Publication Over 20 Trout Conservation Initiative Continues National Growth | fishing

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Dave Fladd is passionate about catching large spotted sea trout, which he attributes to his business partner, Ralph Phillips.

The two are co-owners of Eye Strike Fishing, one of the best-selling jigs in the country, named for the oversized, lifelike eyes that make the fish strike. They developed and started marketing the devices in 2014.

As Fladd developed the product and his talent for finding and catching trout, he also realized there was a need to protect the big breeders. He said about 10 years ago he started asking about legislation that would create an upper slot limit for trout. Since he was told this would never happen, he decided to set his own upper slot limit.

“It was kind of selfish. I wanted there to be more big fish to catch because I love catching trout. I was a little frustrated but then I had a revelation. I thought it didn’t matter if it did is a law. I could set my own slot upper limit which is more restrictive than what the law allows. I chose 20 “and since then every time I caught a fish over 20” I have it automatically released, “said Fladd.

From Fladd’s personal choice, a program called Release Over 20 was born, which started with spotted sea trout and now includes flounder and sheep’s head. He talked about trout fishing and his personal choice on a podcast in early 2020, and a listener associated with CCA North Carolina heard the interview, spoke to Fladd, and started promoting the idea.

“I would say that the number of followers and participation on social media has increased by an average of 10 percent per month. It’s pretty amazing. The range goes far beyond what I would have ever thought possible. “

The program, which was operated by Eye Strike, will soon have its own website and is in the process of becoming a nonprofit. Anglers record their catches with a photo of fish over 20 inches that they have released. Anglers are given stickers for their boat and can also get helmet stickers (as seen on college football helmets) to keep up with fish that have been released over 20 inches. Fladd runs a monthly drawing and donates $ 200 to $ 600 worth of merchandise donated by companies involved in the saltwater fishery.

Fladd said he chose 20 inches because it’s a nice round number, and 20 inches is a relatively rare trout in South Carolina. And he pointed out some telling numbers about spotted sea trout in South Carolina.

“If you start year zero with 1,000 trout, after four years there are only eight of those 1,000 fish left, and that 4 year old fish is 20 inches. That gives you an idea of ​​how rare this fish is. If only one of eight has gone so far, why? Superior genetics? Is it more cold-resistant? Resistant to disease? Does it just grow faster than the other fish? Those are all genes you want to reproduce through spawning. They are more valuable genes to pass on. I think So it’s a no-brainer, “said Fladd.

While red drums (redfish) are already protected by an upper slot boundary, this is not the case with the trout or two other popular species, the flounder and the sheep’s head.

A few years ago, Fladd said he had a really good season floundering before learning about their biology and now releasing flounder too.

“The surprising fact about flounder is that the males only reach about 14 inches, so any flounder the size of a holder (minimum length 16 inches, 5 per person, 10 per boat per day) is female, every single one,” Fladd said. “If you keep all of the females, it’s no surprise you see flounder populations decline over 30 years.

Fladd said he had heard concerns about the sheep’s head, particularly from anglers in the northeast, and found some insightful facts as well. He said sheep heads grow slowly and their rate of growth slows dramatically with age. He said that in South Carolina an 18-inch sheep head could be 5 years old, but a 20-inch sheep head is 10 years old.

“If you go to Capers Reef and catch your legal limit of 20 inch sheep’s heads (10 per person, 30 per boat) it will take 10 years to replenish those fish,” he said. “The science behind why you should release larger sheep’s heads is clear. Keep a few smaller ones, but when they reach a certain size, let go of them if you want your children to catch some.”

Fladd said that while the Release Over 20 campaign is strictly voluntary, it does not change the fact that “every fish counts. If we can get just one person to change their mind, it will end up being 2, 10, 100, 1,000. You have to start somewhere. “

Tomorrow can make a huge difference in fishing success

“It’s a little preaching for the choir. Most people are already at it, but the challenge is to teach people, especially newbies, the importance of releasing fish, ”Fladd said. “If you teach them the value of conservation and the fact that you can catch more and better quality fish in the future if you show some restraint now.”

While Release Over 20 is moving into the non-profit phase, The Post and Courier is supporting a fundraising campaign called Cast It Forward for the benefit of the initiative. It takes place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on February 5 at the Firefly Distillery and features panel discussions with top anglers, demonstrations for adults and children, an oyster roast and barbecue, food trucks, live music from Southbound 17, and an auction with a proceeds release Over 20 benefit. For more information, see tickets.postandcourier.com/e/cast-it-forward-benefiting-release-over-20/tickets.

America’s boating club

America’s Boating Club Charleston will host boat safety classes on January 15th, February 12th and March 12th at 1376 Orange Grove Road, Charleston. Classes start at 9:00 a.m. and end around 4:00 p.m. Successful participants receive the boat driver training card from the SC Department of Natural Resources. The cost is $ 25 for adults and teens 12-18 years old are free. Call 843-312-2876 or email [email protected]


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