S.C. fishing law, regulation changes considered

Regulations are being considered now that will impact the future of our fisheries in S.C. and outdoorsmen need to be involved. Caitlyn Reeser hefts a crappie from our local lakes.Change and associated adaptation to change is part of everyone’s daily life and outdoorsmen are certainly not spared from change.

Changing laws and regulations on wildlife and fish species need to be reviewed and altered as appropriate to meet new demands and pressures on the resources. On our local Santee Cooper lakes we’ve experienced quite a bit of regulatory change in recent years. We now have fairly new regulations on stripers, largemouth bass and catfish. Most anglers seem to be content with the changes and the impacts seem to be working as hoped for by users, the outdoorsmen, as well as the professional managing agency, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR). Although the laws are actually passed by the S.C. Legislature, most of the recommendations come from the professional biologists at SCDNR.

Not everyone is happy with all the changes that we’ve seen on our lakes, but getting everyone satisfied is not likely to ever happen. But involvement in the process should happen and right now sportsmen across the state have an opportunity, perhaps an obligation, to get involved.

There are some new and very significant changes that will impact lakes on a statewide basis in a variety of ways. The details are far too lengthy to discuss here but you can look up the bills on the SCDNR website at www.dnr.sc.gov. I’d suggest you do just that because the bills are far-ranging and will have significant impact on just about every fisherman in South Carolina.

The bills deal with many issues but creel limits and minimum size limits on multiple species on a large scale are two of the most discussed issues.

From what I have gathered, most of the recommendations that are being considered by the legislature have been scrutinized closely. The SCDNR formed study groups that involved fishermen as private citizens for input into these proposed changes. It seems that there has been a great emphasis placed on due process in this endeavor. I am specifically referring to the process used where the SCDNR has coupled sound biological recommendations based on biological facts and/or data and then had it reviewed, discussed and commented on by a selected group of users. Seems like a genuine effort to find the best solution for all considered.

Yet there are a group of individuals that are not in agreement with some of the proposed changes. Some fishermen don’t want a size limit on crappie, for example. Or maybe their favorite largemouth bass fishing lake currently has no size restriction and these new regulations may change that. For any of an almost infinite number of reasons, some are not in agreement with the proposals.

From my perspective as an outdoorsman, a writer of things outdoors, and a person with a degree in fisheries and wildlife management, I see opposing viewpoints as good, even necessary. Disagreement over policy or regulatory changes that are all brought to the surface and then discussed and refined usually end up with a better quality end product.

From my personal perspective in this column, I want the very best possible scenario to be what is eventually passed into law. I want what is best for the natural resources of our great state in terms of the short and long term future of fisheries at every lake, river and stream. I want it for every species. I want my grandkids to have even better fishing than I have had the pleasure of enjoying in South Carolina.

At the same time, I want the regulations to be things we can all live with and still enjoy the resources. I want them to be fair and unbiased in terms of leaning toward select groups.

This is where you, outdoorsmen, come into the picture. As citizens and users of the natural resources of South Carolina, it is our duty to contact our representatives, after you read and understand the new regulatory proposals. Then advise them of your thoughts and feelings. It’s not good enough to simply read them and mumble to yourself, “I like these changes; it will be good for the fisheries.” You need to let your representatives know of your positive support. The same is true for those who disagree. They are usually the ones most likely to make contact in this type scenario and by all means they should do so. But so should we all.

These are changes that we will live with for a while. Only time will tell if they will be successful or not. They are merely the best scenarios developed by professionals using scientific knowledge.  Does that always work out best? Of course not. Is that a sound logic upon which to base regulatory controls? I think so. But if you don’t let your legislative representatives know how you feel, I believe you have forfeited your right to complain. 

Read these new proposals thoroughly. They have far reaching impacts and while I believe in professional biologists making decisions on wildlife and fisheries management issues, I also totally agree that as American citizens there is the inherent right to disagree. But to have an impact, you must make it known to the right people in the right manner.

Bottom line, whether you agree or disagree after reading the proposals before the legislature, have specific reasons why you feel as you do and let your representatives know how you feel. After all that’s how it’s supposed to work. The legislature should be an extension of the voice of the population at large. In this case the voice of South Carolina outdoorsmen.

The ball is in our court.