The docks at Georgetown Landing Marina were full of boats Thursday as a Small Craft Advisory canceled the first day of fishing in the 50th annual Georgetown Blue Marlin Tournament. Cameron Rhodes South Carolina Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series
May 26, 2017 5:41 PM
Despite interruption from Mother Nature, Georgetown billfishing tourney off to solid start
By Gregg HolshouserDespite windy conditions that derailed the opening day of fishing, the 50th annual Georgetown Blue Marlin Tournament got underway Friday with solid billfishing out of Georgetown Landing Marina.
Fishing on Thursday was blown out by a Small Craft Advisory, leaving the 44-boat field with only two days to fish two, Friday and Saturday. The tournament is the second of five legs in the South Carolina Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series.
Amy Dukes, coordinator of the Governor’s Cup for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, reported that 41 or 42 boats headed offshore on Friday to fish amid 7-8 foot seas.
“(Friday) morning was definitely a little sporty but it started to lay down this afternoon,” said Dukes. “They at least had a favorable (westerly) wind this morning to ride out in.”
Dukes said that at one point 52 boats were set to fish the prestigious 50th edition of the tournament, but some pulled out due to the marine forecast and others had mechanical issues.
As of 4 p.m. Friday, the committee boat had reported 13 billfish were caught and released by the field including seven blue marlin, four sailfish and two white marlin.
Legal Holiday, with a homeport of Bohicket Marina, was the only boat to release multiple billfish – two sailfish and a white marlin.
Dukes stressed the catches reported by the committee boat were unofficial and had not been confirmed as of press time.
Dukes did not anticipate any blue marlin being brought to the dock on Friday.
The federal minimum size limit for blue marlin to be landed is 99 inches, but they must measure 105 inches to be eligible for Governor’s Cup competition. White marlin and sailfish are eligible for release points only.
A blue marlin release is worth 600 points, white marlin 300 points and sailfish 200 points.
Seas were expected to subside to 3-5 feet, according to the NOAA Marine Forecast, for the final day of fishing on Saturday.
The public is welcome to the dock at Georgetown Landing Marina for weigh-ins of wahoo, dolphin, tuna and possibly blue marlin beginning at around 5 p.m.
Visit www.govcup.dnr.sc.gov for updates on releases of billfish during the tournament.
Marlin Quay Carolina Slam
The weather also played havoc with this meatfish event. Originally scheduled for two days, Chris Lawhon of Marlin Quay Marina extended the event for a week ending last weekend to allow boats to get one day of fishing in.
“We had a lower turnout this year because the weather just wasn’t in our favor,” said Lawhon, who had a field of 20 boats.
Snap Hooked, captained by Greg Plummer, won the tournament by weighing in the heaviest aggregate of wahoo, dolphin and tuna. Snap Hooked’s winning weight was 66.05 pounds for a 55.20-pound wahoo and a 10.85-pound dolphin.
Lolligag, captained by Myles Herring, was second with 47.40 pounds including a 26-pound tuna and 21.25-pound dolphin.
On the Hook, captained by Jimmy Bass, finished third with 41.40 pounds including a 22.60-pound dolphin and 18.80-pound tuna.
Snap Hooked’s 55.20-pounder was the largest wahoo weighed in, Lolligag landed the largest tuna (26.15 pounds) and Jones’n, captained by Ron Jones, weighed in the largest dolphin, a 48.60-pounder.
Far Out Shootout
This meatfish event out of Ocean Isle Fishing Center was originally scheduled for seven days but was also extended, to 15 days, due to uncooperative sea conditions.
Sea P.A. topped the field of 41 boats with an aggregate of 70.25 pounds including a 24.35-pound wahoo, 29.85-pound dolphin and 16.05-pound tuna caught.
Sea Bandit finished second with 67.8 pounds followed by No Quarter in third with 67.45 pounds.
Mac Attack caught the largest tuna, a 25.3-pounder, Conference Call caught the largest dolphin, a 34.25-pounder, and No Quarter caught the largest wahoo, a 37.95-pounder.
