This group is getting ‘down and dirty’ for marine conservation
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
March 16, 2018 05:12 PM
Updated March 16, 2018 05:55 PM
This is an organization whose members don’t mind getting practically knee-deep in pluff mud to get the job done – whatever it takes to enhance, conserve and protect South Carolina’s treasured marine resources.
The members of the Waccamaw Chapter of Coastal Conservation Association South Carolina will host its annual fundraising banquet Saturday, March 24 at Sunnyside Plantation in Murrells Inlet, on the banks of the same estuary where they have virtually wallowed in the pluff mud to build and enhance oyster reefs to help improve water quality.
“We like to have a good time, fish, and have a good banquet but we also like to get down and dirty for marine conservation, especially in our Murrells Inlet,” said Chris Hawley, Waccamaw Chapter Chairman.
The Waccamaw Chapter is one of 14 local chapters within CCA South Carolina, which, when founded in 1986, marked the first CCA state chapter established along the East Coast north of Florida.
Obviously, the Waccamaw Chapter is very active in S.C. DNR’s South Carolina Oyster Restoration and Enhancement (SCORE) program in conjunction with CCA’s Topwater Action Campaign.
The partner programs are focused on improving and maintaining water quality in the estuaries along the South Carolina coast, particularly by placing used oyster shell in strategic locations to build new oyster reefs or enhance existing ones.
CCA SC members and volunteers have put several oyster reefs in place in Murrells Inlet, plus established the program’s first oyster reef in Georgetown’s Winyah Bay.
The benefits of strategically returning used oyster shell to estuaries are well-documented.
Oyster shell is the preferred and natural surface for spat, or oyster larvae, to attach to, creating new oysters and in turn new oyster beds. Oyster beds are the critical foundation of the marine ecosystem in our estuaries along the Palmetto State’s coast.
CCA SC’s Topwater Action Campaign deals with more than oyster reefs, though. The program also is involved in helping create and enhance near-shore and offshore artificial reefs, improving and monitoring water quality, providing education on the state’s marine environment and scientific research.
With fishing pressure on the saltwater scene at unprecedented levels throughout the Southeast, CCA SC is heavily involved in the state’s saltwater fisheries legislation, serving as a watchdog and pushing for needed changes to protect valuable fish or other marine species.
The organization has been instrumental in spearheading current legislation that has designs on reducing the daily bag limit and banning gigging of red drum, widely considered the most important species that inhabits South Carolina estuaries.
The setting for the banquet is perfect, under the mossy oaks at Sunnyside Plantation, on the waterfront in the heart of Murrells Inlet. You may even see a tailing redfish in the shallows from the banquet site.
The event gets underway off at 6 p.m. on March 24, starting with a social hour during which attendees can enjoy an open bar, bid on silent-auction items and enter raffles.
Dinner, featuring seared tuna, shrimp and grits, a fajitas bar and wings among other items, is next.
The night is capped by a live auction, which will feature various hunting and fishing trips among other items.
“We’ve got a loaded silent auction, a very good general raffle and some outstanding new trips in the live auction,” said Hawley.
Tickets are $75 for individuals, $100 for couples and include a year’s membership to CCA. Sponsorships are available starting at $300.
For more information, contact Hawley at 843-455-0371 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
What: Coastal Conservation Association Waccamaw Chapter’s Annual Banquet.
Where: Sunnyside Plantation, located at 3741 Hwy. 17 Business, Murrells Inlet.
When:Saturday, March 24, 6 p.m.
Tickets: $75 for individuals, $100 for couples and include a year’s membership to CCA. Sponsorships are available.
Info:843-455-0371 or email@example.com.
3 Members of Coastal Carolina University’s Saltwater Anglers Club on a fishing trip. Submitted photo
Trolling should be fruitful once the wind dies down. Fishing seminar Saturday
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
March 15, 2018 06:54 PM
Updated March 15, 2018 07:44 PM
Look For: Red drum, black drum, spotted seatrout, flounder, sheepshead.
