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September 3, 2010

Shrimp-baiting season opens Sept. 10 in S.C. waters

The 2010 shrimp-baiting season will open at noon Friday, Sept. 10 in South Carolina waters. Although an unusually cold winter resulted in some mortality of white shrimp, adequate numbers survived to produce a good fall population. Timely rainfall this summer has also contributed positively to the population.

Recreational shrimpers who purchase a shrimp-baiting license can legally cast their nets for shrimp over bait during this season. Shrimp-baiting season will remain open until noon Tuesday, Nov. 9. The S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) opens the shrimp-baiting season annually on the last Friday on or before Sept. 15 each year.

The practice of shrimp baiting has remained basically the same since the current laws were passed inShrimp baiting 1988. The season lasts 60 days, resident licenses cost $25 and non-residents licenses cost $500. The catch limit is 48 quarts of shrimp measured heads-on (29 quarts heads-off) per boat or set of poles per day, and each boat is limited to a set of 10 poles.

License sales in the shrimp-baiting fishery peaked at 17,497 in 1998 and have declined steadily, with 8,262 licenses purchased last year. Post-season mail surveys conducted every year since 1988 indicate that recent total catches have been less than 1 million pounds per season (heads on) after peaking at more than 3.6 million pounds in 1997. Despite the decline in total catch, catch per trip has remained relatively stable, averaging about 20-22 quarts per trip since 2001. The stable catch-per-trip suggests that shrimp abundance has remained relatively good, but fewer licenses and shrimping trips are resulting in a lower overall harvest. Recent sampling by DNR's Crustacean Monitoring Program caught good numbers of mostly small shrimp along the southern coast, according to Larry DeLancey, program supervisor. Areas around Charleston and Georgetown are scheduled for sampling in the coming weeks.

DNR Law Enforcement Division in Charleston advises baiters not to have bait or poles in a boat that is in the water before noon on Friday, Sept. 10. The public is asked to report violations of saltwater recreational and commercial fishing laws by calling the Coast Watch hotline number (1-800-922-5431) toll-free, 24 hours a day.

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