South Carolina’s state legislature passed a bill effective April 1, 2015, specifically targeting blue catfish in Lake Moultrie, Lake Marion and their tributaries. The purpose was to rebuild the blue catfish fishery, which was flat-lining.
The bill made it unlawful to possess more than two blue catfish longer than 32 inches per day or to keep more than 25 blues of any size per day.
Scott Lamprecht, a fisheries biologist for S.C. Department of Natural Resources assigned to the Santee Cooper area, said the bill has already had a positive impact on blue catfish.
“The blue catfish have responded very well to this effort, and we’re seeing it in the spawning success,” Lamprecht said. “The number of small blue catfish in the system is up significantly thanks to excellent spawns. Also, catch rates are up noticeably as well, and although they are not what we had as a maximum years ago, they’ve moved off the bottom floor and are now going strong in the right direction.”
Lamprecht said increased numbers of large blue catfish available for catch-and-release and primarily for spawning is one factor. Good water conditions for spawning are another likely reason for the upsurge.
“The growth rates of the blues (is) now very good and improved over recent years because of low density of the fish stocks in recent years,” he said. “Growth rates are higher when we have fewer fish, and this speeds the recovery process.”
Lamprecht said when the law was passed, a sunset clause was attached stipulating that it will be automatically repealed on June 30, 2018, unless re-authorized by a joint resolution for that specific purpose.
“By the end of 2017, we’ll have data compiled on this recovery effort and can provide data and recommendations to the legislature to consider,” Lamprecht said.