The crew of Gryphon works to release a blue marlin at boatside during the Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series. Submitted photo
Gryphon completes dominating Governor’s Cup win
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
July 28, 2017 6:11 PM
The Isle of Palms crew of Gryphon took a business-like approach to the South Carolina Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series in 2017, and the returns were phenomenal.
Owner Colby Griffin’s crew got off to a hot start by releasing three blue marlin to win the series-opening event, the Bohicket Marina Invitational Billfish Tournament, in mid May, and off they went.
When the series finale, the Edisto Invitational Billfish Tournament, was over last weekend, Gryphon had completed a dominating – and record-breaking – run to the Governor’s Cup championship.
With veteran Governor’s Cup Captain Chucky Moore at the helm and budding super-angler Chandler Griffin – Colby Griffin’s son – handling the rod on most billfish, Gryphon accumulated a Governor’s Cup-record 7,475 points for releasing eight blue marlin and 13 sailfish while fishing all five series tournaments.
The previous record for total points in a Governor’s Cup series of 6,075, set by Reel Passion in 2011, was blown out of the water.
“We took our Governor’s Cup approach a little different,” said Colby Griffin. “It was more of a hobby in past years. This year we set our goal to be serious about it. We kind of ran the tournaments as a business as opposed to going fun fishing. Everybody had a defined role and we were a lot more successful.”
Mister Pete finished a distant second with 5,675 points, followed by Toast in third (5,475). Anticipation (5,275) was fourth followed by Artemis (4,875) in fifth.
A pair of Georgetown boats were next in the final standings. Blue Sky had a strong finish in the last two events and wound up in sixth place with 4,675 points. Rascal was seventh with 3,475.
The elder Griffin and crew put their faith in 15-year-old Chandler Griffin, who celebrated his birthday in June in the middle of the series, to serve as the crew’s primary angler. He was the angler on five blue marlin and 12 sailfish releases.
“Chandler’s been killing it this season,” said Moore. “He had a really good season.”
Colby Griffin is thrilled with the performance of the crew, led by Moore, aboard his 60-foot Hatteras, but especially proud of his son.
“It’s the first major event we’ve ever won,” said Colby Griffin. “We’re extremely excited. I’m proud of Chandler – he’s come a long way. He worked real hard this year to become a better angler. To catch a lot of blues at any age is a difficult task.”
Chandler Griffin’s list of achievements is already a long one.
He won first-place as the Outstanding Youth Angler in the Governor’s Cup series this year after finishing second in 2016. He was the top Youth Angler in three of the five tournaments in 2017.
Chandler Griffin was also the top Junior Angler in the meatfish and billfish categories in the 2016 Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament, according to Colby Griffin.
For Capt. Moore, an elusive Governor’s Cup Billfishing series victory is finally in his grasp. A Charleston native, Moore has been a captain for, he estimates, 25 years, and has fished in the Governor’s Cup as a captain for 12 years.
In 2005, Moore was the skipper on Chicora and finished in second place to series winner and Georgetown entry Rascal by 18 points. Rascal, captained by Mark Rogers of Georgetown, landed the state record blue marlin, an 881.8-pounder, in June that year to highlight the 2005 series win
But this wasn’t a near-miss – it was a dominating win from start to finish for Moore and crew.
“I’ve got two Governor’s Cup records – most points and closest finish,” said Moore. “We were very blessed – we caught what the good Lord gave us. We’re pretty excited, and Chandler has the most youth points. It’s going to be a tough one to beat.”
Other Gryphon crew members included mate Bryce Bell, mate Mark McDevitt, Ted McNair, Brian O’Quin, Jeffrey Mitchell, Ross Miller, Brad Kicklighter and Michael Krivohlavek.
Wildlife, owned by Ken Strickland and captained by Jamie Brown, won the Edisto tournament, releasing one blue marlin and eight sailfish to accumulate 2,200 points.
Anticipation was second with one blue marlin and six sailfish releases for 1,800. Mister Pete was third, also with one blue marlin and six sailfish releases for 1,800.
“The fishing right now is incredible,” said Moore. “The last day of the Edisto Tournament, there were plenty of boats that saw over 10 billfish.”
For more info on the series and the Edisto Tournament, visit http://govcup.dnr.sc.gov/.
