As Georgia’s General Assembly convenes today for its 2013 session, the state’s Coastal Conservation Association chapter has announced the pre-filing of legislation seeking game-fish status for red drum. HB36, sponsored by Rep. Ben Watson (R-Savannah), would eliminate commercial harvest of the species, which is also the designated state saltwater fish.
Georgia currently allows the sale of redfish by properly licensed commercial fishermen but the daily commercial bag limit is the same as the recreational limit — five fish in the 14- to 23-inch slot. North Carolina and Mississippi still allow directed commercial fisheries for red drum with quotas, but all other states in the species’ range have designated it a game fish, according to the CCA.
“Currently, no saltwater fish of recreational importance are classified as game fish [in Georgia], and that puts us solidly behind our neighbors to the north and south. Both Florida and South Carolina have enacted game-fish status for numerous species and are reaping the rewards of being able to offer world-class recreational fisheries," said Jeff Young, chairman of CCA Georgia’s government relations committee. "We believe this legislation will aid ongoing efforts to cultivate this fishery as a way to boost economic development in tourism along Georgia's coast."
Designation as a game fish also means red drum could only be legally taken by rod and reel. Anglers could continue to keep their current bag limit within the slot.
CCA GA says it will be calling upon its members to contact elected officials prior to crucial votes.