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All hail the King (mackerel that is)

April 22, 2017 Live Great Outdoors Blog Comments Off on All hail the King (mackerel that is)

image: ocean bay and beach

Fishing report: King mackerel make an early appearance
April 21, 2017 5:39 PM

By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News

Look For: Flounder, red drum, spotted seatrout, black drum, bluefish, sheepshead.
Comments: Capt. Mark Dickson reports his Shallow-Minded Inshore Charters guide service has been producing good catches of a variety of species in the Little River area this week. Dickson says Capt. Ken Salos has landed flounder, trout, red drum, flounder and even a 12-pound striper – all on artificials. “There have been more and more flounder, more and more keeper flounder,” said Dickson. “We’re still seeing a bunch of trout and some nice reds (red drum).” Salos has been using vudu shrimp and paddle-tail grubs to catch his fish in areas such as the ICW and Tubbs Inlet. Flounder are the targeted species in Murrells Inlet, where the Grand Strand Saltwater Anglers’ Flounder Tournament will be held Saturday. “There have been reds caught in the inlet, some lingering trout, but everybody’s going for flounder,” said Jessica Perry of Perry’s Bait and Tackle. “Catches have been all over the board, but they’re definitely better in overall size and numbers.”
Look For: King mackerel, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, whiting, croaker, pompano, flounder, weakfish, black sea bass.

Comments: King mackerel showed up in a big way this week with boats bringing in numerous fish caught on bottom spots in depths of 35-40 feet and beyond. But perhaps the biggest splash was made on the beach, specifically at the Cherry Grove Pier on Thursday. Ronnie Goodwin of Cherry Grove Pier reports 14-year-old angler Jax Solley of Boone, N.C., landed a 32-pound, 14-ounce king that hit a bluefish at mid-afternoon Thursday. Solley’s fish was one of three kings that were caught in a stretch of less than two hours. Jules Jaget of North Myrtle Beach landed a king that weighed in at 14-pounds, 12-ounces, and Andrea Garcia, also of North Myrtle Beach, caught a king in the 15-pound range that wasn’t weighed. Goodwin noted the water was clear with a moderate south wind during the flurry, and the water temperature was 72 degrees. Spanish mackerel continue to be caught from the piers, with a bigger grade of fish being found around near-shore bottom spots such as Paradise Reef (three miles east of Murrells Inlet) and Jim Caudle Reef (three miles south of Little River). There are plenty of bluefish, including some big ones, to be found in all areas. The piers are also producing whiting, croaker and flounder. Pompano made a showing at the Apache Pier this week.

Look For: Dolphin, wahoo, blackfin tuna, black sea bass, vermilion snapper, triggerfish, porgy, grunts, amberjack.
Comments: “The mahi (dolphin) are really starting to show up, wahoo are starting to fade away and tuna are still around,” said Capt. Danny Carey of Careyon Charters in Murrells Inlet. “The warmest (water) temperature is 78-79 degrees, but I’m looking for 80 degrees and weedlines. The weedlines are out there. We have been catching some dolphin in 77-78 degree water. It’s shaping up for a good spring mahi season.” Bottom fishing trips have been superb, with vermilion snapper, black sea bass, triggerfish, grunts and porgy topping the catches. The annual Shallow-Water Grouper Spawning Season Closure is almost over, ending on April 30. Red snapper cannot be harvested and must be released in the South Atlantic region.
Look For: Bream, catfish, bass, crappie.
Comments: Ronald “Catfish” Stalvey reports superb bream fishing on the Waccamaw and Great Pee Dee rivers. Look for bream in 1-4 feet of water just off the banks hitting crickets and worms, although most anglers are using crickets. Catfish action has also been very good with fish hitting bream, eel and large shiners. Stalvey reports bass action has slowed a bit. “They are in transition from spawn to post-spawn,” Stalvey said. “They’re in lock-down mode, not wanting to bite. It’s really hard to dial in on them.”

Weather and the action heat up.

