New size, bag limits for flounder starting July 1 June 28, 2017
On July 1, 2017, legislation recently passed by the South Carolina General Assembly will increase the size limit and lower the bag and boat limits for southern, summer, and Gulf flounder in state waters.
Southern flounder typically weigh 1-2 pounds, with females generally growing larger and living longer than males.
Flounder rank among South Carolina's top three most popular fish for recreational anglers, and South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) research has shown declines in their numbers over the past two decades. The new measures are intended to help rebuild flounder populations by giving more fish a chance to reproduce before they reach a harvestable size.
The regulations taking effect July 1 will change the minimum legal size for flounder from 14 inches (total length) to 15 inches (total length). Additionally, changes to the bag limit will reduce the number of fish an individual can keep from 15 flounder per day to 10 flounder per day, with a maximum boat limit of 20 flounder per day.
"The Coastal Conservation Association came to SCDNR a couple of years ago with concerns about the state's flounder population – just as SCDNR scientists were examining survey data that indicated the flounder population was in decline," said David Whitaker, assistant deputy director of the agency's Marine Resources Division. "We've been working since then to develop recommendations for the legislature to address the decline in the state's flounder population."
The changes passed in the 2017 legislative season mark the first adjustments to flounder regulations since 2007.
"The new size and bag limits should be effective in increasing the number of spawning flounder, and hopefully that should result in a recovery of the flounder population," Whitaker said.
SCDNR biologists study flounder in a number of ways. The fish are frequently caught and released on SCDNR trammel net surveys, which have been used to study the fish in South Carolina estuaries since 1990. Trammel net data have shown a decline in flounder numbers since the late 1990s. Flounder are also seen in the trawl surveys conducted just off the coast by the Southeast Area Monitoring & Assessment Program. Recreational landings of flounder have also declined in recent years, even as the number of registered saltwater anglers has grown in South Carolina.
"Our assessment of the new limits indicates that about 30% fewer fish will be taken in the first year or two," said Whitaker. "But with time, we hope the population grows and that total catch will increase as more spawners are available to provide more young fish."
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