Comments: Red drum are providing the majority of the action in local estuaries, with the start of the flounder bite still 2-4 weeks away. Capt. Patrick Kelly of Captain Smiley Fishing Charters in Little River had a solid day on Tuesday, targeting reds in shallow water (1-4 feet) in creeks. Kelly and company caught eight reds ranging from 15 to 27 inches on Gulp baits and mud minnows, presented on 1/4-ounce jig heads. “You’ve got to be quiet and sneaky,” said Kelly, who noted a water temperature in the low to mid 50s. Capt. Mike McDonald of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service headed south of Georgetown early this week to find some active reds. On a short trip, McDonald caught five reds all within South Carolina’s slot of 15 to 23 inches, using cut shrimp on the edge of the grass. With the air and water temperature on a virtual roller-coaster since the first days of January, McDonald feels the fish are confused. “They’ve been so messed up since that cold spell (in January) then that warm spell (in February), they don’t know what’s going on,” said McDonald.
Look For: Sheepshead, black sea bass, black drum, weakfish, flounder, whiting, croaker.
Comments: The story of the week has been the relentless wind of late that has kept boats docked or on trailers. Sheepshead continue to be the best option on the inshore waters, with fish holding on the near-shore artificial reefs. Anglers are reminded there is a daily bag limit of 10 sheepshead per person, a boat limit of 30 per day and a minimum size limit of 14 inches (total length). Weakfish, black drum and flounder are also possibilities on the reefs. The latest ocean water temperature available at Cherry Grove Pier was from Monday, with a reading of 56 degrees, but chilly weather since has dropped it a few degrees. Ronnie Goodwin of Cherry Grove Pier reports only a few small whiting and croaker have been caught, but he did see one surprise. “They’re catching some little bitty whiting and croaker, but I did see about an 8-inch flounder caught,” said Goodwin.
Look For: Wahoo, blackfin tuna, king mackerel, grouper, vermilion snapper, triggerfish, porgy, black sea bass, grunts.
Comments: It’s been yet another very windy week, meaning boats eager to troll for wahoo and blackfin tuna have had to wait it out. Once again, when the wind dies down, wahoo and blackfin tuna will be around with perhaps a few dolphin also in the mix. Bottom fishing is good for black sea bass, grey triggerfish, vermilion snapper, amberjack, red porgy and white grunts. The annual Shallow-Water Grouper Spawning Season Closure is in effect through April 30 and red snapper are closed indefinitely in the South Atlantic region and must be released.
Look For: Bream, crappie, bass, catfish.
Comments: “There’s hardly any (fishermen) been going this week, but we’ve got a lot of nice weather coming,” said Ronald ‘Catfish’ Stalvey of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle in Conway. With another stretch of colder-than-normal weather winding down, Stalvey feels bream have moved back to deeper water and suggests lead-lining worms on the bottom to find them. For crappie, Stalvey said to float minnows “fairly deep” around structure. “Catfish are in deep water in daytime, but at night they are pulling up shallow,” Stalvey said. “A lot of nice catfish have been caught on bush hooks.” With the water temperature back down in the low-to-mid 50s, the spawn is still a ways off for bass. “They’ll start when the water temperature gets a little above 60 degrees,” Stalvey said. For now, Stalvey says bass are hitting shallow-diving crank baits, Texas-rigged worms and spinner baits.
FISHING SEMINAR ON SATURDAY
Coastal Carolina University’s Saltwater Angler Club is staging its ninth annual Spring Fundraising Seminar Saturday at Brittain Hall on the CCU campus in Conway.
The seminars will cover the intricacies of the local saltwater fishing scene from estuary fishing for species such as red drum, spotted seatrout and flounder as well as offshore bluewater trolling for wahoo, dolphin and tuna.
The event is the primary fundraiser for the club, enabling the student members to participate in events such as upcoming party-boat bottom-fishing and offshore trolling fishing trips scheduled for this spring.
“This event is so important to the club because we are able to teach locals (various) styles of fishing that they may have never tried or would like to learn more about,” said James Coleman, Vice-President of the club. “We also love to get club members out fishing who have never had the opportunity to.”
