January has arrived and the annual spawning run of American shad up South Carolina rivers will soon commence.
Shad are prized for their meat, but especially their roe, and are sought by commercial fishermen using nets in local rivers.
The season for commercial shad fishermen will come a little earlier this year in Georgetown County rivers – beginning on January 15 instead of February 1.
The reason for the earlier start is two-fold.
The early start keeps the commercial shad season in compliance with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) American shad sustainable fishing plan for South Carolina and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) mandate to reduce by-catch of Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon, which are found in the rivers.
The season will also end two weeks earlier which will help the commercial shad fishing season to avoid the peak of the spawning season of the sturgeon.
The early start should be just fine with local fishermen using nets to catch shad in Winyah Bay and the Waccamaw and Santee Rivers, along with providing a safeguard for the sturgeon.
“This is an attempt to keep the nets out of the water during the peak spawning season of the sturgeon,” said Dean Cain, biologist for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. “Coincidentally, it turns out to be better for the shad fishermen anyway. The market price is better for the fish and the roe and the fishing is generally better early, especially down the rivers.”
In addition, DNR officials are concerned the early shad start could cause a conflict between shad fishermen and duck hunters, whose seasons will overlap January 15-27.
DNR encourages duck hunters and shad fishermen to carefully navigate the waters, with decoys and nets in place at the same time.
DNR also encourages shad fishermen to mark their buoys with reflective tape.
For more information, call DNR at (803) 955-4000.
Free hunting days
Friday and Saturday mark free hunting days during which all South Carolina residents are allowed to hunt without a state hunting license or other required permits, to include Wildlife Management Area (WMA) permit, or Migratory Waterfowl Permit (formerly State Duck Stamp).
The free hunting days do not extend deer hunting season, which ended on Jan. 1.
It is important to note that Free Hunting Days are offered by the State of South Carolina and do not waive any Federal requirements for a Federal Migratory Bird Hunting & Conservation Stamp (Federal Duck Stamp) to hunt migratory waterfowl. It does not open WMA’s that are not previously open for hunting.
Free hunting days are available only to South Carolina residents and apply to all lands in which hunting is allowed, including private lands and WMAs throughout the state that are not otherwise closed to hunting.
The list of open WMAs can be found by visiting the Managed Lands tab of the DNR website at www.dnr.sc.gov/mlands/lookup/.
Grand Strand Boat Expo
The 29th annual Grand Strand Boat & Sportsman Expo will be held next weekend, January 11-13, at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.
The expo will continue its theme to include everything outdoors-related and will feature the Swampmaster, Jeff Quattrocchi , wrestling a 200-pound alligator.
Tickets are $7 for adults, $5 for seniors, $3 for children ages 3-18 and free for children under three.
Look for much more information on the show in next week’s outdoors column.