Reel Kids, Reel Fun
The Bobby Clarke Memorial “Reel Kids, Reel Fun” Fishing Tournament will be staged at Georgetown Landing Marina on Aug. 5.
Local fishermen are invited to take children out for a day of fun fishing with a cookout and awards ceremony to follow at the marina.
The tournament is named for the late Capt. Bobby Clarke, who passed away in 2006 after his charter boat, Super Suds II, capsized while returning to Murrells Inlet from a fishing trip.
For more information, contact Michael Smith of the Florence Bluewater Fishing Club at 843-307-0425.
A man surf fishes near 12th Avenue South in North Myrtle Beach. File photo The Sun News
Sizzling temperatures doing little to keep anglers from filling buckets full of fish
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
July 27, 2017 5:37 PM
Look For: Black drum, flounder, spotted seatrout, red drum, sheepshead, bluefish, tarpon.
Comments: Maybe the nickname of Ronald “Catfish” Stalvey of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle in Conway should be switched to “Black Drum” this week. Stalvey went from the freshwater of local rivers to the saltwater of Murrells Inlet to wet a hook early this week, and had good success with black drum on fiddler cribs. The black drum bite in the inlet has been very strong with fish preferring to dine on crustaceans such shrimp (live or cut) and the aforementioned fiddler crabs. Capt. Mike McDonald of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service in Georgetown had what he called “a pretty good morning” fishing North Inlet on Thursday. McDonald’s crew had a super slam of five flounder, five red drum, three spotted seatrout, four weakfish (summer trout) and a few ladyfish. McDonald, who was using live mullet for bait, noted a water temperature of 83 degrees in the Winyah Bay vicinity.
Look For: Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, bluefish, black sea bass, spadefish, weakfish, flounder, whiting, croaker, pompano, black drum, sheepshead and red drum.
Comments: The Spanish mackerel bite has been absolutely on fire this week in near-shore waters, with charter trips loading up. Look for fish in the vicinity of jetty passes and near-shore artificial reefs. A variety of methods will catch Spanish, including trolling mackerel trees and Clark or Drone spoons, or live-baiting mullet or menhaden. If trolling use a No. 1 planer or a trolling weight to get the artificials below the surface. Flounder action is good on the near-shore reefs with black sea bass, spadefish and weakfish (summer trout) also available. Morgan Marohl of the Cherry Grove Pier reports whiting and croaker are providing the most action on the pier, with black drum active in the morning. Marohl noted a water temperature of 85 degrees on the surface and 84 on the bottom Thursday at 4:30 p.m.
Look For: Blackfin tuna, wahoo, dolphin, sailfish, vermilion snapper, triggerfish, white grunts, red porgy, black sea bass, grouper, amberjack.
Comments: Gulf Stream trolling trips are producing good catches of blackfin tuna, with a few wahoo and dolphin mixed in. Find the bait and the bluewater, and sailfish will be around. Closer in, areas such as the Parking Lot are producing good catches of king mackerel and barracuda, with a few dolphin, wahoo and sailfish mixed in. Bottom fishing continues to be excellent with vermilion snapper, black sea bass, triggerfish and grouper leading the way. Porgy, grunts and amberjack are common, too. Cobia cannot be harvested in 2017 in South Carolina waters (to three miles offshore) or federal waters (beyond three miles) and must be released. Red snapper must be released in the South Atlantic region.
Look For: Bream, catfish, bass, crappie.
Comments: “It’s been pretty hot this week (temperature-wise) but the people that are going are catching some fine, fine, fish,” said Ronald “Catfish” Stalvey of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle. “Bream, the bass fishing’s been good, catfishing’s been good.” With the heat of summer entrenched and the dog days of August arriving soon, Stalvey says go a little deeper in search of bream. “A lot of people are catching bream deeper now,” said Stalvey. “They’re using throw lines and fishing on the bottom with worms, up to eight feet deep. When it’s so hot the small ones are up shallow and the big ones are going to be a little deeper.” The bass bite has been best early and late in the day, with Stalvey recommending swim baits, spinnerbaits, jerk baits and Texas-rigged worms. As for catfish, Stalvey says live black salties have worked well along with goldfish and cut eels.
