A bill introduced in January that would establish a daily creel limit and change the size limit on blue catfish at the Santee Cooper lakes has made it through the S.C. House and has moved to the S.C. Senate in early March, setting up a possible confrontation between commercial and recreational fishermen on Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie and pay-pond owners in the Upstate who rely on the lakes to acquire fish for their ponds.
H4543 would establish a daily creel limit of 10 blue catfish on the Santee Cooper lakes and decrease the maximum length of blue catfish taken from the lakes from one fish over 36 inches to one fish over 32 inches per day per angler. The bill has garnered public support from anglers and commercial fishermen who have participated in public meetings held by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources in an effort to decide what needs to be done to curb the decline in the blue catfish in the lakes.
Emily Cope, deputy director of SCDNR, told The Greenville News that commercial and recreational fishermen at Santee Cooper want something done to protect blue catfish from being overfished on the lakes. But despite the widespread support, some Upstate legislators feel the bill may have a negative economic impact on several area pay-pond owners who rely on the Santee-Cooper fisheries to acquire the fish used to stock privately owned ponds.
Sen. Tom Corbin (R-Travelers Rest) told the Charleston Post & Courier that it makes sense for the fish to be driven to the Upstate, instead of having dozens of fishermen driving to the lakes, given the high cost of gas. He expects a compromise can be reached possibly by increasing the proposed creel limit
"We've had some outcry from folks up our way," Corbin said. "It's just something we need to look at. We don't want to decimate our fish population."
Not addressed by Corbin was the use of the catfish, a public resource, to stock privately owned pay-ponds.