The final three-day period for a red snapper mini-season for recreational anglers was scheduled for Dec. 8-10, but coincided with a cold front that brought a major bout of wintry weather to the Southeast coast, nearly two weeks before the first day of winter. The Sun News file photo
Weather plays havoc with red snapper mini-season
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
December 15, 2017 07:22 PM
UPDATED December 15, 2017 07:25 PM
The third and final three-day stretch of the 2017 red snapper mini-season in the South Atlantic region came and went last weekend, and the species came out virtually unscathed.
The three-day opening for recreational anglers was scheduled for Dec. 8-10, but coincided with a cold front that brought a major bout of wintry weather to the Southeast coast, nearly two weeks before the first day of winter.
The cold weather and rough seas stretched from the Carolinas down into north Florida, a stretch where the majority of red snapper are found along the Southeast coast, and fishing for the species was at a bare minimum during the three days.
The original six days of the mini-season (Nov. 3-5, 10-12) also featured predominately rough seas, save for Nov. 3, which led to NOAA Fisheries opening the species to harvest again for the final three days.
The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) encourages recreational anglers, including charter and head boat operators, to report any canceled trips using the pilot reporting program at MyFishCount.com.
Reporting the canceled trips could pay off in 2018.
The SAFMC proposed an interim catch level for red snapper at its September meeting that, if approved by the Secretary of Commerce, may allow a red snapper mini-season beginning in July 2018.
Efforts are underway to establish an acceptable biological catch for red snapper and scheduled for review by the council during its June 2018 meeting.
At its meeting Dec. 4-8 in Atlantic Beach, N.C., the SAFMC also moved forward with proposed measures to improve data collection and reduce by-catch of red snapper and other species in the snapper-grouper management complex. Public hearings on the measures will be held in 2018.
The Council also dealt with cobia and red grouper at the meeting.
*Cobia: It was a frustrating year in 2017 for South Carolina anglers wanting to harvest cobia.
The species was closed to harvest in federal waters (beyond three miles offshore) from Georgia to New York and South Carolina has coincided with closures in federal waters since 1996, meaning cobia were also closed in state waters off the Palmetto State.
However, neighboring states Georgia and North Carolina, plus Virginia, did not close the harvest of cobia in state waters.
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which manages species in coastal waters from Maine to Florida, has developed an Interstate Management Plan for cobia, which could eventually consolidate cobia regulations in state waters along the Atlantic Coast.
The SAFMC is considering options for transferring management of cobia to the ASMFC, as well as the possibility of complementary management between the SAFMC and ASMFC.
With the status of cobia harvest in 2018 hanging in the balance, public hearings on the matter are scheduled for Jan. 22-24, 2018. The details of the meetings have yet to be determined.
*Red Grouper: The SAFMC reviewed a recent stock assessment for red grouper that shows the species is still overfished and undergoing overfishing.
At the Atlantic Beach, N.C. meeting the council approved measures to significantly reduce both the commercial and recreational annual catch limits for red grouper, from a total catch limit of 780,000 pounds to 139,000 pounds beginning in 2018.
Based on average landings from 2014-16, the recreational fishery for red grouper is projected to close in July 2018 with the reduced catch limit of 77,840 pounds.
Anglers hope their luck is a tad better following last week’s cool down. Janet Blackmon Morgan email@example.com
Fishing report: Fish and anglers adjust as temperatures in, out of water take a dip
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
December 14, 2017 07:46 PM
Look For: Spotted seatrout, black drum, red drum, flounder, sheepshead, tautog.
Comments: With winter weather entrenched over the past week, fishermen out on the water have been few and far between. Capt. Mike McDonald of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service in Georgetown took his boat for a quick, nippy run Tuesday afternoon at South Island Ferry and found the water temperature had dropped to 51 degrees. “Cold, cold, cold,” said McDonald. Spotted seatrout and black drum have provided the most action in recent weeks, and with the water temperature still in the 50s, they should remain active. Also look for red drum schooled up in their winter mode, most likely to be found on the flats. Flounder are also available. Jetties at Winyah Bay, Murrells Inlet and Little River should be holding spotted seatrout, weakfish, black drum, red drum, tautog and flounder. Live shrimp are a top bait for all of these species, floated or fished with Carolina rigs or jig heads on the bottom. Cut shrimp on the bottom will also work, especially for black drum and tautog.
Look For: Black sea bass, weakfish, tautog, whiting, croaker, black drum.
Comments: On the heels of an extended bout of winter weather, Ronnie Goodwin of Cherry Grove Pier reports that, as expected, the water temperature has taken a plunge. Goodwin observed a water temperature of 53 degrees both top and bottom Thursday afternoon at 3 p.m., a good 5-6 degrees colder than one week ago. Fishing in the surf zone has predictably been slow, with only a few small whiting, croaker and black drum being caught. Black sea bass, with a 13-inch minimum size limit, are the best bet on near-shore artificial reefs with weakfish, tautog and flounder also available. Look for weakfish, black sea bass and whiting on near-shore bottom spots.
Look For: Wahoo, blackfin tuna, king mackerel, grouper, vermilion snapper, triggerfish, porgy, black sea bass, grunts.
Comments: It’s been a week to forget in the offshore waters, as rough seas and cold temperatures have kept boats at dock. There is, however, a window of opportunity this weekend, with a decent offshore marine forecast in store for Saturday and even better for Sunday into Monday. Trolling action has been very good of late for wahoo, with blackfin tuna and king mackerel also in the mix. Bottom fishing should be excellent for the weekend with vermilion snapper, black sea bass, grouper, red snapper, triggerfish, porgy and white grunts all available. There are plenty of species that currently must be released, however. The Greater Amberjack Fishery is closed to harvest for recreational anglers until March 2018. Also, cobia cannot be harvested in 2017 in South Carolina waters (to three miles offshore) or federal waters (beyond three miles) and must be released. Finally, red snapper are closed in the South Atlantic region and must be released.
