Rep. Stephen Goldfinch, who serves District 108 covering Georgetown and Charleston counties is proposing to make North Inlet a catch-and-release only fishery for redfish. He wants the proposal to be passed on a temporary basis to study the effects of it after five years.
Goldfinch’s proposal comes after extensive conversations he’s had with area fishing guides about the lower numbers of redfish that have occurred in the North Inlet area over the past several seasons.
“I’ve gotten a lot of reports from the guides in the area that the big winter schools we used to see six to 10 years ago are gone now – that those schools are now in the 25- to 30-fish range as opposed to the 200-range – that something is going on,” Rep. Goldfinch said.
Goldfinch expects good luck with the proposal.
“I’d imagine it will probably get some traction. I think it’s ultimately something people will get behind and support,” he said.
An avid angler, Goldfinch wants science to play a major role in the study.
“SCDNR would have an opportunity to use their biologists to study it thoroughly. In five years, we’d have a collection of data to tell us whether or not it’s overfishing that is the problem, or whether or not it’s a biological problem. If it’s overfishing we’re going to know what we need to do with catch limits. If it’s a biological problem, hopefully we can figure out that problem as well,” he said.
North Inlet is a fairly small area that is relatively untouched in comparison to what is just north, and just south of it. The salt marsh inlet has no incoming freshwater rivers or creeks emptying into it. It is sandwiched between Winyah Bay in Georgetown and Pawleys Island.
Goldfinch believes the results of such a law would turn North Inlet into a proving ground for catch-and-release fishermen.
“All the big fly fishermen will probably come to North Inlet because I think you’ll see the big schools of redfish come back to North Inlet again with it being a catch-and-release area only,” he said.
After the five year study, Goldfinch said depending on the results, the law could change or stay the same.
“We might decide we want to keep that area that way and leave it unspoiled. If it doesn’t change, there’s no reason to keep doing it that way. Let’s open it back up and figure out what the problem is from a different angle,” he said.