Capt. Jason Burton of Fly Girl Charters in Murrells Inlet with a doormat flounder. Photo Courtesy Fly Girl Charters
Changes to South Carolina’s recreational flounder regulations could be coming.
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
Changes are afoot with a bill that has designs on changing limits for South Carolina’s population of flounder.
Bill H 3665 in its original form was set to increase the minimum size limit for flounder from the current 14 inches to 15 inches in Palmetto State waters.
But on Wednesday in the house’s Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee, reductions to the daily bag limit were added to the bill. The current limits are 15 per person per day with a boat limit of 30 per day.
The bill now includes reducing the bag limits to 10 per person with a boat limit of 20 per boat per day, along with the one-inch increase in minimum size limit.
Rep. Lee Hewitt, R-Georgetown, a member of the Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee and co-signer of the legislation, said feedback from anglers fueled the addition of bag limit reduction to the bill.
Hewitt has heard from flounder fishermen in the Little River area who are concerned with anglers from North Carolina fishing South Carolina waters to take advantage of the more lenient limits. North Carolina currently has a daily bag limit of six flounder per person and a minimum size limit of 15 inches.
“There is some concern up there (in the Little River area) with the catch limit being that much higher in South Carolina than North Carolina,” said Hewitt. “The concern is that we have people coming down (from North Carolina) to increase pressure on their fishery.”
The bill passed second reading in the House 108-0 this week, according to Hewitt, and has moved to the Senate.
“I feel like from the ones I’ve talked to it’s going to be well received in the Senate and it’s something (S.C.) DNR supports as well,” said Hewitt. “If you catch 20 flounder, that’s 80 pieces of fish for a fish fry. You could feed 30-40 people and its not like you can only catch that amount once a year, you could do it every day. Twenty fish (per boat) still gives anglers the opportunity to put a lot of fish in the freezer. If changing it helps sustain the fishery, then everybody wins.”
Capt. Jason Burton, owner/operator of Fly Girl Charters in Murrells Inlet, is in favor of the proposed changes, but is skeptical of the one-inch increase in size limit.
“The 15 inches is kind of a coin flip,” said Burton. “I don’t think its going to make much of a difference.”
Burton is more inclined to think a decrease in the bag limit will help boost the population.
“If they get that (bag) limit down it’s going to improve the fishery a lot,” said Burton. “I would like to see it go down more, even if they went to five or seven per person (per day).”
Dylan Garrity, of Berlin, N.J., throws a cast net from the Apache pier in hopes of catching bait. Jason Lee firstname.lastname@example.org
Action slow on area estuaries, but good fishing to be found elsewhere
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
Look For: Spotted seatrout, red drum, black drum, flounder, sheepshead.
Comments: Water temperatures continue to be above average for mid-February, generally in the mid 50s, with red drum, spotted seatrout, black drum and some flounder remaining active. High tides around a full moon and windy conditions a week ago created murky water, hampering a trip for Capt. Mike McDonald of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service in Georgetown. McDonald produced three trout, one red drum and a sheepshead on the trip, despite trying a variety of grubs, cut shrimp and mud minnows. “I don’t think it was a thing of the fish weren’t there, they just weren’t biting,” said McDonald. Look for trout, reds, black drum, sheepshead and possibly tautog at area jetties.
Look For: Sheepshead, black sea bass, black drum, tautog, weakfish, flounder, whiting, croaker.
Comments: The best bet inshore is to head to near-shore artificial reefs such as Paradise (three miles east of Murrells Inlet) and Jim Caudle (three miles south of Little River) and fish fiddler crabs on the structure for sheepshead and black drum. Black sea bass are also common on the reefs but anglers should keep the 13-inch minimum size limit in mind. Tautog, flounder and weakfish may also be found on the reefs. Action is slow as usual in February on Grand Strand piers, with just a few small croaker and whiting being caught. The water temperature at Cherry Grove Pier was 55 degrees Thursday afternoon, easily above normal.
Look For: Wahoo, blackfin tuna, black sea bass, vermilion snapper, triggerfish, red porgy, grunts, amberjack.
Comments: Find a nice day and the offshore wahoo bite can be very good. Capt. Danny Carey of Careyon Charters headed to the south end of the Winyah Scarp early this week and had a very productive day, landing six wahoo including a 58-pounder and a few blackfin tuna in 70-degree surface water. Carey trolled ballyhoo with Bluewater Candy skirts and spotted sea turtles and flying fish on the trip. “Seventy to 74 (degree water) is working for me,” Carey said. Super bottom fishing is available for vermilion snapper, black sea bass, triggerfish, grunts, red porgy and amberjack. Grouper must be released thanks to the annual Shallow-water Grouper Spawning Season Closure through April 30. Also, red snapper cannot be harvested and must be released in the South Atlantic Region.
Look For: Crappie, bream, bass, catfish.
Comments: Crappie action is very good on area rivers with fish hitting minnows presented both on floats or lead-lined on the bottom. Bream are hitting worms, also on the bottom. Catfish action has been excellent on cut eel, plus bass have been hitting a variety of lures including plastic worms, jerkbaits and crankbaits. The Waccamaw at Conway was at 7.7 feet at 6 p.m. Thursday and making good tides.
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.