There is an old quote that’s been attributed to a number of people. To paraphrase it somewhat, it goes like this: “There are two things you don’t want to see being made: sausage and laws.”

I bought my son a sausage-making kit last summer, so I don’t really agree with the first part of the quote — the first summer sausage he made from the doe he killed with a bow last fall was pretty good. And actually, I’d love to have been a fly on the wall to watch how the Santee Cooper catfish legislation that passed through the S.C. General Assembly wound up in its final form. I’d want to see how what started out as a good bill wound up as a pile of, well, stinkbait.

Here’s something for you ladies and gentlemen of the state house and senate: “Shame on you.” 

You can quote me on it.

SCDNR-sponsored public meetings with stakeholders came up with the regulation changes that were contained in the original version of the legislation: a 10-fish daily creel limit and no change to the 1-fish, 36-inch size exception. If anybody knew exactly what steps are needed to stem the decline in what was once an earth-shattering fishery, it was the fishermen and biologists who work the water daily.

So what did the legislature come up with, after battles to protect  Upstate pay-pond owners and commercial trotliners? Can you believe a 25-fish daily creel limit with two fish daily allowed 32 inches or longer.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds all the world to me like a step in the wrong direction. The number of fishermen who will be affected by a 25-fish creel limit can be counted on one hand, and allowing two fish every day longer than 32 inches seems to terrible compared to the 1-fish, 36-inch exception.

Along the way, a 15-fish creel limit was part of the bill, at one point, and a 1-fish, 30-inch exception was in the bill. How it got to the place it wound up is a testament to the way laws are sometimes made, sometimes by the most-clueless among us.

The guys at SCDNR have said all the proper things for attribution, that it’s a good starting point for managing the fishery. That’s about all they can say. If you’re an SCDNR staffer and you say something to the effect that any state legislator who voted for the bill is an idiot, you’d better take a second look at your job security.

Details of the bill actually put more pressure on SCDNR. The agency has got barely three years to make a judgement on how the new regulations are working, or the bill will be repealed and everybody will have to start over. They usually get five years. Of course, that might not be the worst thing that’s ever happened if it winds up being a step in the wrong direction.