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Category Archives: Live Great Outdoors Blog

Stormy weather limits fishing.

September 8, 2017 Live Great Outdoors Blog Comments Off on Stormy weather limits fishing.

image: man fishing Dennis Caruso tosses a line from the Myrtle Beach State Park Pier this past summer. Janet Blackmon Morgan jblackmon@thesunnews.com

Thanks, Irma: Local anglers hunker down as dangerous tropical system approaches

By Gregg Holshouser

For The Sun News
September 07, 2017 6:13 PM
Estuary

Look For: Spotted seatrout, red drum, black drum, flounder, sheepshead, tarpon.

Comments: It’s been a solid week for Capt. Mike McDonald of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service on a pair of very different trips. On Monday, McDonald and crew targeted tarpon — the vaunted Silver King of South Carolina summertime inshore fishing. Fishing in Winyah Bay, McDonald’s crew had four hookups while using large menhaden for bait. The largest tarpon, estimated by McDonald to be in the 100-pound range, was lost at the boat when the 100-pound mono leader wore through after a 45-minute fight. Then on Tuesday, McDonald’s crew had a field day with smaller but tastier fish, catching 16 spotted seatrout and seven black drum, also in Winyah Bay. McDonald used live finger mullet and cut shrimp for bait. Capt. Patrick Kelly of Capt. Smiley Fishing Charters had a solid day with a mixed bag in the Little River vicinity on Tuesday. Kelly’s crew caught 10 flounder, five red drum and several black drum. Kelly used finger mullet for the flounder, cut mullet for the reds, and caught the black drum on Gulp baits and shrimp on jig heads
Inshore

Look For: Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, bluefish, black sea bass, spadefish, weakfish, flounder, whiting, croaker, pompano, black drum, sheepshead and red drum.

Comments: Spanish mackerel fishing has continued to be superb this week, particularly around near-shore artificial reefs. Capt. Jeff Maples of Reel Salty Charters in Murrells Inlet used the live-chum/live-bait method with plentiful finger mullet at Paradise Reef Tuesday. The method produced bites from super-sized Spanish, as Maples crew caught a dozen in the 24-inch range. Maples then stopped by the jetties and used the same finger mullet to catch red drum both within and over the slot limit of 15-23 inches. The next several days will be slow on the fishing front thanks to the approach of Hurricane Irma, as boat owners protect their vessels from the storm. Ronnie Goodwin of Cherry Grove Pier reports a mixed bag of species have been caught this week including blues, black drum, small flounder, whiting, croaker and ribbonfish. The water temperature at the pier Wednesday evening was 82 degrees. The captains meeting for the 7th annual Spanish Derby will be held Friday at 6 p.m. at the Mullet Hut, located on the Murrells Inlet Marsh Walk. The status of the tournament, scheduled for Saturday will be determined at the meeting. For more information, call 843-602-0910.
Offshore

Look For: Wahoo, blackfin tuna, dolphin, sailfish, grouper, vermilion snapper, triggerfish, white grunts, red porgy, black sea bass, amberjack.

Comments: As of Friday sea conditions will become exceptionally rough and dangerous thanks to Irma’s approach in the offshore waters, where fishing will come to a standstill for several days. The silver lining? Fishing is always very interesting following the passage of a hurricane, which causes movement of fish. When conditions once again allow, expect good trolling action for wahoo and blackfin tuna. Bottom fishing can be spectacular after a storm, particularly grouper fishing. Anglers should note 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.
Freshwater

Look For: Bream, catfish, bass, crappie.

Comments: The Waccamaw River at Conway was right at flood stage Thursday afternoon at 4:15, with a reading of 10.88 feet, just below the minor flood stage of 11.0 feet. The Little Pee Dee at Galivants Ferry was in better shape, at 6.75 feet Thursday at 4 p.m. Both rivers could be in for a major rise after Hurricane Irma passes, depending on the storm’s track. Beware of floating debris if on the water after the storm. Work crickets under floats along the banks for bream and use cut eels, mullet or shad in deep holes to catch catfish.
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There may be a mini-season for red snapper.