Look For: Crappie, bream, bass, catfish.
Comments: There’s been a change in river fishing as winter weather has set in over the last week. The water temperature has dropped to the low 50s, even the upper 40s, plus rainfall has caused a needed rise in water levels. Still, Ronald “Catfish” Stalvey of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle in Conway says “fishing is on fire.” In particular, crappie action has been hot. Stalvey reports that Jason Britt, Phoebe Marie Guest and Jerry Roberson of Socastee had a super day Tuesday on the Great Pee Dee, catching 30 ‘slab’ crappie, all weighing over a pound. The trio caught them trolling beetle spins, on jigs and floating shiners while fishing lakes off the river. Stalvey also notes a limit of bream were landed from the Little Pee Dee, lead-lining red worms on the bottom in 12-16 feet of water. Stalvey says bass action is good on Texas-rigged worms, craw baits and crank baits. Stalvey suggests working lakes, creek mouths, treetops and deep curves for bass. The Waccamaw River at Conway had risen to 7.27 feet at 3:15 p.m. on Wednesday. The Little Pee Dee River at Galivants Ferry was at 7.09 feet at 4 p.m. Wednesday, a rise of over three feet from a week ago.
Charlie Nash of Garden City Beach shows off a nice spotted seatrout caught on Nov. 30 in Murrells Inlet. Gregg Holshouser For The Sun News
Though black drum were playing hard to get, day on water fruitful in other species
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
December 08, 2017 04:40 PM
UPDATED December 08, 2017 04:43 PM
The day was tranquil and splendid for the latest autumn excursion with my longtime fishing buddy, Charlie Nash of Garden City Beach.
With I at the bow and Nash at the stern, we eased through Inlet Harbor in his wide jon boat heading to the main creek of Murrells Inlet.
Despite a falling tide that was nearly low, the water clarity was 3-4 feet even in the back of Inlet Harbor, located at the south end of the peninsula of Garden City Beach.
A little after 10 a.m., the temperature on the last day of November was in the low 60s, headed for the upper 60s, with a light, almost calm, northerly wind. A few puffy clouds drifted by to block the sun from time to time.
Nash reached the main creek and headed north, wound around a few bends and stopped along a Spartina grass-lined bank beside his brother, Fred Nash, Jr., who was already fishing the spot.
With Fred’s approval, we eased up along the bank, about 50 yards away from his boat.
At just the right spot, per Charlie Nash’s instruction, I dropped the anchor about 100 feet off the bank.
A bait bucket loaded with live shrimp powered by a battery-operated aerator sat in the middle of the boat, within reach of us both.
With the tide nearly low and little current, we tossed out live shrimp on weighted, 1/32-ounce jig heads on 12-pound spinning tackle, the same setup used for yellowtail fishing in the Florida Keys.
To start, every live shrimp was eaten by bluefish, black drum under the 14-27-inch slot limit and a flounder under the 15-inch minimum size limit.
Soon, the tide began rising, and the black drum bite took off, all still undersized. About an hour after low tide, the trout began to show up, with our limit of one weakfish each landing in the cooler, including one approaching 20 inches.
As the rising tide really got rolling, so did the action of spotted seatrout, known locally as winter trout.
As the current and depth increased along the bank, the jig heads were no longer getting deep enough, and Nash switched to his float rigs, long a Murrells Inlet staple consisting of a medium-size torpedo float with a rubber stop to adjust the depth.
With the live shrimp about four feet down in about six feet of water, we tossed the rigs out and let them drift with the current. Like clockwork, about 60 yards downstream the float would go down in response to a trout bite.
Over the next couple hours we caught trout after trout with plenty of black drum mixed in. In the end, we took home the two weakfish and 11 spotted seatrout.
Despite our best efforts, including fishing closer to the bank and just off the bottom, we couldn’t find the larger black drum, although we caught and released over 20 in the 11-13 inch range.
Back at the cleaning table, the results were a sizable bag of filets, plenty for a fish fry or two to enhance the Christmas season.
Charlie Nash, along with his older brother Fred, Jr., and younger brother, Skeeter, have a long history of fishing along the Grand Strand.
The Nashs grew up near Springmaid Beach on the south end of Myrtle Beach, and spent much of their spare time on the beach or in the water.
Beginning in the mid 1950s, the brothers would push a small boat into the surf and past the breakers to go fishing. First using oars, then a small outboard, they caught weakfish and black sea bass among other species on the hard-bottom area located between the Springmaid and Myrtle Beach State Park piers.
Charlie Nash, now 76, was also a lifeguard as a teenager at Springmaid Beach in the early 1960s.
With over 50 years experience fishing along the Grand Strand and in Murrells Inlet, it’s no wonder Nash is so dialed in to exactly where and when to catch fish in the waters of the fishing village.
Speckled Studs Trout Tournament
This tournament was held last Saturday out of Murrells Inlet and featured an all-release format.
The team of Englis Glover and Tony Carter won first place in the two-trout aggregate category plus weighed in the largest trout. The duo of Jason Burton and Rachel Baldassare finished second, and also weighed in the largest drum.
Nick Skodras and Dan Connolly were third, the father-son duo of Peter and Cullen Gerace were fourth, and Tommy Werner and Taylor Tillman were fifth.
All fish that were weighed in were released alive.
Gregg Holshouser displays a 14-inch flounder caught on Nov. 30 in Murrells Inlet before releasing the fish. Charlie Nash Submitted photo