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SCDNR Gamefish Tagging Program Relaunch


Capt. Tucker Blythe demonstrates proper redfish tagging technique


            Beginning in 1974, recreational saltwater anglers with an eye on conservation enjoyed the SCDNR gamefish tagging program as a way to actively participate in finfish management. But then, in 2008, state budget cuts and a personnel shortage at SCDNR made it logistically impossible to administer such a program. Now after a four year hiatus, the popular tagging program is relaunching for anglers who carry a saltwater license; a tagging tool and the desire to catch and release redfish.

            As a cooperating angler with the SCDNR tagging program since 1994, no one was more disappointed than I about the discontinuation of the long-standing tagging program a few years ago. Recreational anglers tried to rally to find funding for the program, and while some money could be found, it came down to the shortage of SCDNR workers to enter and track the data. This is a poignant example of how the state budget cuts greatly affected the level of care available for our marine resources.

            As of October 4, a new plan is in place, one that immediately allows for the tagging of gamefish to occur. Robert Wiggers is one of the SCDNR biologists that have been involved with the program since before the funding shutdown. “I have always been amazed at the dedication of our recreational anglers towards conservation, and the seemingly never ending popularity of tagging and releasing fish,” said Wiggers.

            “Now in the 38th year of existence, we are hoping the tagging program will flourish with a new generation of saltwater anglers out there tagging and releasing fish,” said Wiggers. “With funding support from the saltwater recreational license that anglers purchase each year, we are able to once again supply the tags and info cards as in the past. One change will be that anglers will have to buy a tagging gun from us in order to participate.” This helps keep the cost down for SCDNR, and serves to signal just who is serious about wanting to tag some fish for the sake of conservation!

            Captain Tucker Blythe of Grey Ghost Charters (843-670-8629) regularly fishes the waters just South of Edisto, and we targeted some redfish to tag in the early morning of October 7. “The redfish don’t move around too much, so I have a few likely spots to try at the beginning of any fishing trip,” said Blythe. With plenty of bait swimming in the water we rigged up the new seven-foot All-Star Jerk Shad rod with a topwater lure.

            Casting the lure in the direction that Capt. Blythe indicated, I twitched to rod tip over and over to make the lure would have a ‘walk the dog’ action. “The key is to twitch the rod tip faster than you reel in the lure,” said Blythe. I found that the fast-action of the Jerk Shad rod tip to provide a perfect presentation of that topwater lure, but with no fish strikes, a change in fishing method was needed.

            With the tide low and incoming, Blythe moved his East Cape Vantage flats boat right next to the edge of the marsh and we rigged up the new All-Star Poppin’ Cork rod. We saw a small redfish feeding on shrimp and pitched a live finger mullet underneath a floating cork to about one foot away from the location of that fish and gave it a twitch. The small redfish came over and inhaled the bait so deep that we needed pliers to remove the hook, before tagging and releasing the fish.

            Next up we tried fishing at a dock with a long walkway, using the Poppin’ Cork rod to entice a strike from a much bigger 27-inch redfish. The rod’s moderate action proved stout enough to keep him from going back under that dock, and we tagged another redfish. We filled out the info cards and sent them to Robert Wiggers to enter in the SCDNR database. If these fish are ever caught again, then both the tagging angler and the angler who records the tag number data will receive a report about the whereabouts of that fish. For more information about participating in the program visit the SCDNR website or call Robert Wiggers at 843-953-9363.


Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdoors.com

Jeff Dennis, Contributor (359 Posts)

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdoors.com