones average between 30 and 40 pounds.  

Channel Bass are found in coastal and estuarine waters from Massachusetts to Key West, Fla., and along the cost of Texas in the Gulf of Mexico. In North Carolina, the fish have historically been important for both commercial and recreational fishing.  And North Carolina has been known for producing trophy-sized fish.  

Beginning in the 1980s and through the 1990s, populations of the fish in North Carolina were in serious decline from over-fishing of young and juvenile fish, prohibiting the growth of larger adult specimens.  In 1998 the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission instituted quantity and catch size regulations to protect the Red Drum.

Adoption of the State Saltwater Fish

Session Laws, 1971, c. 274:

H. B. 655    CHAPTER 274


The General Assembly of North Carolina do enact:

Section 1. Chapter 145 of the General Statutes is hereby amended by adding a new section at the end thereof, to be designated as G.S. 145-6, and to read as follows:

"§ 145-6. Official State salt water fish .—The Channel Bass (Red Drum) is hereby adopted as the official State salt water fish of the State of North Carolina."

Sec. 2.  This act shall become effective upon ratification.

In the General Assembly read three times and ratified, this the 30th day of April, 1971.

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Howard Penton, D-New Hanover County, and Rep. George Rountree, R-New Hanover County. A newspaper article at the time pointed out the Channel Bass has black spots on its tail, evoking North Carolina's "tar heel" nickname.

Average: 4 (223 votes)

References and additional resources:

Burgess, Christine C. and Alan J. Bianchi. "An Economic Profile Analysis of the Commercial Fishing Industry of North Carolina Including Profiles for State-Managed Species." NC Division of Marine Fisheries. 2004.

"Red Drum: Channel Bass, Puppy Drum, Redfish." NC Division of Marine Fisheries, NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Associated Press. "Channel Bass is Honored." Burlington Daily Times-News. 2A. April 30, 1971.

"Coast Line." The Robesonian. 4B. May 16, 1971.

Graff, Frank.  "Reviving Red Drum."  UNC-TV. (accessed April 21, 2015).

NCDENR, Division of Marine Fisheries.  "N.C. Recreational Coastal Waters Guide for Sports Fishermen." (accessed April 21, 2015).

Holt, Greg. "Swansboro Drum Beat - Summer reds’ numbers are best in years, according to Swansboro guide." July 01, 2013. North Carolina Sportsman. (accessed April 21, 2015).

Image credit:

"Red Drum." Image from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Origin - location: 



why was the red drumb picked state fish


Hi Cameron,

That's a great question!  Sometimes the General Assembly specifically tells us in the resolution why they adopted a particular thing as a state symbol.  But typically state symbols and other official adoptions are chosen because of their significance to the history of the state. In this case, they did not specifically tell us why the Red Drum was chosen, but if you read this article you'll find clues about why the fish is important to the area, both ecologically and its importance to people who have lived where it lives.

I hope this helps!

Best wishes,

Kelly Agan, NC Government & Heritage Library


thanks for the help


i like this site.


good 4 u


Sorry not looking for fishing.:|


this is awsome it gives meh ever thing i need


Why was it adopted by the General Assembly for the state of NC? We are working on a school project and could not find why some of these symbols were adopted.


Hi Jamie,

That's a really great question.  

Sometimes the legislation's language doesn't really tell us why the General Assembly adopted a particular symbol.  For the most part we usually tell from historical knowledge why something is significant in North Carolina’s history and we assume why the General Assembly made the adoption.  In this case, they didn't really tell us why they chose the Red Drum.  But we do know that the fish has historically been very abundant in North Carolina, making it an important commercial fish and caught by anglers as well. North Carolina's coast has also produced some very large specimens.  I have added some additional content to this entry, along with some additional resources.  We'll see if we can find some additional historical resources that talk about the fish in North Carolina's history and we’ll add them to the entry. 

If you happen to come across any additional resources, please feel free to email me or post back in NCpedia and we can share them in the entry as well.

I hope this helps!

Kelly Agan, N.C. Government & Heritage Library


Where can you find one in North Carolina

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