Originally created 01/30/05

Hatchery fee would help fund programs

South Carolina authorities want anglers to chip in a few more dollars to help pay for the millions of trout, hybrids and stripers produced by the state's fish hatcheries.

The plan would require fishermen using any waters that receive those species to buy a $5 hatchery permit - in addition to a regular fishing license - said Val Nash, chief of fisheries for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.

"If this passes, and you're fishing with a South Carolina license and harvesting those listed species, you'd have to have that permit," he said.

The permit would cover Thurmond Lake and the Savannah River, both of which receive stockings of hatchery fish raised in South Carolina, he said.

Georgia and South Carolina currently have a reciprocal licensing agreement in which anglers in shared waters need to have a fishing license only for their home state.

Nash said the proposed South Carolina law will be worded to ensure that only holders of South Carolina licenses would be required to have the hatchery permit.

Georgia currently has no such program, but efforts to fund fisheries projects have included discussions along those lines.

As part of the adoption process for South Carolina's new permit, the state's Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Advisory Committee is holding a series of eight public meetings to seek opinions from anglers.

The meeting closest to Augusta will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday at USC Aiken's Penland Administration Building, Room 106, at 471 University Parkway in Aiken.

Nash said South Carolina is desperate for funding for its hatchery program, which includes five facilities scattered across the state. Those hatcheries average 61 years in age, and the state has been forced to close two hatcheries in recent years due to funding shortfalls.

If approved, Nash estimated the permit program would generate about $450,000 annually to shore up hatchery operations. Those hatcheries provide striped bass, hybrids, smallmouth bass, brown trout, rainbow trout and brook trout.

If approved, it would take effect upon signature by the governor, possibly as early as this fall.

South Carolina also is considering another regulation change this year in which the state's game zones would be restructured from 11 to six. The proposal is a consolidation effort for regulations, and will not include any calendar changes to any deer or turkey seasons.

RECOGNIZE THAT FISH? There's an old saying in the newspaper business that you never know how many readers you have until you make a mistake in print.

That was the case last week when I wrote, for the metro section of this paper, an article about the endangered Robust Redhorse Sucker, rediscovered in the Savannah River after scientists thought it had been extinct for almost a century.

Biologists captured several of the fish near Augusta to harvest eggs that were hatched into fry now being used to restock the Broad River in South Carolina.

The story even included a photo of the rare fish.

And that was the problem.

"I think I know why that fish is endangered," the first caller said. "It looks so much like a spottail bass that people are frying them up, and eating them left and right."

The photo, of course, was indeed a spottail bass, filed in the newspaper's computer archive system under its more common name: redfish.

QDMA EXPANDS: The Quality Deer Management Association, whose national headquarters is in Watkinsville, Ga., has named Bob White of Athens, Ga., as southeast regional director in charge of establishing new chapters in Florida, South Carolina and Georgia.

Founded in 1988, QDMA is a national nonprofit wildlife conservation organization with 35,000 members in all 50 states and several foreign countries. Membership in QDMA is open to anyone committed to ethical hunting, sound deer management and the preservation of the deer-hunting heritage.

QDMA branches host educational and fundraising events in their communities. QDMA presently has four branches each in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. Collectively, the three states are home to nearly 9,000 QDMA members. Augusta currently does not have a chapter.

Reach Rob Pavey at 868-1222, ext. 119 or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.


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