Gregg Holshouser and Dr. Jason Rosenberg display a dolphin caught aboard Painkiller on Wednesday. Dr. Jason Rosenberg Submitted photo
Old fishing trick helped our crew finish off successful day with quartet of dolphin
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
September 22, 2017 6:28 PM
Finally, the offshore marine forecast was suitable, so it was on for the latest escapade of Dr. Jason Rosenberg’s ongoing series of “Wednesday Fishing With Friends.”
A light westerly wind was blowing as Capt. Jay Sconyers ran Rosenberg’s 32-foot Contender, Painkiller, past the Murrells Inlet sea buoy into a choppy 1-2 foot sea and headed in a south-southeasterly direction.
Sconyers was able to run the boat at nearly 50 mph on the way out, and a bouncy 55 miles later the crew of four arrived at our planned destination – the Winyah Scarp.
It was the next-to-last day of summer, and Rosenberg, Sconyers, Jimmy Kaminski and I had wahoo on the brain.
Nine days earlier, Hurricane Irma had passed well to the west of the Myrtle Beach area, but persistent east-northeast winds from the massive storm, with gusts over 50 mph, had seriously churned up the Atlantic Ocean not only locally but along the entire Southeast coast.
Fishing in the aftermath of such a major storm can be a crapshoot, and we were hoping to hit the jackpot.
The ocean was alive with birds working bait, especially numerous small flying fish, and the surface water temperature was in the lower 80s.
Rosenberg, a board certified neurologist and pain doctor at SC Pain & Spine Specialists in Murrells Inlet, and Sconyers decided the first plan of action would be to troll high-speed lures at 10 knots for wahoo.
About 45 minutes after Sconyers, regularly the owner/operator of Aces Up Fishing, except most Wednesdays, and crew got the lines out, one off the reels started screaming.
After a 10-minute fight, Rosenberg had reeled a wahoo in the 25-30 pound class to the boat and Sconyers gaffed the fish, which had hit a mammoth blue-white high-speed lure.
Another hour or so passed without a strike, although the birds and bait remained present, and Rosenberg decided to go to plan B – offer the fish some real meat. The switch was made to trolling ballyhoo with Ilander and Sea Witch skirts.
The trolling action still remained slow and after another hour it was nearly 2 p.m. Plan C was put into action.
Sconyers ran west to a spot in about 130 feet of water that had previously been productive for red porgy (pinkies) and triggfish, and we quickly dropped down cut cigar minnows on two-hook rigs.
The only quality bite came from an undersized triggerfish. Meanwhile, Rosenberg and Sconyers both thought they saw a sea turtle at the surface in the distance, until Sconyers saw a bird sitting on what wound up being a two-foot square pallet.
Sconyers eased up to the pallet, and small tripletail were immediately spotted in the beautiful clear blue water, hanging out under the pallet.
It was time for unexpected plan D – the chunking method.
Sconyers and Kaminski began tossing chunks of ballyhoo around the pallet and soon what we were looking for showed up – the vivid blue-green flash of dolphin (mahi mahi) appeared under the mini floating structure.
We worked a jig fish and tossed cut bait with no weight around the pallet. At first both the tripletail and dolphin were finicky, but eventually the free meal got to them.
The old trick of keeping one hooked dolphin in the water until another one is hooked up worked, although having a dolphin doubleheader on light spinning tackle can create chaos on the deck.
The dolphin lived up to their fine gamefish reputation with acrobatic jumps after being hooked.
We wound up with four dolphin over the 20-inch minimum size limit plus four tripletail, which prefer shrimp, went for the cut bait and wound up in the box.
Time flies when you’re trying to entice dolphin to bite, and soon it was nearly 4 p.m. with a 45-mile ride ahead of us.
The west wind had turned more southerly, and the ocean had laid down even further, allowing Sconyers to open up the dual 300-horsepower Yahamas to around 50 mph, making the run back to the inlet in just over an hour.
The season-opening event for the Coach Rayburn Poston’s Student Angler League Tournament Trail was held last Saturday out of the Carroll Ashmore Campbell Marine Complex, located on U.S. Hwy. 17 on the Sampit River in Georgetown.
The trail is open to middle and high school anglers targeting red drum and largemouth bass in separate categories.
A total of 27 boats from 18 high schools competed in the season-opener, the first of six trails in the 2017-18 season.
The anglers enjoyed calm wind and water, enabling the redfish anglers to spread out through Winyah Bay and even to adjacent North Inlet. The bass anglers had their choice of rivers to pursue their freshwater target species.
Anglers from Andrews High School won both divisions, with Noah Payne and Kadyn Kellahan claiming first place in the red drum division with a 9.74-pound aggregate including the big fish, a 4.78 pounder.
Andrews’ Caleb Thornell and Brandon Porter had a 6.99-pound aggregate of bass to win that division.
