Over a decade ago, South Carolina recognized the tremendous value of redfish as a game fish – and gave it that status officially, allowing no more commercial fishing for the species. Now, more and more South Carolina anglers actively participate in improving the fishery through the state’s growing tag-and-release redfish program.
In fact, that program was begun about 20 years ago by David Cupka, now director of South Carolina’s Office of Fisheries Management, and its numbers are impressive. “We’ve had over 8,000 people participate in the program,” Cupka says. Smith’s clients tagged 1,200 fish – earning him the state’s top “Tagger of the Year” award. While most of those were redfish, other inshore species such as trout and flounder also are fair game for tag sticks.
Lots of local anglers tag fish or at least release them. The tagging program and the release ethic have made a real difference: “In the last five years, I’ve seen the fishing double in its productivity. It’s improved without question,” Smith says.
Scientific evidence bears witness to that experience as well. “Redfish stocks are rebounding, without a doubt,” says Cupka, and have been for the past six or seven years. Besides anglers releasing fish, management restrictions and strict size and bag limits have made a difference.
Free tag kits for South Carolina anglers are available by writing the Marine Game Fish Tagging Program, Attention: Kay Davy, PO Box 12559, Charleston, SC 29422 or e-mail us at:[email protected]