Susan Huntley Claud and David Altman at Big Dave’s Bait & Tackle in Murrells Inlet. Courtesy of Susan Huntley Claud
‘One of a kind’: ‘Big Dave’ left lasting impression on Murrells Inlet fishing family
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
January 26, 2018 05:14 PM
Updated January 26, 2018 06:50 PM
The little bait and tackle shop on U.S. 17 Business right across from the Murrells Inlet waterfront and just down from the boat ramp is suddenly dormant, but its memory will live on among members of the Murrells Inlet fishing community.
David Altman, known as “Big Dave” and the owner/operator of Big Dave’s Bait & Tackle, passed away from natural causes unexpectedly on Jan. 18.
Appropriately, Altman was laid to rest under the massive, mossy oaks at Belin Memorial United Methodist Cemetery, across the street from the inlet and just a 1/4-mile up the road from his shop.
A native of Georgetown, Altman was the perfect bait shop owner for the inlet, always ready with Southern hospitality to offer fishing advice or help his customers in any way.
Aside from the regular business of a bait and tackle shop, Big Dave’s was a gathering spot for fishermen or simply locals to share a cup of coffee, a few fishing tales or the intricacies of catching fish.
Bryan Claud and his wife, Susan Huntley Claud, are avid saltwater anglers and part-time Murrells Inlet residents who patronized Big Dave’s for their fishing needs.
“Big Dave will truly be missed by all the fishermen in the inlet,” said Susan Huntley Claud. “He was not just a friend, but he was thought of as part of our inlet family.
“Fishing is not just about catching fish, it is about the whole experience, and Big Dave was part of that experience, from putting that minnow on the hook to calling Dave and reporting our catch for the day.”
Capt. Jeff Maples, operator of Reel Salty Charters, first fished in Murrells Inlet in 1988 when he was in the Air Force, and became friends with Altman five years ago when he opened his guide service.
Maples, like many other guides in the inlet, operates his trips out of the Murrell inlet boat ramp. When cleaning the fish caught on a trip in the boat ramp parking lot was no longer an option, Altman was ready to help out.
“He told me to come on down and clean the fish there at his shop,” said Maples. “I always offered to pay him but he’d take no money. He even helped me clean fish. Numerous times if I had two trips in one day, he would bring bait or ice or whatever I needed (to the boat ramp) for the second trip.
“Anybody and everybody, it didn’t matter if you’d been there one time or 100 times, he’d help you out.”
Altman is the third member of the inlet fishing community to pass away in an untimely manner over the last seven months, along with Jessica Hill of Perry’s Bait and Tackle (Sept. 2017) and Wayne “Squally” Wesley of Boat Restore (June 2017).
“(Big Dave) was one of a kind, that’s for sure,” said Maples. “He’s truly going to be missed not only by me but a lot of people.
“A couple of us (guides) were scratching our heads and thinking what are we going to do this summer? So much has changed in the last six months or so. It’s not going to be the same.”
The Student Angler League Tournament Trail is hosting a fishing seminar next Saturday (Feb. 3), with a different twist.
The SALTT is a tournament trail staged out of Georgetown that features teams from middle and high schools that have the option to fish in red drum or bass categories in each tournament.
Attendees to the seminar will have the same option. Capt. Rayburn Poston, founder and coordinator of the SALTT, will have two seminars at the same time on separate stages, one for saltwater and one for bass fishing.
The lineup of local captains and fishing experts is superb, with numerous fishing subjects being covered.
“I want it to be a seminar that everybody in the area looks forward to,” said Poston.
The seminar will be held from 8 a.m. to noon at St. James Intermediate School, located at 9641 Scipio Lane, Myrtle Beach, SC 29588.
Proceeds from the seminar will benefit the fishing clubs at each school competing in the SALTT.
Tickets are $20 before the seminar and $25 at the door. The event will feature a silent auction, raffle packages and a drawing for a fishing trip with Capt. Jason Burton of Murrells Inlet Fishing Center.
For more information, contact Poston at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gregg Holshouser: email@example.com
The seminar schedule follows:
8 a.m.: Inshore Winter Fishing for Drum, Capts. Dan Connolly and Jerry Condenzio.
8:30 a.m.: Near-Shore Trolling for Mackerel, Capt. Jeff Maples.
9 a.m.: Offshore Trolling for Dolphin and Wahoo, Capts. Jay Sconyers and Russell Baisch.
9:45 a.m.: Inshore Kayak Fishing, Mike Eady and Johnny Wigfall.
10:15 a.m.: Near-Shore Reef Bottom Fishing, Capt. J Baisch.
10:45 a.m.: Offshore Bottom Fishing, Capts. Tommy Werner and Justin Witten.
11:30 a.m.: Inshore Flounder Fishing, Capts. Jason Burton and Adam Goodwin.
8 a.m.: Winter Fishing, Conway Bassmasters.
8:30 a.m.: Spring Fishing, Pee Dee Bassmasters.