September 2, 2017 Live Great Outdoors Blog Comments Off on There may be a mini-season for red snapper.

image: red snapper
A red snapper rises to the surface off the gunwale of Capt. Danny Juel’s Fish Screamer out of Little River. Submitted photo
Emergency action could allow limited red snapper season in 2017

By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News

Capt. Danny Juel was surprised what he found on a bottom spot located a little over 10 miles southeast of Little River Inlet in 60 feet of water on Tuesday.

Juel was running a half-day trip on the Hurricane, a 90-foot party boat, for his friend and Hurricane owner, Capt. Chip Stevens.

Black sea bass are the main species typically targeted on such a half-day trip, but on this day red snapper were holding on the bottom spot.

Yes, genuine American red snapper, as they’re called locally, on a spot in 60 feet of water. Juel’s customers caught and released four before he moved to another spot in search of a species that could be harvested.

Red snapper on a spot that shallow is a first for Juel, who has been fishing out of Little River for 35 years.

“They’ve never been in 60 feet of water here before,” said Juel. “We’re seeing them places we’ve never seen them before.”

In 2009, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) determined the South Atlantic red snapper stock was overfished and undergoing overfishing, and the fishery was closed in 2010 with a 35-year rebuilding plan put in place.

Other than short seasons allowed in 2012-2014, the red snapper fishery has been closed ever since and their numbers have grown, with only fish that have not survived the release process, known as dead discards, removed from the population.

In Juel’s view, the numbers of red snapper on bottom spots offshore have increased during the closure to where he considers them a problem.

“It’s unbelievable. We’re going out there not trying to catch them but if you put a big bait down to catch a grouper, the snappers are eating you alive,” said Juel, who operates Fish Screamer Charters out of Little River. “They’re almost becoming a nuisance. They’re more plentiful than the grouper and we can keep the grouper but not the snapper. Thirty-five to 40 miles out, anywhere you go, if you stop on a piece of bottom rock, there’s going to be a (red) snapper on it.”

There is potential good news for area fishermen, recreational and commercial, wanting to harvest red snapper.

NMFS is proposing temporary measures through an emergency action to allow a limited fishing season for the recreational and commercial sectors in 2017 in the South Atlantic region.

The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is addressing the issue on Sept. 11 as part of a regularly scheduled council meeting in Charleston.

A briefing book on the SAFMC website (www.SAFMC.net) regarding the emergency action cites “recently discovered and unforeseen data from the long-term Southeast Reef Fish Survey (SERFS) fishery independent index of abundance” that was presented to the SAFMC at a June meeting that spurred the proposal.

The data showed the red snapper population has increased substantially since 2014, reaching the highest levels to date in 2016.

The council will consider five alternatives, four of which would result in a mini-red snapper season this fall and one that would take no action and leave the fishery closed. As always, the council could decide to move on any of the five alternatives, or none.

At a June meeting, the SAFMC selected a preferred alternative out of the five options, one that would set a catch limit of 29,656 fish for recreational anglers and 124,815 pounds for the commercial sector.

“(The preferred alternative) provides access with a reasonable amount of risk (to the fishery),” said Mel Bell, director of the Office of Fisheries Management within the Marine Resources Division of S.C. DNR, and one of three South Carolinians on the SAFMC.

“We’ve got to balance providing access to the fishery and taking a reasonable amount of risk. I think we could do that level and we wouldn’t harm the rebuild. We’re going to crack the faucet open some but not wide open.”

The public can comment on the red snapper issue before the council at the meeting starting at 10:15 a.m. on Sept. 11. Public comment is also currently being accepted online at http://safmc.net/2017-september-council-meeting/.

Juel’s opinion on the issue is representative of the vast majority of fishermen who have already commented on the SAFMC website.

“It’s been a wonderful thing, the comeback they’ve made,” said Juel. “Now, let us catch a few of them. We need to thin them out some. They’re just overpopulated right now.”
Amendment 43

This amendment is also on the SAFMC agenda for the meeting which will be held Sept. 11-15 at the Town and Country Inn located at 2008 Savannah Highway in Charleston.

The amendment will look at options for managing red snapper in 2018 and future years.
Spanish Mackerel Derby

The 7th Annual Spanish Mackerel Derby will be held out of the Mullet Hut in Murrells Inlet next weekend, Sept. 8-9, after being postponed last weekend.

