After a months-long battle, Georgia's Gov. Nathan Deal signed that state's bill last week, giving game-fish status to red drum — the state's official saltwater fish. As a result, redfish can't be sold in Georgia and can only be legally taken by rod and reel.
"Game-fish status has been a goal of the recreational-angling community for years," says Brooks Schoen, past chairman of the government relations committee for Georgia's Coastal Conservation Association. "This year, we were able to garner broad support by partnering with other like-minded organizations, such as GeorgiaRedfish.org, to achieve something that will benefit Georgia anglers today and for generations to come."
The legislation had passed in the state's House of Representatives by a vote of 168 to 0. The state senate voted 38 to 12 in favor. Rep. Ben Watson (R, Savannah) authored the bill and attended the signing. Sen. Buddy Carter (R, Pooler) ushered the bill through the senate.
Redfish now have game-fish status in six of the eight states in their primary range, according to CCA. North Carolina and Mississippi still allow directed commercial fisheries for red drum with quotas.