James Lasher III of Mount Pleasant caught a 54-pound, 4-ounce gag grouper this year to break the previous record. SCDNR photo

Would you like to be known as a record-holding angler?

It's as simple as catching one of nine open species. A lionfish, Gulf flounder, ocean triggerfish, bigeye tuna, yellowedge grouper, yellowfin grouper, golden tilefish, smooth dogfish shark or spiny dogfish shark that is of legal size can land you a spot in the South Carolina record book.

The addition of those nine species brings the total to 86 different species that are recognized for all-tackle records in the state's marine waters. The heaviest saltwater fish record is Walter Maxwell's 1,780-pound tiger shark caught from the Cherry Grove Fishing Pier in 1964. The smallest record is a 1-pound, 4-ounce spot.

The South Carolina Gamefish Record program began around 1970, although there are catches that pre-date the record-keeping program that have been recognized. The oldest record catch is a 65-pound great barracuda caught in 1948 by Henry H. Shelor of Sumter who was fishing out of Georgetown.

"It was documented by a memo on July 18, 1968 to Charlie Bearden with the South Carolina Wildlife and Marine Resources Department (the precursor to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources)," said Kayla Rudnay, State Record Coordinator for SCDNR. "The memo contains a list of witnesses and a couple of their signatures."


Joseph West of Charleston set the snowy grouper record in 2017 with this 34-pound, 10-ounce catch. SCDNR photo

Rudnay said SCDNR officials sometimes receive inquiries about species that are not listed for record catches and it was decided that since some time had elapsed since any modifications to the program had taken place, it would be a good idea to take a closer look. A decision was made to add nine species following a presentation to the Marine Advisory Committee.

"The main parameters used in adding species were:

• Frequently encountered. Rudnay said they spoke to specialized biologists within SCDNR to gather information on the chance of encounter and population dynamics. They wanted anglers to have a strong chance of catching them, and if people begin harvesting them for potential records, they wanted to make sure their respective populations are doing well enough to sustain taking the large fish out.

• Popular recreational targets.

• Easily identifiable. SCDNR wanted to avoid mis-identification by anglers of a fish that is actually a different species that might be prohibited or faces strict regulations.

• Fisheries management. They didn't want people bringing in fish that possibly could be facing strict regulation or closure.


Thomas Pope of Georgetown broke his friend William Henry's scamp grouper record in 2018 with this 28-pound, 8.3-ounce catch. SCDNR photo

"With the awarding of a record catch, we always try to emphasize the importance of collecting data from these fish, and utilizing every available resource to its fullest to better understand the species," Rudnay said.

"In 2008, (SCDNR) began taking additional biological samples, including otoliths (ear bones used to age the fish), genetics and reproductive tissue samples. These samples are extremely important to better understand each species, and are analyzed and used for stock assessments and other management decisions."

Rudnay said four state records have been recognized in 2018, one of which already was eclipsed. William Henry broke the scamp grouper record with a 27-pound, 6.56-ounce catch on June 8 while fishing aboard the Sea Rake out of Crazy Sister Marina in Murrells Inlet. Sixteen days later, his friend Thomas Pope broke the record with a 28-pound, 8.3-ounce catch while fishing aboard the same boat.

The other 2018 records were James Lasher's 54-pound, 4-ounce gag grouper caught out of Isle of Palms and Jason Williams' 5-pound, 8.4-ounce tautog caught out of Murrells Inlet.

Record catches have to meet certain criteria, including beating the old mark by a certain amount — fish weighing less than 50 pounds must beat the previous record by at least four ounces; fish that weigh at least 50 but not exceeding 100 pounds must break the previous record by at least eight ounces; and fish that weigh more than 100 pounds must beat the previous record by at least 16 ounces.

If the catches don't meet the weight differential, the result is a tie. Currently, there is an eight-way tie for spots. Other species that have shared records include southern flounder, white grunt, kingfish (whiting) and yellowtail snapper.

There are some species, however, where the records will not be broken unless state or federal regulations governing their harvest are changed. The popular red drum (redfish) and black drum records are closed because of a state slot limit. And federal regulations prohibit the harvest of the longbill spearfish, silky shark, sand tiger shark, sandbar shark, dusky shark, bigeye thresher shark and the Warsaw grouper.

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