Of the pelagic species that migrate up the Southeast coast in spring, cobia are the big brown prize anglers covet for their dogged fight and excellence as table fare. The Sun News file photo
Recreational landings of cobia closed in state and federal waters in 2017
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
Of the pelagic species that migrate up the Southeast coast in spring, cobia are the big brown prize anglers covet for their dogged fight and excellence as table fare.
In 2017, anglers who hook up with a cobia, whether on a school of bait along the beach or an offshore bottom spot, will have to release the fish in all waters off the South Carolina coast.
NOAA announced on Tuesday the recreational harvest of Atlantic migratory group cobia will be closed for the remainder of 2017 in federal waters (beyond three miles offshore), from Georgia to New York.
Since 1996, South Carolina has automatically adopted regulations and closures put in place for federally managed species, meaning cobia cannot be harvested in South Carolina state waters either in 2017. State waters extend out to three miles offshore.
In the spring, cobia, which can reach weights of over 100 pounds but are common in the 30-50 pound range, meander northward as the water temperature warms, preferring temps in the 65-70 degree range in areas with plenty of bait. They then return offshore or to the south when the water cools in autumn.
Catching just one cobia can make the fishing trip for recreational fishermen and guides, but in 2017 they will have to be satisfied with the thrill of the fight and release.
NOAA states that in 2016 the recreational and total annual catch limits of Atlantic migratory group cobia (Georgia to New York) were excessively exceeded, and the 2017 season has been sacrificed to account for the overage.
Mel Bell, Director of the Office of Fisheries Management for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, said on Thursday that in 2016 the recreational annual catch target for cobia in the Atlantic group was 500,000 pounds but by August 1.3 million pounds had been landed.
How was the overage so excessive? Bell points to South Carolina’s neighboring states.
When federal waters were closed to cobia landings on June 20, 2016 for the remainder of the year, South Carolina coincided by closing the recreational cobia fishery in state waters.
Meanwhile, state waters in Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia remained open, and anglers continued harvesting cobia for the rest of the season in those three states.
While Bell says the majority of cobia annually caught off South Carolina and Georgia are landed from federal waters, the majority in North Carolina and Virginia are landed in state waters.
For now, with the disparity of cobia regulations in state waters, anglers in Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia will continue to be able to harvest cobia in state waters when they return this spring and summer. South Carolina anglers will be left out.
Bell hopes changes are on the horizon. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has a Draft Cobia Fishery Management Plan in the works, which will be discussed at the Commission’s winter meeting next week in Alexandria, Va.
The ASMFC manages species in coastal waters from Maine to Florida, and could eventually consolidate cobia regulations in state waters along the Atlantic Coast.
The Student Angler League Tournament Trail is hosting a fund-raising fishing seminar on Feb. 4 at St. James Middle School in the Burgess community.
Nine 20-minute seminars covering a variety of topics will be staged, beginning at 8 a.m.
The seminar benefits SALTT, a tournament trail featuring divisions for red drum and largemouth bass, with middle and high school anglers competing in the tournaments. All SALTT events are held out of the Carroll Campbell Marine Complex in Georgetown.
The lineup of speakers includes a group of very knowledgeable and engaging local fishing guides.
Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door. Tickets also serve as a raffle ticket for a charter trip donated by Capt. Jason Burton of Fly Girl Charters and Murrells Inlet Fishing Charters.
Students in grades 1 through 12 are admitted to the seminar free of charge.
The seminar schedule follows:
▪ Redfish Conservation/Future, Mike Denson of S.C. DNR.
▪ Inshore Fishing, Capt. Fred Rourk of Sweet Charters and Capt. Greg Holmes of Fish Skinny Charters.
▪ Offshore Fishing, Capt. Dan Carey of Careyon Charters.
▪ Bass Fishing, Bobby Marks of Bass Pro Shops.
▪ Kayak Fishing, Mike Eady and Johnny Wigfall.
▪ Offshore Fishing, Capt. Jay Sconyers of Aces Up Fishing.
▪ Bass Fishing, Andrew Young of Young Fishing.
▪ Inshore Fishing, Capt. Dan Connolly of O-Fish-Al Expeditions.
▪ Nearshore Fishing, Capt. Jason Burton and Adam Goodwin of Murrells Inlet Fishing Charters.
St. James Middle School is located at 9775 St. James Road, Myrtle Beach, SC, 29588.
For more information, visit www.salttfishing.com.
Monque Autry helps untangle his 10-year-old son, Kyle Autry’s line during a fishing trip to Cherry Grove last summer. JASON LEE jlee@thesunnews
By Greeg Holshouser
For The Sun News
Look For: Spotted seatrout, black drum, red drum, flounder, sheepshead, tautog.
Comments: The warmer-than-normal winter has continued right along through most of January. Capt. Mike McDonald of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service and Capt. Lin Fore of Lowcountry Expeditions went fun fishing on Sunday, and observed a water temperature of 58 degrees in the Winyah Bay area. The pair of anglers used artificial grubs to catch about a dozen trout and eight red drum. “They weren’t hitting very aggressively,” said McDonald. “We were just switching around grubs and colors. We caught enough to smell up the box.” On the north end, Capt. Patrick Kelly of Capt. Smiley Fishing Charters also found active fish on a Tuesday trip, as he embarked on a 2 1/2-hour fun-fishing trip. Kelly and his fishing partner caught two trout, seven black drum and two red drum. “It was windy, but fishing was pretty good for it being the end of January,” said Kelly. On Sunday, Kelly had a charter that produced well over 30 trout, with most of the fish in the 12 to 13 1/2-inch range. Kelly has used Vudu shrimp and small Mirrolures for trout and fresh shrimp for black drum. The red drum were hitting fresh shrimp and Gulp shrimp.
