Guy Harvey Magazine

SPR 2017

Guy Harvey Magazine is focused on fishing, boating, scuba diving, and marine conservation. Portfolios from the world's best fishing photographers, articles on gear, travel, tournaments, apparel, lifestyle, seafood recipes, sustainable fisheries.

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Page 43 of 83

44 | Actually, when I started tagging red drum in the 1980s, there was a whole host of fish that were targeted. Casting out a shrimp or minnow on a hook for red drum may sometimes yield other species like speckled trout, flounder or black drum. The S.C. Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) would take any data they could in order to extrapolate the health of any one species. But over the years, the program evolved. Speckled trout are susceptible to prolonged cold water spells in winter, and tag and release tactics were applied in hopes of tracking their life cycle. However, in a short time, it was clear that speckled seatrout did not tolerate handling very well, sometimes causing post-release mortality, so they were removed from tagging efforts. But on the other end of the spectrum, scientists learned that red drum are more than hardy enough to withstand handling, and that they comprised the majority of catch by inshore anglers, so the program's focus was narrowed. The program has evolved in other ways, too. In the early days, tagging efforts were dependent on outside funding, especially from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as donations from local fishing clubs. But with time came a permanent funding solution in the form of state saltwater fishing license fees. Today, that investment is producing valuable returns. John Archambault is a longtime fisheries biologist at the S.C. DNR Marine Resources Division facility in Charleston. He is a part of the larger presence at the Marine Resources Research Institute (MRRI), which is focused on keeping tabs on the red drum fishery via hard data. Archambault has been tracking red drum stocks as long as I have been tagging them, and he exudes the temperament most of us associate with a great scientific mind. "On days when we work in the field, we conduct trammel net surveys in our bays and sounds and electrofishing surveys upriver, in the brackish zone," said Archambault. "We spend seven days trammeling and five days electrofishing per month." According to Archambault, the majority of redfish encountered in S.C. waters today are released, whether the fish is tagged or not. "Angler ethics are much improved over say 20 years ago. During the three years from 1990–1992 roughly 80% of the fish reported as recaptured were harvested. But from 2014–2016, less than 15% of the recaptures were reported killed. It's true that increased management regulations have made it harder to legally keep redfish, but I sense that public appreciation of our natural resources in general has been a dividend of this program."

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