For all you spottail bass fishermen and women:
A 30-pound red fish was caught off Georgetown some 21 years after it was first tagged and released in Charleston's Wappoo Cut.
The S.C. Department of Natural Resources is reporting that Charlotte resident Andy Ball and some friends last month fished the Winyah Bay jetties targeting large red drum.
The day went well, especially for Ball.
Once he landed his 3½-foot bull red, his group knew instantly it had been caught before, based on the plastic yellow tag that protruded from the spottail’s back.
This finger-length nylon tags each have a different number for identifying individual fish — proof it was part of the state's research pool.
The tags provide DNR with a wealth of information on the reds and other coastal species it follows.
The tags are placed on the fish by DNR staffers or by volunteer anglers.
Ball contacted DNR’s tagging coordinator, Morgan Hart, who ran the fish’s history and discovered it had first been tagged more than 21 years ago.
The original tagger was identified as Kevin Mischke of James Island, who marked fish A033559 when he caught it in Charleston's Wappoo Cut in 1997.
The cut is part of the body of water that divides West Ashley from James Island.
"When Mischke caught it, the red drum was already a mature fish at 35 inches – meaning he/she is now likely to be well older than 21 years of age," DNR said.
Some red drum are known to live up to 40 years.
Ball could not be reached but Mischke, 52, of James Island, said it was one of the hundreds of reds he's tagged in his fishing career.
"Most of the fish I've tagged have been big fish," Mischke told The Post and Courier. A buddy of his once pulled in a 42- incher from the cut, he said.
The tags go in the fish in its mid-section, behind the dorsal fin.
This isn't the first time this particular fish has been caught. A033559 was also landed by angler Warren Wood in 2008 in the same vicinity where Ball caught it recently.
"By this time, the red drum had grown 5 inches and migrated to Georgetown, where Wood reported catching it off the Winyah Bay jetties," DNR said.
During the past 25 years, South Carolina anglers in the tagging program have tagged some 61,000 red drum.
"Those fish have been recaptured nearly 10,000 times, with individual fish being reported as many as four times each," DNR said.