South Carolina has joined a number of states in an effort to protect and improve flounder populations.
Gov. Henry McMaster signed bill H.3957 on June 15 that would change size and creel limits on flounder harvested in South Carolina waters. The bill also increases the cost of saltwater fishing licenses for residents and non-residents with the extra money used for the development and implementation of a flounder stocking program.
"This is something we've really needed and we appreciate the legislature for stepping up with these changes," said Scott Whitaker, executive director of CCA (Coastal Conservation Association) South Carolina.
The Senate passed the bill unanimously and the vote was 111-1 in the House of Representatives. The new regulations and fee increases go into effect July 1, 2021.
"Both bodies had different reads on the issue and how to go about making a course correction but in the spirit of effective public policy they took input from fisheries managers, constituents and interested parties to forward a sound plan," said Tombo Milliken, CCA SC Government Relation Committee chairman.
Under the new regulations, anglers, including those who gig or spear fish, will be limited to five per day with a 10-fish boat limit. That is half the current regulations. The minimum size limit for flounder also will be increased by one inch to 16 inches total length.
New fishing license fees for residents are: 14-day, $10; annual, $15; three-year, $45; lifetime, $300. The previous cost for residents was: 14-day, $5; annual, $10; three-year, $30; lifetime, $300.
The saltwater fishing license fees for non-residents will be: one-day, $10; seven-day, $35; annual, $75.
The old license fee structure for non-residents was: 14-day, $11; annual, $35; three-year, $105.
The legislation also says that revenue generated from the sale of recreational and commercial marine licenses, permits and tags will to into the Marine Resources Fund.
Flounder stocks in South Carolina, along with many other southern states including Texas and North Carolina, are well below what biologists consider healthy levels.
In 2017, South Carolina changed the minimum size limit by one inch to 15 inches and decreased the bag limits from 15 per person per day to the current 10 per person per day. Boat limits went from 30 per day to 20 per boat.
North Carolina has implemented a recreational flounder season that runs from Aug. 16-Sept. 30. The limit there is 15 inches total length with a limit of four per person per day. Georgia has a 12-inch minimum size limit and daily creel limit of 15. Texas has a minimum size limit of 15 inches with a bag limit of five fish, except Nov. 1-30 when it is two fish by pole-and-line and from Dec. 1-14 when its two fish (includes gigging).
CCA South Carolina said that the legislation represents a conservation win that "technically ends overfishing of southern flounder."
Swamp Fox NWTF banquet
The Swamp Fox chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation will hold its annual fund-raising banquet and auction on June 26 at the Exchange Building at the Exchange Park on Highway 78 in Ladson. Doors open at 5 p.m. for the sportsman exhibits with dinner at 6:15 p.m. Tickets are pre-sale. Contact Wayne Grace Jr. at 843-834-7779 or Karen Whaley at 843-870-3480 or email email@example.com.
America's Boating Club
America's Boating Club Charleston will hold boating safety classes June 26, July 10 and July 31 at 1376 Orange Grove Road, Charleston. The classes begin at 9 a.m. and end around 4 p.m. Successful participants earn the S.C. Department of Natural Resources Boater Education Card. The cost is $25 for adults and youth 12-18 are free. Call 843-312-2876 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hooked on Miracles
The Hooked on Miracles King Mackerel Tournament will be held July 17 out of Ripley Light Yacht Club. Proceeds from the tournament benefit the MUSC Children's Hospital. The captain's meeting for the tournament (hookedonmiracles.com) presented by Key West Boats will be held from 5-9 p.m. July 15, with an MUSC children's outing aboard the Billistic on July 16. Fishing hours on July 17 are from 6:30 a.m.-5 p.m. with check-in from 2-5 p.m. First prize, based on 125 paid entrants, is $25,000. The entry fee is $400 per boat.