The 2011-12 season for harvesting oysters and clams will open Oct. 1, according to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.
Oyster and clam seasons will remain open through May 15 unless conditions warrant extending or shortening them, a DNR news release said. Season dates apply to both recreational and commercial shellfish harvesting.
Shellfish harvesters may begin gathering oysters and clams on designated areas a half-hour before official sunrise until a half-hour after official sundown.
DNR maintains state shellfish grounds, including those in Beaufort County, for commercial and recreational harvesting of clams and oysters. Twenty-four public shellfish grounds are managed exclusively for recreational gathering and are posted with boundary signs.
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The recreational limit is two U.S. bushels of oysters and one-half bushel of clams in a single day, DNR said. No one can gather more than one personal limit of shellfish on more than two calendar days per any seven-day period. There is a maximum possession limit of three personal limits per boat or vehicle or boat and vehicle combination. Clams must be at least an inch thick.
Recreational harvesters should review public shellfish ground maps at the beginning of each season, as areas open to harvest may change from time to time.
New maps of the grounds will be available at www.dnr.sc.gov/marine/shellfish by Oct. 1. Maps can also be obtained by calling 843-953-9854 or by writing Marine Resources Division, Shellfish Management Section, P.O. Box 12559, Charleston, SC 29422.
A saltwater recreational fishing license is required for residents and non-residents for all recreational shellfish harvesting. Areas designated as shellfish culture permits cannot be recreationally harvested unless the harvester has written permission from the permit holder in their possession, the release said.
Additional rules and restrictions may be found in the DNR Rules and Regulations, available where licenses are purchased, or online at www.dnr.sc.gov/marine/shellfish.
The DNR urges people to recycle oyster shells. Go to www.saltwaterfishing.sc.gov/oyster.html or call 843-953-9300 to find recycling locations. All shells collected by DNR are used to restore shellfish grounds in coastal South Carolina, the release said.