Roughly one million of two of the most popular fish species in the Lowcountry have been released along the coast.
To boost local populations of the native fish, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources conducted its annual release.
According to Karl Brenkert, DNR wildlife biologist, about one million small juvenile red drum and spotted seatrout were released in South Carolina coastal waters this year.
Of those, a little more than 600,000 were red drum and more than 300,000 were spotted seatrout.
“We know from previous years’ stockings that this number of fish can make a significant contribution to the wild population,” said Brenkert.
The stocking process doesn’t happen overnight. First, wild adult red drum and spotted seatrout are captured in Lowcountry waters, then transported to SCDNR’s James Island lab.
At the lab, the fish are kept in specialized tanks that mimic natural conditions to encourage the fish to mate and ultimately spawn.
The eggs produced in these tanks are then incubated for one to two days until they hatch. Once hatched, the larvae are stocked into outdoor nursery ponds at the Waddell Mariculture Center in nearby Bluffton.
Once they reach 1-2 inches in length, they are harvested and stocked in South Carolina’s coastal estuaries. The adult fish then returned to the same waters from which they were collected.
Through the efforts of DNR biologists, the marine stock enhancement program is not only able to boost wild populations, but also ensures high-quality angling experiences.