New daily limit for spot, whiting and Atlantic croaker in South Carolina

The spot armada that invades area inlets and the spot army that invades Grand Strand piers each autumn should be on alert – there is now a limit on their favorite panfish.

A new law is on the books setting a 50-fish aggregate daily bag limit per angler for any combination of spot, whiting and Atlantic croaker in South Carolina waters.

The legislation, pushed for by Coastal Conservation Association South Carolina and sponsored by Rep. Stephen Goldfinch, R-Murrells Inlet, was ratified on May 29 and went into effect on June 2 when signed by Gov. Nikki Haley.

Each fall, the three saltwater species of panfish are usually plentiful in area estuaries and along the beaches, highlighted by the famed spot run. At times, usually in October and November, anglers have the opportunity to catch large numbers of the fish.

Over the decades, anglers have done just that, often filling buckets, coolers, or any suitable container with hundreds of spot, whiting and/or croaker.

The new law is designed to keep the numbers of fish harvested in check, whether on the piers that line the Grand Strand or by boat in inlets such as Cherry Grove Inlet or Murrells Inlet.

“I’ve seen people with trash cans and barrels full of spot, I’ve seen people that are culling what they had caught and throwing the small ones back because they don’t want to clean them,” said Goldfinch. “We just can’t continue to catch them like they’re limitless because they’re not. We need to protect them just enough and that’s what I think this measure does. If you have four people on a boat, that’s 200 fish and that’s enough for church fish fry.

“It’s a valuable resource we want our kids and grandkids to be able to enjoy.”

CCA South Carolina has had designs on trying to implement such a limit on the three species for several years. Previously, none of the three species have ever been governed by a size or bag limit in South Carolina waters.

“This was an initiative that CCA had been wanting to do for some time, since 2006 when our [Comprehensive Finfish Management Plan] became law,” said Scott Whitaker, CCA SC executive director. “This was a CCA idea that took members from both chambers to make happen but Stephen was who we first approached.”

Goldfinch has been the instigator of numerous pieces of fishing-related legislation in his first term in office, including a year-round recreational season for black sea bass in state waters.

“I tend to be the natural resources, especially the fishing, guy around the house and CCA approached me to see if we could get this done,” said Goldfinch. “And we did.”