Over many years working as a fishing guide, Champ Smith and his clients have caught thousands and thousands of red drum, tagging and releasing many of them in the name of science.
A number of those fish -- also known as redfish, channel bass and spottail bass -- have been recaptured by other anglers, but none of those recaptures has had the impact of a recent catch made at the Charleston Jetties by Blair Malcomb, which almost assuredly is a record.
Smith said a letter from DNR reporting the recapture said it had been 5,199 days since he initially tagged the fish behind Dewees Island -- more than 14 years. The fish measured 23 inches when it was first tagged and 35 inches when it was recaptured.
DNR has published a PDF paper about its tagging programs, and within the document there are some interesting facts and figures. For example, the longest time a fish has been at liberty between tagging and recapturing was a red drum that was at liberty for 12 years. It was initially tagged in the Cooper River and recaptured in Charleston Harbor.
The same document also shows Smith as the most prolific participant in the tagging program, having tagged 4,379 fish over a 16-year period.
Smith said he has had a number of fish recaptured, with some of them traveling as far north as Southport, N.C., and as far south as Savannah. But, he pointed out, most red drum stay in a fairly small geographic area.
From 1978 to 2009, participants tagged 62,550 red drum, and of those there have been 8,264 recoveries.
DNR no longer encourages the tagging of red drum, having gained plenty of scientific information about the species. But the learning continues.
"This really shows how slowly these fish grow," Smith said, "so we really need to be careful with them. It's pretty neat when someone else catches a fish because the person who catches the fish gets a letter and my client gets a letter, too.
--There is a new state record for lemon shark. Stephen Liesen, a dentist from Quincy, Ill., was vacationing in the Hilton Head area recently and went on a charter trip aboard Outcast, owned and captained by Chip Michalove. Liesen landed a 380-pound lemon shark just outside of Port Royal Sound, in 35 feet of water. He was using cut barracuda fillets for bait. Amy Dukes, a DNR biologist, verified the catch, which beat the previous record, held by Ronald Price of Ladson, by 10 pounds.
This wasn't Outcast's first shark record. In June 2009, Daniel Rowe of Gray, Tenn., landed a record 163-pound, 14-ounce blacktip shark aboard the 26-foot Glacier Bay.
--Deer hunting season on private lands in the Lowcountry opens in two weeks, and if you want to whet your appetite you can go online and take a look at the state's complete listing of antler records (www.dnr.sc.gov/wildlife/deer/alltime). According to DNR, this is only the second time that the complete listing of all antler records has been available.
The state record program was initiated in 1974, and 5,449 sets of antlers have been entered in the program -- 5,243 typical and 206 non-typical. Typical antlers must score 125 points based on the Boone and Crockett scoring system, while non-typical antlers must score 145 points. Antlers must undergo a minimum 60-day drying period and a statement of fair chase must be signed.