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/.
Fishing Report: King mackerel action is hot; 36-pounder landed off Cherry Grove Pier
May 10, 2018 06:44 PM
Look For: Flounder, red drum, black drum, spotted seatrout, bluefish, sheepshead.
Comments: “Fishing’s been excellent,” said Capt. Patrick Kelly of Captain Smiley Fishing Charters in Little River. Flounder action is very good with fish hitting mud minnows, other live bait or artificials. “We’ve been catching flounder in Little River and Tubbs Inlet, mainly small fish but 3-5 keepers a trip,” said Kelly, who presents the mud minnows on 1/4-ounce jig heads. Kelly also has had good success with red drum and black drum, with plenty of bluefish around. Kelly says black drum are hitting blue crab chunks around docks and oyster beds. The same species are active in Murrells Inlet, with keeper flounder above South Carolina’s 15-inch minimum size limit on the increase.
Look For: King mackerel, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, weakfish, spadefish, flounder, whiting, pompano, croaker, black drum.
Comments: The king mackerel bite remains on fire on bottom spots in the 10-15 mile range in depths of about 40-50 feet. Murrells Inlet’s Painkiller crew, including Dr. Jason Rosenberg and Capt. Jay Sconyers, slow-trolled cigar minnows and plugs just offshore of Belky Bear on Wednesday. “It was on fire,” said Rosenberg. “We had our three-man limit (three per person) in about 30 minutes.” From there, Sconyers zoomed out to the Parking Lot to finish off the quick trip with a nice bottom catch of black sea bass, vermilion snapper, triggerfish and grunts. Near-shore artificial reefs such as Jim Caudle and Paradise continue to produce good catches of Spanish mackerel and weakfish, with black sea bass and flounder also available. Spadefish should be holding on the reefs, too, and be on the lookout for cobia. “I haven’t seen any (spadefish) yet, but the trout (weakfish) bite was so hot, I was concentrating on that (this week),” said Capt. Jeff Maples of Reel Salty Charters. The water is clear on the beach, the water temperature is near 70 degrees and the kings have shown up on the beach. Steve Gann reports four king mackerel were caught on the Cherry Grove Pier, two on Tuesday and two on Wednesday. Charlie Love of Pittsboro, N.C., a pier regular, landed the largest, a 36-pound smoker. “The blues and Spanish have been going nuts,” Gann added. Apache Pier reports John White of Myrtle Beach caught a 23.5-pound king this week, plus a 9-pound, 3-ounce bluefish. On April 28, a pair of kings were landed off the Apache Pier, including 22.45-pounder by Homer Carder which was the first of the year off the pier.
Look For: Dolphin, blackfin tuna, wahoo, blue marlin, white marlin, sailfish, barracuda, yellowfin tuna, grouper, amberjack, black sea bass, vermilion snapper, red porgy, triggerfish, white grunts.
Comments: A pair of offshore tournaments are happening this weekend. The Far Out Shoot Out, based out of Ocean Isle Fishing Center, continues through May 19, with boats able to fish any one day in the tournament. Call 910-575-3474 for more information. The Captain’s Invitational Fishing Tournament out of Marlin Quay Marina is set for Saturday, with Captains Meeting at 6 p.m. Friday at the marina. Call 843-651-4444 for more information. The largest dolphin weighed in wins the Marlin Quay tournament, and the timing is impeccable. Dave Christian of the marina reports dolphin are being found along the western edge of the Gulf Stream offshore of the break from areas such as the Winyah Scarp and Georgetown Hole. Christian says six boats headed out from the marina on Saturday with all catching around 20 dolphin. Plenty of blackfin tuna are in the mix plus a few wahoo. Blue marlin, sailfish and white marlin are also available in conjunction with the opening of the S.C. Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series Thursday with the Bohicket Marina Invitational Billfish Tournament. Bottom fishing is simply excellent for black sea bass, vermilion snapper, gray triggerfish, red porgy, white grunts, amberjack and grouper, especially scamp. Red snapper are also inhabiting the reefs, but must be released indefinitely in the South Atlantic Region.
Look For: Bream, catfish, bass, crappie.
Comments: Bucksport is on fire, is the word from Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle in Conway, along with many other areas on local rivers. Bream fishing in particular is off the charts, with fish hitting crickets and worms in 3-4 feet of water. Catfish action is also excellent, with Stalvey’s reporting a 30-pound blue catfish caught this week. Fresh cut eel and live bream are prime catfish baits. Senkos and top-water lures are producing bass. The Waccamaw at Conway was at 8.14 feet at 8:15 a.m. Thursday, making good tides and receding. The Little Pee Dee at Galivants Ferry was at 6.67 feet at 8 a.m. Thursday, with a slow fall in store.
Capt. Patrick Kelly of North Myrtle Beach, owner/operator of Captain Smiley Fishing Charters, prepares to release a red drum on a recent fishing trip. New limits on red drum appear imminent, pending approval of Gov. Henry McMaster. Submitted photo
New limits on red drum fishing are about to become law in S.C. See what they are
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
May 10, 2018 05:48 PM
Updated May 10, 2018 06:55 PM
Changes to fishing limits on South Carolina’s red drum population have been approved by the state legislature and only need the signature of Gov. Henry McMaster to become law.
The legislature has approved a bill that will reduce the daily bag limit from three fish per person per day to two, and introduce a first-time boat limit of six red drum per day in the Palmetto State.
“It’s going to the governor’s desk and we don’t anticipate any problem with the governor signing the legislation,” said Scott Whitaker, Executive Director of Coastal Conservation Association South Carolina, which supported the changes.
inRead invented by Teads
The current size slot limit of 15 to 23 inches for red drum would remain unchanged.
There were two versions of the bill under consideration, one in the House, which also had designs on a ban on gigging red drum, and one in the Senate.
The Senate version passed, and gigging of red drum will continue to be legal in South Carolina waters.
Red drum are widely considered the most popular – and most highly targeted – species found in South Carolinas inlets, bays, sounds and rivers.
Capt. Patrick Kelly, owner/operator of Captain Smiley Fishing Charters in North Myrtle Beach, is pleased to see some pressure taken off such an important and easily accessible species. “I think it’s excellent, I’m really excited about it,” said Kelly.
Kelly specializes in fishing for estuary species such as red drum, spotted seatrout, flounder and black drum, and says there is support for the changes among his co-horts.
“The guides in this area I talk to regularly are behind it,” said Kelly. “I don’t think it will hurt the business end of it, this only makes things better for the future.”
RedDrum Legislation details
*Reduce the daily bag limit from three per person to two person
*Institute a boat limit of six per day
*The current slot limit of 15 to 23 inches remains
*Gigging of reddrum would remain legal, except in the months of December, January and February