Capt. Jeff Maples of Reel Salty Charters and other anglers found that Spanish mackerel have arrived for the season early this week. Photo courtesy Reel Salty Charters
It’s on as Spanish mackerel, dolphin show up for the spring
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
As April arrived, Capt. Jeff Maples had a hunch it was time for the initial springtime push of Spanish mackerel into area near-shore waters.
But the weather just wasn’t cooperating, with relentless windy, even cool, conditions in late March and early April.
Maples, owner/operator of Reel Salty Charters out of Murrells Inlet, found a little break in the weather on April 3 to slip out to the Paradise Reef, located three miles east of the inlet.
Maples caught weakfish and plenty of bluefish on the quick trip, but saw Spanish mackerel jumping and feeding on glass minnows.
“I got a good visual on them,” Maples said. “You can see the schools of glass minnows being pushed up by the Spanish.”
After an extremely windy cold front on April 6 and 7, conditions turned superb and have been most of this week – exactly what area anglers have been waiting for.
On Monday, Maples went on a charter trip armed and ready for the Spanish and – bingo – they were there and ready to bite.
Maples finished the day with 10 Spanish, all easily keepers above the 12-inch minimum size limit and some measuring in the 20-24 inch range.
With the great weather on hand, Maples has stayed on the Spanish daily, trolling mackerel trees finished with Clark spoons on No. 1 planers and catching an excellent grade of fish.
“Some are at least 20-24 (inches), and Wednesday was the first day I had to measure to see if they were over 12,” said Maples. “Monday it was five blues to every Spanish, Wednesday it was straight up Spanish. I picked up the trolling speed to five mph and I was getting nothing but Spanish.”
During the warm, relatively tranquil week, Maples has seen a steady increase in water temperature.
“We’re getting paid back finally (weather-wise),” said Maples. “The water temperature was 67 at Paradise (Reef) Wednesday. With that south wind all week, every day that water’s gotten another degree warmer. I think it’s here, I think it’s on.”
For Maples this week it’s been, just another day at Paradise.
King or Spanish
As of Wednesday, Maples said juvenile king mackerel were mixing in with the Spanish, a tricky situation anglers should be wary of.
Spanish mackerel have a minimum size limit of 12 inches to tail fork and for kings the minimum size is 24 inches.
Juvenile kings near or below the minimum size of 24 inches tend to have gold spots just like Spanish do.
Anglers need to be sure the fish is a Spanish or king before making the important decision between releasing it or putting it in the cooler.
There are two distinguishing characteristics to look for, one identifying a Spanish and one a king.
Spanish mackerel have a black spot on the front portion of the dorsal fin. To see it better, gently pull the front of the dorsal fin forward toward the fish’s head.
Both fish have a lateral line that runs along the body of the fish toward the tail but on king mackerel, the lateral line makes a distinct drop, similar to a step. The lateral line on Spanish has no such drop.
In short, if you catch a mackerel that has gold spots and is under 24 inches, you’d better be sure it’s a Spanish before you add it to the cooler, or pray you don’t run across a South Carolina Department of Natural Resources enforcement officer on the way in.
In the offshore waters in the vicinity of the Continental Shelf and the meandering Gulf Stream, wahoo and blackfin tuna have been, as usual, available through the winter and into early spring for trolling boats. Mid-April into May is when fishing crews look to add dolphin, or mahi mahi, to the mix and come home with a Carolina Slam of all three species.
During super sea conditions this week, anglers found that dolphin have made their first real appearance of the spring in areas such as the Winyah Scarp and Georgetown Hole.
Numerous boats have caught at least a few dolphin to go with wahoo and blackfin tuna this week, and Ed Keelin, Operations manager of Georgetown Landing Marina, notes that one boat caught five dolphin and “slung off” another five.
With relatively warm weather in the forecast and no impending cold fronts, expect dolphin catches to really take off in the very near future.
“This is maybe the forward edge of the fish coming, they are starting to show up,” said Keelin. “I really think in the next two weeks they will show up (in numbers). The water’s plenty warm, the flying fish are there. The next report might be they are out there everywhere.”
