Lower Redfish Limits Pushed As DNR Hosts Public Meetings

The first Redfish Town Hall Meeting is tonight in Savannah.

GON Staff | June 6, 2022

A push for more restrictive limits on redfish for Georgia anglers is expected at two “Redfish Town Hall” meetings.

The town halls are slated for tonight at 6 p.m. (Monday, June 6) at Georgia Southern University, Armstrong Center Room 151, 13040 Abercorn St., Savannah, 31419. The second meeting is 6 p.m. Thursday, June 9, at the Brunswick Library, 208 Gloucester St., Brunswick, 31520. The meetings will include a presentation on recent survey findings, followed by a question-and-answer session with marine biologists and staffers from DNR’s Coastal Resources Division (CRD).

The Brunswick meeting will also include virtual access on Zoom for those who cannot attend in person. To access the Zoom meeting using a computer, smartphone or tablet, use Meeting ID 813 5514 5228 and Passcode 681935. For access by phone, call 929.205.6099 and use the same Meeting ID and Passcode. Virtual attendees can enter the meeting 15 minutes before the 6 p.m. start.

The current redfish limit is five per angler per day, with a 14- to 23-inch length slot limit. According to the results from a recent survey that asked about satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the red drum regulations, anglers who like the current limit outnumber those who don’t. The survey said, “About two-thirds of anglers are satisfied (65%), while about a quarter are dissatisfied (23%).” A small number of anglers who are dissatisfied actually would like a higher redfish limit and a change to allow large fish above the 23-inch slot limit to be kept.

“By far, the most common desired daily creel limit for red drum is five fish,” the survey said after analyzing the results to the question, “What would you like the daily red drum creel limit to be?” The question was asked of those who typically fish for red drum in Georgia. The percentage satisfied with limits (65%) is down from 72% who said they were satisfied in a 2017 survey.

Redfish angler satisfaction in the recent survey (62% satisfied) is also down compared to 2017 results when 75% of anglers were satisfied with redfish angling the prior 12 months. These recent survey numbers are being cited by those in favor of reduced redfish limits.

Captains prefer a lower limit of three or even two redfish, according to the survey. “Among captains, dissatisfaction (62%) with the current red drum regulations far exceeds satisfaction (32%),” the survey found.

One of those captains not on board with lower redfish limits is Capt. David Newlin, who serves on DNR’s Finfish Advisory Board.

“DNR is contemplating a drastic cut in redfish limits,” Capt. Newlin said. “I strongly feel the redfish population is in good shape and does not need any drastic change in regulations. The DNR has several population checks that have been going for years. The DNR figures show a very normal trend of seasonal ups and downs in their numbers. The guide survey, if you look into that deeper, half the guides they got answers from fished an average of 30 days. I fish 150 days. I’ve kept a good log book.” 

The survey found that anglers currently release about 50% of the legal-sized redfish they catch in Georgia waters—21% of anglers release all legal redfish 91% to 100% of the time.

One regulation change the survey found support for was a vessel limit for redfish. “Among red drum anglers, there is more support for (58%) than opposition to (20%) to the establishment of a vessel limit for red drum,” the survey said. “Captains have even higher support: 77% support (a vessel limit), while 13% oppose it.”

Capt. Newlin said a boat limit would be more appropriate than a cut in the angler limit.

Our current limits of five fish per person 14 to 23 inches has worked, and I feel should be left alone. If we need to do anything, I feel a boat limit of 10 to 15 fish would be enough. While some small areas are getting fished harder, most days I see no more than three or four boats fishing on a long ride.

I have fished these waters over 50 years and I have noticed very little if any change in my catch numbers. We have a large amount of small fish coming from last winter’s spawn. The bottom line is we have plenty of redfish. In 2020 it seemed like the area around the Altamaha had a low year, which could have been a variety of environmental issues. Talking to other good fishermen from the rest of the state there are plenty of redfish. The Georgia coast is not an easy place to fish. It takes years to figure out these huge areas and big tides.”

Some of the push for lower limits is coming from guides who focus on catch-and-release fly fishing and light-tackle angling for redfish. Information distributed by the newly formed Georgia Saltwater Anglers Association (GSAA) cites the decline in redfish angler satisfaction in the recent survey (62% satisfied), compared to 2017 results when 75% of anglers were satisfied with redfish angling the prior 12 months. They also point to an increase in fishing pressure along the Georgia coast.

“We need to show up in numbers and ask for change and keep showing up until there is change, the survey shouldn’t be the final word when it comes to this issue!” a GSAA call-to-action email said. 

2022 Saltwater Angler and Guide Survey Results

2017 Saltwater Angler and Guide Survey Results

Redfish tagging studies have been ongoing along the Georgia coast.

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