9 a.m.: Multi Species on the Sampit River, Sampit Bassmasters.
9:45 a.m.: Pre-Trip Planning, Tony Carter.
10:15 a.m.: Organizing The Chaos, Englis Glover.
10:45 a.m.: Tournament Pre-Fishing, Phantom Outdoors.
11:30 a.m.: Q&A Session, Phantom Outdoors.
David Altman and Susan Huntley Claud show off Claud’s doormat flounder at Big Dave’s Bait & Tackle in Murrells Inlet. Courtesy of Susan Huntley Claud
With warmer weather, some species of fish biting in area waters
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
Updated January 26, 2018 03:51 PM
Look For: Red drum, black drum, spotted seatrout, flounder, sheepshead, tautog.
Comments: Ronald “Catfish” Stalvey of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle personally hit the salt water in the Little River vicinity on Sunday and had good success with red drum. On a perfect, warm January day, Stalvey floated mud minnows near the bottom in two feet of water to catch numerous reds. Capt. Patrick Kelly of Captain Smiley Fishing Charters and a cohort hit a spot where spotted seatrout have been active on the Intracoastal Waterway in the Sunset Beach, N.C., area late Wednesday afternoon. The trout didn’t cooperate very well as the pair caught and released only one, in the 20-inch range, but near dark they saw an unusual sight. They saw movement on the bank and spotted a bobcat dragging a trout in the 18-inch range away from the water. As a precautionary measure, the South Carolina DNR is asking anglers to practice catch and release of all spotted seatrout through the end of September. In North Carolina waters, spotted seatrout are closed to harvest for all fishermen, recreational and commercial, until June 15.
Look For: Sheepshead, black sea bass, black drum, tautog, weakfish, flounder, whiting, croaker.
Comments: Each winter, sheepshead congregate on the near-shore artificial reefs in the Atlantic Ocean, providing anglers with a super option in the dead of winter when the weather cooperates. That time is now. Over the weekend, light winds and warmer-than-normal temperatures, for a change, allowed numerous anglers to have successful trips targeting sheepshead, with perhaps a few black drum mixed in on the reefs. Fiddler crabs and clams are the bait of choice for the finicky sheepshead, which make great table fare. Also look for black sea bass, tautog, weakfish and possibly flounder on the reefs. Action is very slow on Grand Strand piers and in the surf zone. Ronnie Goodwin of Cherry Grove Pier reported a water temperature of 47 degrees at the surface and 46 on the bottom Wednesday at 3:55 p.m.
Look For: Wahoo, blackfin tuna, king mackerel, grouper, vermilion snapper, triggerfish, porgy, black sea bass, grunts.
Comments: Sunday was the day to get offshore, with light winds, calm seas and warm temperatures. Numerous boats had success trolling in areas such as the Winyah Scarp and Georgetown Hole, putting mainly wahoo and blackfin tuna in the box, plus even a few king mackerel and dolphin. The Early E Bird crew out of Georgetown Landing Marina had a super day fishing the Georgetown Hole in 71-degree water, landing six wahoo, 12 blackfin and two kings. Will Keelin was the angler on the largest wahoo, which weighed in at 62.5 pounds. Will Keelin’s dad, Ed Keelin of Georgetown Landing Marina, announced the marina’s 10th annual Georgetown Meatfish Slam will be held April 26-28. A few boats also hit the bottom, with grouper, amberjack, vermilion snapper, triggerfish, porgy, black sea bass and grunts all cooperating. There are currently plenty of bottom-fishing closures in effect. The annual Shallow-Water Grouper Spawning Season Closure went into effect on Jan. 1 and lasts through April 30. The Greater amberjack fishery is closed to harvest for recreational anglers until March, 2018. Red snapper are closed in the South Atlantic region and must be released.
Look For: Bream, crappie, bass, catfish.
Comments: “It’s looking good, looking real good,” said Stalvey of Stalvey of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle in Conway. “Water levels are perfect and the fish are biting.” The Waccamaw at Conway was a 6.31 feet at 2:15 p.m. Thursday while the Little Pee Dee at Galivants Ferry was at 6.15 feet at 3 p.m. Stalvey reports good catches of large “hand-size” bream, hitting red worms and nightcrawlers on the bottom in 8 to 16 feet of water on the Waccamaw, Little Pee Dee and Great Pee Dee. Stalvey called crappie fishing “steady” with fish hitting shiners. Stalvey recommends crankbaits, Texas-rigged worms and Shaky-Head worms for bass. Capt. Dan Connolly of O-Fish-Al Expeditions has had good success targeting catfish early in the week on the lower Waccamaw near Hagley Landing, where he found a water temperature of 42-43 degrees early in the day, warming to 45 in the afternoon.
Capt. Lin Fore of LowCountry Expeditions Guide Service shows off a red drum caught in the Winyah Bay vicinity on Tuesday. Photo courtesy Gul-R-Boy Guide Service
With fish kills wreaking havoc in Charleston County, how is the Grand Strand faring?
