Release Over 20″ is an initiative to encourage recreational anglers to voluntarily release all spotted seatrout, southern flounder and sheepshead over 20″, in essence, creating an upper-slot for these valuable gamefish – even if the law allows it.  

The origin of Release Over 20″ began many years ago when Eye Strike Fishing partner Dave Fladd inquired about whether South Carolina would ever implement an upper-slot for trout, and was told it would never happen.  In South Carolina, laws pertaining to our natural resources are made by the State Legislature, not the Department of Natural Resources.  Therefore, the process is highly political, and big changes are unlikely to happen in a timely manner.  

So, that inspired him to wonder, why can’t we set and observe our own catch and creel limits that are more restrictive than the law allows?  If we get enough people to follow this philosophy, we can effectively have an upper-slot for trout, and may very well move the needle.  Leading by example, Dave would often state on social media and local fishing forums that he caught and released his trout over 20″ as his own personal upper-slot, and why he did so.  After a while, people in South Carolina started telling him that they did too, because he inspired them to follow that rule also.  

Why Release Big Trout?  

  • Most trout over 20″ are female
  • Egg production on larger trout increases exponentially, for example an 11″ trout releases around 3 million eggs a year, and a 20″ trout releases approximately 20 million eggs annually
  • 20″ trout are approximately 4 years old and are survivors.  A 20″ trout is very rare.  It’s estimated that if you start out with 1000 trout at year 0, only 8 trout will remain at year 4.  Imagine how rare a 28″ trout is?
  • It’s important to pass on survivor genes on these big fish.  How did they survive to the size they are?  Are they able to withstand cold snaps?  Do they grow bigger and faster than the others (think of an NBA player)?

Partnership with CCA North Carolina

Dave was discussing his Release Over 20″ thoughts on the Eastern Current podcast with Judson Brock, and Joe Neely from CCA North Carolina was an interested listener.  This philosophy struck a chord with him and CCA NC came on board with making Release Over 20 a major initiative in the state of North Carolina.  A CCA NC web page on Release Over 20 can be viewed here.

Eye Strike Fishing is very proud to partner with CCA NC to try to get more people to adopt Release Over 20″ and do what we can as recreational anglers to keep these trophy fish in our fishery by releasing them.

How Can You Get Involved?

Anglers:  Please follow @releaseover20 on Facebook and Instagram to see program submissions and to keep up to date on the initiative.  Catch, Photo, Release a > 20″ trout, flounder, or sheepshead, enter it at releaseover20.com and get a free decal and an entry into our monthly drawing.  We also have have stickers and apparel available on our store, and 100% of the proceeds go directly to funding the initiative.  The stickers are sold at cost, to encourage people to spread the word.

Guides:  We would love to have you on board as an official supporter of Release Over 20.  We will promote your guide business on our social media as sponsors in turn for encouraging your clients to enter the program.  When your clients catch a fish, make sure they credit your business on the entry form.  We will track the leading guides by state.  Please contact us to get started.

Corporate Sponsors:  We are soliciting corporate sponsors of in-kind donations to give away in monthly drawings for program entries.  In turn, we will promote your business as sponsors of our program on our website and social media platforms.  Please contact us for details.

2020 Release Over 20 Corporate Sponsors

2020 Professional Guide Release Over 20 Supporters



Release Over 20″ In the Media

This was the podcast which got Release Over 20 started.  Eastern Current with Jud Brock.  We started discussing this at 1:01 into the podcast, and Joe Neely from CCA NC was listening and got ahold of us, and the rest is history.

 Once we got the initiative started, we did a podcast dedicated directly to Release Over 20, with Joe Neely from CCA as another guest.  This let us discuss the initiative in more detail.

Chris Bush of The Speckled Truth did a podcast with Ralph, and asked about the initiative at the 48 minute mark. The podcast can be listened to HERE 

The initiative got the interest of Salt Strong, and the owner Joe Simonds interviewed me on the subject on his widely distributed podcast .  This one was really good, and can be listened to HERE.  This link includes some editorial by Salt Strong, and some great comments and discussion following it.

The Charleston Post and Courier ran an article in the Sunday Outdoors section with Tommy Braswell.  The article can be read HERE

Dave writes an article named Artificial Intelligence for Coastal Angler Magazine and wrote a piece on Release Over 20 in the June 2020 issue.  It can be read HERE