Georgia Coast Falling Goldfish – Will Management Change?

From the east coast of Florida to Chesapeake Bay, goldfish or red drums, depending on where you are from, offer fishermen a wide variety of fishing opportunities. So do not be surprised to hear that they are one of the most targeted species for recreation in the South Atlantic region. Heck, the goldfish is Georgia’s state fish. Today, however, many fishermen and guides are seeing a decline in the goldfish population off the coast of Georgia and hope to encourage the Department of Natural Resources to acknowledge the problem and manage fisheries sustainably.

Measured in a straight line, the coast of Georgia is about 90 miles, and the estuarine habitats – which support juvenile goldfish and many other species of fish and wildlife – within that 90-mile shoreline are exponentially bigger. Unlike other regions, the coast of Georgia still has large areas of sea grass. However, Georgia red fish is declining, especially excess fish (larger than 27 inches). Captain Chad Dubois is the President of the Georgia Saltwater Fishermen Association and he attributes much of this local decline to an outbreak of fishing efforts accompanied by no real management change.

When your average fisherman hears about goldfish fishing, they think Florida or Louisiana or South Carolina. Most do not think about Georgia, but the fact remains that Georgia boasts a great deal of fishing. However, more and more people are discovering this fishing. In the last 30 years, fishing efforts have skyrocketed – there has been a 550 percent increase in sales of fishing licenses, fishing guides and boat registrations. While this is definitely a positive for these communities and coastal guides, it puts tremendous strain on the source and challenges the fisheries management process.

In the case of goldfish management in Georgia, there has actually been no change in recreational management measures (bag, size and season limits) in three decades, despite increasing efforts. And that’s the message of the Georgia Saltwater Fishermen Association. A 500 percent increase in effort should spur change in management to ensure fisheries remain sustainable. This is not happening yet …

Also, when you look at the rest of the region, the Georgian regimes stand out as relatively liberal.

“It’s really simple math: when you have the same goldfish regulations in place without any significant change in the last 30 years plus an added 550% pressure on our fishing during that time, there will be fewer fish red, “said Jared DiVincent, Deputy. President of GSAA and Co-Owner of On The Fly Outfitters, a flight shop off the coast of Georgia.

“The increase in fishing pressure has been exacerbated by the recent pandemic and the ‘remote work culture’ and we are seeing this decline on the first water every year. Qualitative and quantitative data show a decline in the goldfish population. “and the enjoyment of red fishing along Georgia’s coastal waters. We have an unprecedented urgency to ensure that our fishing is sustainable for future generations.”

The GSAA’s main purpose at this point is to show the DNR of Georgia that there are many fishermen who agree that there is a problem with the way goldfish are managed. So they hope to have a big show in Georgia’s next two DNR municipalities, which will focus on goldfish.

“Municipalities are scheduled for 6:00 p.m., Monday, June 6, at the University of Southern Georgia, Armstrong Center Room 151, 13040 Abercorn St., Savannah, GA 31419; and 6:00 p.m., Thursday, June 9, at the Brunswick Library, 208 Gloucester St. , Brunswick, GA 31520. The meetings will include a presentation on the survey findings followed by a question-and-answer session with marine biologists and staff from the DNR Coastal Resources Division (CRD) who authorized the study.

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