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
January 19, 2018 04:32 PM
Updated January 19, 2018 04:35 PM
On the heels of the prolonged Arctic blast of early January, concern over how saltwater species – namely spotted seatrout – are able to survive the cold water temperatures is at an all-time high on the Carolina coast.
When the water temperature remains below 48 degrees for prolonged periods of time, trout and other estuarine species can be stunned or killed by the cold water.
The water temperature at Customs House on Charleston Harbor dipped below 48 degrees on Jan. 3 and has been below that benchmark since. From Jan. 6 through most of the day on Jan. 10, the reading was below 43 degrees.
From reports, only sporadic dead fish have been found in the Grand Strand area, a dead trout in Murrells Inlet and a few trout and sheepshead in Pawleys Island.
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From Bulls Bay in Charleston County and points south, reports of fish kills have been more dramatic.
Dr. Joey Ballenger of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources notes dead red drum, trout, sheepshead and black drum along with forage fish menhaden and mullet have been found.
Ballenger notes that small brackish water impoundments have been especially hard hit.
Locally, a few anglers have been out on the chilly waters from Georgetown County to Brunswick County, N.C., to check on the status of species such as spotted seatrout, red drum and black drum.
Capt. Mike McDonald of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service in Georgetown has made a point over the last 12 days, starting on Jan. 8, to get out on his home water in the Winyah Bay vicinity to survey the situation, look all over for dead fish and, of course, see what’s biting.
“I have been from a mile above the freshwater line in the tributaries above Winyah Bay, through the bay and south to the Santee rivers and I have not seen any dead fish,” said McDonald. “I have been in 39-degree water to 46-degree water.
“I saw scores of mullet in the shallow water, in the creeks, and as I started easing the boat along I saw small black drum, reds and mullet. The mullet schools were so thick there could have been some trout in with them and I missed them.”
As for fishing, McDonald and fellow captain Lin Fore of LowCountry Expeditions Guide Service actually had a super day on Tuesday, catching and releasing 81 red drum.
The duo caught the reds on plastic grubs, but McDonald wouldn’t be specific at all on where the fish were caught.
“Between the jetties and Conway,” McDonald said with a laugh. “The fish all looked very healthy, and they fought like tigers. I can’t speak for what’s happening in Charleston but for here it’s on, the redfish bite is on.”
While McDonald and Fore found plenty of red drum, they didn’t find any trout, dead or alive.
“Through the middle of December, I was catching a lot of trout but they started leaving. My trout had moved,” said McDonald. “I think they felt this thing coming on and they hauled ass. Some went into the ocean and some of them went up the rivers. What I’m seeing on my depth finder won’t bite, but I’ve gotten some of the prettiest marks (on the depth finder) you’ve ever seen in brackish water.”
Capt. Dan Connolly of O-Fish-Al Expeditions went out on his Murrells Inlet stomping grounds on Monday and continued to see 41-42 degree water, but no dead fish, although he has heard of a few in Pawleys Island.
“I haven’t seen any (dead fish) personally,” said Connolly, who noted red drum were the only species he encountered.
“I did see some nice reds in shallow water, two feet of crystal clear water,” said Connolly. “They were 20- to 30-inch reds, swimming around trying to stay warm in the sun.”
Connolly did manage to catch a few red drum.
“I caught a few reds but not many,” said Connolly. “Sometimes they don’t want to eat. All the fish I caught, I couldn’t see them.”
Connolly observed water clarity of 5-6 feet, excellent for South Carolina’s coast, and also noted that “snot grass,” an algae that accumulates on the bottom each winter in Murrells Inlet, has started to show up.
Farther north, Capt. Brant McMullan of Ocean Isle Fishing Center in Ocean Isle Beach, N.C., consulted several of his numerous fishing contacts and had heard of no fish kills in the Brunswick County, N.C. area.
S.C. DNR recommendation
As a precautionary measure, S.C. DNR is asking anglers to practice catch and release of all spotted seatrout through the end of September.
“Seatrout numbers have been above average in South Carolina in recent years,” said S.C. DNR spokesperson Phil Maier. “We hope that strong starting point, combined with voluntary conservation efforts by anglers, will help the fish recover quickly.”
Spotted seatrout suffered cold winter kills in 2010-2011, 2009-2010 and 2000-2001. Voluntary catch and release was encouraged after these winters, and full recovery took several years in each case.
S.C. DNR biologists expect to see fish kills for some time and continue to welcome all public reports.
Sightings of dead or lethargic fish can be reported to Ballenger at BallengerJ@dnr.sc.gov. Please include detailed information about the location, date, species, and number of animals seen.
The Murrells Inlet fishing community has suffered another loss, with the untimely death of David “Big Dave” Altman, owner/operator of Big Dave’s Bait & Tackle in the inlet.
More information on Big Dave will be included in next week’s column.
Capt. Mike McDonald of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service in Georgetown shows off a red drum caught in the Winyah Bay vicinity on Tuesday. Photo courtesy Gul-R-Boy Guide Service