There are two different kinds of people who fish in the Lower Saluda River, and they have very different goals. In general, the catch-and-release fisherman is most interested in catching large and possibly trophy fish. The put-and-take fisherman is most interested in taking home meals, and a limit of fish of any size is the goal.
I am a Trout Unlimited member and a strictly catch-and-release fly trout fisherman, but the majority of others are put-and-take trout fisherman.
I am opposed to the proposal in the Legislature to make what will be the only easily accessible part of the river off limits for fisherman who want to keep fish, in part because their taxes and licenses have helped pay for the fishery and the river-walk access.
The proposal to prohibit people from keeping any trout they catch in a 1.3-mile section of the river upstream from Riverbanks Zoo grew out of worries that by increasing access to the lower Saluda, Columbia’s new riverwalk will threaten trout populations.
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There is a better way to solve the problem that should satisfy both factions. It is a slot limit on the entire Lower Saluda River.
We could have a daily limit of five fish that are up to 16 inches long; people could keep one fish that’s more than 24 inches long. This would allow the best of all fishing for both sides. The state could stock more fish below the I-26 bridge down to the zoo to accommodate the larger number of fishermen who will have easier access to the river they paid for, and the catch-and-release fisherman can still fish for their trophy fish.
Why the whole river? If you place restrictions on just part of it, you create a policing problem. Boaters who caught fish legally upstream of the restricted area could be ticketed as they travel through that area; conversely, boaters who catch fish illegally within the area could get away with it by escaping downstream.
We Trout Unlimited members have had it good over the years, but the river belongs to all taxpayers and license holders.
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