South Carolina anglers will have new redfish regulations to follow, effective July 1, after Gov. Henry McMaster signed a bill that has moved between the house and senate for much of this year. 

The new law, which McMaster signed last Tuesday, keeps the same size slot limit of 15 to 23 inches, but the bag limit is reduced from three redfish per person, per day, to two per person, per day. A boat limit has also been implemented stating a maximum of six redfish can be kept per day if the boat contains three or more licensed anglers.

The new law has the full support of Coastal Conservation Association South Carolina (CCA SC), said the organization’s Executive Director Scott Whitaker.

“It’s a good bill, and it is something we’ve needed,” said Whitaker, who noted that among fishing guides, lawmakers, and SCDNR biologists, he has heard no opposition to the new regulations.

The new law is also widely supported by professional fishing guides up and down the coast of the Palmetto State. Capt. Fred Rourk of Sweet Tea Charters out of Pawleys Island was a big proponent of the bill, and based his opinion on the need for the new law on several factors, including his own experiences on the water as well as those of his fellow guides.

But Rourk said science has played just as big a role in his thoughts on the need for this law as his own first-hand knowledge.

“Guide input is frontline information, but not scientific, and in this case, guide input has matched biologist data. For the past two years, I’ve met with guides from Beaufort to Little River along with two top SCNDR biologists. As a member of the Marine Advisory Committee, I’ve seen every bit of scientific data from Cape Fear River to Jacksonville, Florida. None of this is based on feelings; it’s all backed by science,” said Rourk.

As the bill for the new regulations made its way through the process of becoming law, it was sidelined for a spell as the House’s version called for a ban on gigging redfish. The Senate version did not contain this provision, and the Senate version passed.

While gigging redfish is still allowed, those participating in gigging are still bound by the same new limit of two slot-sized redfish per person, per day. As before, gigging redfish is illegal during December, January, and February.

The new boat limit of six redfish per day means that if four anglers are on the same boat, the boat’s limit is still only six redfish, instead of eight, which would be the legal number based on the two-fish per person, per day limit, if  no boat limit was in effect. This is the first time South Carolina has set a boat limit on this species.