WALHALLA, S.C. (WSPA)- The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources said fishing is one of the biggest tourism draws to the state, bringing a lot of money to areas surrounding lakes.

“Fishing is a tremendous economic output in South Carolina,” SCDNR representative Greg Lucas said. “When people go fishing a lot of time they stay in hotels, they hot restaurants, get lots of gas. Outdoor shops where people can buy fishing and hunting equipment and buy bait, live bait or minnows or crickets. All of those place’s benefit from these people coming fishing.”

To keep up with the demand, SCDNR has to fill the lakes with fish every year.

The Walhalla State Fish Hatchery is one of the biggest fish breeders in the state.

Over 1 million fish are born and raised in water bins for over a year on average.

“In 2021, almost 312,000 hybrid bass and almost 150,000 striped bass were stocked into Lake Hartwell at various locations,” Lucas said.

After they’ve grown, over a 5-month period they’re taken to several lakes in South Carolina like Lake Jocassee, Mountain Lakes and Lake Hartwell, to be released.

SCDNR said hatcheries have become essential since normal breeding grounds for fish, which are rivers, have changed to accommodate infrastructure.

“They don’t have any great areas to reproduce,” Lucas said. “Those (rivers) have all been blocked off over time with all the progress and all the hydro projects…”

SCDNR said one of the last times they’ll restock the lakes is right before the July 4th holiday, then they’ll restart the process for the next year.

As far as eating the restocked fish you catch in these lakes, SCDNR said there are health advisories about the fish, but it is up to your discretion whether you eat them or not.