Georgia proposes major changes to red drum fishing

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Proposed changes to possession of rockfish are in the works for anglers in Georgia.
Bob McNally

The Georgia DNR is asking the public to comment on significant regulatory changes intended to reduce red drum harvesting along the Peach State coast.

MNR’s Coastal Resources Division recommended on August 23 to the State Natural Resources Council to reduce the daily red drum limit for anglers from five to three fish, with a boat limit of no more than nine rockfish.

Additionally, no captain or charter mate may participate in catching or limiting redfish on a for-hire charter.

No change in the slot size limit for Georgia Reds is proposed, and the current slot would remain at 14–23 inches with no closed season.

The proposed changes to Georgia’s rockfish fishery law are still in effect, according to the DNR, and at least two public hearings are underway before the proposals become state law on Jan. 1, 2023.

Hearings are scheduled for September 21 in Savannah at Georgia Southern University’s Armstrong Center. And on September 22, 2022 at the center of the College of Coastal Georgia campus in Brunswick. Both meetings start at 6 p.m.

Comments on the proposed changes can be made online, or with details for written comments by mail by visiting: www.CoastalGaDNR.org/RedDrumPublicHearings.

The Georgia DNR conducted a survey and two town hall meetings in 2022 to find out what anglers and guides in the state think about Georgia rockfish fishing.

According to MNR, most anglers and guides participating in the survey and meetings supported the creation of a boat limit for red drum. MNR estimates that a new nine-fish fishing limit and three-fish angling limit could reduce Georgia’s rockfish catch by 11%. The agency says most fishermen would not be significantly affected because most fishermen only have two or three fishermen per boat.

The proposed cuts to the Georgia rockfish harvest follow a sweeping and comprehensive overhaul of the state of Florida’s rockfish regulations. In Florida, 9 different Inshore Rockfish Management Zones go into effect September 1, with different harvest allocations in various areas of the state.

In northeast Florida, which has river, swamp and estuarine habitats very similar to neighboring Georgia, the angler’s daily limit for Florida rockfish will be reduced from two fish per day to just one. per day. A limit of four rockfish vessels will also be imposed in northeast Florida starting September 1. The slot limit for redfish in Florida remains the same at 18 to 27 inches in length, which is very different from the smaller slot limit for redfish in Georgia.

Both states say they are responding to a dramatic increase in fishing pressure due to a seemingly endless increase in population as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. More people are bringing more anglers to shore, and both states are trying to stem a tide of increased pressure on fish resources, especially for the highly sought-after red drum.

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