Baby Blue crabs and little flounder need places like Shop Gut Creek in Pamlico County. There in the shallow water, they find refuge among the sea grasses and food in the soft mud. Unfortunately, they may soon have company. Big boats and Jet Skis may be competing with the baby fish in Shop Gut Creek--and the boats will probably win.
Scientists call the upper reaches of many tidal creeks like Shop Gut "primary nursery areas." As the name implies, these are places where young fish go to grow. Because of their shallow water, dense stands of grasses, and low salinity levels, tidal creeks provide a haven from larger predators. The irregularly flooded marshes and the soft sediments on the creek bottom harbor food. More than 90 percent of North Carolina's commercially important fish species and shellfish, and 65 percent of the fish caught by recreational fishers spend part of their lives in the state's estuaries. Many need the nursery areas when they are young. Shrimp, flounder, blue crabs, spot, croaker, and menhaden are just a few of the species that depend on the nurseries.