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The temps and the fishing heat up!

July 28, 2017 Live Great Outdoors Blog Comments Off on The temps and the fishing heat up!

image: man fishing
A man surf fishes near 12th Avenue South in North Myrtle Beach. File photo The Sun News
Outdoors
Sizzling temperatures doing little to keep anglers from filling buckets full of fish

By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News

July 27, 2017 5:37 PM
Estuary

Look For: Black drum, flounder, spotted seatrout, red drum, sheepshead, bluefish, tarpon.

Comments: Maybe the nickname of Ronald “Catfish” Stalvey of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle in Conway should be switched to “Black Drum” this week. Stalvey went from the freshwater of local rivers to the saltwater of Murrells Inlet to wet a hook early this week, and had good success with black drum on fiddler cribs. The black drum bite in the inlet has been very strong with fish preferring to dine on crustaceans such shrimp (live or cut) and the aforementioned fiddler crabs. Capt. Mike McDonald of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service in Georgetown had what he called “a pretty good morning” fishing North Inlet on Thursday. McDonald’s crew had a super slam of five flounder, five red drum, three spotted seatrout, four weakfish (summer trout) and a few ladyfish. McDonald, who was using live mullet for bait, noted a water temperature of 83 degrees in the Winyah Bay vicinity.
Inshore

Look For: Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, bluefish, black sea bass, spadefish, weakfish, flounder, whiting, croaker, pompano, black drum, sheepshead and red drum.

Comments: The Spanish mackerel bite has been absolutely on fire this week in near-shore waters, with charter trips loading up. Look for fish in the vicinity of jetty passes and near-shore artificial reefs. A variety of methods will catch Spanish, including trolling mackerel trees and Clark or Drone spoons, or live-baiting mullet or menhaden. If trolling use a No. 1 planer or a trolling weight to get the artificials below the surface. Flounder action is good on the near-shore reefs with black sea bass, spadefish and weakfish (summer trout) also available. Morgan Marohl of the Cherry Grove Pier reports whiting and croaker are providing the most action on the pier, with black drum active in the morning. Marohl noted a water temperature of 85 degrees on the surface and 84 on the bottom Thursday at 4:30 p.m.
Offshore

Look For: Blackfin tuna, wahoo, dolphin, sailfish, vermilion snapper, triggerfish, white grunts, red porgy, black sea bass, grouper, amberjack.

Comments: Gulf Stream trolling trips are producing good catches of blackfin tuna, with a few wahoo and dolphin mixed in. Find the bait and the bluewater, and sailfish will be around. Closer in, areas such as the Parking Lot are producing good catches of king mackerel and barracuda, with a few dolphin, wahoo and sailfish mixed in. Bottom fishing continues to be excellent with vermilion snapper, black sea bass, triggerfish and grouper leading the way. Porgy, grunts and amberjack are common, too. Cobia cannot be harvested in 2017 in South Carolina waters (to three miles offshore) or federal waters (beyond three miles) and must be released. Red snapper must be released in the South Atlantic region.
Freshwater

Look For: Bream, catfish, bass, crappie.

Comments: “It’s been pretty hot this week (temperature-wise) but the people that are going are catching some fine, fine, fish,” said Ronald “Catfish” Stalvey of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle. “Bream, the bass fishing’s been good, catfishing’s been good.” With the heat of summer entrenched and the dog days of August arriving soon, Stalvey says go a little deeper in search of bream. “A lot of people are catching bream deeper now,” said Stalvey. “They’re using throw lines and fishing on the bottom with worms, up to eight feet deep. When it’s so hot the small ones are up shallow and the big ones are going to be a little deeper.” The bass bite has been best early and late in the day, with Stalvey recommending swim baits, spinnerbaits, jerk baits and Texas-rigged worms. As for catfish, Stalvey says live black salties have worked well along with goldfish and cut eels.

Spawning zones established off of coast

July 23, 2017 Live Great Outdoors Blog Comments Off on Spawning zones established off of coast

image: grouper
One of five spawning SMZs to be established off the South Atlantic coast beginning on July 31 will be in the Georgetown Hole area. The closures to snapper-grouper fishing are designed to protect reef species such as this snowy grouper. Submitted photo

July 21, 2017 6:33 PM
Rule set go into effect aimed at producing ‘fish factories’ in South Carolina, elsewhere

By Gregg Holshouser

For The Sun News

On July 31, five bottom areas off the South Atlantic coast, including a portion of the renowned Georgetown Hole, will be closed to snapper-grouper fishing and designated as spawning special management zones (SMZs).

