February 7, 2013

Outdoors column: Shad season off to slow start due to warm weather

Shad season opened a little over two weeks earlier in 2013 in S.C. waters, but catches appear to have been marginal at best during the new early period of fishing.

Shad season opened a little over two weeks earlier in 2013 in S.C. waters, but catches appear to have been marginal at best during the new early period of fishing.

In previous years, shad season for commercial net fishermen has commenced on Jan. 15, but it opened on Feb. 1 this year.

The early start kept 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 local rivers.

The season will also end two weeks earlier, which will keep the nets used to catch the shad out of the water during the peak of the sturgeon’s spawning season.

Fishermen down river, closer to the freshwater/saltwater dividing line, have in the past desired an earlier start to the season, but this year warm water temperatures and a lack of rainfall may have delayed the movement of shad upriver.

“The catches did not seem to be significantly greater during the last two weeks of January when we opened the season,” said Dean Cain, biologist for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, from the Samworth WMA office. “In years past in cooler weather, we did have fish going up the river in January. But since we’ve had a relatively warm winter the water temperature was not cold enough to start the fish moving up the river then. In years past we’ve had fishermen tell us we need to open it up earlier. A water temperature of 51-52 degrees is ideally what [shad] are looking for [to move up river].”

Cain expects the bulk of the shad run to take place in late February and early March.

“[Catches) have been relatively spotty,” Cain said. “Some fishermen have been catching 40-80 shad in some areas per set [of nets] and less than five or no fish in other sets, which is fairly normal. Looking forward, it looks like late February and early March are going to be the better time [for the main shad run].”

Jay Booth of Fisherman’s Headquarters in Conway sells shad in his business and has seen an upswing in the number of fish caught in recent days, just after February arrived.

“It’s almost like they were on cue for the first of February,” Booth said. “The first two weeks of the season they didn’t seem to be here at all.”

Locally, shad season ends on April 1 in the Winyah Bay system from Bull Creek seaward. Above Hwy. 701 the season ends on April 15. Farther south, the season closes on March 15 in the Santee rivers.

Turkey tags

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources recently began mailing turkey tags for the 2013 spring season. Hunters can determine if they will receive their tags by mail by checking their hunting license.

If “Turkey Tags” appears on their hunting license the tags should have already been mailed to them. If “Turkey Tags” does not appear on the license, then they will need to order the tags. Turkey tags are free and can be ordered at www.dnr.sc.gov/turkeytags.

In order to legally hunt turkeys, all hunters, including hunters under the age of 16, must possess a set of turkey tags. Hunters 16 and older must also possess a hunting license and big game permit. Hunters may not possess more than one set of turkey tags and all harvested birds must be tagged prior to being moved from the point of kill.

Hunters should remember to specifically request their turkey tags each year when they get their hunting license.

Hunters who purchase their license over the counter should order the tags at the license vendor. Hunters who renew their license by mail should check the “Turkey Tags” box on their license renewal form.

For hunters who do not get tags by mail, handwritten tags will be available in early March at DNR offices and some local businesses. A list of businesses that will have over-the-counter turkey tags will be released soon.

The 2013 wild turkey season begins April 1 on private lands in 34 counties that make up Game Zones 1-5 and on April 2 for all Wildlife Management Areas statewide where turkey hunting is allowed. The season opens March 15 on private lands only in Game Zone 6, which includes Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Beaufort, Berkeley, Calhoun, Charleston, Colleton, Dorchester, Hampton, Jasper and Orangeburg counties. The season closes May 1 throughout the state.

Youth Turkey Hunt Day will be held March 30 in areas where the season opens on April 1. On this day, youth ages 17 and under who are accompanied by a properly licensed adult (age 21 and older) may hunt turkeys. Only the youth can take or attempt to take turkeys. Tagging requirements remain in place for this special youth day.

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