North Carolina Fishing Decline……Recreational Anglers Take Another Hit
Two of the most impactful events to face Carolina saltwater anglers is the continued poor management of the state’s saltwater fishery that has culminated closing Flounder fishing for most of the year in North Carolina. The other is the impact of Covid-19 with the closing of boat ramps, marinas and limited fishing in both Carolinas. Both issues have created life changing problems to not only those that love to fish, but also those that support that industry. The North Carolina fishery issue serves as a double whammy for fishing guides due to removing nearly a third of the targeted species that guides pursue, but also the combined restrictions on travel by the Covid-19 pandemic. The lack of tourism has long reaching effects on the guides, tackle outlets and other industries connected directly and indirectly with saltwater fishing. The same pain has been felt in most of South Carolina with officials limiting guides to only 1 charter customer.
While these events have been a big blow for saltwater fishing for both states, there is a silver lining yet ever so small. The reduced fishing traffic due to the pandemic is likely to increase fishery stocks for both states. Now, I did say that it was “ever so small.” The reduced fishing pressure can only serve to strengthen both South Carolina’s and especially North Carolina’s fisheries that need it the most. While most of the restriction burdens primarily fall on the recreational fisherman and guides, so do the sacrifices. Most of the reduction in traffic will likely come from tourist traffic and those anglers that live further inshore limiting travel to the coast until the pandemic fears subside. Another factor will be the economic impact in the days, weeks and months to come which at this time is unknown.
North Carolina’s fishery may have an ever so slight break to its issues thanks to the hopefully short lived reduction in fishing traffic as compared to previous year’s spring and early summer months. The fact is the real problems have not been solved. In many respects, what progress made on the issue has now ceased due the pandemic. North Carolina Legislators are out of session until later this month and most meetings have been canceled. Staff are working off-site which has limited the already difficult task of communicating with state officials.
A few things that we do know is that changes have been made and more will be required in the days ahead. What was once normal will not be normal moving forward, which is not all bad. The forced changes that the Covid-19 virus has made are important and life changing. The changes that North Carolina Marine Fisheries and the state’s officials need to make for the state’s fishery are important as well. It’s time for them to face the magnitude of the fishery problem and place the priority of the million plus saltwater anglers and the many industries associated with them as priority, rather than the special interest groups that now dictate North Carolina’s saltwater fishing future.