After rough seas wiped out most of the six-day red snapper mini-season held the first two weekends in November, recreational fishermen are getting one more shot at the species in 2017 Contributed photo
NOAA Fisheries gives anglers an unexpected early Christmas gift
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
December 01, 2017 06:29 PM
UPDATED December 01, 2017 06:34 PM
Consider it an early gift from NOAA Fisheries to recreational anglers in the South Atlantic region.
After rough seas wiped out most of the six-day red snapper mini-season held the first two weekends in November, recreational fishermen are getting one more shot at the species in 2017.
The species will be open for harvest once again for another three-day weekend, Dec. 8-10, in South Atlantic waters with the bag limit of one fish per person per day with no minimum size limit remaining the same.
When the original red snapper mini-season was scheduled, a catch limit of 29,656 fish was set. As of mid-November, preliminary estimates showed the limit was not met, thanks in large part to rough seas.
Harvest projections indicated the additional three-day opening would not result in the total harvest exceeding the catch limit.
Information and data provided by recreational fishermen through the new pilot electronic reporting project MyFishCount.com were considered by NOAA Fisheries in extending the mini-season for another three days.
For Capt. Shane Bashor of Sidekick Charters in Murrells Inlet, the first two weekends of red snapper fishing were typical of so many charter, party and private boats along the Southeast coast – one good day of fishing was followed by five days of rough seas which canceled trips offshore to bottom spots where red snapper can be found.
On Nov. 3, opening day of the mini-season, Bashor and crew caught and released three small red snapper, but moved to another spot and landed a pair in the 15-pound range. Bashor was fishing in depths of 110 to 130 feet.
“I’m glad (the season’s being re-opened) because there weren’t many good weather days,” said Bashor. “I suspect it was bad weather in North Carolina, Georgia and Florida, too.”
Bashor had two scheduled trips blown out during the second weekend of the mini-season, revenue-making trips he hopes to make up next weekend during a time of year when they are few and far between.
“I’m trying to get some trips together,” said Bashor. “I’m just hoping the weather holds. That’s always the catch this time of year – weather problems.”
Kathy Willens AP
Trout, black drum catches are hot in local estuaries
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
November 24, 2017 04:54 PM
Look For: Spotted seatrout, black drum, flounder, red drum, sheepshead, spots.
Comments: From Georgetown to Brunswick County, N.C., the spotted seatrout bite is on fire in local inlets, bays, rivers and sounds, with plenty of black drum plus a few flounder and red drum mixed in. Floated live shrimp or plastic grubs on 1/4- or 1/8-ounce jig heads will catch the trout, along with topwater lures particularly early in the day. Capt. Patrick Kelly of Captain Smiley Fishing Charters has had good success with trout in the Little River vicinity, mainly along the Intracoastal Waterway. Kelly has also noted superb fishing for black drum this fall. “Last year we caught a lot of undersized black drum, just under 14 inches,” recalled Kelly. “Now those black drum are perfect size, from 15-20 inches.” Live shrimp fished on the bottom are the best bet for black drum, Kelly said. “They really want live shrimp – you put a live shrimp on the bottom, they’re eating it up,” said Kelly, who noted a water temperature reading of 56-57 degrees. “They’re all over the place, docks, ledges, oyster beds.” Capt. Mike McDonald of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service in Georgetown has used plastic grubs to target trout in the Winyah Bay area, with plenty of success on fish up to 18 inches. “We’ve been catching 20-25 trout each day,” said McDonald, who reported a water temperature of 55 to 57 degrees. “They’re feeding good right now.” McDonald suggests hitting areas near the ocean such as jetties and the mouth of inlets to find bigger trout. Capt. Jeff Maples of Reel Salty Charters had a super trip in Murrells Inlet early in the week, catching over 20 trout, two black drum and numerous flounder on live shrimp.
Look For: Black sea bass, weakfish, flounder, bluefish, whiting, croaker, black drum.
Comments: Most of the fishing activity of late has been focused at area jetties and inside the inlets, but there are still fish to be found in the near-shore waters. Specifically, the artificial reefs are holding numerous black sea bass, most under the 13-inch minimum size limit with a few keepers. Look for the number of keepers to be on the rise as the water temperature continues to drop. The reefs are also holding some weakfish and flounder. The near-shore hard-bottom areas are holding big numbers of weakfish, with a few black sea bass and flounder. Action has dwindled this week near the surfline, reports Ronnie Goodwin of the Cherry Grove Pier. “It’s just been mostly small stuff this week,” said Goodwin. Small whiting, croaker, blues and perch have been the top catch with some undersized black drum (14-27 inch slot limit) starting to show up. Goodwin noted a water temperature reading of 61 degrees on the surface and bottom at the pier, at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Look For: Wahoo, blackfin tuna, grouper, vermilion snapper, triggerfish, porgy, black sea bass, grunts.
Comments: Capt. Brant McMullan of Ocean Isle Fishing Center (OIFC.com) reports that the majority of kings have moved out to depths of 65-80 feet of water. McMullan says look for grouper roaming the rock piles and ledges under the kings, in the same depths. Bottom fishing is also producing vermilion snapper, black sea bass, triggerfish, porgy and white grunts on out to depths over 100 feet. The Greater amberjack fishery was closed to harvest for recreational anglers on Oct. 31 and will remained closed until March, 2018. Also, cobia cannot be harvested in 2017 in South Carolina waters (to three miles offshore) or federal waters (beyond three miles) and must be released. McMullan says trolling can produce wahoo and blackfin tuna especially inshore of the break in 140 to 180 feet of water.
