Proposed changes to striped bass regulations on the Santee Cooper lakes has stalled in the stakeholders committee, and no recommendations were passed on to the legislature for consideration for the 2015-2016 license year.
Scott Lamprecht, a fisheries biologist with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources that managing stripers the past seven years with a three-fish, 26-inch minimum size limit has helped the fishery recover from a downward trend that lasted for several years.
“At the end of the seven years, the striper fishery has displayed dramatic improvement in terms of numbers and size of stripers,” Lamprecht said. “A proposal discussed by the stakeholders, that we were willing to support, contained language that would relax the regulations and provide more opportunities for anglers but still protect the recovery the fishery has made. However the committee was unable to generate a specific request for the 2015 and 2016 license year. It appeared they had reached a decision at the meeting I attended, but later objections by some members caused the proposal to be tabled.”
Kevin Davis, owner of Blacks Camp and a member of the stakeholders committee, said the committee has a proposal they plan to submit in the near future for consideration for the 2016-17 license year.
“Although it took some debate with the shareholders committee, everyone now seems to agree that a slot limit will be good for the fishery and fishermen,” Davis said. “New legislation will not be considered until the legislature goes back into session in January 2016. With the excellent condition of the current striper population, we’re expecting to catch some really good-sized stripers this fall.”
Lamprecht said striper fishing is closed on the Santee Cooper system and will re-open on October 1, with the same regulations in place.
Mary Shriner, director of the Santee Cooper Counties Promotion Commission, said that with a few tweaks, the final proposal should slightly modify the existing law.
“The current language in the proposal has not yet been endorsed by the SCDNR leadership, but the language the stakeholder’s committee is preparing to submit would relax the existing law,” Shriner said.
Shriner said a synopsis of the changes would likely include a closed season from June 16 through Sept. 30. Currently, the season closes June 1 through Sept. 30.
“This proposal would allow an extra two weeks of fishing opportunity if approved,” Shriner said.
Shriner said the daily creel limit will likely remain three fish per day. The proposed slot limit would allow fishermen to keep stripers between 24 to 26 inches long and allow one fish daily longer than 41 inches, the minimum size for a youth in SCDNR’s Angler’s Recognition Program.
Lamprecht said that the proposal that SCDNR receives from the stakeholders will be evaluated from a biological perspective, with fishery and fishermen needs being considered before submitted to the legislature.
“My hope is that we get a plan to the legislature that benefits the long-term interests of both the fishermen and the fishery,” he said. “But we need the stakeholder committee input and buy-in before moving forward.”