SC Reds poachers BUSTED

With the help of the public, S.C. Department of Natural Resources' Law Enforcement officers recently made cases in Horry and Georgetown Counties against people who were keeping too many red drum, and also red drum that were too small to be legal.

Someone called the S.C. Department of Natural Resources' Coast Watch hotline number (1-800-922-5431) at 2 p.m. on Sept. 28 to report two fishermen who they thought were catching more fish than legally allowed. The caller also reported that the men were catching fish under the legal minimum size. The men were fishing at a popular fishing spot on the beach off the Murrells Inlet jetties.

Officer Tracey Woodruff, a DNR Marine Patrol officer who works in Horry County, responded to the hotline call. He conducted surveillance from land for about two hours between 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. To be on the safe side, Officer Woodruff called for assistance from Horry County's inland district. DNR Law Enforcement Officer Cooper Chavis arrived on the scene, and he and Officer Woodruff approached the men together. The officers found the men in possession of 21 red drum, also known as spottail bass. Since the allowable catch limit for red drum is two fish per person, 17 of their red drum were over the limit. In addition, 16 of the 21 fish were smaller than the legal minimum size of 15 inches.

Officer Woodruff charged Thomas Mahon of Darlington and Emory Cooper of Timmonsville with eight counts each of undersize red drum and one count each of over-the-limit red drum. Each man could face maximum fines of $1,000 or 30 days in jail for each offense. The case should go to court by the end of this month.

More red drum cases were made last week as a result of the public using the DNR Coast Watch Hotline. DNR Law Enforcement Officer Robin Camlin made a total of 24 cases in Georgetown County on Tuesday, October 1. Someone from the public called the hotline to report that three men in a green boat were reeling in and keeping a large number of fish. Officer Camlin responded to the call, and observed the individuals fishing in Litchfield Creek in Georgetown County. "I was in an inconspicuous location, and observed the men from land with binoculars," Officer Camlin said. "I observed them for over two hours before they headed toward the boat landing, so I met them at the landing."

Officer Camlin called for back-up and was assisted by Officer Ginger Pop, who works the inland portion of Georgetown County. "I identified myself as a DNR officer and asked them for their saltwater fishing licenses and some identification," Officer Camlin said. According to Officer Camlin, the men had in plain view a five-gallon bucket with a stringer of six red drum that were of legal size, along with six black drum. "They would have been abiding the laws if they had only had this one bucket," Officer Camlin said. The officer inspected the boat's safety equipment. Upon inspecting two lifejackets, one of the men said he knew he was one lifejacket short.

Officer Camlin saw a Type-4 throwable cushion nearby. "I noticed that the 'throwable' was very heavy, and knew something wasn't quite right. So I turned it over, saw a slit in the seat, and reached inside to find ten red drum," Officer Camlin said. After making this find, Officer Camlin began inspecting other areas of the boat. Under the gas tank she found towels hiding a grocery bag with four more red drum.

Officer Camlin charged Levy Bryant, Jr. of Pawley's Island with five counts of over the limit red drum, three counts of undersize red drum and because he was the operator of the boat, he was also charged with one count of having insufficient lifejackets.

Herman Grant of Pawley's Island was charged with five counts of over the limit red drum and three counts of undersize red drum. Spencer Bryant of New Jersey was charged with four counts of over the limit red drum and three counts of undersize red drum. The case will go to court later this month.

"This case is significant because it shows how important the public is in helping us seek out violators," Officer Camlin said. "DNR officers are scattered across the coast, so it's impossible to be in every productive fishing area at one time. Fishing activity is high during this time of year, so we rely on the public for assistance to help us protect our valuable coastal resources."

Many people consider red drum to be the most popular saltwater gamefish in the state. Regulations that changed the size and catch limits on these fish were enacted in 2001 to help sustain the population. Officers are making sure that these regulations are followed in order to protect red drum.

If the public will continue to be the eyes and ears of SC DNR, then fishers fishing in SC waters can expect to continue to catch beautiful red drum like this (held by the editor image right) in SC coastal waters.

"The public knows that the size and catch limits have changed for red drum. If we have people who aren't abiding by the new regulations, we won't be guaranteed to have this fish in the future," Officer Camlin said. Officer Camlin is a DNR officer whose primary responsibility is to coordinate and teach boater and hunter education courses. She also conducts patrols on a regular basis. She has been with the DNR for almost 13 years, and worked for the marine patrol for over eight years. "I would like to remind the public of Coast Watch, which was developed to better help citizens report violations of saltwater recreational and commercial fishing laws, as well as marine environmental laws," said Major Alvin Taylor of the DNR's Law Enforcement Marine Patrol in Charleston.

The Coast Watch hotline number (1-800-922-5431) is toll-free and available 24 hours a day. The DNR Law Enforcement Marine Patrol Division (District 9) is responsible for enforcing coastal recreational and commercial boating/fishing regulations.

Anyone with specific questions regarding marine resources rules and regulations may contact:
- DNR Law Enforcement Office in Charleston (843) 953-9307
- DNR Licensing Office in Charleston (843) 953-9032/9034
- DNR Law Enforcement Office in Columbia (803) 955-4000
- DNR Law Enforcement Office in Georgetown (843) 546-8523
- DNR Law Enforcement Office in Port Royal (843) 524-9190

Please carry these numbers with you. YOU can make a difference!