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.
A fisherman walks the oyster bars at low tide in Cherry Grove Inlet in North Myrtle Beach. JASON LEE firstname.lastname@example.org
Movement of king mackerel offshore could make another fish more attractive
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
November 16, 2017 05:37 PM
Look For: Red drum, spotted seatrout, black drum, flounder, sheepshead, spots.
Comments: Capt. Mike McDonald of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service in Georgetown took a pair of anglers on a very productive trip on Tuesday, with the duo catching their limit of spotted seatrout and red drum while fishing in the Winyah Bay vicinity. McDonald and crew used artificial grubs to catch the trout and floated cut shrimp to land the reds. “It’s been pretty good,” said McDonald, who also produced 23 trout and four reds on a Wednesday trip. McDonald noted a water temperature of 56-58 degrees. Capt. Jeff Maples of Reel Salty Charters hit the creeks in Murrells Inlet at mid-week and had success catching trout and black drum while floating live shrimp. Maples reported a water temperature of 58 degrees. It has been a windy, sloppy week at area jetties, but the rocks are holding trout, black drum, red drum and tautog. Bull reds can still be found at area jetties and along with the channels of inlets such as Little River Inlet and Winyah Bay, plus near-shore hard-bottom spots in the Atlantic. Anglers are urged to catch these fish quickly with beefed up tackle and release them carefully, being sure they are revived before letting them go.
Look For: Bluefish, black sea bass, weakfish, flounder, whiting, croaker, pompano, black drum, sheepshead and red drum.
Comments: Before the cold front rolled through last week, king mackerel action was very good on spots in the 10- to 15-mile range. But the water temperature has dropped approximately 10 degrees in the last 10 days and fishermen trying to find them has been at a minimum. The kings may well have moved further offshore with the drop in water temperature. Ronnie Goodwin of the Cherry Grove Pier reported a water temperature of 62 degrees on the surface and 61 on the bottom at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, which means black sea bass action on artificial reefs and bottom spots within 10-12 miles of the beach should be picking up, with more keepers above the 13-inch minimum size limit. Look for weakfish, bull reds and black sea bass on near-shore hard-bottom areas. Goodwin reports there was a day-long run of spots on Saturday at the Cherry Grove Pier, with some of the panfish continuing to be caught through Tuesday. But on Thursday, Goodwin said whiting, croaker, and small perch were the only species caught off the pier.
Look For: Wahoo, blackfin tuna, grouper, red snapper, amberjack, vermilion snapper, triggerfish, red porgy, black sea bass.
Comments: Last weekend marked the final three days of the red snapper mini-season, but windy weather kept nearly all boats at the docks. In all, five of the six days of the mini-season were lousy weather days. Once again, red snapper cannot be harvested and must be released in the South Atlantic region until another possible mini-season in 2018. When sea conditions permit, bottom fishing is excellent for red snapper, amberjack, grouper, vermilion snapper, black sea bass, porgy and white grunts. Greater amberjack 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. Find a nice day and trolling in areas such as the Winyah Scarp, Georgetown Hole and Blackjack Hole can be excellent for wahoo and blackfin tuna.
Look For: Bream, catfish, bass, crappie.
Comments: Fall has arrived for good, with the major drop in water temperature over the last 10 days. Look for bream to be found in deeper water, with anglers lead-lining worms on the bottom to catch the panfish. Look for crappie around brush or other structure in creek mouths and lakes, hitting medium crappie minnows. Catfish action remains good on cut eels and mullet, or live bream. Ronald “Catfish” Stalvey of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle in Conway recommends using jerk baits, crank baits and Texas-rigged worms for bass. The Waccamaw River at Conway was making good tides, with a water level reading of 8.3 feet at 4:15 p.m. Thursday. The Little Pee Dee at Galivants Ferry was low, at 4.2 feet Thursday at 4 p.m.
Capt. Jay Sconyers, Grant Stadler and Amy Armstrong Stadler show off a red snapper in the 20-pound range caught on Nov. 3. Submitted photo
Red snapper highlight catch during mini-season
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
November 10, 2017 6:31 PM
There was a light north-northwesterly breeze blowing at 7:40 a.m. when Capt. Jay Sconyers of Aces Up Fishing pulled his 33-foot Hydra-Sports center console away from the public boat ramp in Murrells Inlet.
The calendar ready Nov. 3, and the occasion was the opening day of the 2017 red snapper mini-season in the South Atlantic region.
The season consists of two consecutive three-day weekends (Friday through Sunday, Nov. 3-5 and Nov. 10-12) with recreational anglers allowed to keep one red snapper per person per day, with no minimum size limit.
While this was a 3/4-day bottom-fishing trip in general, red snapper was the specific target for the group of five anglers, including Amy Armstrong Stadler and her son Grant Stadler of Garden City Beach, Scott Brown and Wick Fisher of Murrells Inlet, and myself.
Sconyers wanted live bait to drop down to the snapper, so after leaving the ramp he pulled up to an adjacent dock and broke out some fresh shrimp heads.
