Rewrites to the state freshwater fishing regulations become law July 1, though local anglers aren’t expecting much change on the business or recreation ends of their sport.
On Lake Wylie, it’s the fish-and-eat anglers who will see the most impact. Crappie go from having no size requirement to an 8-inch minimum. The allowed catch drops from 30 a day to 20. For bream, there’s no size limit and the catch number remains at 30 per day, however, only 15 can be redbreast.
There are some changes to the most popular fish targeted, too. Anglers are allowed up to 10 largemouth bass from Lake Wylie, each measuring at least 12 inches. Next month, bass will have to measure 14 inches, with a five-catch limit. Smallmouth bass will have a 12-inch minimum, and halves the maximum haul to five. There also will be a new 15-fish limit on spotted bass.
Jeremy Cabe, longtime angler and tournament organizer on Lake Wylie, said there are “few to not any smallmouth in Lake Wylie,” and that most tournaments only allow up to five fish per person anyway.
“That wouldn’t affect us,” he said.
The size limit could, however, for tournaments that use the state minimum standard for measuring fish. Even a small keeper could, in a tight tournament, mean hundreds of dollars in final fishing order. Bass anglers say the majority of anglers in their sport catch-and-release fish outside of tournaments, so neither size nor count limits matter.
Clover resident John Barton, who fishes paid leagues for catfish and carp but brings his son to the lake to fish for whatever will bite, sees a long-term impact on the larger size requirements.
“The bass I can see because of people taking a lot of the small fish and not letting them grow, and just not giving anybody else a chance to catch the big fish,” he said. “Especially the young kids. When they grow up, the fish might not be here.”
Catfish anglers are taking more of a long-term view with the new rules, too. Dieter Melhorn, president of the Carolina Catfish Club, says the catfish community on Lake Wylie shouldn’t be concerned. Melhorn said his group has been working with biologists in both Carolinas, measuring catfish for fishing journals. Those results could lead to future regulations, like the size limits for certain fish used in the Santee Cooper lakes. But for now, there are no rules.
“It’s from fry to the frying pan,” Melhorn said of fish management. “There might be something down the road.”
One rule says non-indigenous fish can’t be used as bait, unless they’re already established in a water body. That rule would have outlawed common, non-native baits such as white perch, except white perch are now an established species in Lake Wylie.
Another rule that could impact the lake doesn’t specifically deal with fishing, but fish stocking. Non-native fish and plant species can’t be introduced into water bodies, though the state will permit some stocking such as sterile Asian grass carp used to eat hydrilla, a non-native weed. The permits will cost 25 cents to $1 per fish depending on size, with annual re-stockings like the ones undertaken on Lake Wylie bringing several hundred fish at a time.
Scientific data, fish monitoring and angler advocacy groups were used to determine the new rules.
“It’s an effort to be as consistent in regulations as possible throughout the state,” said Ross Self, head of freshwater fisheries with South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.
For a complete list of the new rules, visit dnr.sc.gov/fishregs.