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: 



How many different state things are there?!?


i ate this fish its good


Hey this is my first time on this website and it's amazing. How does this fish get it's color. I saw a post that said how but I don't understand what he/she means by that.


So glad you like the site. I'll try to explain in simpler terms. the previous explanation used a log of scientific terms. Basically everything living this is made up of cells. The cells for fish is what determines the color. Hope that helps.


Why are they red.






Hi, Ella.

Thank you for your excellent question. I had not thought very hard about this question before, so I'm glad to have this opportunity to learn about this with you.

As with all fish, Red Drum receive their coloration from chromatophores, which are cells in the skin of the fish. The Encyclopedia Brittanica article that I included for you below explains that "Depending on the colour of their pigment, chromatophores are termed melanophores (black), erythrophores (red), xanthophores (yellow), or leucophores (white). The distribution of the chromatophores and the pigments they contain determine the colour patterns of an organism."

The color of the pigment within these cells varies greatly across fish types.

The diet of a fish also contributes to its color. Carotenoids, for instance, are found in algae and the creatures that eat that algae. According to the article called "Carotenoid-based coloration in cichlid fishes" (see link below), "Carotenoid pigments are responsible for many yellow, orange and red hues in animals."

I hope this is helpful. Please share anything else you may find on your own.

Mike Millner, NC Government & Heritage Library


i know right super good for meh


why was the red drumb picked state fish

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