Palmetto State Addresses Limits on Two Saltwater Fish Species
By Gregg Holshouser
February 15, 2020
SALTT stages tournament
South Carolina saltwater anglers will have a few more fishing regulations to adhere to starting this spring.
The South Carolina Legislature has approved a pair of bills affecting Atlantic spadefish and tripletail, with both only awaiting ratification by Gov. Henry McMaster.
Bill S-274 puts a first-time minimum size limit on spadefish of 14 inches. The daily bag limit remains the same for spadefish, which are regulated under the snapper grouper complex which allows an aggregate daily bag limit of 20 fish per person for a number of species.
Spadefish inhabit near-shore structure, natural and artificial, in the Atlantic Ocean during warm weather months, from approximately May through October. Catching spadefish using cannonball jellyfish for bait is a favorite past time in waters off the Palmetto State coast from late spring through autumn.
Capt. Jeff Maples of Reel Salty Fishing Charters in Murrells Inlet targets spadefish, especially in May and June, and has no issue with the new minimum size limit.
“I can understand it,” said Maples. “There’s not a lot of meat on them until they get that big anyway.”
Bill S-275 puts first-time regulations on tripletail in South Carolina waters with a three-per-person, nine-per-boat daily bag limit with, most importantly, an 18-inch minimum size limit.
South Carolina is the final state in the tripletail’s range to put bag and size limits on the species.
In South Carolina waters, tripletail are an intriguing fish typically found in warm weather around fixed or floating structure anywhere from estuaries such as Winyah Bay to sargassum weed lines offshore. They are often seen floating on their side near the surface, and readily eat crustaceans, especially live shrimp.
There are some anglers, including guides, who target tripletail in local estuaries, particularly the larger estuaries from Winyah Bay and points farther south. In the ocean, tripletail are most often found around free-floating objects including storm debris.
Tripletail are an incidental catch for Maples, who predominantly fishes in the Atlantic Ocean. He doesn’t anticipate catching many keepers with the new 18-inch minimum size limit.
“We won’t be able to keep anything we see,” said Maples. “Most of the fish we catch are 13-14 inches.”
Both bills were introduced during the 2019 session and received support of Coastal Conservation Association South Carolina (CCA SC). They passed both the House and Senate in overwhelming fashion.
“We (CCA SC) have long held the position that every recreationally-important species should be seen as having value and should be protected with reasonable management regulations,” said Tombo Milliken, CCA SC Government Relations chairman. “To do otherwise would be irresponsible given the increasing pressures on our existing coastal resources. We are very appreciative and thankful that we have willing partners in the General Assembly and state agencies to work with towards those goals.”
The first event of the year for the Student Angler League Tournament Trail (SALTT) was held Feb. 8 at the Carroll Campbell Marine Complex in Georgetown.
Recent rains and a cold front provided murky and chilly conditions for the young anglers on the rivers and the Winyah Bay vicinity as they targeted either red drum or bass.
The event was the fourth of six in the SALTT series for the 2019-20 school year.
- Following are the results:
- Middle School Redfish Division: Chloe Skipper of Andrews won the division with a two-fish aggregate of 8.23 pounds. Chappell Miller of Georgetown, the current division leader, was second with 6.56 pounds including the largest fish, a 4.60 pounder. Third place went to Cubby Weaver of Coastal Montessori with 2 fish weighing 7.07 pounds.
- High School Redfish Division: Christa Edmonds of Carolina Forest won the division with a two-fish aggregate of 8.06 pounds including the largest fish, a 4.07-pounder. Carolina Forest’s Cooper Denny was second with two fish weighing 6.09 pounds. Third place went to Donovan Harris and Wyatt Moore of Palmetto Academy for Learning Motorsports with two fish at 6.08 pounds. The current division leaders are Brandon Poston of Georgetown and Thomas Bodiford of Macedonia in Berkeley County
- Elementary School Bass Division: Mack Hardee of Conway won with one fish weighing 1.96 pounds followed by Tucker Howard of Andrews with one fish at 1.27 pounds. Howard is the current division leader.
- Middle School Bass Division: Cody Wilder and Dalton Williams of Conway won the division with five fish weighing 7.77 pounds including the largest fish, a 1.99-pounder. Wilder and Williams are the current division leaders.
- High School Bass Division: Jacob Martin and Charlie Holmes of Conway won the division for the second straight SALTT event, this time with five fish weighing 8.88 pounds. Will McGuirt and Mason Hardee of Conway took second with five fish at 8.45 pounds including the largest fish, a 2.99-pounder. Noah Jones and Manning Feldner of Conway were third with five fish weighing 8.35 pounds. Dalton Hewitt and Brantley Todd of Georgetown are the current division leaders.