First place is a $5,000 cash prize. The Captains Meeting will be held at the Mullet Hut Friday with fishing set for Saturday. For more information, call 843-602-0910.
Southern Redfish Cup

The tour will make a stop in Georgetown next weekend, Sept. 8-9. The Captains Meeting will be held at Buzz’s Roost on Friday with a live weigh-in set for 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the Carroll Ashemore Campbell Marine Complex located on the Sampit River.

For more information visit www.SouthernRedfishCup.com.

Rain brings familiar fish back to the area.

September 1, 2017 Live Great Outdoors Blog Comments Off on Rain brings familiar fish back to the area.

image: river flooding
Recent rains cause river levels to rise, but mark arrival of familiar fish
Floodwaters swamp the Reeves Ferry boat landing Monday on the Waccamaw River. The Sun News file photo

By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News

Estuary

Look For: Spotted seatrout, red drum, black drum, flounder, sheepshead, tarpon.

Comments: The rivers that feed into Winyah Bay are up – with the Waccamaw just below flood stage – but Capt. Mike McDonald of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service doesn’t think that’s a bad thing. McDonald lost a couple of trips early in the week due to the weather but is looking for solid fishing in the days to come. “It’s going to push all that stuff that’s up the rivers back into the bay,” said McDonald. “The bait and everything else has gone up the rivers and now it’s going to be coming back.” Tarpon remain available in Winyah Bay and points south. Weather impacted the week for Capt. Patrick Kelly of Captain Smiley Fishing Charters, who ran only one trip, on Wednesday. Kelly’s crew caught six spotted seatrout including a four-pounder on live shrimp under popping corks. The crew also landed several flounder on live mud minnows, fished with a split shot.
Inshore

Look For: Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, bluefish, black sea bass, spadefish, weakfish, flounder, whiting, croaker, pompano, black drum, sheepshead and red drum.

Comments: After a tropical system eased by early in the week, anglers returned to the water to get a feel for what is happening on the near-shore spots. The Painkiller crew out of Murrells Inlet, including owner Dr. Jason Rosenberg and Capt. Jay Sconyers, found Spanish mackerel very receptive on a quick Wednesday afternoon trip. About 3-5 miles offshore near Paradise Reef, they found birds working and schools of Spanish jumping, and the action was hot. They used jigfish lures to catch numerous fish from keeper size (12-inch minimum size limit) up to 24 inches. King mackerel have also been found on spots from 10-15 miles offshore in the last few days. Fishing quickly bounced back along the beach in the storm’s wake. Dock Jarman of Cherry Grove Pier reports scattered catches of whiting, croaker, black drum, flounder and pompano from the pier this week. Numerous black drum have been caught with nearly all under the 14-27 inch slot limit for the species. Jarman noted a surface water temperature of 82 degrees and a bottom reading of 80 Thursday at 4:30 p.m.
Offshore

Look For: Blackfin tuna, wahoo, dolphin, sailfish, vermilion snapper, triggerfish, white grunts, red porgy, black sea bass, grouper, amberjack.

Comments: Before the weather went bad last weekend, Capt .Derek Treffinger of Ocean Isle Fishing Center took a crew out aboard the OIFC Catch All to conclude a class of bottom-fishing school conducted out of the fishing center. According to OIFC.com, Treffinger fished a hard-bottom area in 115 feet of water and used live pinfish to produce several large scamp, plus amberjack and other reef species. Bottom fishing is also producing vermilion snapper, black sea bass, triggerfish, porgy and grunts. Wahoo action has been good in areas such as the Winyah Scarp and Georgetown Hole, with blackfin tuna and a few dolphin also available. Look for kings around bottom spots in depths of 60-100 feet. Cobia cannot be harvested in 2017 in South Carolina waters (to three miles offshore) or federal waters (beyond three miles) and must be released. Plenty of red snapper can be found on bottom spots from depths of 60 feet on out, but they must be released in the South Atlantic region.
Freshwater

Look For: Bream, catfish, bass, crappie.

Comments: Recent rains have local rivers way up. The Waccamaw River in Conway was up to a reading of 10.53 feet, just below minor flood stage, at 3:15 p.m. Thursday. The Little Pee Dee at Galivants Ferry was also high, at 6.7 feet at 4 p.m. Thursday. For bream, work crickets under floats along the banks, and don’t be afraid to fish deep. Use cut eels, mullet or shad in deep holes to catch catfish.