Assessment of the Flounder (Paralichthys Spp.) Gig Fishery in South Carolina
Hiltz, Eric M.
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This thesis examines the behaviors and harvest/effort of flounder giggers in South Carolina from March to October 2007 using on-site interviews, a mail survey, and an aerial survey. The results were compared with data from the hook and line flounder fishery in South Carolina to estimate the relative importance of gigging in the recreational flounder fishery. Flounder giggers are most active between June and September on nights when low tide is between 22:00 and 0:00 EST and wind speeds are less than 5 mph (8 km/hr). Most gigging takes place in Georgetown County around Murrells Inlet and North Inlet. Participants gigged a median of 1 to 3 flounder per trip depending on experience, significantly more than the average number of flounder caught per trip by hook and line fishers in South Carolina (0.5 flounder/person/trip). Gigged flounder averaged 410 mm (}3 SE) (16 inches) TL, significantly larger than those taken by hook and line (395 mm (}3 SE) or 15.5 inches). Flounder gigged in Horry and Georgetown counties were larger than those in other coastal counties. Only one gigged flounder examined during this study was identified as a summer flounder; all others (374) were southern flounder. Although they account for 13% of all participants in the SC recreational saltwater fishery, giggers may have harvested 55% of the recreational flounder catches in South Carolina in 2007. In the past 4 years, the number of giggers has increased by 47%, suggesting that in the near future, this fishery could account for an even greater proportion of the recreational flounder harvest in South Carolina. This study indicates that the number of flounder harvested by giggers in South Carolina is significant. Therefore, it is essential this understudied portion of the fishery be monitored and taken into account in future flounder stock assessments and management decisions.