John Welch of Myrtle Beach shows off a wahoo he caught near the Winyah Scarp while fishing aboard Painkiller out of Murrells Inlet on May 2. Dr. Jason Rosenberg Submitted photo
The Carolina Meatfish Slam is back in play with the improving weather, lessening wind
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
May 11, 2018 06:22 PM
Updated 6 hours 15 minutes ago
After an April to forget weather-wise, May arrived with some much-anticipated warmer weather and, most importantly, light winds.
So on the first Wednesday of the month, May 2, Dr. Jason Rosenberg and a crew of friends aboard Painkiller, with Capt. Jay Sconyers at the helm, headed for the blue water, with visions of a Carolina Meatfish Slam dancing in their heads.
Also along for the latest version of Wednesday Fishing With Friends were Jimmy Kaminski and Travis Coleman of Pawleys Island, John Welch of Myrtle Beach and myself.
The typical late start after a working morning ensued, and Sconyers cleared the jetties in the 32-foot Contender around 11 a.m.
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Thanks to slick seas, Sconyers, who had been going stir crazy due to lack of fishing in April, opened up the twin 300-horsepower Yamahas to about 50 mph and headed south-southeast.
Fifty smooth miles and a little over an hour later, Sconyers pulled the engines back when fish – hopefully blackfin tuna – were spotted thrashing a bait ball near the surface.
Rosenberg and Sconyers cast Jig Fish lures and aggressively retrieved them with no luck, at first.
After about 15 minutes, Rosenberg finally got a taker. The typical dogged tuna fight ensued, but alas, this tuna was a bonito instead of a blackfin.
Sconyers quickly ran the remaining 15 minutes to our target area for trolling, the Winyah Scarp, about 55 miles from the Murrells Inlet sea buoy. The water looked great, a clear deep blue with scattered sargassum.
The crew deployed a mix of ballyhoo/skirt combos, two downriggers with lures and a cedar plug on a long, center flat line, seven lines in all.
But before all the lines were out, Sconyers yelled “Fish On” as the rod with the plug bowed up.
Welch became the first angler of the day and about 10 minutes later, Sconyers gaffed a wahoo in the 15-pound range.
A great start, then the crew got the trolling spread set up and waited. Sconyers spotted a sargassum weed line and trolled alonside it, normally a hot spot for dolphin waiting to happen, but there was no activity on it.
After over an hour, a line finally snapped out of the outrigger and it was fish on again, but this wound up being a barracuda – not a member of the Meatfish Slam family of wahoo, dolphin and tuna.
Three more barracuda hit the deck and were released in the next few hours, and with our window of catching dinner fast closing, Rosenberg made the call to abandon trolling and switch over to bottom fishing.
Sconyers made a move inshore to bottom spots in 130 feet of water and anchored some and drifted some. Over the next few hours we caught a nice combination of vermilion snapper, black sea bass, grey triggerfish, red porgy and white grunts.
Now, there was some dinner in the box.
Sconyers dropped a few live baits down, hoping to get a bite from a grouper, particularly scamp, but there were no takers.
As Sconyers likes to say, 6-8 “endangered American red snapper” were also caught, but released due to a long-running NOAA Fisheries ban on harvesting the species.
Several sharks were also landed and released, including an approximate seven-foot, 150-pounder that come close to whipping my butt.
The seas remained nice for over half the ride home but the southerly sea breeze kicked in to make a little choppy for the last 20 miles to the sea buoy.
In retrospect, we were a little early for the hot dolphin bite we were hoping to find in the Winyah Scarp area, which wound up turning on in the next few days and continues now.
Slow trolling action aside, it was a beautiful day on the water with plenty of fish caught, and a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Governor’s Cup Series
The 2018 Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series got underway on Thursday with the Bohicket Marina Invitational Billfish Tournament.
The 43 boats competing in the series opener is up from the 29 that competed in the Bohicket tournament a year ago.
“It’s a significant increase and that trend looks to be continuing for Georgetown,” said Amy Dukes, coordinator of the series for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.
Dukes was referring to the Georgetown Blue Marlin Tournament, which is the next stop in the series and scheduled for May 23-26 at Georgetown Landing Marina.
At Bohicket, boats are able to fish any two of three days from Thursday through Saturday. Only three boats fished Thursday and Friday, meaning 40 boats will be on the water searching for billfish on Saturday.
Grander had a big day on Friday, releasing two blue marlin to take the lead after two days of fishing with 1,200 points. Grander still has a day left to fish on Saturday.
Full Pull is in second place with 700 points after releasing a two sailfish and a white marlin on Thursday. Full Pull is also eligible to fish on Saturday.
Artemis, Mister Pete, Sportin Life and Syked Out all have 600 points.
Through two days of fishing, the field has released six blue marlin, three sailfish and one white marlin. Releasing a blue marlin is worth 600 points, a white marlin 300 points and a sailfish 200 points.
Coastal Conservation Association South Carolina is staging its second annual Star Tournament, which runs from May 26 through Sept. 4.
A number of red drum have been tagged and released for the tournament, and the first two CCA members registered for the tournament to catch a STAR-tagged redfish could win a 2018 Sea Hunt powered by a 150-horsepower Yamaha valued at over $40,000.
For more details visit ccasouthcarolina.com/star/.