A large sandbar shark tangled lines beside Pain Killer Wednesday about 40 miles off Murrells Inlet. Dr Jason Rosenberg for The Sun News
Offshore fishing trip included encounters with a variety of fish – and one large shark
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
Every local offshore angler worth his salt knows May is prime time for offshore trolling off the Carolina coast, when the Gulf Stream ushers in northward migrating dolphin of the biggest numbers and largest size of the calendar year.
The opportunity is there to battle the feisty, colorful species and put plenty of superb-eating fish, along with blackfin tuna and wahoo, in the box.
Such a trolling trip is exactly what Garden City Beach resident Dr. Jason Rosenberg had in mind for this week’s edition of Fishing with Friends Wednesday aboard his 32-foot Contender, Pain Killer.
When a moderate westerly wind was blowing at mid-morning Wednesday, there was a hint of disappointment in the air as the crew of five knew it would be difficult to make the run on limited time to the “pretty water” where the meat fish, particularly dolphin, could be found.
Capt. Jay Sconyers, owner/operator of Aces Up Fishing, has been at the helm of Rosenberg’s Wednesday excursions for seven years, and headed past the Murrells Inlet sea buoy in a south-southeasterly direction, albeit in choppy 3-5 foot seas.
A day earlier, Sconyers had to venture 57 miles offshore to find pretty water and dolphin on a charter trip, and such a run just wasn’t feasible with the sea conditions and a late morning departure time.
Plan B was a pretty nice option though – bottom fishing in 90-115 feet of water on ledges around 40 miles offshore. A little over 30 miles out, a lengthy weed line was spotted, observed and noted for later.
About 90 minutes after departure, Sconyers pulled the engines back, maneuvered on top of the spot and the crew, also including Earl Fender of San Diego, Jimmy Kaminski of Pawleys Island and myself, dropped down cigar minnows and fresh cut bait 115 feet to the bottom.
For the first few minutes, the only bites were from small fish nibbling at the bait. After about 10 minutes, the bite of vermilion snapper, known locally as beeliners, turned on, and the catches were consistent.
There was plenty of variety on the reef, though, and soon a mix of triggerfish, grunts and black sea bass, along with a red hind (strawberry grouper) came over the gunwale. A scamp (grouper) measured just under the 20-inch minimum size and was released.
There were some big bites too. Red snapper, called genuines by locals, made a good showing, with four caught on the day. Two of the red snapper were in the 5-8 pound range, one in the 10-12 pound range, and I was the lucky angler who battled a 20-pound beauty to the surface.
But after each red snapper was caught it was the same old drill – they had to be released per NOAA Fisheries’ ban on the species, which has been in place in the South Atlantic region since 2010.
Sconyers carefully vented the fish and sent them on their way back to the bottom. Whether the fish survived the ordeal of being reeled up 115 feet, no one will ever know.
Rosenberg speaks for a multitude of recreational anglers with his thoughts on the issue.
“I think we catch (red snapper) on every trip we go bottom fishing,” said Rosenberg. “It should be reasonable to restudy the population and allow us one fish to take home per trip.”
A couple more big bites brought hookups with a pair of large sharks, including a massive sandbar shark, also known as a brown shark, that was an estimated 8-feet long, weighed over 200 pounds and caused a huge tangle of lines.
With a limit of beeliners (12-inch minimum size, 5-fish per person) in the box but only a few black sea bass, Sconyers headed back in for a spot in about 90 feet of water to target more bass.
On the way, we stopped at the well-defined weed line and switched to trolling ballyhoo. The line was perfectly formed and was active, but after nearly an hour of trolling we knew it wasn’t holding any dolphin.
On to the bottom spot in depths of 90 feet, where a few more black sea bass were caught. But this area was heavily patrolled by numerous Atlantic Sharpnose sharks, and tackle tangles got old quick.
As the afternoon wore on, the wind had slowly died down and the seas were a much more manageable 2-3 feet on a comfortable ride home at over 40 knots. A very nice end to another superb edition of Rosenberg’s Fishing with Friends.
S.C. Governor’s Cup
The 2017 South Carolina Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series opened on Thursday, with the first day of fishing in the first of five tournaments in the series – the Bohicket Marina Invitational Billfish Tournament.
The opening day produced some of the best blue marlin action in the history of the series.
Twenty-eight boats out of the field of 29 fished the first day, with 16 blue marlin caught and released and three more brought to the dock at Bohicket Marina, located on John’s Island south of Charleston.
