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New flounder regulations take effect July 1

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Southern flounder regularly rank as one of the top three most targeted fish among recreational anglers along the South Carolina coast. They're prized for their delicious white meat.

CHARLESTON – The results from a 2019 study of the Southeast’s southern flounder, one of the region’s most sought-after saltwater fish, were sobering: The research showed that southern flounder numbers were at historically low levels across the region due to overfishing.

Following the regional study, biologists from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources confirmed similar trends in South Carolina waters: the overall abundance, number of young fish produced and average size of southern flounder were all down. A public survey showed similar observations and concerns among South Carolina anglers, who expressed a strong preference for quickly rebuilding the fishery.

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Now, the South Carolina General Assembly has responded with a suite of changes that will reduce the harvest of southern flounder in South Carolina waters, allowing the population to begin recovery. The new regulations include a minimum size limit of 16 inches and allow a catch limit of five fish per person per day and no more than 10 fish per boat per day. Previously, the minimum size limit was 15 inches, and the catch limit was 10 fish per person per day and 20 fish per boat per day.

The new regulations will take effect July 1, 2021.

“These new management measures will end the overharvest of flounder, allowing the fishery to begin to rebuild,” said Phil Maier, who oversees the agency’s Marine Resources Division. “We're grateful to the angling community for sharing their vision for the fishery and to the leaders who worked hard to craft this solution. We look forward to seeing this popular fish become a more common catch along the South Carolina coast.”

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Lawmakers also increased a selection of saltwater license fees, the funds from some of which will be directed to a new flounder stocking program. Most notable for South Carolina residents is an increase in the cost of an annual saltwater recreational fishing license – the first in two decades – from $10 to $15. This brings South Carolina’s saltwater recreational license fees for residents in line with neighboring states (GA: $15; NC: $16).

Saltwater License Fees, Effective July 1

Resident – 14 Day $10

Resident – Annual $15

Resident – 3 Year $45

Nonresident – 1 Day $10

Nonresident – 7 Day $35

Nonresident – 14 Day No Longer Available

Nonresident – Annual $75

Nonresident – 3 Year No Longer Available

Charter Fishing Vessel License Fees, Effective July 1

Resident – Six or fewer passengers $275

Resident – 6 to 49 passengers $450

Resident – 50+ Passengers $650

Nonresident – Six or fewer passengers $550

Nonresident – 6 to 49 passengers $900

Nonresident – 50+ Passengers $1,300 Full access for 3 months for just $3

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