Doors open at 9:30 a.m. at Brittain Hall, located at 23 Chanticleer Drive in Conway, with the seminars beginning at 10 a.m.
The topics and speakers follow:
▪ Bottom/Reef Fishing: Capt Keith Logan of North Myrtle Beach Fishing Charters.
▪ Bluewater/King Mackerel: Capt. Steve Montgomery of Salt Fever in Ocean Isle Beach, N.C.
▪ Inshore: Capt. Patrick Kelly of Captain Smiley Fishing Charters.
▪ Electronics: Capt. Chris Lawhon and Capt. David Christian of Marlin Quay Marina.
Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for all students and include coffee in the morning and a BBQ plate for lunch. Attendees will be entered in raffles for various items such as rods, reels, coolers, gift cards and fishing apparel, highlighted by a 120-quart Yeti cooler.
For more information, contact Coleman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Members of Coastal Carolina University’s Saltwater Anglers Club show off a king mackerel caught in 2016 during the Fall Brawl King Mackerel Tournament at Ocean Isle Fishing Center. The club will host a fundraising seminar on Saturday. The Sun News file photo
This popular species of fish once again fair game for anglers
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
March 09, 2018 06:22 PM
Updated March 09, 2018 06:26 PM
After going virtually unmolested during their spring migratory run through South Carolina waters a year ago, cobia are once again fair game for anglers in 2018, at least on the northern portion of the Palmetto State’s coast.
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 was sacrificed to account for the overage.
Recreational harvest of Atlantic migratory group was closed in January, 2017 for the remainder of the year in federal waters, which extend beyond three miles offshore.
Since 1996, South Carolina has automatically adopted regulations and closures put in place for federally managed species, meaning cobia could not be harvested in South Carolina state waters either in 2017.
Adding to the frustration for South Carolina anglers in 2017 was the fact that cobia could be harvested in state waters (up to three miles offshore) in neighboring states, North Carolina and Georgia.
But with the 2016 overage accounted for, anglers are now free to harvest one of the brown behemoths known for their dogged fight and as superb table fare.
The month of May, when the cobia migration into and through South Carolina waters reaches a peak, will be a happier time in 2018, at least in the northern portion of the state.
The longtime minimum size limit of 33 inches for cobia is now 36 inches, but the state’s coastline will have split regulations with Jeremy Inlet on Edisto Island serving as the dividing line.
North of Jeremy Inlet, the recreational bag limit for cobia is one per person per day or six per vessel per day, whichever is more restrictive.
South of Jeremy Inlet, the recreational bag limit for cobia is one per person per day and no more than three per boat per day.
In addition, the cobia fishery will be closed for the month of May in state waters south of Jeremy Inlet, where cobia fishing in the estuaries of Port Royal, St. Helena and Calibogue Sounds has been long been a rite of spring.
South Carolina Department of Natural Resources biologists found cobia that enter those bodies of water to spawn in the spring are a genetically distinct population segment that is in jeopardy of collapse due to long-term overfishing. This will mark the third consecutive May the closure has been in effect south of Jeremy Inlet.
Cobia caught in Grand Strand waters are virtually all caught in the ocean, and Capt. Jason Burton of Murrells Inlet Fishing Charters is looking forward to being able to once again harvest them.
“I’m a big fan of the new regulations,” said Burton. “One fish can feed a lot of people. If you harvest a 40-pound (cobia) you can feed the neighborhood.”
During the catch-and-release spring of 2017, Burton was impressed with the cobia he encountered on near-shore reefs. On multiple days, Burton saw a large school of cobia, surprising for a species often found in singles or pairs.
“Some of the stuff I saw last year was amazing,” said Burton. “We had 3-4 days on the reef where we thought they were spadefish, but there were 200-300 of those 20-25 inch cobia. They weren’t big enough to be keepers but big enough to peel off 30 yards of drag and put up a fight for our (customers). One day we caught and released 30-35 of them. They were hitting mud minnows, spoons, anything we threw.
“I’ve never seen schools of cobia like that, maybe that’s a sign the stock is healthy.”