Look For: Bluefin tuna, black sea bass, weakfish, black drum, tautog, flounder, whiting, croaker.
Comments: If you needed proof that it’s been a warm winter thus far, check out the species that has been caught off the Cherry Grove Pier, and the ocean water temperature. Ronnie Godwin of the pier reported a water temperature reading of 56 degrees, surface and bottom, Thursday afternoon, and then noted an angler had caught three bluefish, one a 12-incher. In late January. Another angler caught a spotted seatrout off the pier, another rarity in the surf in January. Fishing has not been on fire off the piers, but there also have been a few whiting, croaker and black drum caught this week. Overall, bluefin tuna catches have slowed off the southeastern North Carolina coast but whales were spotted just off the beach in North Myrtle Beach earlier this week, so there’s a legitimate chance the giant tuna are still around. On hard-bottom areas and artificial reefs, look for black sea bass, plus sheepshead, weakfish, tautog and flounder. And maybe even bluefish.
Look For: Wahoo, blackfin tuna, vermilion snapper, black sea bass, porgy, triggerfish, grunts, amberjack.
Comments: It’s been a windy and rough week, with little activity offshore. But that doesn’t mean the fish aren’t there. Find a calm day and trolling action for wahoo and blackfin tuna can be very productive. Bottom fishing is very good, although red snapper and the shallow-water category of grouper cannot be kept. Species you can put in the cooler include vermilion snapper, black sea bass, triggerfish, grunts, red porgy and amberjack. The annual Shallow-water Grouper Spawning Season Closure is in effect through April 30 and red snapper cannot be harvested and must be released in the South Atlantic region
Look For: Crappie, bream, bass, catfish.
Comments: Catches have slowed a bit as the rivers – especially the Pee Dee and Little Pee Dee – have a rise in them. But Ronald ‘Catfish’ Stalvey reports catches have still been decent this week. “Everything’s slowed down a little bit, but they’re still catching them pretty good,” said Stalvey. Crappie action continues to be good on minnows and bream are hitting worms and nightcrawlers on the bottom. Catfish are taking eels and large shiners. Stalvey notes bass action is good in the Ricefields on crankbaits and plastic worms.
Husband, wife team up to land tournament-best king mackerel
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
With the north wind howling on the heels of the first real cold front of the autumn, the husband-wife fishing team of Jeff and Michelle Drake kept it close to the beach in the Marlin Quay King Mackerel Shootout.
The duo, fishing out of Little River aboard The Law, a 34-foot Fountain, hit three near-shore spots and caught only one king mackerel, but it was the right one.
The Drakes weighed in a 35.87-pounder to win the tournament, the first-ever Southern Kingfish Association-sanctioned event held out of Marlin Quay Marina in Murrells Inlet.
Thanks to the cold front and related windy conditions, the tournament format was changed to Captain’s Choice, with boats allowed to fish last Saturday or Sunday.
The Drakes, both sporting a 100-ton Captain’s License, started their fishing day on Sunday by catching menhaden near Little River and first headed to the Ocean Crest Pier vicinity just off Oak Island, N.C.
“We fished with the masses at Ocean Crest Pier, and we caught nothing,” said Michelle Drake, the owner-operator of Getaway Adventures, Inc., in Little River.
Later, they moved southwest to near the Cherry Grove Pier.
“The water was green, pretty and we fished just east of the pier,” Michelle Drake said. “We were fishing in the pogy pods, and the fish hit. Jeff grabbed the rod, which left me to do the clean-up work.”
The hook-up happened at about 12:30 p.m., and from there, it was husband-wife fishing action at its finest.
“He was yelling at me [that] I wasn’t clearing lines fast enough, just a great husband-and-wife relationship,” Michelle Drake said. “I had the gaff out, and he told me to wait, wait and I didn’t think I needed to wait. He thought I did. I took a shot with the gaff.
“It’s all fun and games except when you’ve got a 36-pound king on.”
Michelle Drake pulled the gaff straight up, connecting with the king and the rub rail.
“We had a little Chinese fire drill going there,” Michelle Drake said.
Once they got the fish in the boat, Michelle Drake guessed at the weight.
“Honest to God if someone had put a gun to my head, I wouldn’t have said that fish weighed more than 31 pounds,” Michelle Drake said.
With a fish aboard to weigh in, the Drakes capped the day by fishing a spot closer to Murrells Inlet – Myrtle Beach Rocks – but caught only a dogfish there.
At the weigh-in at Marlin Quay Marina, Michelle Drake was thrilled to find out her estimated weight was low when the fish went to the top of the leaderboard at about 3:30 p.m. Later, they were declared the winners of the final SKA Division 3 tournament of the season.
“It was one of those things, it’s a rare occasion when Jeff and I get to fish together, and to pull the win makes it even more special,” Michelle Drake said.
The Drakes earned $11,800 for the victory over the field of 60 boats.
“That pays for the year of fishing, right there,” Michelle Drake said.
Raunchie Conch finished a very close second, only about a quarter-pound behind with a 35.63-pound king.
Scale Bound finished third with a 31.94-pounder, Fin Chaser was fourth with a 30.75-pounder and Game Hawg fifth with a 27.88-pounder.
With the 2016 SKA Nationals, set for Nov. 8-13 in Ft. Pierce, Fla., on the horizon, there is one more local SKA-sanctioned tournament underway this weekend.
The Fall Brawl King Classic out of Ocean Isle Fishing Center features fishing Saturday and Sunday, Captains Choice, with boats able to fish one of the days.
Weigh-ins are 2-5 p.m. both days. Both weigh ins will be broadcast live on-line at www.OIFC.com. For more information, call (910) 575-3474.
Read more here: http://www.myrtlebeachonline.com/sports/outdoors/article111152607.html#storylink=cpy