While some minor differences are still being ironed out, Ross Self, chief of freshwater fisheries for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, said there should be no problem reaching consensus with the Georgia DNR on extending the reciprocal fishing agreement on common border waters, including Lakes Hartwell, Russell and Thurmond.

"We've updated and modified the agreement with Georgia two or three times over the last five or six years, so it is no big deal," Self said.

 

The current agreement, which allows each state to honor the other's fishing licenses on shared waters, is due to expire July 1.

 

"The agreement will have to be modified a little bit based on some changes that occurred in our fishing laws," Self said. "Georgia has some public meetings scheduled this month to consider changing some of their regulations to match our changes."

 

Those changes involve species where Georgia regulations are different from those adopted by South Carolina. Self said his agency has developed a draft agreement to send to Georgia and both state agencies have already discussed the agreement in depth.

         

"It will then be up to them to see which species we can come together on," he said.

 

Primary changes to be considered by Georgia involve new striper limits adopted by South Carolina for Lake Hartwell and Thurmond Lake, Self said. The change sets a limit of three fish over 26 inches, including hybrids, and retains the current creel limit of 10 fish per day.

 

"We try to adopt their regulations on largemouth bass on the Savannah lakes, so we should be okay with bass," he said.

 

The current creel limit for largemouth is 10 per day and, under new South Carolina regulations, on July 1 there will be a minimum size limit of 12 inches.

 

However, the states may wind up with different regulations on crappie and redbreast, he said.

 

"Crappie is a bigger concern at this point. Georgia has some concerns with going with our 8-inch minimum, 20-fish limit. They don't have a minimum size, and they have some philosophical concerns about going to a minimum size if there is no biological justification."

 

South Carolina has reduced the limit from 30 to 15 for redbreast because of concerns about the decline of the species in coastal rivers. Biologists say the decline is due to the inappropriate introduction of flathead catfish in those waters by fishermen. Flatheads feast on bream species such as redbreast.

         

"When our changes go into effect," Self said, "we need to have a reciprocal agreement in place, but there is no intent on either side to do away with the agreement."