Why It Matters: Red drum are a popular target for recreational anglers, many of whom travel from across the country to pursue these fish. Georgia currently has the most liberal red drum creel and vessel limits of any state in the South Atlantic region. These proposed changes are aimed at decreasing large individual catches and reducing the risk of localized depletion while also increasing abundance and improving the fishing experience for recreational anglers.
- Earlier this year, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Coastal Resources Division (CRD) recommended decreasing the daily limit of red drum from five per person to three, and establishing a maximum limit of nine red drum per vessel.
- Additionally, under this proposed new rule, charter captains and mates would be prohibited from contributing to their vessel’s limit.
- There would be no change to the current slot size limit, which is a minimum of 14 inches and a maximum length of 23 inches.
The proposed changes were initially scheduled to be voted on by the Board of Natural Resources on October 25. However, the vote was postponed after the CRD received an influx of public comments on the issue. The postponement will allow the CRD additional time to review comments relative to the proposed changes for Georgia’s state saltwater fish.
With increasing numbers of people hitting the water in pursuit of this popular game fish, local coastal economies benefit from angler spending. From bait and tackle to gas, food, and lodging, anglers play an important role in supporting these businesses. Therefore, the conservation of red drum is not only important for anglers and the ecosystem, but also mom-and-pop businesses and charter operations along the Georgia coast.
Georgia’s red drum population data indicates that the fishery is not overfished and is relatively stable. However, a majority of red drum anglers and charter captains would like to see the agency take a more conservative approach to red drum management by reducing the creel and vessel limits, as well as eliminating the ability of charter captains and mates to retain a daily limit while on a charter trip. The reduction in overall harvest is intended to increase red drum abundance and angler encounter rates, thus improving angler satisfaction with the fishery.
In 2021 alone, sportsmen and women in Georgia contributed over $64 million to conservation funding through the “user pays—public benefits” structure known as the American System of Conservation Funding. Thus, ensuring the conservation of a recreationally important species such as the redfish is important for supporting conservation funding.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation will continue to monitor these proposed changes as they make their way through the regulatory process.