Within the boundaries of the SMZs, fishing for, retention and possession of 55 species in the snapper-grouper complex will be prohibited for all anglers.

Trolling for species such as dolphin, wahoo, tuna and billfish will be allowed within the SMZs.

The bottom closures are the result of the final rule of Amendment 36 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region, which was approved by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council in March, 2016 and eventually signed by Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.

The spawning SMZs are meant to protect spawning snapper-grouper species and their spawning habitat by prohibiting fishing for or harvest of the species in the designated areas.

Three of the spawning SMZs are located off the South Carolina coast, and one each off the coast of North Carolina and Florida.

Details of the five areas to be closed follow:

South Cape Lookout: This is a 5.10-square mile area on a ledge that drops from depths of 230 feet to over 330 feet and is located approximately 56 miles southeast of Beaufort Inlet, N.C.

Georgetown Hole: A 3.03-square mile portion of the sprawling Georgetown Hole will be closed. The closed area is centered around a unique spur contour which drops from 330 feet to 500 feet. The entire SMZ drops from 230 to 650 feet deep.

Areas 51 and 53: These two artificial reef areas were established by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources – Area 51 in the late 1990s and Area 53 in 2001 – but were not included among the public artificial reefs. Both areas are located southeast of Charleston, Area 51 in approximately 70 feet of water and Area 53 in approximately 105 feet of water.

S.C. DNR has used the two areas as an experimental reef site to observe the proliferation, or lack thereof, of reef species on structure with little fishing pressure.

As of July 31, the two areas will be legally protected from snapper-grouper fishing.

Warsaw Hole: This area covers 3.60-square miles and is located west of Key West, Fla., on a ledge dropping from 260 to 500 feet in depth.

The amendment includes a sunset clause that could discontinue the SMZs after 10 years, if the SAFMC allows that to occur.

“The idea is to monitor those sites,” said Mel Bell, director of the Office of Fisheries Management within the Marine Resources Division of S.C. DNR. “Either they work or they don’t. The council has the ability to renew them if they are working.”

Bell, one of three South Carolinians on the SAFMC, expects the new SMZs to become what he calls “fish factories” – areas where snapper-grouper species proliferate and spawn without receiving any fishing pressure.

Bell relates to his observations and studies of Areas 51 and 53 over the past 20 years. Soon after Area 51 was put in place in the late 1990s, Bell saw quick growth in the populations of the reef species that took to the structure.

“In a couple years we were amazingly satisfied with (Area 51),” said Bell. “Both (areas) are working quite well. The concept is if you take an area, whether naturally occurring or an area built (into an artificial reef), and leave it alone you can get an amazing amount of fish on there, have amazing abundance.”

The three other areas – South Cape Lookout, Georgetown Hole, Warsaw Hole – are all naturally occurring deep-water ledges that hold deep-water grouper species such as snowy, warsaw and speckled hind.

Of most local interest, the “spur” feature to be closed in the Georgetown Hole area has long been known as a hot spot for snowy grouper and warsaw. The area produced the South Carolina state record warsaw, a 310-pounder caught out of Murrells Inlet in 1976.

“You’ve got a really good drop in depth around a very distinct little spur feature that for whatever reason is where fish go to spawn,” said Bell. “We’ve seen pictures of huge warsaw caught years ago, that area is where those fish used to be. We know warsaw are out there and we’ve found them in spawning condition – leave them alone then you’re providing productivity for (these species).”

Bell pointed out the impact of the SMZs stretches well beyond the boundaries of the boxes, his terminology for the areas closed to snapper-grouper fishing.

“The fish will move out of the boxes and into the system,” said Bell. “When they spawn, the eggs float, they get into the current and move downstream. The production that occurs in these fish factories goes into the whole system, it doesn’t stay in the box.”

The Dog Days of Tarpon Fishing

July 21, 2017 Live Great Outdoors Blog Comments Off on The Dog Days of Tarpon Fishing

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Fishermen line the public fishing dock at Cherry Grove Park at 53rd Avenue North in North Myrtle Beach. JASON LEE jlee@thesunnews.com
Outdoors
July 20, 2017 5:31 PM
Fishing report: The dog days of summer have arrived, and so has a bounty of tarpon

By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News

Estuary

Look For: Flounder, spotted seatrout, black drum, red drum, sheepshead, bluefish, tarpon.