Marshall Sasser and Kel Owens of Georgetown High School finished second in the red drum division with an 8.66-pound aggregate followed by the sister team of Hailey and Christy Edmonds of Carolina Forest with 8.23 pounds.
TJ McKenzie and James Clark of Waccamaw High School finished second in the bass division with 6.96 pounds followed by brothers Jackson and Cooper Denny of Carolina Forest High School with 6.48 pounds.
Andrew Vereen of St. James High caught the big bass, a 3.49-pounder.
The next SALTT event will be held Sept. 30 in Georgetown. Teams can still register for trail tournaments. For more information, visit www.salttfishing.com.
Prince George Winyah Inshore Tournament
This tournament targeting redfish, trout and flounder will also be held Sept. 30 out of Georgetown Landing Marina.
The captains meeting and fish fry will be held Friday at the marina. For more information, call 843-240-2400.
Fall fishing begins, conditions allow boats to get offshore without hurricane effects
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
September 22, 2017 2:33 PM
Look For: Spotted seatrout, red drum, black drum, flounder, sheepshead, tarpon.
Comments: The IFA Redfish Tour returns to Georgetown this weekend with the second and final stop in the tour’s Atlantic Division to be staged at the Carroll Ashmore Campbell Marine Complex, located on U.S. 17 on the Sampit River. The registration and captains meeting will be held Friday starting at 5 p.m. with the weigh-in beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday. Anglers competing in the tournament will be targeting red drum that measure within South Carolina’s slot limit of 15 to 23 inches. Plenty of reds are available out there, from juveniles as small as 10 inches to the big bulls that range from 30 to 40-plus inches in length. The fall run of the bulls is just getting underway with the big spawners being caught near area jetties and along the channels of inlets such as Little River Inlet and Winyah Bay. The bulls are also on hand on near-shore hard-bottom spots in the Atlantic. Anglers are urged to catch these fish quickly with beefed up tackle and release them carefully, being sure they are revived before letting them go. These fish represent the red drum’s future in South Carolina waters and should be handled delicately to ensure their survival. Area jetties are currently producing reds, black drum, spotted seatrout, sheepshead and flounder.
Look For: Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, bluefish, black sea bass, spadefish, weakfish, flounder, whiting, croaker, pompano, black drum, sheepshead and red drum.
Comments: Edgar Stephens was the man of the day during the Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce’s Fall Pier King Tournament on Saturday. Stephens landed king mackerel weighing 24 and 23 pounds, two ounces off the Cherry Grove Pier to win the tournament. Stephens’ kings, which were caught on bluefish 30 minutes apart, were the only two caught in the tournament. Otherwise, fall has officially arrived, meaning red drum, weakfish and black sea bass are the species to target on near-shore hard-bottom areas and artificial reefs. But in the wake of the hurricane train, don’t forget some monster spadefish have taken up residence on many of the near-shore reefs. Weakfish are a staple fish in the autumn, and the fish have started to show. “They’re not really, really thick yet but they’re there,” said Capt. Jeff Maples of Reel Salty Charters, who has landed weakfish and red drum on hard-bottom areas south of Myrtle Beach this week. Catches of king mackerel were hit or miss this week at areas such as the 10-Mile Reef and Belky Bear. Maples fished the area and found dirty water. “The (water) color just isn’t right,” said Maples. Scott Skrzydlinski of Cherry Grove Pier reports a nice variety of species were landed early in the week off the pier including whiting, croaker, black drum, red drum, flounder, Spanish mackerel and bluefish. Skrzydlinski also noted good numbers of sheepshead were caught from the pilings early in the week. The surface water temperature at the pier at 4:55 p.m. Thursday was 81 degrees on the surface and 79 on the bottom.
Look For: Wahoo, blackfin tuna, dolphin, grouper, vermilion snapper, triggerfish, red porgy, black sea bass, amberjack.
Comments: At mid-week, conditions were finally suitable for boats to get offshore after the effects of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Jose. Trolling was hit or miss, but some boats had good catches of wahoo, dolphin and blackfin tuna. The 100/400 area was good for the Dirty Martini on Wednesday, with Jeff Martini’s crew landing four wahoo, four blackfin tuna, two dolphin and a king mackerel. Martini, owner/operator of Mid-Town Bistro in North Myrtle Beach, reported blue 81-degree water and plentiful baby flying fish in the vicinity, in 170 feet of water. Bottom fishing should be very good this fall, especially after the parade of hurricanes ends, hopefully soon. Look for grouper, vermilion snapper, black sea bass, red porgy, triggerfish and amberjack on bottom spots in depths of 90-130 feet of water. Capt. Jay Sconyers of Aces Up Fishing out of Murrells Inlet produced a super catch of vermilion snapper, triggerfish, black sea bass and amberjack on a Thursday trip. Anglers should be aware that cobia cannot be harvested in 2017 in South Carolina waters (to three miles offshore) or federal waters (beyond three miles) and must be released. Also, red snapper must be released in the South Atlantic region.
