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Local Fishing Captain mourned

September 16, 2017 Live Great Outdoors Blog Comments Off on Local Fishing Captain mourned

image: joe conner
Lee Conner Facebook
Murrells Inlet community mourning loss of Capt. Lee Conner

By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News

September 15, 2017 7:03 PM

Members of the Murrells Inlet fishing community are mourning the loss of Capt. Lee Conner, who passed away on Sept. 7 at the age of 58.

Conner, a 1976 graduate of Socastee High School, operated area private boats such as the Mind Set, Ashley B and Large Time beginning in the 1980s.

A celebration of life will be held Saturday at 1 p.m. at Burroughs Funeral Home in Murrells Inlet. The family will receive friends beginning at noon.

Memorial contributions in Conner’s name can be made to the Shriner’s Hospital for Children, 2900 Rocky Point Drive, Tampa, FL, 33607 or St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN, 39105.

Gregg Holshouser:

Post Irma Fishing

September 15, 2017 Live Great Outdoors Blog Comments Off on Post Irma Fishing

image: fishing hooks
Long lines with large off-set circle hooks are used to catch sharks in Winyah Bay. JASON LEE
Fishing report: Why anglers are eager to get back on the water post-Irma

By Gregg Holshouser

For The Sun News

September 14, 2017 6:22 PM

Look For: Spotted seatrout, red drum, black drum, flounder, sheepshead, tarpon.

Comments: In the wake of Hurricane Irma, Capt. Mike McDonald of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service in Georgetown decided to head to North Inlet in search of relatively pretty water on a Thursday trip. What did he find? Dirty water. “The water was nasty,” said McDonald. “We caught a gar sitting right there looking at the ocean (at North Inlet). There’s a lot of freshwater out there.” Despite the water conditions, McDonald had a productive, yet strange trip. The catch of the day was a 24-plus inch, six-pound spotted seatrout caught on a finger mullet on a Carolina rig, a rig meant for flounder. The trout was released. McDonald’s crew also caught a flounder on an artificial grub, which was primarily intended for trout. For the day, McDonald’s crew caught eight trout, seven red drum and a few black sea bass in the 11-12 inch range. Capt. Patrick Kelly of Captain Smiley Fishing Charters found similar water conditions in the Little River vicinity. “(The water) was very dirty (with) lots of debris,” said Kelly regarding a Thursday trip. Kelly’s crew caught seven red drum in the 15- to 17-inch range and also landed small trout on live shrimp on popping corks and small flounder on finger mullet. Kelly noted action was best on an incoming tide. Look for black drum and bull red drum along with trout at area jetties.

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

Comments: As soon as the ocean began to calm after Irma’s passage, anglers found good action on Grand Strand piers. Both the Pier at Garden City and Cherry Grove Pier reported surprisingly good numbers of black drum and red drum caught on Thursday, including a decent number of keepers. A slot limit of 14-27 inches applies to black drum while a 15-23-inch slot is set for red drum. The piers are also reporting catches of whiting, croaker, pompano, bluefish and spadefish. Capt. Brant McMullan of Ocean Isle Fishing Center reports a few boats targeted Spanish mackerel on Thursday, but had little success. “I predict by the weekend it will be a lot different,” said McMullan. Finger mullet were plentiful before the storm, and mackerel action should pick up any day now from the beach to bottom spots in the 10-15 mile range. Dock Jarman of Cherry Grove Pier reports a surface water temperature of 80 degrees, with a 79-degree reading on the bottom, Thursday at 5 p.m.

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

Comments: By Thursday, conditions were finally calming down enough for boats to head offshore, and actual reports from the water have been scarce. Capt. Jay Sconyers of Aces Up Fishing did take a crew offshore on Thursday, and they brought in amberjack, gag grouper and vermilion snapper. Don’t be surprised to find grouper on shallower than normal bottom spots in the next several days. Any day now, trolling action near the break should be good for wahoo and blackfin tuna, plus king mackerel a little closer in. “The water just needs to settle down and it won’t take long,” said McMullan. “The fishing will go from hardly anything to everything’s happening. Everything’s looking good for king mackerel fishing to get going any second.” Anglers should note 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.

Look For: Bream, catfish, bass, crappie.

Comments: “There’s a lot of water out there but the big Pee Dee and the Ricefields are producing pretty good,” said River Squires of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle in Conway. Squires recommends fishing deep, near the bottom, on the tree line using crickets for bream. “Bass are still hitting top-water – buzzbaits and frogs,” said Squires, a bass-fishing enthusiast. “They’re catching bigger fish on spinnerbaits.” Catfish are hitting fresh, cut eels, although a variety of baits such as mullet, menhaden or shad will work. The Waccamaw River at Conway was at minor flood stage, at 11.57 feet at 3:15 p.m. Thursday. The river was expected to recede in the next few days. The Little Pee Dee at Galivants Ferry was at 7.72 feet at 4 p.m. Thursday.