Comments: Late July has arrived, and so have tarpon in local estuaries. “Tarpon are here pretty strong,” said Capt. Mike McDonald of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service in Georgetown. McDonald reports Capt. Rod Thomas, better known as “Capt. Ponytail,” caught and released a tarpon in the range of 60 to 70 pounds earlier this week in Winyah Bay. Smallish Little River Inlet doesn’t attract tarpon as well as sprawling Winyah Bay, but Capt. Patrick Kelly of Captain Smiley Fishing Charters had an interesting tarpon encounter this week. “We had a tarpon hit a live shrimp under a popping cork, and he showed himself (by jumping),” said Kelly. “It was on 20-pound test – didn’t last long.” Kelly estimated the tarpon was in the 50-pound range. Kelly has noticed unusually large menhaden in the Little River area and thinks the tarpon are following those into the estuary. McDonald had a solid day early this week in the Winyah Bay vicinity, catching 15 red drum and three flounder using cut shrimp, plastic grubs and live finger mullet. Kelly had a busy day on a Thursday trip fishing several spots in the Little River vicinity. Kelly produced spotted seatrout, red drum, black drum and flounder, with most fish on the smallish size except for a 24-inch red.
Inshore

Look For: Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, bluefish, black sea bass, spadefish, weakfish, flounder, whiting, croaker, pompano, black drum, sheepshead and red drum.

Comments: Spanish mackerel action has been excellent in the vicinity of near-shore artificial reefs this week. Case in point, Capt. Jeff Maples’ outing Thursday aboard his charter boat – Reel Salty. On a morning trip, Maples trolled mackerel trees tipped by Clark spoons on a No. 1 planer in the vicinity of Paradise Reef, located three miles off Murrells Inlet. Maples’ customers kept 17 Spanish ranging in size from 15 to 20 inches for a fish fry. Earlier this week, Maples caught a 26-inch king mackerel on the same rig. After Spanish fishing, Maples fished the bottom on the reef’s structure and has been catching mainly flounder and black sea bass. “It’s been 10 shorts to one keeper (for flounder),” said Maples. South Carolina’s minimum size limit for flounder is now 15 inches with a daily bag limit of 10 per person per day with a maximum boat limit of 20 flounder per day. Spadefish are also available on the reefs. Best catches of king mackerel are on bottom spots in 55 to 90 feet of water. Whiting, croaker and black drum are the main catch on Grand Strand piers with scattered catches of flounder, red drum, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, sheepshead, spadefish and trout. The ocean water temperature was a bit cooler than normal, at 80 degrees on the surface and 77 degrees on the bottom, at 4 p.m. Thursday at the Apache Pier.
Offshore

Look For: Blackfin tuna, wahoo, dolphin, sailfish, vermilion snapper, triggerfish, white grunts, red porgy, black sea bass, grouper, amberjack.

Comments: The Dog Days of Summer are approaching but there has been some productive trolling near the break. Ed Keelin of Georgetown Landing Marina reports the Painkiller had a super trolling day out of Georgetown, catching blackfin tuna, wahoo and dolphin for a Meatfish Slam. Sailfish action is good further out in the Gulf Stream with some being encountered near the break, also. Bottom fishing continues to be excellent, particularly in 100-plus feet of water. Look for plenty of vermilion snapper, black sea bass, triggerfish, red porgy and grunts along with grouper and amberjack. Anglers should be aware that cobia cannot be harvested in 2017 in South Carolina waters (to three miles offshore) or federal waters (beyond three miles) and must be released. Also, red snapper must be released in the South Atlantic region.
Freshwater

Look For: Bream, catfish, bass, crappie.

Comments: River levels continue to be very good on the Waccamaw and Little Pee Dee, and the fish are responding. “The bream are flat out chompin’,” said River Squires of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle. Squires reports shop owner/operator Ronald “Catfish” Stalvey personally hit the water this week to catch a nice mess of bream on the Waccamaw in the Cox Ferry Lake vicinity. “He caught over 20 good-size eaters, but he had to go through 40 to get those 20,” said Squires. Stalvey was fishing crickets in four feet of water on the edge of a grass bed. Squires reports live bait – specifically black salties – are producing good catches of blue catfish on the Waccamaw. “(The bass fishing is) off and on,” said Squires. “They’re catching a lot of fish but the ones with size are hard to come by.” Squires recommends using a Bang-O-Lure or buzz baits for bass, especially early and late in the day.