New Fishing Rules And Regulations Take Effect This Week-End

Upstate Outdoors
June 29, 2018 - 4:04 pm
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Phillip Gentry

If you are an Upstate anglers, it’s pretty much going to be status quo during this 4th of July week-end. Get up early, try to catch a few fish, get off the lake before the holiday pleasure boat crowd arrives, then maybe get back on the water around dark and see if anything is still biting.

For Midland area anglers, however, as well as anyone else who might be traveling to the Saluda River below Lake Murray to fish for cold water trout, legislation that was recently passed into law will be taking effect on July 1.

The SCDNR held a series of public meetings in February 2018 to discuss the possibility of creating a “catch-and-release-only” zone to facilitate trout reproduction now occurring in the river after a group of river usage groups negotiated a deal with SCE&G to maintain year round cold water release into the Saluda River below Lake Murray. Feedback from anglers and other stakeholders was positive, and a bill, sponsored by Lexington Senator Katrina Shealy was drafted for consideration by the South Carolina General Assembly during the session that recently ended.

"The establishment of the catch and release zone between I-20 and Stacey's ledge on the Lower Saluda will provide an opportunity for anglers to experience a very good trout fishery in a very unique location,” said SCDNR Fisheries Chief Ross Self. “This area should have very good access and is the best area for anglers to wade and fish of any location along Lower Saluda."

Senate Bill 1044, was passed by the legislature in May and signed into law by Gov. Henry McMaster on May 17, 2018.

As a result, effective July 1, 2018, the lower reach of the Saluda River, from the eastbound I-20 bridge downstream to Stacey's Ledge, is year round catch and release fishing only for all species of coldwater trout. The law also makes it unlawful to take and retain trout at any time in this section of the river. 

South Carolina’s coastal anglers also need to be aware of some changes to the creel limit for redfish, one of the most popular inshore saltwater species of our state, that also go into effect this week-end.

In recent years, state biologists have documented a declining trend in the state’s red drum population, which has been underscored by reports from longtime local anglers. These concerns prompted the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources to take a closer look at the species last year, culminating in an assessment that found South Carolina’s red drum population was experiencing overfishing.

The South Carolina General Assembly responded by passing a new law intended to reverse overfishing, which Governor Henry McMaster recently signed. 

The new catch limit allows two fish per person per day and no more than six fish per boat per day, effective July 1, 2018. The previous catch limit was three fish per person per day, with no boat limit. The slot limit (15-23 inches) remains unchanged.

“We’ve been monitoring red drum populations across the state using the same techniques for nearly 30 years, and what we’ve seen over the last 10-15 years is concerning,” said assistant marine scientist Dr. Joey Ballenger, who oversees SCDNR’s red drum research. “Across the state, we’ve seen declines in abundance of the juvenile fish most commonly targeted by anglers.”

Congratulation to state legislators for helping conserve and increase our state’s natural resources and anglers beware of the rule changes.

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Phillip Gentry is the host of "Upstate Outdoors," noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays on 106.3 WORD FM and online at 1063word.radio.com. This week's guest co-host will be Kyndel McConchie, Information Director for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

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New regulation changes pertaining to coldwater trout in the Saluda River below Lake Murray and redfish in coastal waters statewide take effect this week-end.

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