One of five spawning SMZs to be established off the South Atlantic coast beginning on July 31 will be in the Georgetown Hole area. The closures to snapper-grouper fishing are designed to protect reef species such as this snowy grouper. Submitted photo
July 21, 2017 6:33 PM
Rule set go into effect aimed at producing ‘fish factories’ in South Carolina, elsewhere
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
On July 31, five bottom areas off the South Atlantic coast, including a portion of the renowned Georgetown Hole, will be closed to snapper-grouper fishing and designated as spawning special management zones (SMZs).
Within the boundaries of the SMZs, fishing for, retention and possession of 55 species in the snapper-grouper complex will be prohibited for all anglers.
Trolling for species such as dolphin, wahoo, tuna and billfish will be allowed within the SMZs.
The bottom closures are the result of the final rule of Amendment 36 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region, which was approved by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council in March, 2016 and eventually signed by Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.
The spawning SMZs are meant to protect spawning snapper-grouper species and their spawning habitat by prohibiting fishing for or harvest of the species in the designated areas.
Three of the spawning SMZs are located off the South Carolina coast, and one each off the coast of North Carolina and Florida.
Details of the five areas to be closed follow:
South Cape Lookout: This is a 5.10-square mile area on a ledge that drops from depths of 230 feet to over 330 feet and is located approximately 56 miles southeast of Beaufort Inlet, N.C.
Georgetown Hole: A 3.03-square mile portion of the sprawling Georgetown Hole will be closed. The closed area is centered around a unique spur contour which drops from 330 feet to 500 feet. The entire SMZ drops from 230 to 650 feet deep.
Areas 51 and 53: These two artificial reef areas were established by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources – Area 51 in the late 1990s and Area 53 in 2001 – but were not included among the public artificial reefs. Both areas are located southeast of Charleston, Area 51 in approximately 70 feet of water and Area 53 in approximately 105 feet of water.
S.C. DNR has used the two areas as an experimental reef site to observe the proliferation, or lack thereof, of reef species on structure with little fishing pressure.
As of July 31, the two areas will be legally protected from snapper-grouper fishing.
Warsaw Hole: This area covers 3.60-square miles and is located west of Key West, Fla., on a ledge dropping from 260 to 500 feet in depth.
The amendment includes a sunset clause that could discontinue the SMZs after 10 years, if the SAFMC allows that to occur.
“The idea is to monitor those sites,” said Mel Bell, director of the Office of Fisheries Management within the Marine Resources Division of S.C. DNR. “Either they work or they don’t. The council has the ability to renew them if they are working.”
Bell, one of three South Carolinians on the SAFMC, expects the new SMZs to become what he calls “fish factories” – areas where snapper-grouper species proliferate and spawn without receiving any fishing pressure.
Bell relates to his observations and studies of Areas 51 and 53 over the past 20 years. Soon after Area 51 was put in place in the late 1990s, Bell saw quick growth in the populations of the reef species that took to the structure.
“In a couple years we were amazingly satisfied with (Area 51),” said Bell. “Both (areas) are working quite well. The concept is if you take an area, whether naturally occurring or an area built (into an artificial reef), and leave it alone you can get an amazing amount of fish on there, have amazing abundance.”
The three other areas – South Cape Lookout, Georgetown Hole, Warsaw Hole – are all naturally occurring deep-water ledges that hold deep-water grouper species such as snowy, warsaw and speckled hind.
Of most local interest, the “spur” feature to be closed in the Georgetown Hole area has long been known as a hot spot for snowy grouper and warsaw. The area produced the South Carolina state record warsaw, a 310-pounder caught out of Murrells Inlet in 1976.
“You’ve got a really good drop in depth around a very distinct little spur feature that for whatever reason is where fish go to spawn,” said Bell. “We’ve seen pictures of huge warsaw caught years ago, that area is where those fish used to be. We know warsaw are out there and we’ve found them in spawning condition – leave them alone then you’re providing productivity for (these species).”
Bell pointed out the impact of the SMZs stretches well beyond the boundaries of the boxes, his terminology for the areas closed to snapper-grouper fishing.
“The fish will move out of the boxes and into the system,” said Bell. “When they spawn, the eggs float, they get into the current and move downstream. The production that occurs in these fish factories goes into the whole system, it doesn’t stay in the box.”