Look For: Bream, catfish, bass, crappie.
Comments: The water remains high on local rivers. The Waccamaw River is still near minor flood stage, at 10.57 feet as of 4:15 p.m. Thursday in Conway, but was forecast to recede. The Little Pee Dee at Galivants Ferry was at 7.73 feet at 4 p.m. Thursday and receding. Areas farther down the rivers such as the Ricefields are good to fish in high water. Bream are hitting crickets fished deep, with bass taking top-water lures such as buzzbaits, frogs and spinnerbaits. Catfish will take fresh, cut eels, plus cut bait such as mullet, menhaden or shad.
Red drum (above) and black drum have been the hottest species in the near-shore waters following the effects of Hurricane Irma early in the week, with fish caught from Grand Strand piers, the surf, area jetties and near-shore hard-bottom areas. Submitted photo
How Hurricane Irma’s effects are slowing fishing action locally
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
September 15, 2017 6:52 PM
When a major hurricane blows through, it takes a good while for ocean conditions to return to normal, even if the center of the storm passes hundreds of miles to the west, like Hurricane Irma did on Monday.
Irma made its mark in the history books for devastating the Florida Keys and causing significant damage on a northward trek through the entire length of the Florida peninsula.
Locally, the wind field and bands from the massive storm created gusts to over 50 mph, with the persistent east-northeast wind churning up massive waves that obliterated beach re-nourishment projects on the south end of the Grand Strand and caused some coastal flooding at high tide on Monday.
Conditions quickly settled starting on Tuesday after the storm wound down, but anglers have found out fishing is far from normal.
Capt. Jeff Maples of Reel Salty Charters in Murrells Inlet specializes in near-shore fishing in the Atlantic, and had his first charter post-Irma on Friday.
Maples headed to Paradise Reef, located 3 miles east of the inlet. The reef had been producing large Spanish mackerel along with flounder and weakfish for Maples prior to the storm’s passage.
“The water is kind of greenish, but not clear,” said Maples. “You can tell it’s still kind of churned up. The water is green, just not it’s normal color of green.”
Bait is plentiful, however, Maples said.
“There’s plenty of mullet in the creeks (in the inlet) and mullet and pogys (menhaden) along the beach,” said Maples.
Maples loaded up his live well with numerous finger mullet and headed to Paradise Reef Friday morning. He went through the same routine he did prior to the storm of live-chumming finger mullet to get the Spanish active and to the surface, but to no avail.
“We couldn’t get the Spanish to come up,” said Maples. “I saw schools of fish on the fish finder, and we dumped hundreds of mullet out, but nothing.”
Maples also dropped finger mullet to the bottom in search of flounder and weakfish.
“We were sitting on our normal flounder spot, but we caught no flounder, and wound up catching black sea bass and one (16-inch weakfish),” said Maples. “We even stayed a little longer than normal trying to get them going. We’re all trying to figure out what the heck is going on out there.”
Now, according to the National Weather Service, Hurricane Jose is expected to pass between Bermuda and the Carolinas this weekend, bringing increasing waves and winds to local near-shore waters on the storm’s periphery.
Early next week, the wind and seas will begin a decreasing trend as Jose pulls away to the Northeast. Then, look for the much-anticipated excellent fall fishing to finally kick in by the middle of next week.
For now, red drum and black drum are providing the best near-shore action, with fish being caught at area jetties, in the surf, on near-shore hard-bottom areas and from Grand Strand piers the last few days.
Irma also blew out the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council meeting scheduled for last Monday in Charleston.
The meeting has been rescheduled for Sept. 25-29 at the same venue – the Town and Country Inn located at 2008 Savannah Highway in Charleston.
On Monday, Sept. 25, the council will consider an emergency action to allow a limited fishing season in 2017 for red snapper for the recreational and commercial sectors in the South Atlantic region.
The public can comment on the red snapper issue before the council on Sept. 25. Public comment is also currently being accepted online at http://safmc.net/2017-september-council-meeting/.
Amendment 43, which considers options for managing red snapper in 2018 and future years, is also on the SAFMC agenda for the meeting.
Members of the Murrells Inlet fishing community are mourning the loss of Capt. Lee Conner, who passed away on Sept. 7 at the age of 58.
Conner, a 1976 graduate of Socastee High School, operated area private boats such as the Mind Set, Ashley B and Large Time beginning in the 1980s.
A celebration of life will be held Saturday at 1 p.m. at Burroughs Funeral Home in Murrells Inlet. The family will receive friends beginning at noon.
Memorial contributions in Conner’s name can be made to the Shriner’s Hospital for Children, 2900 Rocky Point Drive, Tampa, FL, 33607 or St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN, 39105.