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New law on flounder in effect Sunday

July 1, 2017 Live Great Outdoors Blog Comments Off on New law on flounder in effect Sunday

image: flounder
On Saturday, a new law will go into effect that increases the flounder minimum size limit one inch to 15 inches and decreases the daily bag limits to 10 per person and 20 per boat. Amanda McCoy Biloxi (Miss.) Sun Herald
June 30, 2017 7:04 PM
An important law you need to know when fishing for flounder from here on out

By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News

Saturday is the day that will provide some semblance of relief for South Carolina’s beleaguered population of flounder.

Hounded by hook-and-line anglers by day and giggers by night, there is arguably more pressure on flounder than any other species that inhabits salt-water estuaries in the Palmetto State, especially in Horry and Georgetown counties.

Even when flounder move to near-shore reefs in the Atlantic Ocean to spawn, the species is greeted by the same hook-and-line crowd from above the surface and spear fishermen below the surface.

The number of anglers is intimidating – in 2016 well over 400,000 people had some sort of saltwater fishing license for South Carolina waters.

On Saturday, a new law will go into effect that increases the flounder minimum size limit one inch to 15 inches and decreases the daily bag limits to 10 per person and 20 per boat.

South Carolina’s old limits were a 14-inch minimum size limit and daily bag limits of 15 per person and 30 per boat.

“I think that’s fantastic,” said Capt. Patrick Kelly of Captain Smiley Fishing Charters in Little River.

Coastal Conservation Association South Carolina teamed with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources to get the changes in flounder limits in motion during the recently completed legislative session.

“The Coastal Conservation Association came to S.C. DNR a couple of years ago with concerns about the state’s flounder population – just as S.C. DNR scientists were examining survey data that indicated the flounder population was in decline,” said David Whitaker, assistant deputy director of the agency’s Marine Resources Division. “We’ve been working since then to develop recommendations for the legislature to address the decline in the state’s flounder population.”

In the end, the bill easily passed the S.C. Legislature, including a rare unanimous 108-0 vote by the House of Representatives, before Gov. Henry McMaster signed it into law on May 19.

The minimum size limit for flounder has long been 15 inches in North Carolina waters, which makes life a little easier for Kelly.

“We fish in both states, and now that makes it easier coming and going in the two states with the same size limit,” said Kelly. “(In the past), if you caught a 14-inch (flounder), you had to stay in South Carolina.”

With both states having the same minimum size limit, anglers will no longer have a reason to head south from the Tar Heel State to take advantage of a smaller size limit in South Carolina waters.

According to Mel Bell, Director of S.C. DNR’s Office of Fisheries Management, female flounder first mature at 14 inches and begin substantially contributing to the spawn at 15 inches.

S.C. DNR officials are optimistic the new limits will substantially reduce the total number of flounder removed from the population annually.

“Our assessment of the new limits indicates that about 30 percent fewer fish will be taken in the first year or two,” said Whitaker. “But with time, we hope the population grows and that total catch will increase as more spawners are available to provide more young fish.”
Governor’s Cup

The third leg of the South Carolina Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series concluded last weekend with the Carolina Billfish Classic at Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina.

“The fishing was phenomenal,” said Amy Dukes, coordinator of the Governor’s Cup for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. “We had excellent effort, with more than two fish (released) per boat.”

The field of 38 boats accounted for 88 released billfish, including 78 sailfish, nine blue marlin and one white marlin. The tournament also was reduced to a two-day event thanks to a Small-Craft Advisory last Saturday.

Toast, a 57-foot Dean Johnson out of Ocean Reef, Fla., had an incredible two days of fishing, releasing two blue marlin and seven sailfish to claim the win.

Ron Martin owns Toast, which is captained by Charleston native Newt Cagle.

Series regular Micabe, out of Ripley Light Marina in Charleston, was second after releasing one blue marlin and five sailfish. Palmetto Guard, also out of Ripley Light Marina, finished third, releasing two blue marlin and one sailfish.

Sportsmann weighed in the largest dolphin, a 44.9-pounder, High Maintenance caught the largest tuna, a 25.0-pound blackfin and Home Run landed the largest wahoo, a 29.7-pounder.

Hope Bentley of Home Run released one blue marlin and three sailfish to earn Lady Angler honors. Chandler Griffin of Gryphon was the leading Junior Angler, releasing five sailfish.

Gryphon leads the Governor’s Cup standings after three events with 3,675 points followed by Toast with 2,625 and Chasin third with 2,450.

The fourth leg of the series is the MEGADOCK Billfishing Tournament, set for Wednesday through Saturday out of Charleston City Marina. The five-tournament series concludes with the Edisto Invitational Billfish Tournament July 19-22
Conway Bassmasters Tournament

The Conway Bassmasters Annual River Fest Bass Tournament will be staged on July 8 out of Bucksport Marina.

