Shrimp Baiting Season Opens Sept. 12 in South Carolina Waters

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sHRIMPThe 2008 shrimp baiting season will open at noon Friday, Sept. 12 in South Carolina waters.

Recreational shrimpers who purchase a shrimp baiting license can legally cast their nets for shrimp over bait during this season. Shrimp baiting season will remain open until noon Tuesday, Nov. 11.  The S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) opens the shrimp baiting season annually on the last Friday on or before the 15th of September each year. 

The practice of shrimp baiting has remained basically the same since the current laws were passed in 1988. The season lasts 60 days, resident licenses cost $25 and non-residents licenses cost $500.  The catch limit is 48 quarts of shrimp measured heads-on (29 quarts heads-off) per boat or set of poles per day, and each boat is limited to a set of 10 poles. 

Shrimp Baiting Season Opens Sept. 12 in South Carolina WatersDNR biologist Larry DeLancey, whose research group has been sampling along the coast, says the 2008 season outlook should be “again fair, depending on the weather. There are relatively good numbers of shrimp in some areas, but size distribution looks smaller than last year. This year, at least early in the season, shrimpers may find better numbers in rivers, than later down in areas closer to the ocean, as many areas remain very salty despite recent rainfall.”

License sales in the shrimp baiting fishery peaked at 17,497 in 1998 and have declined steadily leveling off at about 10,000 for the past two years.   Post-season mail surveys conducted every year since 1988 indicate that recent total catches have been about 1 million pounds per season (heads on) after peaking at over 3.6 million pounds in 1997.  Despite the decline in total catch, catch per trip has remained relatively stable, averaging about 20-22 quarts per trip since 2001.  The stable catch per trip suggest that shrimp abundance has remained relatively good, but few permits and shrimping trips is resulting in a lower overall harvest.   According to Marine Resources Division Assistant Deputy Director, David Whitaker, “The decline in license sales and effort may be linked to the decrease in shrimp prices over the last few years, with recreational fishermen preferring to buy shrimp rather than catch their own.” 

Shrimpers should be aware of laws regulating mesh size when choosing a cast net for the fall baiting season. The law went into effect in 2002 requiring that no cast net may be used for shrimp baiting that has mesh smaller than one-half inch on each side, or one inch in length when stretched. The legislative change in mesh size only refers to shrimp baiting and does not affect recreational shrimpers who are not casting over bait.

Captain Chuck Dial with DNR Law Enforcement Division in Charleston advises baiters not to have bait or poles in a boat that is in the water before noon on Friday, Sept. 12.

Report violations of saltwater recreational and commercial fishing laws by calling the Coast Watch hotline number (1-800-922-5431) toll-free, 24 hours a day.

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.