Capt. Brant McMullan of Ocean Isle Fishing Center has been instrumental in establishing the Kingfish Cup, a series that encompasses four popular king mackerel tournaments. The limited-entry series will kick off during the 2017 king mackerel tournament season. Photo courtesy OIFC.com
Inaugural Kingfish Cup sets the stage for local fishermen
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
From Little River to Wilmington, N.C., some of the most popular king mackerel tournaments along the South Atlantic and Gulf coasts are staged annually.
Each summer and fall, 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 all attract 200-plus boats as part of the Southern Kingfish Association (SKA) tournament trail.
Among all those boats are some truly hardcore fishing teams that just can’t get enough of competitive king mackerel fishing in an area of the Southeast where king mackerel fishing is, well, king.
It is those fishing teams that Capt. Brant McMullan of Ocean Isle Fishing Center had in mind when creating the Kingfish Cup, a limited entry series that will include the four tournaments.
“This series is directed specifically to our fishermen, our area,” said McMullan. “For the SKA, they are national, if you will, from North Carolina to Texas. This area is the (SKA’s) bread and butter, and we need something that focuses on us.”
McMullan set the limit of boats that can compete in the inaugural Kingfish Cup to 100, and that number of entries has quickly been reached. There is a glimmer of hope for other fishing teams that want to fish in the series – McMullan has a waiting list available and will be making an announcement regarding the Kingfish Cup after April 16.
Boats competing in the Kingfish Cup will combine the total weight of three of their four biggest kings caught in the four tournaments, receiving a point per pound. The 25 teams accumulating the most points will advance to a Kingfish Cup championship event to be held in Ocracoke, located in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, in November.
McMullan is fired up to have the Kingfish Cup championship at that locale at that time of year.
“Ocracoke in November, that fishery is the best in the country,” said McMullan. “There will be the opportunity to win a ton of money but it also is absolutely the pinnacle of king fishing. It absolutely rivals Biloxi (Miss.). There will be 60-pound kings caught with plenty of 40s and 50s.”
McMullan stresses the Kingfish Cup doesn’t affect fishing teams that want to fish in the individual tournaments but will not be competing in the Cup.
“An important thing is the Kingfish Cup is an umbrella series across existing events, four of the largest and most popular king mackerel tournaments in existence,” said McMullan. “Fishermen that don’t have interest in the Kingfish Cup, it means nothing as far as a change to the four tournaments. Those tournaments will still be open to the public.”
The Kingfish Cup will feature hefty prize money, including tournament-within-a-tournament entry levels ranging from $500 to $4,500.
“This will mean more ways to win, more money to win,” said McMullan. “We’re trying to appease those hardcore guys who want to take it to another level.”
For more information, visit www.kingfishcup.com.
BASS Nation Tournament
The BASS Nation State High School and Middle School tournaments were held Saturday on Lake Murray.
The two-man team of Bowman Davis and Jackson Denny of Carolina Forest High School finished sixth in the high school event, with a net weight of 15.62 pounds for a limit of five bass.
Another Carolina Forest duo, Ricky Adair and Hampton Denny, finished 13th with five fish weighing 13.07 pounds. The Conway High School team of Noah Jones and Manning Feldner were 15th with a four-fish aggregate of 12.48 pounds.
River Squires and Blake Thompson of Conway finished 25th with three fish weighing 9.49 pounds. The Waccamaw High School duo of Bennett Lawghe and Jake Tester were 27th with five fish weighing 9.30 pounds. Benjamin Cooper and Todd Howard of Conway and T.H. McKenzie and Mike Pagio of Waccamaw also competed in the event.
The Whittemore Park Middle School duo of Austin Winburn and Cooper Harrelson finished third among middle school teams with a five-fish limit of 10.13 pounds.
Kyler McKie and Michael Burch of North Augusta won the high school title with five bass weighing 16.42 pounds. Mason Fulmer and Marshall Robinson of Rebel Junior High won the middle school title with five fish weighing 15.42 pounds.
Captain Mike McDonald of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service navigates through shallow water in North Inlet on the hunt for sharks earlier this year. JASON LEE jlee@thesunnews
Fishing report: Wicked weather slows action for anglers on local waters
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
Look For: Spotted seatrout, flounder, red drum, black drum, sheepshead,bluefish.
Comments: It’s been a stormy, blustery week with a cold front thrown in for good measure, putting a damper on angler activity. But Capt. Patrick Kelly of Captain Smiley Fishing Charters found a few breaks in the weather to get in some fishing, including Wednesday before vicious weather moved in during the evening. Kelly produced all three species of a Carolina Slam in the Little River area including spotted seatrout, flounder and red drum. “Trout have been the top thing,” said Kelly. “There’s a bunch of trout around. It seems like better than usual fishing for this time of year.” Kelly floated white and chartreuse Berkeley Gulp Shrimp to produce trout and some flounder. The reds hit live mud minnows. Kelly noted a water temperature of 64 degrees Wednesday afternoon.
Look For: Whiting, croaker, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, weakfish, black sea bass, flounder.
