WINTER COLUMN: New rules for tarpon, sea bass and flounder
South Carolina lawmakers have approved a batch of new hunting and fishing regulations this legislative session, including a measure that would make licenses good for 365 days after the date of purchase.
Currently, statewide licenses expire on June 30, regardless of when the license was purchased. The change is expected to take effect July 1.
Other measures, which must be signed by Gov. Nikki Haley before becoming law, would:
Decrease bag limits for flounder, from 20 fish per person, per day to 15 (fishing and gigging). The per-boat daily limit would decrease from 40 to 30 flounder.
The change would take effect July 1, 2014.
State Sen. Chip Campsen, chairman of the Senate Fish, Game and Forestry Committee, said the measure would protect the state’s population of migrating tarpon while still giving anglers a chance to break the state record of 154 pounds, 10 ounces.
Campsen, a Charleston Republican who enjoys fishing for tarpon in late summer, said the rule shouldn’t dramatically change the state’s tarpon fishery. Killing a tarpon remains taboo in most fishing circles, and anglers rarely catch fish longer than 77 inches.
The measure, which Campsen expects to become law, would not address the somewhat controversial practice of pulling a large tarpon out of the water for photographs. Campsen recommended that fellow tarpon anglers leave catch-and-release fish in the water to avoid injury to fish or fisherman.
Establish a yearlong sea bass fishing season in state waters — out to 3 miles — despite any closures in federal waters farther out.
Normally, state regulations for ocean-going species follow federal rules; the state’s apparent break with federal fisheries managers follows a few years of truncated black sea bass seasons.
The measure would ensure catch limits in state waters do not fall below five fish per person per day, with a minimum size limit of 13 inches (total length).
If signed into law, the change could set up an enforcement challenge: If fishing is closed 10 miles out but open 2.5 miles out, how would enforcement officers back at the boat ramp know where a fish was caught?
Mike Able Jr. of Haddrell’s Point Tackle and Supply said many anglers are heading to nearshore reefs to take advantage of the start of a new black sea bass fishing season while also targeting cobia and amberjack.
Inshore fishing remains strong for flounder, trout and redfish, he said. Anglers are having great luck with DOA’s new soft-plastic lure called the Airhead, a 4-inch long menhaden imitation.
“A lot of redfish have been charging on that thing, just dogging on it.”
J.J. Owczarek of The Charleston Angler said inshore anglers visiting his store in Mount Pleasant have been using Z-Man ShrimpZ to catch redfish in flooded marsh grass.
Owczarek also has heard great reports from the nearshore reefs, particularly with cobia.
“A lot of people anchor up and sit there, chumming, but honestly being mobile is a better way to do it,” he said. “Guys are out there looking for them on the surface and around tidelines.”
Both Able and Owczarek say their customers continue to report strong offshore fishing, though storms last week hampered the fleet.
The dolphin bite remains decent, and wahoo continue a good run. “The blue marlin bite’s been going off like crazy,” Able said, with a few sailfish in the mix.
Pier fishing with dad
Could there be a better way to spend Father’s Day than fishing with the family?
Pier fishing with dad
If you don’t have a boat (or super-secret, shore-fishing spot), consider heading over to the pier in Mount Pleasant for a Father’s Day event next Sunday.
Local experts will be offering a free pier fishing tutorial 1-2 p.m. Anyone attending the seminar can fish on the pier for free the rest of the afternoon.
An adult chaperone is required for participants ages 15 and under. Registration is not required. For details, go to ccprc.com.
Reach Matt Winter, manager of niche content and design and editor of Tideline magazine, at (843) 937-5568 or email@example.com.