GSSWA Flounder Tournament
Catches of flounder in the creeks of Murrells Inlet are picking up and the calendar reads April, meaning the Grand Strand Saltwater Anglers Flounder Tournament is fast approaching.
The 16th annual event will be held next Saturday in the inlet with the Captains Meeting and registration set for Friday at 5:30 p.m. at the Beaver Bar.
All flounder weighed in must measure a minimum of 15 inches, and only one flounder can be weighed in per angler. All competing fishermen must attend the Captains Meeting.
The largest flounder weighed in will earn $1,500 and any angler catching the flounder that was tagged for the tournament will earn $1,500. Entry fee is $45 for adults and $20 for youth anglers. For more information, contact Ed Skowysz (843-450-8218) or Chick McDaniel (843-651-2076).
Capt. Brant McMullan of Ocean Isle Fishing Center has been instrumental in establishing the Kingfish Cup, a series that encompasses four popular king mackerel tournaments. The limited-entry series will kick off during the 2017 king mackerel tournament season. Photo courtesy OIFC.com
Inaugural Kingfish Cup sets the stage for local fishermen
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
From Little River to Wilmington, N.C., some of the most popular king mackerel tournaments along the South Atlantic and Gulf coasts are staged annually.
Each summer and fall, the Rumble in the Jungle out of Little River, the Jolly Mon and Fall Brawl out of Ocean Isle Beach, N.C., and the Got ‘Em On Classic out of Wilmington all attract 200-plus boats as part of the Southern Kingfish Association (SKA) tournament trail.
Among all those boats are some truly hardcore fishing teams that just can’t get enough of competitive king mackerel fishing in an area of the Southeast where king mackerel fishing is, well, king.
It is those fishing teams that Capt. Brant McMullan of Ocean Isle Fishing Center had in mind when creating the Kingfish Cup, a limited entry series that will include the four tournaments.
“This series is directed specifically to our fishermen, our area,” said McMullan. “For the SKA, they are national, if you will, from North Carolina to Texas. This area is the (SKA’s) bread and butter, and we need something that focuses on us.”
McMullan set the limit of boats that can compete in the inaugural Kingfish Cup to 100, and that number of entries has quickly been reached. There is a glimmer of hope for other fishing teams that want to fish in the series – McMullan has a waiting list available and will be making an announcement regarding the Kingfish Cup after April 16.
Boats competing in the Kingfish Cup will combine the total weight of three of their four biggest kings caught in the four tournaments, receiving a point per pound. The 25 teams accumulating the most points will advance to a Kingfish Cup championship event to be held in Ocracoke, located in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, in November.
McMullan is fired up to have the Kingfish Cup championship at that locale at that time of year.
“Ocracoke in November, that fishery is the best in the country,” said McMullan. “There will be the opportunity to win a ton of money but it also is absolutely the pinnacle of king fishing. It absolutely rivals Biloxi (Miss.). There will be 60-pound kings caught with plenty of 40s and 50s.”
McMullan stresses the Kingfish Cup doesn’t affect fishing teams that want to fish in the individual tournaments but will not be competing in the Cup.
“An important thing is the Kingfish Cup is an umbrella series across existing events, four of the largest and most popular king mackerel tournaments in existence,” said McMullan. “Fishermen that don’t have interest in the Kingfish Cup, it means nothing as far as a change to the four tournaments. Those tournaments will still be open to the public.”
The Kingfish Cup will feature hefty prize money, including tournament-within-a-tournament entry levels ranging from $500 to $4,500.
“This will mean more ways to win, more money to win,” said McMullan. “We’re trying to appease those hardcore guys who want to take it to another level.”
For more information, visit www.kingfishcup.com.
BASS Nation Tournament
The BASS Nation State High School and Middle School tournaments were held Saturday on Lake Murray.
The two-man team of Bowman Davis and Jackson Denny of Carolina Forest High School finished sixth in the high school event, with a net weight of 15.62 pounds for a limit of five bass.
Another Carolina Forest duo, Ricky Adair and Hampton Denny, finished 13th with five fish weighing 13.07 pounds. The Conway High School team of Noah Jones and Manning Feldner were 15th with a four-fish aggregate of 12.48 pounds.
