Archers who enjoy bowfishing for carp and gar in the Savannah River and Thurmond Lake also should be allowed to harvest catfish, according to a Columbia County legislator.
Rep. Bill Jackson (R-Appling) is sponsoring House Bill 1320, which would legalize bowfishing for channel cats and flatheads in those two water bodies. The bill has passed the House and awaits Senate approval.
The intent, according to Jackson, is to make Georgia's bowfishing laws consistent with those just across the river and lake in neighboring South Carolina, where catfish are legal game for archers.
Approval of Jackson's bill would aid Georgia anglers and eliminate confusion at the state line, according to Robbie Robertson, an avid Columbia County bowfisherman.
"Right now, as it stands, it's legal to shoot them in Carolina, so if we're fishing Clarks Hill, we have to launch from the South Carolina side and stay on that side to shoot catfish," Robertson said.
Launching in Georgia, he said, legally prevents him from taking catfish. Usually, Robertson said, gar and carp are the primary species taken by bow. "In the river we shoot mudfish, too," he said.
Currently, channel and flathead catfish are listed as gamefish, although there is no limit, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Current bowfishing regulations prohibit taking of any gamefish.
"They're listed as gamefish, but without any limits," Robertson said. "The law, as it is, has provisions for trotlines, traps and baskets, but there is no legal means for bowfishermen to shoot them."
Approval of Jackson's bill could increase bowfishing opportunities for Georgia residents, said Robertson, who also is a member of the Carolina Bowfishing Association and participates in tournaments in several states.
Reach Robert Pavey at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 119.