SOCIAL CIRCLE — Commercial fishermen can take to the water beginning at 6 a.m. Jan. 2, for opening day of shad season, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division. The season runs through midnight March 31.
In addition to their commercial fishing license, fishermen are required to possess a free letter of authorization to commercially fish shad. Fisherman must have the LOA in their possession. Applications for an LOA can be obtained by contacting Julie Califf at 912-264-7218.
The 2017 shad season includes the following specific regulations for rivers:
• The Altamaha River downstream from the Seaboard Coastline Railroad bridge is open for commercial shad fishing Monday-Friday. Waters of the Altamaha system upstream of the bridge and below the U.S. Highway 1 are open Tuesday–Saturday, including the Ohoopee River downstream of the U.S. Highway 1 bridge. All waters of the Altamaha river system above the U.S. Highway 1 bridge, including the Ocmulgee and Oconee rivers, are closed to commercial fishing.
• The Savannah River is open for commercial shad fishing downstream from the I-95 bridge Tuesday-Friday. Waters upstream of I-95 and below the U.S. Highway 301 bridge are open Wednesday-Saturday. The river above the U.S. Highway 301 bridge are closed to commercial fishing. Only drift nets may be used downstream of a line between the mouth of Knoxboro Creek and McCoys Cut at Deadman’s Point.
• The Ogeechee, Satilla and the St. Marys rivers are not open to shad fishing.
Following are some guidelines to ensure nets used for shad fishing are legal:
• The minimum mesh size for legal set or drift shad nets is 4½ inches stretched.
• Set nets must be placed at least 600 feet apart and should be limited to 100 feet in length.
• Set nets must clearly display the owners name and commercial fishing license number.
• Drift nets shall not be fished closer than 300 feet apart and are limited to a maximum of 1,000 feet in length in saltwater.
• Set nets and drift nets must be situated so as to allow one-half the stream width to be open and free for the passage of fish.
• All set nets must have one end secured to the stream bank and must be buoyed at the seaward end so they will be clearly visible to boaters.
• Sturgeon, game fish other than American shad or hickory shad, and all species of catfish taken in set or drift nets must be released unharmed where taken.
Commercial licenses and LOA’s can be obtained at the Coastal Resources Division office in Brunswick. Applications for commercial licenses are also available at www.georgiawildlife.com/commercial-licenses or WRD offices.