Look For: Bream, catfish, bass, crappie.
Comments: Rain has been scarce of late and local rivers are definitely on the low side. The Waccamaw River at Conway was making very good tides, with a water level reading of 7.02 feet on a rising tide at 1:15 p.m. Wednesday. The Little Pee Dee at Galivants Ferry continues to be low, at 4.09 feet Wednesday at 1 p.m. Lead-lining with worms is now the preferred tactic to find bream in the rivers. As usual in late autumn, crappie action has picked up nicely with fish hitting crappie minnows around brush or other structure in creek mouths and lakes. Use cut eels, mullet or live bream to catch catfish.
Joshua Henderson, Crockett Henderson and Mark Henderson of Liquid Fire Fishing Team display their winning king mackerel Sunday in the inaugural Kingfish Cup championship at Ocracoke, N.C. Submitted photo
Liquid Fire fishing team makes most of conditions, hauls in Kingfish Cup championship
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
November 17, 2017 03:27 PM
UPDATED November 17, 2017 07:14 PM
Prior to the inaugural Kingfish Cup championship last weekend, king mackerel fishing was superb in the waters off North Carolina’s Outer Banks, adjacent to the event’s headquarters, Anchorage Inn & Marina of Ocracoke Island.
In autumn, huge smoker kings weighing 40, 50, even 60 pounds are regularly caught off the Outer Banks, making Ocracoke Island the ideal spot for the championship event of the series.
“The weekend before the tournament, huge fish were up there, but the front came through, messed up the water and lowered the water temperature,” said Mark Henderson of the Liquid Fire fishing team out of Swansboro, N.C. “People were searching for the fish while fishing.”
Due to rough seas, series founder Capt. Brant McMullan of Ocean Isle Fishing Center changed the championship from two days to one fishing day with the top aggregate of two kings determining the winner.
Henderson and his two sons, Joshua and Crockett, made the most of less-than-ideal fishing conditions on Sunday to catch kings weighing 24.35 and 35.9 pounds for a winning aggregate of 60.25 pounds, plus the 35.9-pounder won big fish honors.
The Hendersons went across the board in the tournament-within-a-tournament levels and wound up earning an astonishing total of $96,410 for their victory.
“It’s not the aggregate you were looking for but it was a tough fishing weekend,” said Mark Henderson. “I never thought we’d win with 60 pounds, but it’s not about the biggest fish in the ocean, it’s the biggest fish (caught) that day. Those other teams are just incredible fishing teams. Anybody could have won that thing. We’re just fortunate and thankful.”
A limit of 100 boats were able to compete in the Kingfish Cup and the top 25 Cup finishers in four qualifying tournaments – the Rumble in the Jungle out of Little River, the Jolly Mon and Fall Brawl out of Ocean Isle Beach, N.C., and the Got ‘Em On Classic out of Wilmington, N.C. – qualified for the championship. A 26th boat that didn’t finish in the top 25 but won one of the tournaments also qualified for the championship.
Kryptek Fishing Team finished second with an aggregate of 58.9 pounds. Rounding out the top five were Reel Attitude (55.75 pounds), Hookin Ain’t Easy (54.65) and Clearly Hooked (54.35).
Mark Henderson and his family-oriented crew have been competing in king mackerel tournaments for 15 years, with Joshua, 27, and Crockett, 21, growing up into outstanding fishermen along the way. Mark Henderson also thanked his wife, Audrey, and brother-in-law, Chris Waters, for their contributions to the team.
Mark Henderson was thrilled with the earnings, but even prouder of winning the championship against such superb competition.
“It was really an honor to compete against all these great teams and win the inaugural event,” said Henderson. “They have really put together a very special series here.”
The Hendersons have had plenty of success in their king-fishing escapades – Mark Henderson was named 2008 Southern Kingfish Association Angler of the Year and Crockett Henderson was named SKA Junior Champion in 2008, 2011 and 2012.
But the victory in the Kingfish Cup championship will be hard to top.
“It was a special time in our 15-year career,” said Mark Henderson. “This ranks at the very top of our accomplishments just because of the people that fished in it and the people that put it together. Everything was top notch and first class.”
And it all happened in a borrowed boat. The Liquid Fire, a Sea Vee 390z powered by quad Mercury 350s, wasn’t able to go due to a motor mount issue.
Mark Henderson was grateful to Scott Parsons and Doug Ford of Team Carolina Kings for letting the Liquid Fire team use a 36 Cape Horn in the tournament.
“That’s a big, big, big commitment to let us borrow a $300,000 boat,” said Mark Henderson. “I’m very appreciative of them.”
The crew started out the day running northeast from Ocracoke to a spot off Cape Hatteras where large kings – including a 60-pounder – had been caught about a week earlier.
But amid 4-5 foot seas, conditions weren’t favorable.
“The (water) clarity wasn’t right, it was cold,” said Mark Henderson. “It didn’t look promising. There was no bait.”
Soon, the crew moved on another 5-6 miles offshore but found similar conditions.
Then the crew hit the jackpot on the third spot, another 6-7 miles out and about 35 miles northeast of Ocracoke.
In 140 feet of water on a wreck with live bottom around it, the Hendersons caught both kings within a span of 30-35 minutes, with both fish hitting bluefish. As usual, Crockett was the angler, Joshua was the gaff man and Mark ran the boat.
“I’m so proud of my kids,” said Mark Henderson. “I’m super thankful my sons still want the old man around. Being able to accomplish something like this with them is very special. The money is nice but being able to do it with my family is a special thing for a guy that’s 52.”
For more information, visit www.KingfishCup.com.