CCA Star Tournament
The CCA South Carolina Star Tournament is underway featuring 101 days of fishing from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, on Sept. 4. Anglers will try to catch tagged redfish with a chance to win a 2017 Sea Hunt boat.
For more information on the tournament, visit www.ccasouthcarolina.com/star/ or call 803-865-4164.
South Carolina’s flounder limits will become stricter beginning on July 1. Photo courtesy Gul-R-Boy Guide Service
May 26, 2017 3:30 PM
Fishing for flounder? New law features changes in regulation starting this summer
By Gregg Holshouser
A bill that will increase the minimum size limit and lower the daily bag limits for South Carolina’s flounder population has been signed into law by Gov. Henry McMaster after easily moving through the S.C. Legislature.
McMaster signed the bill a week ago, on May 19, after it was approved by the Senate, and the new limits will go into effect on July 1.
The bill increases the flounder minimum size limit 1 inch to 15 inches and decreases the daily bag limits to 10 per person and 20 per boat. South Carolina’s soon-to-be-outdated flounder limits are currently a 14-inch minimum size limit and bag limits of 15 per person per day with a boat limit of 30 per day.
The bill had full support in the Legislature, passing the House of Representatives by a unanimous 108-0 vote before being passed by the Senate.
“It received no descending votes in the Senate and the vote in the house was very, very unusual, 108-0 – remarkable,” said Charles Farmer, who has served as liaison between Coastal Conservation Association South Carolina, which pushed for the bill, and the S.C. General Assembly for the past 11 years.
“It was a lot of work, a lot of effort but for all practical purposes, no one opposed the bill.”
Fishermen in the Palmetto State have a little over a month before the new flounder regulations go into effect on July 1.
“DNR (law enforcement) will educate the public for the first couple months to make sure everyone is aware,” said Farmer, “and then maybe write warning tickets.”
Farmer pointed out that flounder receive unique fishing pressure, as they are targeted both day and night.
“They are under pressure during day by hook-and-line (fishermen) and at night by giggers,” Farmer said. “(The new regulations) apply to them both. Giggers will have to be more careful when they stick a fish.
“We feel this is one of the most significant bills in marine conservation in some time.”
Farmer is optimistic the 1-inch increase in size limit in particular will help the flounder population in coming years.
Female flounder first mature at 14 inches and begin substantially contributing to the spawn at 15 inches. Raising the minimum size is designed to increase the number of females that successfully migrate into the ocean to spawn in late fall and winter.
“A 15-inch flounder is far more productive at spawning, has a much greater spawning capacity than a 14-inch flounder,” said Farmer. “The overall population is down is significantly. You want to find a way for the population to come back but at the same time not penalize the recreational fishermen anymore than necessary.
“(S.C.) DNR has determined you’re going to affect about 29-31 percent of fish taken each year. We will in effect save or protect 29-31 percent of the fish that would have been taken. In the next six years, you will begin to see a real beneficial effect for the flounder population.”
Farmer, who concluded a 36-year career as a marine biologist with S.C. DNR prior to joining CCA SC in 2006, points to the burgeoning population along South Carolina’s coast behind the need for stricter limits on popular marine fish species.
“The saltwater fishing license is the only license increasing in numbers,” said Farmer. “The hunting and freshwater fishing licenses tend to be relatively stable. Saltwater licenses continue to go up which means more anglers, more pressure, which means the need for legislation such as this on flounder.”
A fisherman walks the oyster bars at low tide in Cherry Grove Inlet in North Myrtle Beach. JASON LEE firstname.lastname@example.org
May 25, 2017 5:34 PM
Fishing report: Lousy weather now in rear view, anglers trying to play catch up
By Gregg HolshouserEstuary
Look For: Flounder, red drum, spotted seatrout, black drum, sheepshead, bluefish, ladyfish.