Comments: Capt. Jeff Maples of Reel Salty Charters found a few breaks in the weather to hit near-shore reefs such as Paradise Reef out of Murrells Inlet earlier this week and caught bluefish and weakfish. It’s what he didn’t catch that has Maples excited for the upcoming weeks. “I saw some Spanish (mackerel) pop up,” said Maples. “They were in super small schools, but they were there. There are glass minnows out there and they were jumping and feeding on them. I got a good visual on them.” Maples said the Spanish disappeared before he could get a bait to them. “I’m hoping this cold front won’t mess up the few Spanish we’ve got,” Maples said Wednesday evening. The reefs are also holding plenty of black sea bass, which have a 13-inch minimum size limit, plus a few bull red drum and flounder. The surf has been rough on the beach and fishing hasn’t been very productive off Grand Strand piers. Whiting and croaker are the top catch, with bluefish and a few black drum also being landed. The ocean water temperature at the Cherry Grove Pier Wednesday afternoon was 66 degrees on the surface and 65 on the bottom.
Look For: Wahoo, blackfin tuna, vermilion snapper, black sea bass, triggerfish, porgy, grunts, amberjack.
Comments: There have been few opportunities this week to get offshore, but the wahoo action was superb through Sunday. The 2017 South Carolina Wahoo Series continues through April 16, featuring a two-fish aggregate with boats fishing two days each. Several boats fished on Sunday, with a 59.7-pounder the largest caught. A 100-pound, 5-ounce specimen weighed in a week ago by Wally Lee’s Wasted Time out of Murrells Inlet is the largest fish caught thus far in the event, but many competing boats still have another day to fish. Blackfin tuna are also available for trolling boats, with dolphin expected to make the scene within the next few weeks. Bottom fishing is producing vermilion snapper, black sea bass, grunts, porgy, triggerfish and amberjack. The annual Shallow-Water Grouper Spawning Season Closure is in effect through April 30. Red snapper cannot be harvested and must be released in the South Atlantic region.
Look For: Catfish, bass, bream, crappie.
Comments: “The weather’s cut all the fishermen off,” said River Squires of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle on Wednesday. “Maybe by this weekend they’ll be back at it.” Anglers that have tried their luck have found catfish action to be very good, including a 45-pound flathead landed. The cold front likely pushed the bream to a little deeper water, but they will soon be back on the banks in 2-4 feet of water hitting crickets. Squires notes bass action has been good in the lakes off the Great Pee Dee River with lizards and Senko worms working well.
Wild turkey hunting season is underway in South Carolina. Photo courtesy S.C. DNR
Palmetto State turkey population strong despite decline
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
Biologists in numerous southern states have observed a significant drop in wild turkey populations since the turn of the century and in response have coined the term Southeast Turkey Decline to describe it.
South Carolina is one of numerous states that has seen such a decline, with approximately a 30 percent decrease in the population since the record numbers of the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Charles Ruth, Wild Turkey Program Coordinator for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, stresses this isn’t a dire situation for the Palmetto State’s population of wild turkeys.
“An important message is, while we’re talking about fewer turkeys, we’ve still got a strong turkey population in South Carolina,” said Ruth. “We just don’t have as many as we did during the peak.”
Some observers may immediately think the establishment of coyotes throughout the state over the same time-frame as the population decline has had a significant impact. Ruth isn’t so sure.
“The message is there’s always been a long list of predators on turkeys and turkey nests – opossum, bobcats, raccoons, foxes, snakes, owls, hawks, coyotes,” said Ruth. “Research is ongoing in a number of states including South Carolina in an effort to determine why turkey numbers have decreased.”
Ruth points to a number of possible reasons behind the decline.
“It’s a combination of changes in habitat, perhaps increased predation, weather in certain years,” said Ruth. “We’ve had gradual habitat changes over time, perhaps the nesting and brood-rearing cover may not be as good as it used to be. Personally I think that’s a lot of it.”
South Carolina is in its second year of an expanded wild turkey hunting season, which opened March 20 and will close on May 5 on private land statewide. The traditional turkey season has run from April 1 to May 1, until the S.C. Legislature implemented the expanded season for a three-year trial beginning with the 2016 season.
“(The longer season) increases the opportunity for hunters by nearly 40 percent,” said Ruth.
An ongoing study conducted by Ruth and other biologists deals with nesting ecology and timing, and determining the impact of the longer season.
“We’re trying to determine if the season is coming in too early,” said Ruth. “We’ve first got to allow the turkeys to successfully reproduce and second allow hunters to hunt during the peak of gobbling. When (the legislature) passed that legislation, we were supposed to report back to them after three seasons of the new framework, as far as what we think is going on. We will have to revisit it or it will revert back to (the) April 1 to May 1 (season).”
With the season already underway, Ruth expects fair results for the estimated 50,000 hunters who will try to take a mature gobbler over the next four weeks in South Carolina’s woods, fields and swamps.
“Reproduction in turkeys has generally been low for the last decade leading to significant declines in harvest,” said Ruth. “However, recruitment (into the turkey population) has been somewhat better the past few years in many parts of the state and the spring 2016 harvest responded with about a 10 percent increase.
“Although the total recruitment ratio of 1.6 (poults per hen observed during the 2016 Summer Turkey Survey) was still low, it was slightly better than 2015. Therefore, if trends hold the harvest in 2017 should be similar to that in 2016.”
The Coastal Carolina Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation South Carolina will stage its annual banquet on April 7 at the Waccamaw Shrine Club in Conway, located at 10 Elm Street. For more information, contact Logan Skrabak at 803-729-0547 or firstname.lastname@example.org.