The captain dropped the shrimp heads around the pilings adjacent to the dock, waited about five minutes and then proceeded to cast-net pinfish and spots in the 3-5 inch range.
With at least 50 perfect baits swimming in the live well, Sconyers was ready to head offshore.
“I’m glad I saved those heads,” Sconyers said with a grin.
At 7:55 a.m. Sconyers zoomed past the Murrells Inlet sea buoy and headed in a south-southeasterly direction at 35 knots, with the wind at his back.
Sconyers’ plan was to fish ledges and rock piles in depths of 95 feet of water, and deeper, spots where he has caught, and released, red snapper in recent years.
About 9 a.m. and amid a much rougher sea, Sconyers arrived at his first spot and deployed the live bait on two Avet 80w reels on bent butt rods, one on each side at the middle of the boat.
As we all kept a wary eye on the two big rods, we dropped down assorted cut squid and cut bait on two hook rigs, on Shimano Torium 30 reels loaded with 65-pound test braid, on jigging rods.
The bites came quick and often on the two-hook rigs with plenty of vermilion snapper coming over the gunwale, most hovering right around the 12-inch minimum size limit.
A large grey triggerfish, which hit a piece of cut bait, was the top catch on that spot, but the bite tapered off, and Sconyers decided to make a move to a spot in a little deeper water, right at 100 feet.
This rock pile produced a little more variety, with vermilion snapper, black sea bass, triggerfish, large white grunts and a few huge jolthead porgy among the catch.
After a while, the tip of one of the big rods began bouncing and I cranked up what we were looking for, a red snapper in the 6-7 pound range.
Finally, after so many releases, Sconyers was going to be able to harvest a red snapper.
We had many more big bites on the big rods, but instead of the red snapper or grouper we were hoping for, marauding greater amberjack in the 20- 40 pound range were nailing the live baits.
Alas, the greater amberjack had been closed to harvest three days earlier, on Halloween.
At one point, Brown was battling the largest amberjack of the day, estimated at over 40 pounds, on the big rod on the starboard side of the boat, when something hit the big rod on the port side.
While Sconyers dealt with Brown’s amberjack, Grant Stadler, a 2017 St. James High School graduate and freshman at the College of Charleston, began cranking up the fish on the other side of the boat.
Suddenly a commotion arose from the Stadlers as they realized Grant wasn’t cranking up any amberjack.
“It’s a genuine!” Grant exclaimed.
Sconyers dropped dealing with Brown’s amberjack and frantically rushed over just in time to see a genuine red snapper in the 20-pound range pop to the surface.
Sconyers gaffed the brilliant red snapper and pulled it over the gunwale. The day maker was on the deck, and it was whooping, hollering and high fives all around for the crew.
In a total of three spots, Sconyers had put us on plenty of fish, including the two red snapper, three almaco jacks and an amazing variety of reef species in the snapper-grouper complex.
From 38 miles offshore, Sconyers headed back into the teeth of a 10-15 knot north-northwest wind and a rough ocean, but once we were 20 out the seas began to calm.
At the 10-12 mile mark the wind had dwindled and the seas turned smooth with only one-foot rollers, making for a very comfortable ride to finish a spectacular day.
In 2009, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) determined the South Atlantic stock of red snapper was overfished and undergoing overfishing, and the fishery was closed in 2010 with a 35-year rebuilding plan put in place.
Other than mini-seasons allowed in 2012 through 2014 and the current mini-season, the red snapper fishery has been closed ever since and only the fish that have not survived the release process, known as dead discards, have been removed from the population during the eight-year period.
On the first weekend of fishing, opening day was the only decent day for anglers to get offshore. This weekend looks like a total blowout, as a Gale Warning was in effect for the offshore waters on Friday and very rough seas forecast through Sunday, when the fishery was set to close again.
Anglers participating in the red snapper mini-season are urged to report detailed information of their catches at MyFishCount.com, a voluntary recreational reporting program being developed by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) in collaboration with the Snook and Gamefish Foundation and Elemental Methods.
The site uses an online web portal that allows recreational fishermen to report their red snapper fishing activities, including the length of the fish kept and of those released, catch location, depth fished, hook type, hooking location, release treatment, and reason for release.
Fishermen may also report trips that are scheduled and not taken for various reasons, including weather. This pilot will only be available during the red snapper mini-season. Afterward, the site will be revamped based on suggestions from participating fishermen.
As of Wednesday, a total of 82 fishermen had signed up for the pilot program and 80 trips had been reported through the South Atlantic region from North Carolina through Florida.
With the cold fronts of autumn limiting the number of trips anglers can make during this mini-season, fishermen can also report weather cancellations.
The SAFMC cannot set or change fishing dates, as that authority goes to NOAA Fisheries and the Secretary of Commerce.
However, information on abandoned trips due to weather conditions could be helpful to the SAFMC when proposing future management decisions.
Information provided at MyFishCount.com will be provided to NOAA Fisheries by Wednesday, Nov. 15 following the end of the mini-season.