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The Port Royal Sound Estuarine system is one of only four assumed spawning grounds for cobia on the Atlantic Coast.  Over the last 20 years it has risen rapidly in importance as an inshore and nearshore target for recreational and charter boat fishermen.  It is currently a federally managed fishery with a 2 per person possession limit and a minimum size of 33 inch fork length.  The cobia enter our sounds during April, May and June to feed on crabs and for spawning.  They then retreat to our offshore artificial reefs and live bottom areas or migrate south until the next Spring.  We have given the fishery a "B" rating due to the suspected huge impact our fishermen are having on its health.  The following are the most important concerns:


Although the perception of the health of the cobia fishery in general is good and deserves a "B" grade, we do not know enough about the species to tell whether it is getting better or worse or are we able develop any management tools that rely on anything other than common sense.  The good news is that SCDNR has rapidly elevated their research of cobia over the last two years and the Waddell Mariculture Center has developed a very efficient stock enhancement program that we can use in case of disaster.  In the last three years they have stocked over 70,000 cobia in our waters.  The fishing community has also expressed strong sentiments about proactively placing stronger catch restrictions than the federal rules for state waters.  The state of Florida had already done so several years ago because of rapidly increasing numbers of fishermen.  Once we know more about cobia and we have management tools in place as good as the red drum ones are, then a rating of "A" is achievable.