Senate bill S. 933 has designs on reducing the recreational daily bag limit on red drum in South Carolina waters from three fish per person to two fish per person. A first-time boat limit of six red drum per day is also in the bill. If approved, the limit changes are projected to reduce the harvest of red drum by 20 percent in South Carolina waters. Submitted photo
Key legislation on red drum harvesting making movement
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
February 02, 2018 06:20 PM
Updated February 02, 2018 06:49 PM
In his 18 years as Executive Director of Coastal Conservation Association South Carolina, Scott Whitaker has seen the ups and downs of the red drum population in the Palmetto State’s estuaries.
Himself an avid saltwater angler, Whitaker has a quick take on Senate bill S. 933, which has designs on reducing South Carolina’s red drum limits.
“It’s a good thing and it needs to happen,” said Whitaker Thursday morning from Columbia, one day after a S.C. Senate Fish, Game and Forestry sub-committee approved legislation that would reduce the number of red drum harvested in state waters.
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The bill would:
▪ Reduce the daily bag limit for red drum from three per person to two per person.
▪ Institute a boat limit of six red drum per day. South Carolina has never had a boat limit on red drum.
The current size slot limit of 15 to 23 inches for red drum would remain the same.
South Carolina Department of Natural Resources biologists project the regulations, if implemented, would result in a 20 percent reduction in harvest of red drum.
Red drum are regionally managed by a fishery management plan governed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, a plan that calls for each state to maintain a spawning potential ratio (SPR) of 40 percent for red drum.
After a decade of hovering between 30 and 40 percent, the SPR for red drum in South Carolina waters is currently around 20 percent.
With the increase in human population along the coast has come a sharp increase in the number of fishermen, and in turn more fishing pressure on easily accessible estuary species such as red drum, also known as redfish or spottails.
In fiscal year 2017, S.C. DNR numbers show that 430,000 people had privileges to recreationally fish in saltwater in South Carolina through a fishing license or other exemption.
In previous years, S.C. DNR used regional stock assessments (South Carolina through north Florida) to evaluate red drum stocks, but that changed in 2017.
“For the first time ever, we paid a stock assessment scientist to do an assessment on our own South Carolina fish (red drum),” said Mel Bell, of S.C. DNR’s Marine Resources Division. “The results indicated we didn’t have as high a SPR as we needed to have, and we had anglers telling us they didn’t see as many fish.”
The stock assessment was presented to the Marine Advisory Committee on Dec. 1, 2017.
“The discussion with the Marine Advisory Committee, (the proposed limit changes are) what came out of it,” said Bell. “With these numbers we could get the SPR up over 40 percent. Just taking those two simple actions and keeping the slot the same we can get the SPR up and hopefully see some better numbers in our trammel net data.”
The legislation is just getting started in the legislative process, though.
Next, S. 933 will go before the full Fish, Game and Forestry committee, possibly next week, then move on to the Senate Floor. If passed by the Senate, the bill would then need to repeat the entire process in the House.
“We still have a little ways to go, Wednesday was the very first step in this,” said Whitaker. “I think something will be passed this session. Thus far we haven’t seen anyone with opposition to the need of the bill.”
Whitaker applauded Sen. Stephen Goldfinch, R-Murrells Inlet, for his involvement on getting the legislation moving.
“Goldfinch reached out to CCA in the fourth quarter of last year with a desire to do something for redfish,” said Whitaker. “He’s a true angler and we enjoy a good working relationship with him. He’s always open to listening to anglers concerns.”
Gregg Holshouser: email@example.com
Red drum were reported showing up south of Georgetown last Saturday. Jason Lee firstname.lastname@example.org
Here’s what’s biting in Grand Strand waters this week
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
February 02, 2018 06:08 PM
Look For: Red drum, black drum, spotted seatrout, flounder, sheepshead, tautog.
Comments: Capt. Mike McDonald of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service fished south of Georgetown last Saturday and had good success with red drum. McDonald’s crew caught 17 reds on artificial grubs in 49 degree water, before the cold front moved through early this week. “I didn’t see any dead fish and I saw a lot of bait movement (small menhaden and mullet),” said McDonald, who noted the reds were found in shallow water on the banks “like they always are, waiting on the sun to help them out.” McDonald said the fish “fought real good” and weren’t lethargic. Capt. Dan Connolly of O-Fish-Al Expeditions fished Murrells Inlet on Wednesday, after the cold front, and had different results. “I saw plenty of reds and a few trout swimming around in that shallow water with the sun shining on them but they weren’t eating,” said Connolly. “I threw everything I had at them, (mud) minnows, dead shrimp, artificials. Every time I threw something at them, they swam off. The water’s so damn clear it makes it even harder.” Connolly noted a water temperature of 46-47 degrees. As a precautionary measure, the South Carolina DNR is asking anglers to practice catch and release of all spotted seatrout through the end of September. In North Carolina waters, spotted seatrout are closed to harvest for all fishermen, recreational and commercial, until June 15.
Look For: Sheepshead, black sea bass, black drum, tautog, weakfish, flounder, whiting, croaker.
Comments: Look for sheepshead on the near-shore artificial reefs, with fiddler crabs considered a prime bait. Chum with barnacles to enhance your chance at hooking into the tricky members of the porgy family. Also on the reefs look for black sea bass, with a 13-inch minimum size limit, and possibly tautog, weakfish and flounder. Capt. Jeff Maples of Reel Salty Charters noted a water temperature of 48 degrees Saturday at Paradise Reef, located three miles east of the Murrells Inlet jetties. Michael Wallace of Cherry Grove Pier reports action is slow from the piers that are open, and in the surf zone. “If they get lucky, they might catch a little whiting,” said Wallace, who observed a water temperature of 46 degrees at the surface and bottom Thursday at noon.
Look For: Wahoo, blackfin tuna, king mackerel, grouper, vermilion snapper, triggerfish, porgy, black sea bass, grunts.
Comments: Ocean Isle Fishing Center (OIFC.com) reported one week ago that a local crew led by Brad Wood had a super wahoo trip just inshore of the Same Ole Hole. Nate Horn was the angler on a monster wahoo weighing in at 102.3 pounds, plus the crew put three more wahoo weighing 77, 52 and 48 pounds on the deck. Three of the fish hit Ilander/ballyhoo combos and one took a Black Bart lure. A cold front roared through early this week to put a damper on offshore trips, but when conditions allow trolling action is good for wahoo, blackfin tuna plus a few dolphin and kings. Bottom fishing is also excellent when conditions permit for grouper, amberjack, vermilion snapper, triggerfish, porgy, black sea bass and grunts. Be prepared to release some fish though. The annual Shallow-Water Grouper Spawning Season Closure is in effect through April 30, the Greater amberjack fishery is closed to harvest for recreational anglers until March, and red snapper are closed indefinitely in the South Atlantic region and must be released.
Look For: Bream, crappie, bass, catfish.
Comments: “Nobody’s going fishing, it’s been another dead week,” said Ronald “Catfish” Stalvey of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle in Conway. “There were some nice bass caught on Saturday but from Sunday on I haven’t heard the first thing.” As for the fish, “they’re deep,” Stalvey said. Look for bream hitting red worms and nightcrawlers on the bottom in 8 to 16 feet of water on the Waccamaw, Little Pee Dee and Great Pee Dee. Look for crappie in the same depths with fish hitting crappie minnows or jigs. Crankbaits, Texas-rigged worms and Shaky-Head worms are working for bass, Stalvey noted.
Gregg Holshouser: email@example.com