The arrival of August means tarpon (pictured) are roaming local inlets and bays, particularly Winyah Bay and points farther south. Submitted photo
Grand Strand Fishing Report: Relentless rain hampering activity
By Gregg Holshouser
August 02, 2018 03:19 PM
Updated August 02, 2018 03:19 PM
Look For: Flounder, red drum, black drum, spotted seatrout, sheepshead, ladyfish, bluefish, tarpon.
Comments: More rain. Oh brother. Capt. Dan Connolly of O-Fish-Al Expeditions in Murrells Inlet has had some success catching red drum and flounder this week, but daily rains causing decreased water clarity have hampered catches. “The more it’s raining, the harder it is to catch them,” said Connolly. “It needs to quit. The areas where we usually have clean water, the fish are not used to (murky water).” Connolly has been using finger mullet, both live and cut, fished on Carolina rigs to target reds and flounder. “I’ve been trying to fish with some cut bait to get some smell in the water – that seems to be working better, but it’s not easy,” said Connolly. “They’ll hit it if they can find it.” Murrells Inlet received over 14 inches of rain for the month of July. Capt. Mike McDonald of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service took a late morning trip on Wednesday and his crew caught flounder, red drum and ladyfish in the Winyah Bay area. McDonald also was using finger mullet for bait, live and cut, under floats and on Carolina rigs. August has arrived which means so have tarpon in the estuaries along the South Carolina coast, including Winyah Bay. With huge amounts of freshwater flowing into the bay, McDonald doesn’t see that as a problem for the prized gamefish. “Freshwater doesn’t hurt tarpon,” said McDonald, who noted a water temperature of 82 degrees. “I haven’t seen any this morning (Wednesday), but they were thick for a while.” Georgetown received more than 16 inches of rain for the month of July.
Look For: King mackerel, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, spadefish, black sea bass, flounder, weakfish, whiting, croaker, pompano, black drum.
Comments: It’s been a bad stretch of weather over the last two weeks for local charter fishing operators, or anybody wanting to get out into the ocean for some fishing. “It’s been horrendous, relentless,” Capt. Buddy Smith of Underdog in Murrells Inlet said at midweek. “If it’s not the rain, it’s the storms, if it’s not the storms, it’s the wind.” On Sunday, Smith ventured out to the 10-Mile Reef vicinity. “The water just looked horrible,” said Smith. “We caught some bottom fish but as far as trolling goes it was bad. I saw bait but we just couldn’t get bites. I’ve been telling my customers unless you want to go bottom fishing there’s not a lot going on.” Of course, conditions can quickly improve in a matter of a few days, and when they do, look for king mackerel to be found on live-bottom areas and ledges in 40-80 feet of water. The near-shore artificial reefs such as Jim Caudle Reef, Ron McManus Memorial Reef and Paradise Reef are holding spadefish, black sea bass and flounder, plus weakfish. Spanish mackerel, king mackerel and cobia can also be found in the vicinity of the reefs, along with plenty of sharks. Whiting and croaker are the best bet on Grand Strand piers.
Look For: Dolphin, blackfin tuna, wahoo, blue marlin, sailfish, barracuda, vermilion snapper, black sea bass, triggerfish, grunts, porgy, amberjack, grouper.
Comments: Bottom fishing is currently the best bet in the offshore waters, particularly in depths of 80-120 feet. Vermilion snapper, red porgy and grey triggerfish are on hand in good numbers along with black sea bass, white grunts, amberjack and grouper. Scamp are the most common grouper showing up. Red snapper continue to be caught in good numbers but must be released in the South Atlantic region. However, the window of opportunity for recreational anglers is fast approaching. Starting next Friday, recreational anglers will be able to harvest red snapper for six days this month (Aug. 10-12, 17-19) with a limit of one per person per day with no size limit. After Aug. 19, the red snapper fishery will close once again. Trolling is often slow in the Dog Days of August, but king mackerel, dolphin, wahoo, blackfin tuna, barracuda, bonito along with sailfish are all a possibility on live-bottom areas and ledges in depths of 80 feet and deeper. “Before the rainy stretch, we were catching more dolphin in the Parking Lot area than last year,” said Smith.
Look For: Bream, bass, catfish, crappie.
Comments: The area has received beaucoup rain over the last few weeks. If you think anglers are staying off the rivers, thanks to almost daily downpours, you would be right. But, even with a rise in the rivers, fish are still being caught. “Not many people are going at all but the few that are going are catching nice fish,” said Ronald “Catfish” Stalvey of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle in Conway. “It’s been quite surprising. Bream are still biting good, the bass and catfish. Some of those fish will move up into the lakes but fishing’s still good on the main river too.” The Waccamaw River near Conway was at 8.73 feet Wednesday at 10:15 a.m. and was forecast to remain steady at that level through Monday. Minor flood stage on the Waccamaw near Conway is 11.0 feet. The Little Pee Dee at Galivants Ferry was still relatively low Wednesday at 10 a.m., at 3.92 feet, but was expected to rise to 6 feet by Monday.
Capt. Jay Sconyers, Grant Stadler and Amy Armstrong Stadler show off a red snapper in the 20-pound range caught with Aces Up Fishing during the 2017 red snapper season last November. Submitted photo
Red snapper season set. Here’s the limited time frame when you can fish for them
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
July 27, 2018 05:09 PM
Yes, Capt. Justin Witten is glad to see a season for red snapper in the South Atlantic Region in 2018, but he simply would like to see it open for more days to account for inevitable rough seas.
On Monday NOAA Fisheries announced the red snapper season for recreational anglers will open for six days on back-to-back August weekends, Aug. 10-12 and 17-19.