Comments: Before the wind and rain arrived early this week, Capt. Mike McDonald of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service in Georgetown had good success with red drum, trout and black drum, fishing from McClellanville to North Inlet. McDonald, who also caught a few flounder and ladyfish, used live mud minnows, live mullet, cut shrimp, and artificials, especially plastic grubs on jig heads. The captain noted the water temperature dropped from 80 degrees on Monday to 74 to 75 degrees Thursday. Capt. Mark Dickson of Shallow-Minded Inshore Charters in Little River reports trout and black drum catches are good, with flounder available especially in Tubbs Inlet. Jessica Perry of Perry’s Bait and Tackle in Murrells Inlet reports flounder catches have been good on a rising tide Wednesday and Thursday. “We’ve started seeing some nicer size flounder,” said Perry, who noted slot red drum (15-23 inches) and black drum have been landed in the creeks of the inlet.
Look For: King mackerel, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, spadefish, black sea bass, flounder, whiting, croaker, black drum, pompano, spots.
Comments: “I’m ready for this mess to get out of here,” said Capt. Jeff Maples of Reel Salty Charters in Murrells Inlet, who has canceled three charter trips this week due to the weather. King mackerel catches were very good in the 10-15 mile range on bottom spots before the weather arrived. The near-shore bottom spots are holding nice Spanish mackerel in the vicinity, plus spadefish are available on the reefs. Ocean conditions have not been a pretty sight near the beach, either. “It’s pretty nasty out there,” Scott Skrzydlinski of Cherry Grove Pier said of the surf conditions Thursday afternoon. Still Skrzydlinski reports black drum and spots have made a showing this week. “They’ve been catching a good handful of (keeper black drum) a day,” said Skrzydlinski. “We had a small run of spots early in the week, too.” Skrzydlinski noted a water temperature of 76 degrees, both surface and bottom, Thursday at 3 p.m. Moe of The Pier at Garden City reports catches of Spanish, whiting and croaker this week.
Look For: Dolphin, blackfin tuna, wahoo, blue marlin, sailfish, barracuda, vermilion snapper, black sea bass, triggerfish, porgy, grunts, grouper and amberjack.
Comments: It’s been a lousy, windy, rainy week, virtually eliminating any chance to get offshore for trolling action, and at a most inopportune time. Mid-to-late May is the time to load up on dolphin, to go with blackfin tuna and wahoo. Then there’s the billfish factor — blue marlin activity is currently at a peak in the Gulf Stream. The rain mainly cleared out Thursday, but the wind remained, and the first day of fishing in the 50th annual Georgetown Blue Marlin Tournament out of Georgetown Landing Marina was canceled by a Small Craft Advisory. All boats in the tournament were to fish the final two days of the event on Friday and Saturday. Bottom fishing is excellent when boats can get out there, with catches of vermilion snapper, black sea bass, triggerfish, porgy, grunts, grouper and amberjack. Head to depths beyond 90 feet for best catches. Red snapper cannot be harvested in the South Atlantic region and must be released. The fish should be vented if necessary.
Look For: Bream, bass, catfish, crappie.
Comments: Earlier this week — Monday through Wednesday, in fact — a deluge of rain and windy weather caused angler action to be rather slow. The sun re-appeared on Thursday, and fishermen were back at it on area rivers. The rain brought a rise in both Pee Dee rivers but the Waccamaw remains in good shape and fishable. “The rain hasn’t messed us up too bad,” said Ronald ‘Catfish’ Stalvey of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle in Conway. “The Waccamaw’s the best right now, since the water jumped back up everywhere else.” The Little Pee Dee at Galivants Ferry was at 6.9 feet at 1 p.m. Thursday and rising, while the Waccamaw at Conway was at 8.1 feet at 1 p.m. and making good tides. Stalvey suggests floating crickets and worms around lily pads, trees or brush in 2-4 feet of water for bream on the Waccamaw from Conway to Bucksport, and in the Ricefields vicinity. Stalvey personally had a successful bass trip about a week ago before the rainy weather moved in, and suggests using Bang-o-Lures and buzz baits. “Any kind of top-water has been very good lately,” said Stalvey. Catfish catches have been good on live bait or cut shad, eels or mullet.