Dave Fladd has a passion for catching large spotted siege trout, which he attributes to his business partner Ralph Phillips.
The two co-own Eye Strike Fishing, one of the nation’s best-selling jigs, so named for its oversized, lifelike eyes that make fish strike. They developed and started to market the jigs in 2014.
As Fladd developed the product and his talent for finding and catching trout, he also began to realize that there was a need to protect large ranchers. He said that about 10 years ago he started asking questions about legislation that would create an upper slot limit for trout. Warned that this would never happen, he decided to create his own upper limit of slots.
“It was a bit selfish. I wanted there to be more big fish to catch because I love to catch trout. I was a little frustrated, but then I had an epiphany. didn’t matter if it was a law. I could create my own upper slot limit which is more restrictive than what the law allows. I chose 20 inches, and since then every time I caught a fish over 20 inches, I released it automatically, ”said Fladd.
From Fladd’s personal decision was born a program called Release Over 20, which started with spotted sea trout and now includes plaice and sheep’s head. He was speaking on a podcast about trout fishing and his personal decision in early 2020 and a listener involved with CCA North Carolina overheard the interview, spoke with Fladd, and began promoting the idea.
“I would say the number of subscribers and social media participation is steadily increasing by 10% per month. It’s pretty amazing. It has almost become a household name among Texas anglers and is really starting to make its mark. way to New Jersey and New York. The reach is way beyond what I thought it would be. “
The program, which was run by Eye Strike, will soon have its own website and is in the process of becoming a non-profit. Fishermen record their catch with a photograph of fish over 20 inches that they have released. Anglers are given stickers for their boat and can also get what he calls helmet stickers (like the ones you see on college football helmets) to track fish that have been released over 20 inches. Fladd does a monthly draw and donates between $ 200 and $ 600 in merchandise donated by businesses involved in saltwater fishing.
Fladd said he chose 20 inches because it’s a nice round number and 20 inches is a relatively rare trout in South Carolina. And he pointed out some telling numbers on spotted sea trout in South Carolina.
“If you start year zero with 1,000 trout, after four years there are only eight fish left out of that 1,000 and this 4 year old fish is 20 inches. That gives you an idea of how rare this fish is. only one of the eight made it so far, why? Superior genetics? Is it more cold hardy? Disease resistant? Does it grow faster than other fish? These are all genes you would want to propagate by spawning. They have more valuable genes to pass on. So I think that’s a no-brainer, “Fladd said.
While the red drum (redfish) is already protected by an upper slit limit, this is not the case for trout or two other popular species, plaice and sheep’s head.
A few years ago, Fladd said he had a really good season fishing for plaice before learning some of his biology and is now releasing plaice as well.
“The surprising fact about plaice is that males only reach about 14 inches, so each keeper-sized plaice (minimum length of 16 inches, 5 per person, 10 per boat per day) is one female, each, ”said Fladd. “If you keep all of the females, it’s no surprise that you see a 30-year decline in plaice stocks. That’s why I believe so much in disclosure.”
Fladd said he heard, especially from fishermen in the northeast, concerns about the sheep’s head and discovered some telling facts as well. He said sheep heads are slow growing and their growth rate slows down considerably as they get older. He said that in South Carolina an 18-inch head of sheep might be 5 years old, but a 20-inch head of sheep is 10 years old.
“If you go to Capers Reef and catch your legal 20 inch sheep head limit (10 per person, 30 per boat), it will take 10 years to rebuild these fish,” he said. “The science as to why you should release larger sheep heads is clear. Keep a few smaller, but when they reach a certain size start letting them go if you want your kids to be able to catch some. “
Fladd said that while the Release Over 20 campaign is strictly voluntary, it doesn’t change the fact that “every fish counts. If we can just change one person’s mind, there will ultimately be 2, 10, 100, 1000. You have to start somewhere. “
“It’s kind of preaching to the choir. Most people agree already, but the challenge is to try to make people, especially newbies, understand the importance of releasing the fish,” said Fladd. “If you teach them the value of conservation and the fact that if you exercise restraint now you will have more and better fish to catch in the future.”
As Release Over 20 moves into the nonprofit phase, The Post and Courier helps sponsor a fundraiser called Cast It Forward to benefit the initiative. It will be held on February 5 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Firefly Distillery and will feature panel discussions with the best anglers, demonstrations for adults and children, oyster roast and barbecue, food trucks, live music from Southbound 17 and an auction with the proceeds. with Release Over 20. For more information, visit tickets.postandcourier.com/e/cast-it-forward-benefiting-release-over-20/tickets.
American Nautical Club
America’s Boating Club Charleston will be hosting boating safety courses on January 15, February 12 and March 12 at 1376 Orange Grove Road, Charleston. Classes start at 9 a.m. and end around 4 p.m. Successful participants obtain the SC Department of Natural Resources Boater Education Card. The cost is $ 25 for adults and youth ages 12-18 are free. Call 843-312-2876 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.