Entry fee is $120 per two-person team, with one adult (18 years or older) required to be on each boat. Guaranteed first-place prize money is $1,400. For more information, call Chris Jones at 843-333-8010.

Flounder size limit changes Saturday

June 30, 2017 Live Great Outdoors Blog Comments Off on Flounder size limit changes Saturday

image: boy with flounder
Flounder size limit in S.C. increasing to 15 inches on Saturday. The Sun News file photo
June 29, 2017 4:22 PM
South Carolina’s flounder limits set to change on Saturday

By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News

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

Comments: Capt. Patrick Kelly of Captain Smiley Fishing Charters in Little River and his clients have had a blast this week with a super early-morning top-water bite of spotted seatrout. Kelly saw a first for him when a trout attacked a Mirrolure at the surface close to daybreak. “I saw a trout jump about five feet out of the water,” he said. “He skied like a king on (the lure).” Casting lures mimicking mullet is the trick to getting the early trout bites. “As long as it looks like a mullet and has a little rattle to it,” Kelly said. “It’s been very consistent.” Trout are also hitting live shrimp on a popping cork for Kelly, who has also been producing 6-8 flounder per trip including 2-3 keepers. Kelly reports over-slot sized red drum in the 27-34 inch range can be found in the vicinity of the jetties at Little River Inlet, hitting live or cut mullet. Capt. Mike McDonald of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service in Georgetown has had good success with black drum this week, plus red drum and flounder. On Tuesday, McDonald produced 15 black drum, a pair of reds in the 20-inch range and a few flounder. On Wednesday, McDonald’s group caught black drum and flounder plus a 3-pound weakfish. McDonald, who noted an 80 degree water temperature in the Winyah Bay vicinity, was using live finger mullet and cut shrimp for bait. Flounder catches have been good this week, with black drum, trout and red drum also available. Tripletail, a summer-time visitor to local estuaries, have made a good showing this week. Anglers should take note, South Carolina’s minimum size limit for flounder will increase to 15 inches on Saturday (July 1). The daily bag limit is decreased to 10 per person per day with a maximum boat limit of 20 flounder per day.

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

Comments: Conditions were relatively calm and the water cleared up along the beach early in the week, and catches off Grand Strand piers responded. The Cherry Grove Pier reported good catches of staple species whiting and croaker, with scattered catches of pompano, black drum, red drum and spots. A few of the red drum were within South Carolina’s 15-23 inch slot limit. Also look for Spanish mackerel, bluefish and flounder off the piers. A cool front was in the offing early in the week, and Capt. Jeff Maples of Reel Salty Charters found himself wearing long-sleeve t-shirts early in the day, a rarity for late June. Maples has found good numbers of flounder on near-shore artificial reefs such as Paradise Reef three miles east of Murrells Inlet, but has found few keepers above the old 14-inch minimum size limit. The daily bag limit is decreased to 10 per person per day with a maximum boat limit of 20 flounder per day. Also look for Spanish mackerel, black sea bass, spadefish and weakfish, plus plenty of sharks, on the reefs. King mackerel action has been hit or miss this week on bottom spots such as Belky Bear, Myrtle Beach Rocks and The Jungle. Cherry Grove Pier reported a water temperature of 80 degrees Wednesday at 6 p.m.

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

Comments: Capt. Danny Carey of Careyon Charters reports excellent bottom fishing and good catches of king mackerel of late. “Bottom fishing is hot,” said Carey, who has produced vermilion snapper, triggerfish, grunts and porgy along with scamp and gag grouper. Carey is hitting bottom spots in 100-120 feet of water and has found kings 20-25 miles offshore in depths of 60-70 feet. Trolling is producing scattered catches of dolphin, blackfin tuna and wahoo, plus sailfish action is excellent in the Gulf Stream. Don’t be surprised to find dolphin or encounter a sailfish while fishing for kings on shallower spots. A few reminders – 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: A rainy spell was followed by a dry spell and slightly cooler weather, resulting in superb summertime fishing on the Waccamaw and Little Pee Dee rivers. River levels are good, as the Waccamaw at Conway was at 7.93 feet at 4 p.m. Wednesday and making good tides while the Little Pee Dee at Galivants Ferry was at 4.93 feet at 5 p.m. Wednesday. “Bream are biting on crickets and worms on the Little Pee Dee and Waccamaw the most, from 8 inches to 3 feet (deep),” said Ronald ‘Catfish’ Stalvey of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle in Conway. “The big Pee Dee is still a little muddy.” Stalvey described bass action as “phenomenal” on the Little Pee Dee and Waccamaw with crawfish, senkos, buzz baits and Bang-O-Lures working well. Catfish are taking live and cut bait such as black salties and eels.