April 15, 2017 Live Great Outdoors Blog Comments Off on Weather and the action heat up.

image: fishing boat

Fishing report: Along with weather, action heating up on area waters
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News

Look For: Flounder, red drum, spotted seatrout, black drum, bluefish, sheepshead.
Comments: Action for numerous species is heating up along with the water temperature in local estuaries. On the north end, Capt. Patrick Kelly of Captain Smiley Charters fishes the Little River vicinity and reports red drum are active, mainly slot fish in the 15-19 inch range. Kelly’s crews have been catching spotted seatrout, many under the 14-inch minimum size limit with a few keepers, plus flounder are making the scene. On Wednesday, bluefish were the hot species. “I found a pocket full of bluefish, we threw top-water plugs and caught blue after blue,” said Kelly. “There’s lot of action and plenty of fish to catch.” Kelly is using Berkeley Gulps and mud minnows on 1/4-ounce jig heads plus Vudu shrimp. “I don’t think the flounder are here thick yet,” said Kelly. “We’re starting to catch a few but it’s not like what you’re going to see in Cherry Grove or Murrells Inlet.” Speaking of Murrells Inlet, Jessica Perry of Perry’s Bait and Tackle reports flounder catches have been on the rise this week in numerous areas of the inlet. Catches of red drum have also been good, with Perry reporting limit catches of reds, which have a 15-23 inch slot limit and three-fish per person daily bag limit. Perry also notes trout and bluefish are available. Capt. Mike McDonald of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service noted a water temperature of 67-70 degrees in the Winyah Bay vicinity. On two trips early in the week, McDonald produced trout on plastic grubs and reds on cut shrimp under floats along grass banks.
Look For: Spanish mackerel, bluefish, weakfish, flounder, whiting, pompano, croaker, black drum, black sea bass.
Comments: After late March and the first several days of April offered windy, cool and just plain nasty weather, conditions have been fantastic this week. And that’s all it took for Spanish mackerel to make a strong showing from near the beach to the vicinity of near-shore reefs such as Paradise (three miles east of Murrells Inlet) and Jim Caudle (three miles south of Little River) among others. Weakfish are a nice side catch on the reefs, with black sea bass and flounder also on hand. Trolling Clark or Drone spoons, or mackerel trees on No. 1 planers has been producing fish. Anglers are also catching Spanish, and plenty of bluefish, from Grand Strand piers. Carsten Fischer of Apache Pier reports about one of every five Spanish caught have been keepers. Jigging straw rigs and casting Gotcha plugs have been producing both Spanish and blues. Bottom fishing from the piers is producing improved catches of whiting, croakers and a few flounder. No reports of pompano have come in, but look for them to arrive anytime if they haven’t already. The surface ocean water temperature was 69 degrees at Apache Pier and 71 degrees at Cherry Grove Pier Thursday, and 65 degrees on the bottom at both locations.
Look For: Dolphin, wahoo, blackfin tuna, sailfish, vermilion snapper, black sea bass, porgy, triggerfish, grunts, amberjack.
Comments: The wahoo and blackfin tuna action has been hot in the last few weeks, but when sea conditions turned nice early this week, offshore trolling crews found dolphin had arrived for the spring, along with a few early sailfish. In short, as April turns into May, trolling in areas such as the Winyah Scarp, Georgetown Hole and the Blackjack Hole will be the best of the calendar year. While dolphin have arrived, the big push is yet to come and will happen in the next few weeks. Monster wahoo, including some 100-pounders, have been included in the catches. Bottom fishing is also excellent with vermilion snapper, black sea bass and porgy the headliners. Also look for triggerfish, amberjack and grunts. The end of the annual Shallow-Water Grouper Spawning Season Closure is near, with anglers able to again harvest grouper on May 1. Red snapper cannot be harvested and must be released in the South Atlantic region.
Look For: Bream, bass, catfish, crappie.
Comments: It’s wide open,” said “Catfish” Stalvey of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle in Conway. “It’s hot, hot, hot.” Specifically, bream action is in the forefront with the improved and warming weather conditions of this week. “Some of the biggest bream I’ve seen in a long time have come by,” said Stalvey. “They’re hitting crickets and worms in 1-4 feet of water.” Catfish action is strong with fish hitting eels and shiners. “Bass are on the beds, but a lot of them have already spawned out,” said Stalvey, who recommended working top-water lures or Texas-Style Senkos. The rivers are falling after recent rains, with the Waccamaw the place to be, from Lee’s Landing to the Ricefields. “The Little Pee Dee is sky high, a foot below flood stage,” said Stalvey. “Both Pee Dees are on the fall but they’re still high, high, high. The Waccamaw is pretty high but it’s still (producing) good fish.”

