Gov. Sanford Signs New Santee Cooper Striped Bass Regulations

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Governor Mark Sanford signed new striped bass regulations into effect on May 21, 2008 for the Santee Cooper system. The new regulations will act as a first step to combat the population decline of the striped bass fishery in the Santee Cooper System by reducing the amount of fish an angler can harvest, as well as increasing the minimum size limits. 

The new regulations include:

  • Reduction in creel limits from five to three
  • Increase in minimum size limit from 21 inches to 26 inches
  • Season restrictions for entire Santee Cooper system (lakes and rivers): no harvest/possession from June 1- September 30
  • Points system: increase to 14 points for violation
  • Striped bass must be landed with head and tail intact enabling enforcement officers to measure complete fish

The waters to which the new regulations will apply are limited to the Santee Cooper system only. This includes the waters of the Lower Santee River system, or all waters and tributaries seaward of the Lake Murray Dam, the Columbia Canal Diversion Dam, and the Lake Wateree Dam to the freshwater/saltwater dividing line on the North Santee River and the South Santee River. Additional waters affected by this bill include the Cooper River System, which includes all waters and tributaries of the Cooper River, including the Tailrace Canal, from its point of origin seaward to the freshwater/saltwater dividing line.

The regulations, adopted by the General Assembly and signed into law by the Governor, were based on recommendations from the Striped Bass Stakeholders Group organized by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in fall 2007.  

Due to the importance of the striped bass resource to South Carolina, DNR wanted to ensure any recommendations made to the General Assembly in 2008 were in consensus with all stakeholders. The Striped Bass Stakeholders Effort was initiated in the fall of 2007 to accomplish this. This project was managed by a professional facilitator not affiliated with the agency. Members of the stakeholders group were appointed by the General Assembly and the DNR agency director.  The 40 member Striped Bass Stakeholders Working Group included members of the House of Representatives, the Senate, professional guides, leaders of conservation groups, recreational anglers, landowners, and members of the tourism industry. 

The Working Group met five times, volunteering their time and expertise during evening meetings held in locations across the state. The Working Group, DNR and General Assembly members stayed active throughout the process by providing striped bass research results, participating in every meeting, aiding in the preparation and evaluation of each meeting, and preparing recommendations for the General Assembly.  

The Working Group presented consensus recommendations to the House of Representatives Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on January 9, 2008.  The Working Group agreed that recommendations to change striped bass regulations were a necessary step for the striped bass population to rebound, with the least amount of impact to those who utilize or rely on the fishery.

DNR protects and manages South Carolina’s natural resources by making wise and balanced decisions for the benefit of the state’s natural resources and its people.