One bite and done

June 24, 2017 Live Great Outdoors Blog Comments Off on One bite and done

image: men with fish
The crew of Do Work/OIFC shows off the winning 42.75-pound king mackerel last Saturday in the Jolly Mon King Classic at Ocean Isle Fishing Center. From left are Jeff Beck, Camdyn Beck, Jeremy Phillips, Jon Hayes and Ivy Hayes. Submitted photo

June 23, 2017 5:16 PM
One bite does the trick for winning crew in Jolly Mon Classic

By Gregg Holshouser
One quick bite is all it took for Capt. Jeff Beck and his crew aboard Do Work/OIFC to catch the winning king mackerel in the Yellowfin/Yamaha Jolly Mon King Classic last weekend out of Ocean Isle Fishing Center.

It’s a good thing the bite came early, too.

Beck was fishing last Saturday with his 11-year-old daughter, Camdyn, and two former Lenoir-Rhyne College classmates and football teammates, Jeremy Phillips and Jon Hayes, aboard the 27-foot Contender.

Fishing in 65 feet of water at The Jungle, the crew members hooked up with their only fish of the day a little after 10 a.m. The bite came on a ribbonfish 30 feet deep on a downrigger.

“We caught a ribbonfish in the (cast) net catching pogeys that morning,” said Jeff Beck. “We had some (frozen ribbonfish) but I said ‘Let’s go ahead and use that one.’ Something was right about it. It was our first and only bite.”

Hayes was the angler on the fish, which made an initial long run. Hayes worked it to the boat but it made two more runs.

“After a 15-20 minute fight Jon had it beside the boat and I gaffed the fish,” said Beck. “We realized we had a very good king on board.”

After a quick celebration, it was decision time for the crew.

“The question was “Do we want to keep fishing or head that way,’ ” said Beck. “We knew we weren’t going to top that one.”

The decision was made easy a few minutes later when Beck looked at the boat’s instruments.

“We had lost all electronics – GPS, radio and everything,” said Beck. “Seeing that, I took the reciprocal heading where I at least knew I would see land.”

They made their way back to the Shallotte Sea Buoy around 11 a.m., and just motored around the buoy for three hours, killing time before the scales opened at the OIFC at 2 p.m.

The crew’s 42.75-pound king held the lead after 173 boats in the field of 185 fished on Saturday. After the remaining boats fished on Sunday, Do Work/OIFC was declared the winner and took home over $32,000 in winnings.

Beck and crew are regulars in king mackerel tournaments in both Carolinas, and previously won the Jolly Mon in 2010.

Camdyn is an important member of the fishing team, and was named Junior Angler of the tournament.

“I’d be willing to put that 11-year-old against most grown men when it comes to king mackerel fishing,” said Beck. “She’s pretty seasoned when it comes to being on the ocean. She won her first junior angler award as a 5-year-old.”

The second-place king in the tournament was a 35.90-pounder weighed in by Strictly Business of Oak Island, N.C. Man O’ War/AM of Ocean Isle Beach, N.C., was third with a 31.55-pounder, followed by Top Choice of Wilmington, N.C., in fourth with a 31.40-pounder and Open Wide of Cedar Point, N.C., in fifth with a 30.95-pounder.

The tournament was the first event in the inaugural Kingfish Cup series, with boats entered in the cup receiving points for the series. The top four boats in the Jolly Mon are all entered in the Kingfish Cup.

Other events in the Kingfish Cup are the Got ‘Em On Classic (July 7-9), the Fall Brawl King Classic (Oct. 13-15) and the Rumble in the Jungle (Oct. 20-22).

For more information, visit
Inlet tragedy

The Murrells Inlet fishing and boating community was stunned this week by the tragic and untimely death of Wayne Wesley at the age of 52.

Known by his nickname, “Squally,” he was owner-operator of Boat Restore, a throw-back type business in the inlet where he dabbled in a variety of services including engine repair, fiberglass work, bottom painting, and, of course, boat restoration.

Capt. Jason Burton, an inlet native and owner/operator of Murrells Inlet Fishing Charters, was a longtime friend and business associate of Wesley.

“Squally was everybody’s friend, I don’t think he ever met a stranger in his life,” said Burton. “On a daily basis … he was going above and beyond to help somebody or fix something.

“He is a representation of what Murrells Inlet is all about – every man is out to help someone out. He genuinely loved people and wanted to help anybody he could.

He was one of those good guys. The whole thing is pretty tragic.”

Burton recalled one incident that personified Wesley’s helpful nature.

“We had a boat break down at 9 p.m., and everybody else was closed so we called Squally,” Burton said. “He gave us the keys to his shop and every tool we needed to fix the boat. That’s the kind of guy he was, he’d give you the shirt off your back if you needed one.”