The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries will make several changes to its Saltwater Fishing Tournament criteria, effective May 1.
The tournament, popularly known as the Citation Program, is not a competition but a longstanding certification program that recognizes outstanding saltwater catches. Catches that meet minimum weight or release length requirements, along with other qualifications, are eligible for an 8½-by-11-inch citation (certificate) that is suitable for framing.
Changes to the requirements:
- Atlantic bonito and striped bass will no longer be eligible for citations.
- Atlantic croaker will be eligible for a citation at 1 pound, 8 ounces.
- Black drum will only be eligible for a release citation. The minimum release length will remain 40 inches.
- Gag grouper will be the only species eligible for a grouper citation. The minimum weight will remain 20 pounds.
- Sea mullet will be eligible for a citation at the minimum weight of 2 pounds.
- Sharks will only be eligible for a release citation. The minimum release length will remain 80 inches.
- Gray tilefish a will be eligible for a citation at the minimum weight of 12 pounds.
- Blackfin tuna will be eligible for a citation at the minimum weight of 25 pounds.
In addition to the criteria changes, there is now a new online application for anglers who have released qualifying species. Anglers are encouraged to use the online application for released fish but must visit a weigh station for fish that require a minimum weight.
The Division of Marine Fisheries periodically reviews and changes the Saltwater Fishing Tournament criteria to reflect requests from anglers and input from division biologists and to better the program and benefit its participants.
The tournament year runs from Jan 1 to Dec. 31 each year. Any citation-size fish caught in 2021 prior to May 1 will be eligible under the previous citation guidelines.