The halfway point of the mini-season in which fishermen can keep American red snappers has passed, and from all indications it has been extremely successful. The eight-day season covers three weekends, July 11-14, July 18-21 and July 25-27. Anglers are allowed to keep one red snapper per person per day, and there is no minimum size limit.

"From my viewpoint and from everyone I have talked to up and down the coast, from what I understand red snapper were caught real, real well this past weekend," said Capt. Mark Brown of the Teaser 2, who recently was appointed to the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council.

"Everyone I spoke to locally caught quite a few and they were big fish. It was really a good start for the season."

Brown said fishermen on his charters have been catching and releasing red snappers, some weighing more than 30 pounds, so he wasn't surprised. The fish are normally caught in water 90 feet or deeper, but they also are being caught closer to shore.

"We were really happy when they opened it for these eight days and gave us an opportunity to keep some," Brown said. "We've been seeing them in a lot of places, as close as the Day Wreck (40 feet), which is only eight or nine miles offshore."

In recent years three-day seasons have been opened for red snapper, which are considered a species of concern by the National Marine Fisheries Service, and Brown said fishermen have been weathered out at least one of those three days. Brown said the landings should give officials a better understanding of what the stock looks like.

Amy Dukes, a fisheries biologist for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, said efforts are underway in South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida to collect biological samples from red snapper that have been landed.

Five freezers to collect red snapper carcasses have been placed at several locations throughout the state. Charleston-area anglers can donate their red snapper carcasses (dnr.sc.gov/marine/carcassdropoff) at the SCDNR Marine Resource Division (accessible by boat only), 217 Fort Johnson Road, Charleston, S.C., 29412 (located under the Administration Building adjacent to the boat slip). Other locations include Georgetown Landing Marina; Fish On Outfitters in North Myrtle Beach; Harrelson's Seafood Market in Murrells Inlet; and The Boathouse Restaurant on Hilton Head Island.

"We are asking recreational anglers when they come back from fishing and catch red snapper to clean the fish very carefully, put the fish in plastic bags, fill out catch cards and put them in those freezers. Fishermen also are asked to participate in an online survey.

Dukes said biologists are aging the red snapper by taking the otoliths (ear bones), trying to determine the sex of the fish and taking measurements.

CCA donates equipment

The Coastal Conservation Association of South Carolina earlier this week donated $85,000 in equipment, including a dump truck, several boats and two trailers, to help in efforts to recycle and plant oyster shell. CCA also has helped establish new oyster recycling locations in Florence and Columbia. Working with DNR, CCA has deployed 15,765 bushels of oyster shell (23,707 bags) at 31 oyster reef restoration sites along the South Carolina coast since 2009.