State Salt Water Fish of North Carolina: 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).

Selection as the State Salt Water Fish

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.

About the Channel Bass

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.

North Carolina Session Laws

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.


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 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



Thanks for visiting NCpedia.

According to the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDENR), the Red Drum -- also known as the channel bass, redfish, puppy drum, and spottail bass -- is a saltwater fish.  They can be found in coastal and estuary waters. Apparently anglers have had success off the Outer Banks as well as in Pamlico Sound and at the mouth of the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers.  

Here's a link from NCDENR -- 

Good luck fishing!

Kelly Agan, NCpedia Staff


I have Cought a Red Drumb, Before and it Tastes like 1M Dollars!


what does it taste like ?


It tastes like Fish.


The Channel Bass, or Red Drum, also known as redfish has been described as having a moderate or mild flavor, not too oily. Larger specimens are described as being too tough.

Cajun-style Blackened Redfish became a popular Louisiana dish in the 1980s, credited to celebrity chef Paul Prudhomme.

T. Mike Childs, NCpedia, N.C. Government & Heritage Library.





Add a comment

PLEASE NOTE: NCpedia will not publish personal contact information in comments, questions, or responses. If you would like a reply by email, please note thats some email servers are blocked from accepting messages from outside email servers or domains. These often include student email addresses from public school email accounts. If you prefer not to leave an email address, check back at your NCpedia comment for a reply. Please allow one business day for replies from NCpedia. Complete guidelines are available at