From Florida’s east coast all the way up to the Chesapeake Bay, redfish or red drum, depending where you’re from, offer anglers action-packed and diverse angling opportunities. So, don’t be surprised when you hear that they are one of the most recreationally targeted species in the South Atlantic region. Heck, redfish is the state fish of Georgia. Today, however, many anglers and guides are seeing a declining redfish population on Georgia’s coast and are hoping to encourage the Department of Natural Resources to acknowledge the problem and sustainably manage the fishery.

Measured in a straight line, Georgia’s coast is some 90 miles, and the estuarine habitats–which support juvenile redfish and so many other species of fish and wildlife–within that 90 miles of coastline is exponentially greater. Unlike other regions, Georgia’s coast still has immense fields of marsh or Spartina grass. Yet Georgia’s redfish are on the decline, particularly the over-slot (greater than 23″) fish. Captain Chad DuBose is the President of the Georgia Saltwater Anglers Association and owns and operates Tall Tides Charters; he attributes much of this local decline with an explosion of fishing effort coupled with no real management change.

When your average fishermen hears about fishing for redfish, they think Florida or Louisiana or South Carolina. Most do not think about Georgia, yet the fact remains Georgia boasts a great fishery. However, more and more people are discovering this fishery. In the last 30 years, fishing effort has skyrocketed–there has been a 550 percent increase in fishing license sales, fishing guides, and boat registrations. While this is undoubtedly a positive for these coastal communities and guides, it places tremendous strain on the resource and challenges the fishery management process.

In the case of Georgia’s redfish management, there hasn’t really been any change to the recreational management measures (bag, size, and season limits) in three decades despite the increased effort. And that is the crux of the Georgia Saltwater Anglers Association’s message. A 500 percent increase in effort should spur change in management to ensure the fishery remains sustainable. That isn’t happening…yet.

Also, when you look at the rest of the region, Georgia’s regs stand out as being comparatively liberal.

“It’s simple math really: when you have the same Redfish regulations in place with no significant change in the past 30 years plus a 550% increased pressure on our fishery during that same time, there will be less Redfish,” said Jared DiVincent, Vice President of GSAA and Co-Owner of On The Fly Outfitters, a Georgia coast fly shop.

“Increased fishing pressure has been exacerbated by the recent pandemic and “work remote culture” and we’re seeing this decline first hand on the water each year. Both  qualitative and quantitative data show a decline in the Redfish population and Redfish fishing satisfaction along Georgia’s coastal waters. We have an unprecedented urgency to ensure our fishery is sustainable for future generations to enjoy.”
GSAA’s primary goal at this point is to show Georgia’s DNR that there are a lot of anglers who agree that there is a problem with how redfish are being managed. So, they’re hoping to get a large showing at two upcoming Georgia DNR Town Halls, which will focus on redfish.
“The town halls are slated for 6 p.m. Monday, June 6, at Georgia Southern University, Armstrong Center Room 151, 13040 Abercorn St., Savannah, GA 31419 and 6 p.m. Thursday, June 9, at the Brunswick Library, 208 Gloucester St., Brunswick, GA 31520. The meetings will include a presentation on the survey’s findings followed by a question-and-answer session with marine biologists and staffers from DNR’s Coastal Resources Division (CRD), which commissioned the survey.”
For more info on the Town Halls, check out this Georgia DNR press release.
Also, be sure to check out GSAA’s new website and socials as they work to preserve this unique fishery.

photos by @GavinSellers

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