Georgia redfish and the need to be better managed by everyone

Scott OwensGeorgia Fishing Reports

Fly and light tackle fishing around Coastal Georgia’s barrier island has been good when the tides and weather allow.  Redfish have been way out of their normal patterns. We believe this is due to several factors including, an abnormally warm winter, fishing pressure, and over harvesting of these great game fish.  There are still fish around to be caught, but they are in smaller groups and require a little more effort to locate. The typical flats and areas we have fished over the years are barren, and huge schools of hundreds of fish have vanished.   We need the DNR to look at the data they have on hand and listen to the guides and recreational fishermen to make some educated decisions and changes to better manage these fish.  Current creel limits are 5 fish per person and I have personally seen guys come in with 15, 20, and even 30 redfish day after day over the years until stocks are now in serious trouble.  I fear if we don’t take action now it will be too late, and we may see federal government intervention, and possible closures which no one wants to see.  It’s our responsibility as stewards of the fishery to make sure future stocks will be strong for future generations of fisherman and women to come.  The days of filling the coolers just to say you caught your limit are over and have to change!  When you have 75% of local guides refusing to harvest redfish for their clients, you know there is a problem.  I have had numerous calls from other guides and the recreational community asking why.  Why are there so few redfish, why has the Georgia DNR failed to address this, and why don’t people understand that this isn’t an unlimited resource.

The good old days

There is nothing more bitter sweet than sitting around the marinas listening to the old timers talk about the good old days.  Its hard to understand unless you were there back in those days, but I feel I can relate because, for flats fishing for redfish here in Coastal Georgia the “good ole days” were only 5-10 years ago.  In my guiding time I have watched flat after flat and school after school of our redfish disappear.  Don’t just take my word for it. Ask any recreational fisherman or guide who has fished on the flats here in Coastal Georgia for the last 5 years and see what they say.  I guess what I’m getting at with this whole write up is to please take care of these fish.  Handle them with care and if you are planning to harvest them for food only take what you will eat that night.  I’m not one for total closures, but at this point Im 100% for a reduction down to 1 or 2 fish until stocks rebound.  Below I have attached the DNR’s redfish gill net survey.

Gill Net Survey

Georgia Redfish

A note from South Carolina and the Federal Governament
S.C. REPORT:

Red drum have been overfished in the Southeast since 2010, according to a new, more comprehensive federal stock assessment to be released this week. That’s a problem for the state’s wildlife managers and the Legislature. It could mean tighter restrictions on catching one of the most sought-after game fish in the Lowcountry. In South Carolina alone, the red drum fishery has been estimated to be worth $600 million per year. The catch limits are a flashpoint of contention for inshore and offshore anglers.Catch limits in the state were tightened in 2000 to bring back the declining species, then loosened in 2006 as it made a remarkable comeback. Angling groups had pushed legislators to do it, even though state net surveys showed the fish was in an apparent slump again and some researchers said it was too soon.

Conclusion

There are a lot of people who travel to our great state to fish, and a large number come just to fish for red drum. They spend a lot of money here on the coast with hotels, restaurants, shops, and more. We have seen a decline in our repeat clients some of which have been coming to the Georgia coast for 10-20 years returning the past 2 years.  We have also noticed a smaller number of referrals coming from shops in the larger cities of Georgia such as Atlanta, Macon, and Augusta.  The word is out!! So please help us return redfish stocks to where they were in this great fishery by doing your part.  Practice catch and release and call your state, local and DNR representatives.  Express your concerns and what you have seen on the water. I have several clients that have fished with me over the last 10-20 years who have said its just down right sad and disgusting to see the lack of action that Georgia has taken compared to other states to protect these fish.  Change needs to happen if we want to continue catching these great fish and have them for our future generations of anglers.  Think about your kids and grandkids and what we will leave them if we don’t make do the right thing now.

I know some of you will disagree with this and that is your option.. I spend hundreds of days and thousands of hours on the water here each year and Im only 1 of many many guides and anglers who have seen this and expressed concern.  Please keep an open mind because we want sustainability and proper management NOT closures.

Sorry for the not so positive, positive report. Below I hope you enjoy some photos from the last couple weeks fishing.  Keep Georgia beautiful and thriving.

Georgia Redfish

A nice Georgia Redfish caught on live shrimp in St. Simons Island

Georgia Redfish

Tripletail are here and great targets on light tackle and fly

Georgia Redfish

Gold spoons catch redfish just about in any condition. Make sure you have them in your tacklebox

Georgia Redfish

Redfish bring more smiles to “new” anglers than any other fish here on the Georgia Coast because of their willingness to take bait, artificial lures and fly.

Georgia Redfish

Trout and redfish will slam top waters in spring and summer months

Georgia Redfish

late evening and early mornings offer some relieve from boat traffic and pressure

Georgia Redfish

D.O.A. Cal shad tails are an awesome lure for redfish of all sizes