Sometimes, the system works, even if it's often too slow for our tastes.

That's what can be said for the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council's decision in mid-May to greatly increase the number of black sea bass that can be caught and kept.

The harvest of black sea bass south of Cape Hatteras, N.C., had been restricted for a number of years after a stock-status report indicated that the fishery was being overfished and the stock was in trouble.

The restrictions included smaller daily creel limits, a smaller overall annual quota for the entire coast and a shorter season, based on how quickly the quota was reached. The past couple of years, in fact, the season was only open about three months before the quota was met.

Fishermen can accept restrictions like those when they understand and experience a shortage of fish. But when it seems like there are more of them out there than can possibly be caught, public sentiment takes a turn.

What happened in the case of the black sea bass is that restrictions worked far better than fisheries managers could have expected. Several years into the agreed-upon term of the restrictions and recovery, fishermen found that they couldn't buy or catch enough bait to catch all the black sea bass that were showing up around the rocks, reefs and wrecks they had frequented in the past.

Fishermen became frustrated when they couldn't get a bait through the black sea bass to the grouper they really wanted to catch - yet they often couldn't keep many or any of the black sea bass.

A South Carolina legislator even introduced a bill to allow the S.C. Department of Natural Resources to manage black sea bass as it saw fit in waters the state controls out to three miles off the beach - the feds control everything farther offshore.

Despite all the noise fishermen made, the feds couldn't do anything until they got in the latest stock-status report, which they finally got a chance to look at this spring. The report showed that black sea bass had recovered from earlier low levels and were no longer being overfished.

With the season for keeping black sea bass scheduled to open June 1, the SAFMC relaxed restrictions. The daily creel limits remains five per day, with a 13-inch size minimum, but because the amount of fish that can be caught more than doubled, the season will likely last many more months.

Fishermen can take 1.8 million pounds; the previous quota was 874,000 pounds. The quota will remain in place until 2016, when it will drop by 100,000 pounds, where it will remain until a scheduled stock-status assessment will be reviewed.

It may not be a lot of consolation, but it does prove that good things come to those who wait.