Spring fishing gets a start

April 15, 2017 Live Great Outdoors Blog Comments Off on Spring fishing gets a start

image: man with fish
Capt. Jeff Maples of Reel Salty Charters and other anglers found that Spanish mackerel have arrived for the season early this week. Photo courtesy Reel Salty Charters

It’s on as Spanish mackerel, dolphin show up for the spring
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News

As April arrived, Capt. Jeff Maples had a hunch it was time for the initial springtime push of Spanish mackerel into area near-shore waters.
But the weather just wasn’t cooperating, with relentless windy, even cool, conditions in late March and early April.
Maples, owner/operator of Reel Salty Charters out of Murrells Inlet, found a little break in the weather on April 3 to slip out to the Paradise Reef, located three miles east of the inlet.
Maples caught weakfish and plenty of bluefish on the quick trip, but saw Spanish mackerel jumping and feeding on glass minnows.
“I got a good visual on them,” Maples said. “You can see the schools of glass minnows being pushed up by the Spanish.”
After an extremely windy cold front on April 6 and 7, conditions turned superb and have been most of this week – exactly what area anglers have been waiting for.
On Monday, Maples went on a charter trip armed and ready for the Spanish and – bingo – they were there and ready to bite.
Maples finished the day with 10 Spanish, all easily keepers above the 12-inch minimum size limit and some measuring in the 20-24 inch range.
With the great weather on hand, Maples has stayed on the Spanish daily, trolling mackerel trees finished with Clark spoons on No. 1 planers and catching an excellent grade of fish.
“Some are at least 20-24 (inches), and Wednesday was the first day I had to measure to see if they were over 12,” said Maples. “Monday it was five blues to every Spanish, Wednesday it was straight up Spanish. I picked up the trolling speed to five mph and I was getting nothing but Spanish.”
During the warm, relatively tranquil week, Maples has seen a steady increase in water temperature.
“We’re getting paid back finally (weather-wise),” said Maples. “The water temperature was 67 at Paradise (Reef) Wednesday. With that south wind all week, every day that water’s gotten another degree warmer. I think it’s here, I think it’s on.”
For Maples this week it’s been, just another day at Paradise.
King or Spanish
As of Wednesday, Maples said juvenile king mackerel were mixing in with the Spanish, a tricky situation anglers should be wary of.
Spanish mackerel have a minimum size limit of 12 inches to tail fork and for kings the minimum size is 24 inches.
Juvenile kings near or below the minimum size of 24 inches tend to have gold spots just like Spanish do.
Anglers need to be sure the fish is a Spanish or king before making the important decision between releasing it or putting it in the cooler.
There are two distinguishing characteristics to look for, one identifying a Spanish and one a king.
Spanish mackerel have a black spot on the front portion of the dorsal fin. To see it better, gently pull the front of the dorsal fin forward toward the fish’s head.
Both fish have a lateral line that runs along the body of the fish toward the tail but on king mackerel, the lateral line makes a distinct drop, similar to a step. The lateral line on Spanish has no such drop.
In short, if you catch a mackerel that has gold spots and is under 24 inches, you’d better be sure it’s a Spanish before you add it to the cooler, or pray you don’t run across a South Carolina Department of Natural Resources enforcement officer on the way in.
In the offshore waters in the vicinity of the Continental Shelf and the meandering Gulf Stream, wahoo and blackfin tuna have been, as usual, available through the winter and into early spring for trolling boats. Mid-April into May is when fishing crews look to add dolphin, or mahi mahi, to the mix and come home with a Carolina Slam of all three species.
During super sea conditions this week, anglers found that dolphin have made their first real appearance of the spring in areas such as the Winyah Scarp and Georgetown Hole.
Numerous boats have caught at least a few dolphin to go with wahoo and blackfin tuna this week, and Ed Keelin, Operations manager of Georgetown Landing Marina, notes that one boat caught five dolphin and “slung off” another five.
With relatively warm weather in the forecast and no impending cold fronts, expect dolphin catches to really take off in the very near future.
“This is maybe the forward edge of the fish coming, they are starting to show up,” said Keelin. “I really think in the next two weeks they will show up (in numbers). The water’s plenty warm, the flying fish are there. The next report might be they are out there everywhere.”
GSSWA Flounder Tournament
Catches of flounder in the creeks of Murrells Inlet are picking up and the calendar reads April, meaning the Grand Strand Saltwater Anglers Flounder Tournament is fast approaching.
The 16th annual event will be held next Saturday in the inlet with the Captains Meeting and registration set for Friday at 5:30 p.m. at the Beaver Bar.
All flounder weighed in must measure a minimum of 15 inches, and only one flounder can be weighed in per angler. All competing fishermen must attend the Captains Meeting.
The largest flounder weighed in will earn $1,500 and any angler catching the flounder that was tagged for the tournament will earn $1,500. Entry fee is $45 for adults and $20 for youth anglers. For more information, contact Ed Skowysz (843-450-8218) or Chick McDaniel (843-651-2076).