“I wish they’d have it open more days than six,” Witten, owner/operator of Ambush Sport Fishing out of Murrells Inlet, said. “If the weather’s nice, that’s great but they opened it for nine days last year and there was one questionable weather day and all the others were not fishable.”
In 2017, the red snapper season was held in November, and Witten is hopeful more tranquil seas will be in the offing this year during the Dog Days of August.
For recreational anglers, red snapper can be harvested on the six days in federal waters (beyond three miles offshore) with a daily bag limit of one fish per person per day and no minimum size limit.
For the commercial fishing sector, the season opened on Thursday and will close on Dec. 31, unless the commercial annual catch limit (ACL) is met or projected to be met sooner. The commercial limit per trip is 75 pounds (gutted weight).
Red snapper have been caught and released commonly on offshore bottom spots off the South Carolina coast this year, an ongoing trend in recent years.
“You can find them pretty much anywhere out there on ledges or live bottom in 80-120 feet (of water),” said Witten. “It doesn’t really matter. I usually use a Carolina rig with live bait to target bigger fish, but I’ve caught them on everything including cut bait on a two-hook rig.”
During the red snapper season, marine resource agency personnel from North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida will be conducting surveys at various locations and collecting samples from fishermen. Anglers are encouraged to provide carcasses for data collection.
Fishermen are also urged to help minimize the number of released red snapper and help improve the likelihood that released fish will survive.
If a boat’s limit of red snapper is caught, anglers are urged to move to a different area to avoid unnecessary catch and release of more red snapper.
Anglers are also advised to use single hook rigs – since the bag limit is 1 per person, as this potentially reduces the number of red snapper caught on one drop.
The use of descending devices is encouraged when releasing red snapper suffering from barotrauma.
Recreational anglers are encouraged to report the details of their red snapper fishing trips via www.MyFishCount.com, which allows anglers to report their catches using photos to document lengths, as well as depths from which fish are caught.
The MyFishCount app is available via smart phones.
Sailfish action was hot during the Edisto Invitational Billfish Tournament, the final leg of the 30th annual South Carolina Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series. South Carolina Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series
Mister Pete finishes off torrid Governor’s Cup run in record-breaking fashion
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
July 27, 2018 04:53 PM
Entering the final day of the final tournament in the 30th annual South Carolina Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series, Capt. Alan Neiford of Mister Pete knew the crew’s season could go in any number of directions.
Mister Pete had won the first two tournaments in the series at Bohicket and Georgetown, but led the overall series by only 400 points entering the final day of fishing in the Edisto Invitational Billfish Tournament.
The crew was 800 points off the pace of Syked Out (1,600 points) to win the tournament, staged at The Marina at Edisto Beach.
With one fishing day left to accumulate points for releasing billfish, predominately sailfish, Neiford knew the crew could win the tournament, win the series, win both or win nothing.
“We figured if we could win the tournament, we could win the series,” said Neiford. “We had our goal of winning the tournament, but you’re competing against guys that have a lot of talent and you know they won’t be missing very many (billfish).”
A prolific sailfish bite was on, which was reflected in Neiford’s trolling tactics on both days.
“We switched to dredge fishing (and) pulling small natural baits, and that helps out for the sailfish,” said Neiford. “We call it dink fishing, using naked ballyhoo. It looks really natural, a straight ballyhoo without a skirt. We slowed the boat down, put the dredges out, a more finesse style of fishing.”
Mister Pete released four sailfish plus missed one blue marlin and a sail on the first day of fishing to accumulate 800 points.
Neiford returned to the same spot off Edisto Beach in 300 feet of water for the day of reckoning.
Neiford found a temperature break with a scattered weed line, which was productive.
“It was a small scattered weed line and the fish were just hanging around it,” said Neiford.
Boy, were they.
The deck was alive all day on Mister Pete, as the crew released four more sailfish and a blue marlin, plus missed another sail. Sen. Chip Campsen was the angler on the blue marlin.
“If you can go out and have 10 sail bites (in two days of fishing) out of Charleston that’s about as good as it normally gets,” said Neiford. “The bite is as good as it gets.”
Mister Pete wound up with 1,400 points on the day, finishing with a winning total of 2,200 points for the tournament.
Campsen’s blue marlin, worth 600 points for the release, was critical in winning the tournament, as Syked Out finished just 200 points back in second place with 2,000.
“On the final day, Chip Campsen was on board and he was fortunate enough to catch the blue,” said Neiford. “That gave us some cushion.”
Yes, Neiford was correct, winning the tournament did mean winning the 30th annual edition of the series. And they did it in record-breaking fashion.
Mister Pete won three of the five legs of the series and accumulated 7,875 points, well ahead of Sportin’ Life with 6,275. Syked Out was third with 5,175, Artemis fourth with 4,275 and Bad Becky fifth with 4,075.
Mister Pete’s point total set a new Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series record, breaking the previous record of 7,475 set by Gryphon in 2017.
“We certainly had a really good season, a good crew,” said Neiford. “Everything came together great.”
Other crew members were owners Bob and Rusty McClam, mates George Campsen and J. Rhode, Pat Andrews and Terry Caulder.
The results of the series will not be official until approved by the Governor’s Cup’s Advisory Board of Directors in a Sept. 7 meeting.
The 36 boats competing in the Edisto tournament released 99 sailfish and seven blue marlin.
The 99 sailfish releases were the second-highest in a single Governor’s Cup tournament, only behind the 138 sails released during the 2009 Megadock.
The only blue marlin weighed in during the series, a 484.4-pounder, was brought to the scales last Saturday at Edisto by Anticipation.
The crew of Mister Pete celebrates winning the Edisto Invitational Billfish Tournament, and the 30th annual South Carolina Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series. South Carolina Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series