The last time three blue marlin were weighed in during one day in the series was in the 2005 Georgetown Blue Marlin Tournament according to Amy Dukes, S.C. Governor’s Cup coordinator for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.
Game On weighed in the largest blue, a 500.2-pounder that measured 109 1/2 inches from the tip of the lower jaw to fork of the tail.
Home Run’s blue marlin weighed 438.4 pounds and measured 109 inches while Rare Breed’s blue weighed 412.8 pounds and measured 106 inches. All three boats hail from Charleston area marinas.
The federal minimum size limit for blue marlin to be landed is 99 inches, but they must measure 105 inches to be eligible for Governor’s Cup competition.
Bad Becky and Gryphon both released two blue marlin on Thursday to take the points lead after one day with 1,200 points (600 per blue marlin released).
Fishing continued Friday and Saturday with boats allowed to fish two of the three days.
Dukes said most of the marlin were caught in the vicinity of the 226 Hole, 380 Hole and Ammo Dump, with the Georgetown Hole also producing some fish.
Marlin Quay Carolina Slam
The meatfish tournament out of Marlin Quay Marina in Murrells Inlet opened Friday with the first of nine days of fishing, concluding on May 20.
For more information, call 843-651-4444.
Georgetown Meatfish Slam
The event was postponed but has been rescheduled for June 8 out of Georgetown Landing Marina. For more information, call 843-546-1776.
Gregg Holshouser: wholshouser
Casting a line? A lot of good bets this weekend in area waterways
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
Look For: Flounder, spotted seatrout, black drum, red drum, bluefish.
Comments: Flounder catches continue to improve in areas such as Cherry Grove, Murrells Inlet and Pawleys, as the water temperature warms into the mid 70s, even the upper 70s on lower tide stages during the day. Spotted seatrout, red drum and black drum are also available but catches are scattered. Capt. Patrick Kelly of Captain Smiley Charters in Little River has observed catches have been best on the last few hours of the falling tide and the start of the rise. Kelly says trout are hitting Vudu shrimp and mud minnows fished on popping corks, with red drum and flounder hitting mud minnows and shrimp fished on the bottom on jig heads. Look for black drum taking shrimp around docks. Kelly has observed water temperatures in the 74 to 75-degree range. Capt. Mike McDonald of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service in Georgetown had a solid trip on Thursday, catching a variety of species in the Winyah Bay vicinity. McDonald’s crew caught four flounder, six trout, two lady fish and whiting. McDonald notes red drum are very scattered. “We catch one here, ride 10 miles and catch another,” McDonald said.
Look For: King mackerel, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, whiting, croaker, black drum, pompano, spadefish, flounder, cobia.
Comments: After a windy weekend, calmer conditions and pretty water prevailed along the beach this week. Predictably, so did the Spanish mackerel and bluefish. Anglers have had success jigging both species off Grand Strand piers Monday through Thursday, using mackerel trees and gold-hook rigs. Shrimp fished on the bottom is producing mainly whiting and croaker, along with some black drum including a few keepers within the 14-26 inch slot limit. A few sizable pompano have also been caught on shrimp, from the piers and the surf. Steve Gann of the Cherry Grove Pier reported a water temperature of 74 degrees Thursday afternoon. Spanish can be found around bait from near the beach to 10 miles offshore, especially around hard-bottom areas and artificial reefs. With the water temperature in the mid-70s, also look for spadefish on the near-shore reefs up to the 10-12 mile range. Head to bottom spots in depths of 55 feet and beyond to find good numbers of king mackerel. All cobia must be released in 2017 in all waters off South Carolina.
Look For: Dolphin, wahoo, tuna, billfish, vermilion snapper, black sea bass, porgy, triggerfish, grunts, grouper, amberjack.
Comments: It is absolutely prime time for offshore trolling, especially for good numbers of dolphin plus blackfin tuna and wahoo. The South Carolina Governo’s Cup Billfishing Series is underway at Bohicket Marina and the 50th annual Georgetown Blue Marlin Tournament is two weeks away, so billfish are also in the trolling mix. Bottom fishing is very good on spots in depths of 90 feet and beyond, with vermilion snapper the dominant species. A good mix of black sea bass, triggerfish, porgy, grunts and a few grouper are also available, with plenty of sharks to avoid. Red snapper are off-limits and must be released in the Southeast Region.
Look For: Bream, catfish, bass, bream.