River Squires and Blake Thompson of Conway finished 25th with three fish weighing 9.49 pounds. The Waccamaw High School duo of Bennett Lawghe and Jake Tester were 27th with five fish weighing 9.30 pounds. Benjamin Cooper and Todd Howard of Conway and T.H. McKenzie and Mike Pagio of Waccamaw also competed in the event.
The Whittemore Park Middle School duo of Austin Winburn and Cooper Harrelson finished third among middle school teams with a five-fish limit of 10.13 pounds.
Kyler McKie and Michael Burch of North Augusta won the high school title with five bass weighing 16.42 pounds. Mason Fulmer and Marshall Robinson of Rebel Junior High won the middle school title with five fish weighing 15.42 pounds.
Captain Mike McDonald of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service navigates through shallow water in North Inlet on the hunt for sharks earlier this year. JASON LEE jlee@thesunnews
Fishing report: Wicked weather slows action for anglers on local waters
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
Look For: Spotted seatrout, flounder, red drum, black drum, sheepshead,bluefish.
Comments: It’s been a stormy, blustery week with a cold front thrown in for good measure, putting a damper on angler activity. But Capt. Patrick Kelly of Captain Smiley Fishing Charters found a few breaks in the weather to get in some fishing, including Wednesday before vicious weather moved in during the evening. Kelly produced all three species of a Carolina Slam in the Little River area including spotted seatrout, flounder and red drum. “Trout have been the top thing,” said Kelly. “There’s a bunch of trout around. It seems like better than usual fishing for this time of year.” Kelly floated white and chartreuse Berkeley Gulp Shrimp to produce trout and some flounder. The reds hit live mud minnows. Kelly noted a water temperature of 64 degrees Wednesday afternoon.
Look For: Whiting, croaker, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, weakfish, black sea bass, flounder.
Comments: Capt. Jeff Maples of Reel Salty Charters found a few breaks in the weather to hit near-shore reefs such as Paradise Reef out of Murrells Inlet earlier this week and caught bluefish and weakfish. It’s what he didn’t catch that has Maples excited for the upcoming weeks. “I saw some Spanish (mackerel) pop up,” said Maples. “They were in super small schools, but they were there. There are glass minnows out there and they were jumping and feeding on them. I got a good visual on them.” Maples said the Spanish disappeared before he could get a bait to them. “I’m hoping this cold front won’t mess up the few Spanish we’ve got,” Maples said Wednesday evening. The reefs are also holding plenty of black sea bass, which have a 13-inch minimum size limit, plus a few bull red drum and flounder. The surf has been rough on the beach and fishing hasn’t been very productive off Grand Strand piers. Whiting and croaker are the top catch, with bluefish and a few black drum also being landed. The ocean water temperature at the Cherry Grove Pier Wednesday afternoon was 66 degrees on the surface and 65 on the bottom.
Look For: Wahoo, blackfin tuna, vermilion snapper, black sea bass, triggerfish, porgy, grunts, amberjack.
Comments: There have been few opportunities this week to get offshore, but the wahoo action was superb through Sunday. The 2017 South Carolina Wahoo Series continues through April 16, featuring a two-fish aggregate with boats fishing two days each. Several boats fished on Sunday, with a 59.7-pounder the largest caught. A 100-pound, 5-ounce specimen weighed in a week ago by Wally Lee’s Wasted Time out of Murrells Inlet is the largest fish caught thus far in the event, but many competing boats still have another day to fish. Blackfin tuna are also available for trolling boats, with dolphin expected to make the scene within the next few weeks. Bottom fishing is producing vermilion snapper, black sea bass, grunts, porgy, triggerfish and amberjack. The annual Shallow-Water Grouper Spawning Season Closure is in effect through April 30. Red snapper cannot be harvested and must be released in the South Atlantic region.
Look For: Catfish, bass, bream, crappie.
Comments: “The weather’s cut all the fishermen off,” said River Squires of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle on Wednesday. “Maybe by this weekend they’ll be back at it.” Anglers that have tried their luck have found catfish action to be very good, including a 45-pound flathead landed. The cold front likely pushed the bream to a little deeper water, but they will soon be back on the banks in 2-4 feet of water hitting crickets. Squires notes bass action has been good in the lakes off the Great Pee Dee River with lizards and Senko worms working well.