South Carolina set to open year-round red snapper fishery

red snapper
Photo courtesy of NOAA

Red snapper fishing will soon open in S.C. waters

Legislation concerning red snapper passed by the South Carolina General Assembly in April 2022 spells good news for South Carolina anglers. And Gov. Henry McMaster is expected to sign it into law any day now.

The new legislation is set to open a year-round fishery for red snapper within South Carolina’s state waters. Upon McMaster’s signature, this will mark the first time harvest regulations have been set for the state. Red snapper have been managed (and many would say mis-managed) by federal fisheries managers previously. This has put anglers at the mercy of those managers and has led to long closures and very short seasons. And the species has rebounded robustly in the past decade.

As the species made a major comeback, anglers began to catch red snapper in big numbers while fishing for other species. But due to federal regulations, even while within state waters, the anglers weren’t allowed to keep them. And releasing them led to mortality in many cases. The species was once in trouble, but now the fish are so plentiful that it’s tough to fish offshore for any species without catching red snapper.

The new legislation will allow anglers in South Carolina waters to keep two fish per person, per day. The fish will have a minimum size limit of 20 inches.

Federal waters remain under jurisdiction of federal authorities

“This was a needed first step for South Carolina to address a problematic fishery issue that is well over a decade in the making. And there are certainly more steps that need to be taken,” said Tombo Milliken, CCA SC Government Relations Committee Chairman.

Florida and Georgia also have open season on red snapper within their state waters. As South Carolina joins them, North Carolina will be the only state in the South Atlantic region without state regulations.

Scott Whitaker, CCA SC Executive Director, said this is a big step for South Carolina anglers, and hopes it leads to something bigger for federal waters.

“Access to this popular species remains troublesome to say the very least via the federal management process. So we were eager to support Sen. Stephen Goldfinch and Sen. Chip Campsen in this endeavor,” said Whitaker. “We are appreciative of the support by Rep. David Hiott, Rep. Bill Hixon, and Rep. Russell Ott throughout the process and to Gov. McMaster for his willingness to sign this into law and provide anglers with some measure of accessibility as we move forward.”

According to CCA SC, the bill is expected to become law upon McMaster’s signature, which should take place before July 1.

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About Brian Cope 2204 Articles
Brian Cope is the editor of Carolina Sportsman. He has won numerous awards for his writing, photography, and videography. He is a retired Air Force combat communications technician, and has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina. You can reach him at brianc@sportsmannetwork.com.

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