Legislation to limit harvesting of cobia in S.C. passed into law

Andre DeMoux of Jacksonville, N.C., and Daniel Hill of Hampstead, N.C., show off their winning redfish which weighed an aggregate of 9.74 pounds to win an IFA Redfish Tour tournament last weekend out of the Carroll Ashemore Campbell Marine Complex in Georgetown.
Andre DeMoux of Jacksonville, N.C., and Daniel Hill of Hampstead, N.C., show off their winning redfish which weighed an aggregate of 9.74 pounds to win an IFA Redfish Tour tournament last weekend out of the Carroll Ashemore Campbell Marine Complex in Georgetown. Submitted photo

The verdict on cobia limits and season restrictions for the remainder of 2016 in state and federal waters is in.

The South Carolina General Assembly has passed legislation designed to limit the harvest and increase the stock of cobia, specifically in the southern half of the Palmetto State’s coastal waters.

In state waters (to three nautical miles offshore) south of Jeremy Inlet at Edisto Island, anglers are limited to one cobia per person per day and three per boat per day.

Also in the same area, cobia are essentially being governed by a spawning season closure, with harvest not allowed during the entire month of May.

As for South Carolina waters north of Jeremy Inlet at Edisto Island, including Horry and Georgetown County waters, the longtime limit of two cobia per day with a 33-inch minimum size limit and no boat limit remains in effect until June 20.

On that date, federal regulations will take over along the East Coast with all harvesting of cobia in the Atlantic Group, stretching from Georgia to New York, closed in state and federal waters for the remainder of the year.

The stricter limits and closure south of Jeremy Inlet are in response to studies done by South Carolina Department of Natural Resources’ biologists to determine whether the species has been overfished in state waters, especially in the estuaries of Port Royal, St. Helena and Calibogue Sounds.

Biologists found the cobia populations in this area are in risk of collapse thanks to long-term overharvesting.

Biologists say they have discovered a genetically distinct population of cobia that frequent the state’s southern coastal waters.

Studies show the same population segment returns each year to the three sounds, located from Edisto Island to Hilton Head Island, and reproduce only in those areas. They do not, according to S.C. DNR studies, breed with the larger offshore population of cobia.

S.C. DNR biologists are concerned that if this segment of the cobia population is further depleted, the species could disappear from these waterways for an extended period of time.

More than 1,400 anglers responded to a S.C. DNR survey to share their opinions about how cobia should be managed in South Carolina waters. Sixty percent of respondents said they would “support” or “strongly support” the most aggressive approach offered to reduce harvest and rebuild the cobia population in the southern areas of the state.

Many individuals and angling organizations reached out to their legislators and wrote editorials to further voice their concerns about the future of South Carolina’s cobia fishery. Coastal Conservation Association South Carolina also played an important role in supporting the efforts that resulted in the new law, which went into effect on April 29 when the legislation was signed by Gov. Nikki Haley.

IFA Redfish Tour

The tour made a return stop to Georgetown with both a boat and kayak tournament staged last Saturday and Sunday.

Andre DeMoux of Jacksonville, N.C., and Daniel Hill of Hampstead, N.C., ventured south to win the boat tournament held Saturday out of the Carroll Ashemore Campbell Marine Complex on the Sampit River with a two-fish limit of 9.74 pounds. The two-man teams in IFA Redfish Tour events are allowed to weigh in two red drum measuring within South Carolina’s slot limit of 15 to 23 inches.

JD Nobles of St. Johns, Fla., and Kyle Craven of Macclenny, Fla., took second place with a two-fish aggregate of 9.33 pounds.

The local duo of Ernest Wallace and Bryan Mims, both of Georgetown, took third place with an aggregate of 9.13 pounds. Another local duo, Rob Beglin of Pawleys Island and Eric Gobbett of Georgetown, finished fourth with an aggregate of 8.94 pounds.

DeMoux and Hill fished grass banks on the islands in Winyah Bay to catch their pair of reds, which weighed 5.27 and 4.47 pounds and earned them over $26,000 in winnings.

DeMoux and Hill have fished two previous IFA Redfish Tour events, both in Georgetown. The duo studied online to pick out their fishing spots.

“Georgetown is a huge area,” DeMoux said. “We did a bunch of research off of Google Earth. Once you know redfish, you can shrink the area. We’ve only fished down here twice but we were able to build off of those trips. We had a game plan and stuck to it.

“We caught them all within 80 yards of each other. Once we got the first one, we immediately slowed down. We kept at it and that’s when we caught the 5.27-pounder.”

The tournament was part of the IFA Redfish Tour’s Atlantic Division, which features two events, both in Georgetown. The second tournament will be held on Sept. 24 also at the Campbell Marine Complex.

Dave Jaskiewicz of Wando measured 50.38 inches of red drum and spotted seatrout to win the IFA Kayak Tournament. Kayak anglers take photos of their fish before releasing them to determine the winner.

Jaskiewicz caught a redfish measuring over 28 inches to start the day and landed a trout measuring over 21 inches. Jaskiewicz won $2,450 in prizes for his victory.

Joe Komyati, of Raleigh, N.C., won second place with a 14-inch trout and a 32.25-inch redfish, which was the largest of the tournament. Nathan Raycroft, of Townville took third place with a combined total of 44.75 inches.

Meatfish Slam

The crew of Flash Point, led by Joey Teague, weighed an aggregate of 93.1 pounds to win the 8th annual Georgetown Meatfish Slam out of Georgetown Landing Marina last Friday and Saturday.

Flash Point’s winning aggregate was led by the largest wahoo caught by the 38-boat field, a 69.7-pounder. The crew earned over $10,000.

Terripan Flyer weighed in the second-largest wahoo, a 43.7-pounder.

Perseverance landed the top dolphin, a 38.0-pounder, followed by Pain Killer with a 23.0-pounder.

Suzanna Jules caught the biggest tuna, a 30.2-pound blackfin, followed by Pain Killer’s 23.5-pounder.

Laura Stokes was the top Lady Angler with the 23.5-pound tuna caught aboard Pain Killer and Pierce Parris was the top Youth Angler with a 27.6-pound wahoo caught aboard Christy II.

Far Out Shootout

Ocean Isle Fishing Center in Ocean Isle Beach, N.C., is hosting the upcoming Far Out Shootout, a tuna, wahoo and dolphin rodeo, scheduled for May 7-15.

Boats competing in the tournament can fish one of eight days, May 7-14, with an awards breakfast set for May 15.

For more information, visit www.OIFC.com or call (910) 575-3474.

Marlin Quay Carolina Slam

The inaugural tournament will be held next week out of Marlin Quay Marina out of Murrells Inlet, targeting offshore species of wahoo, tuna and dolphin.

Dave Christian of Marlin Quay expects a field of 30-40 boats in the tournament, which kicks off with a captains meeting on Thursday at 5 p.m.

Boats can fish one of two days, Friday or Saturday, May 13-14.

Entry fee is $250 per boat, with tournament within a tournament levels also available.

Call Marlin Quay at 843-651-4444 for more information.

Gregg Holshouser: wholshouser@sc.rr.com