Trout fishing dependent on Irma

September 9, 2017 Live Great Outdoors Blog Comments Off on Trout fishing dependent on Irma

image: sunrise over water
The sun rises over Winyah Bay Sunday morning at the start of a trout fishing trip. Photo Courtesy Gul-R-Boy Guide Service
Stage set for super fall trout fishing, if Irma doesn’t mess it up

By Gregg Holshouser

For The Sun News

September 08, 2017 5:35 PM

With temps in the upper 60s, it was a little chilly when Capt. Mike McDonald opened up his new Bulls Bay 2200 mere moments after daybreak, even though the calendar read Sept. 3, nearly three weeks before the arrival of autumn.

McDonald pushed the spiffy center console powered by a 150 Mercury Optimax up to about 40 mph headed northeast in the Intracoastal Waterway after leaving South Island Ferry, headed for Winyah Bay.

With the sun just above the horizon and reflecting on the water, McDonald zoomed across the channel into Muddy Bay, and eased into a narrow creek, right at high tide, looking for bait.

With McDonald, owner-operator of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service in Georgetown, on the bow clutching a 7-foot Fitec Super Spreader cast net and I at the helm, the width of the creek steadily narrowed from 20 feet across to 10 feet, or less.

The calm surface was alive with ripples created by finger mullet and menhaden, plus shrimp.

Several throws of the net produced several dozen finger mullet in the 2-4 inch range, plus some menhaden and a few shrimp. The crew, also including an old buddy of mine, Kerry Morgan of Camden, was set for bait.

Despite it being Sunday, a day before Labor Day, boat traffic was surprisingly light on the bay.

“They’re all waiting for tomorrow,” quipped McDonald.

The comfortable temps combined with a westerly breeze of 5-10 mph made for a sunny, beautiful early September day.

McDonald headed for a tried and true spot for starters, an oyster shell bank, where Morgan fished with an artificial Shrimp Pasta lure and I tossed a finger mullet under a three-inch torpedo float.

“This is more of a trout and flounder spot, isn’t it Mike?” I inquired.

Moments later, the captain had a good chuckle when Morgan caught the first fish of the day, a 13-14 inch red drum.

Soon, however, the spotted seatrout took over, as expected. The finger mullet were producing more bites, and Morgan switched to a float rod.

As the trout bite warmed up, McDonald – half-captain, half-drill sergeant – barked out angling suggestions. Or were they orders?

▪ “Keep that rod tip up!”

▪ “You’re hung up. Don’t raise the rod tip, grab the spool and pull the rod straight toward you.”

▪ “You’re trying to super-throw that float. Just flip it out there and it will go just about as far and you won’t throw your bait off.”

As the tide fell closer to low, we consistently caught trout in the 14-17-inch range, with a few frantic bites from ladyfish and even gar mixed in. When Morgan caught a small flounder, we had landed all three species of a Carolina Slam.

In all, we caught around 20 trout and left the spot with a dozen keepers.

I had a hankering to target black drum, and the westerly wind combined with a falling tide meant conditions at the sprawling Winyah Bay jetties were tranquil.

Inside the jetties, the brown water of the bay rushed out toward the ocean, while on the ocean side of the rock mound, the water was a striking blue-green with bluefish and Spanish mackerel cutting through plentiful schools of mullet and menhaden.

McDonald pulled up to one of his preferred jetty spots and let it be known up front – in his opinion a rising tide would be better for black drum, but we’d give it a try.

We used cut shrimp for bait, and McDonald was proven correct. We caught no black drum over the next hour, but the variety of species on hand at the jetties was on display.

First, we caught, and released, some of the largest pinfish I’ve ever seen. Then the grunts – blue-striped grunts – showed up. We caught several including a large one measuring 12-13 inches that went home for dinner.

A black sea bass just under the 13-inch minimum size limit was caught and released before McDonald moved to another spot farther down the jetties.

Red drum, or spottails, were holding on this spot, and we caught and released several more in the 13-15 inch range before calling it a day.

As McDonald headed back toward South Island Ferry, I surveyed the unspoiled scenery at the entrance to Winyah Bay, and thought of Hurricane Irma, which then was just approaching the Leeward Islands far out in the Atlantic.

The question then was – as it is now – what will Irma’s final destination be?

This trip proved that the stage is set for a super fall season of trout fishing in the Winyah Bay vicinity.

That is, if Irma doesn’t mess it up.