Comments: Ronald “Catfish” Stalvey of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle in Conway reports bream fishing is excellent on the Waccamaw and the Intracoastal Waterway, with fish hitting crickets and worms in 2-4 feet of water. The Waccamaw from Conway to the Ricefields is producing good catches of fish. Stalvey says catfish catches are good on eels, shiners and frozen shad and herring. “There haven’t been any giants, but good ones,” said Stalvey. Bass are in a little deeper water. “The topwater bite had kind of shut off,” said Stalvey, who has used swim baits and crawfish lures to catch fish this week. A few anglers continue to catch crappie on minnows and jigs. As for the Pee Dee rivers, Stalvey says they are “high as a Georgia pine.”
Capt. Danny Juel and Capt. T.J. Nixon of Fish Screamer Charters in Little River show off the 115-pound wahoo they caught on April 29. Submitted photo
May 05, 2017 2:45 PM
After long fight, local fishing crew hauls in catch of a lifetime
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
Capt. Danny Juel of Fish Screamer Charters was fishing a bottom spot 45 miles southeast of Little River in 90 feet of water last Saturday for the typical reef species such as grouper, vermilion snapper, black sea bass and triggerfish.
As usual, Juel and his mate for the day, fellow Capt. T.J. Nixon, also deployed what Juel called a “light line” for any marauding pelagic species attracted to the action around the boat.
“We had that light line out for whatever would eat it,” said Juel.
When something did eat the dead sardine used for bait on the light line a little before 10 a.m., Juel immediately knew this wasn’t your ordinary pelagic.
“He took about every drop of line I had (on the reel), 150 yards or more,” said Juel. “I told T.J. that has to be a wahoo, that’s the only fish that will run like that.”
A member of Juel’s crew for the day took the rod and the battle was on, with the fish on an Avet reel loaded with 40-pound line on a Shakespeare rod, a standard set-up for king mackerel.
Although Juel had a good idea what he was hooked up with, it was over an hour before he knew for sure.
“We fought the fish for an hour and five minutes when he rolled up behind the boat,” recalled Juel. “We said ‘Whoa man, that’s a heckuva wahoo.’ We got lucky and got him.”
Juel gaffed the fish but quickly realized he needed help from Nixon getting it over the gunwale. That afternoon at Juel’s home marina – Hurricane Fleet Marina in Calabash, N.C. – the wahoo weighed 115 pounds even on certified scales.
“I’m sure he lost some weight, we put him in the boat at 11 a.m.,” said Juel.
One thing is for sure, it was the wahoo of a lifetime, even for a veteran fisherman like Juel.
“I’ve been fishing 40 years in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and a lot in the Bahamas when I lived in Florida,” said Juel. “I’ve caught a lot of wahoo, several in the 80-pound range, but never one like that.”
The fish measured 73 inches long with a 34-inch girth.
The North Carolina state record for wahoo is a 150-pounder caught by Kevin Elwell out of Ocracoke in 1994. The South Carolina state record for wahoo is a 130-pound, 5-ounce fish landed by R.J. Moore out of Murrells Inlet in 1998.
Far Out Shoot Out
The Far Out Shoot Out, staged by Ocean Isle Fishing Center, opens Saturday, with competing boats able to fish one of 15 days through May 20.
But a gale warning was in effect Friday morning, and Monday looks like the next fishable day for boats to get offshore to catch the event’s target species, wahoo, dolphin and tuna.
The event was originally scheduled for an eight-day run but was extended to 15 days by tournament director Capt. Brant McMullan on Thursday.
For more information, call 910-575-3474 or visit www.OIFC.com/FOSO.
S.C. Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series
The 2017 South Carolina Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series kicks off next week with the Bohicket Marina Invitational Billfish Tournament.
Fishing days in the tournament are Thursday through Saturday, May 11-13. Bohicket Marina is located at 1880 Andell Bluff Blvd. in John’s Island, south of Charleston.
Next up in the series is a historic event – the 50th Annual Georgetown Blue Marlin Tournament out of Georgetown Landing Marina May 24-27. For more information, call 843-546-1776.
The 9th Annual Meatfish Slam, also out of Georgetown Landing Marina, was originally scheduled for April 27-29 but was postponed.
As of Thursday afternoon, a make-up date had not been set.
Southern Redfish Cup
The series makes a stop at Harbourgate Marina in North Myrtle Beach, with fishing set for Saturday. Weigh-in opens at 3:30 p.m. at the marina.
The series returns to the area on Sept. 9 with a stop in Georgetown.