SOCIAL CIRCLE — Commercial fishermen can take to the water beginning at 6 a.m. Jan. 1 to take advantage of the opening day of shad season, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division.
Shad season runs through midnight Tuesday, March 31.
Fishermen need to be aware that, due to a recent regulation change, they now are required to possess a free letter of authorization in addition to their commercial fishing license to commercially fish for shad. Fisherman must have the LOA in their possession while commercially fishing for shad. Applications for an LOA can be obtained by calling Julie Califf at 912-264-7218.
The 2015 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 River system upstream of the Seaboard Coastline Railroad Bridge and below the Highway 1 bridge are open Tuesday-Saturday, including the Ohoopee River downstream of the Highway 1 bridge. All waters of the Altamaha river system above the 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 the I-95 bridge and below the Highway 301 bridge are open Wednesday-Saturday. All waters of the Savannah River above the 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 commercial shad fishing.
Following are some guidelines to ensure nets used for commercial shad fishing are legal:
• The minimum mesh size for legal set or drift shad nets is 4 ½ 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 outer (seaward) end so they will be clearly visible to other 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 into the waters where they were taken.
Commercial shad fishermen must have a valid Georgia commercial fishing license and an LOA. 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 or WRD offices.
For a complete set of commercial-fishing regulations, go to www.coastalgadnr.org or call these WRD law-enforcement offices: Brunswick at 912-264-7237; Thomson at 706-595-4211; or Metter at 912-685-2145.