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Legislation could lead to larger flounder population

February 11, 2017 Uncategorized Comments Off on Legislation could lead to larger flounder population

Live Great Outdoors
Members of Coastal Carolina University’s Saltwater Anglers Club show off a king mackerel caught in 2016 during the Fall Brawl King Mackerel Tournament at Ocean Isle Fishing Center. The club is hosting a fund-raising seminar on Feb. 18 on the CCU campus. Submitted photo

Proposed legislation could lead to larger flounder population in S.C. waters

By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News

A bump up in the size limit could be on the horizon for South Carolina’s population of flounder, and nowhere on the Palmetto State coast is flounder fishing more popular than along the Grand Strand from Georgetown to Little River.
The current minimum size limit for flounder is 14 inches, and proposed legislation calls for a 1-inch increase to 15 inches.
South Carolina House of Representatives Bill H 3665, which proposes the increase in size limit, was introduced and first read on Feb. 2 and was referred to the Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee.
In recent years, flounder in local estuaries have received unprecedented pressure from hook-and-line anglers and giggers as the coastal population has exploded.
Long-term trammel net sampling by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources in eight major estuaries along the coast, including Georgetown County’s Winyah Bay, has revealed a steady decline in the southern flounder population since 1994. Also, according to the agency, reported charter boat catch rates have declined over the same time frame.
According to Mel Bell, Director of S.C. DNR’s Office of Fisheries Management, female flounder first mature at 14 inches and begin substantially contributing to the spawn at 15 inches.
Raising the minimum size limit to 15 inches is designed to increase the number of females that successfully migrate into the ocean to spawn in late fall and winter.
“The benefit of going to 15 is allowing the females another year to mature and give them more spawning capacity,” said Bell. “Excluding the 14-inch fish, we would be reducing the (recreational) catch by 29 percent, and that should be beneficial.”
With legislation in process to increase the minimum size, some anglers question whether the current daily bag limits of 15 per person and 30 per boat should be lowered.
Bell notes that according to Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) data, the average recreational angler in South Carolina catches two flounder per trip.
“The problem with playing with the bag (limit) is, looking at the MRIP data, the average person only catches maybe two,” said Bell. “For an impactful bag limit change to help, you’d have to drop the bag significantly. You ‘d have to go lower than anybody is willing to go.”
Rep. Lee Hewitt, R-Georgetown, a member of the house’s Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee, co-signed the legislation.
Hewitt is a longtime area resident and sees the need to enhance the flounder population.
“I grew up on (Murrells Inlet), I’ve been out there since I was 10 years old, fishing, gigging and crabbing,” said Hewitt.
“(With the 14-inch minimum size limit) we’re taking fish out of the water without them having a chance to reproduce. We’re just trying to give them a chance to reproduce and produce more fish so we have more fish to catch.”
Hewitt has found the increase looks to have solid support in the House of Representatives.
“I’ve personally reached out to every House member who represents the coast seeking their support for the bill and the results have been positive,” said Hewitt.
Flounder are well-known as a meat fish, which means they make fine table fare. Bell points to this aspect of the flatfish that has contributed to the declining population.
“Over 80 percent of (red drum) are released, and some trout are released,” said Bell. “If a flounder is of legal size, it’s going into the cooler and going home. That’s one of the problems they have, they’re too popular and they’re so good to eat.”
Red Drum Report
According to a news release from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, the 2017 Red Drum Stock Assessment and Peer Review Report indicate overfishing is not occurring for red drum in either the northern or southern stocks.
The northern stock includes fish from North Carolina to New Jersey, while the southern stock includes fish from South Carolina to Florida.
The ASMFC accepted the stock assessment and report for management use, but no management action was taken since overfishing is not occurring.
CCU Seminar
Coastal Carolina University’s Saltwater Angler Club is staging its 8th annual Spring Fundraising Seminar on February 18 at Brittain Hall on the CCU campus in Conway.
The event features five 50-minute seminars, each with a 10-minute break.
“The seminar is a good way to give back to the community and provides fundraising for the club as well,” said Club President James Coleman. “It teaches people things they may not know about fishing. It helps allow us to go on trips and that’s one of our main goals in the club is to get Coastal students out fishing.”
Tickets are $15 for the public, and $10 for any students. Doors open at 9:30 a.m. with the first seminar beginning at 10 a.m. Breakfast and lunch will be served.
Seminar details follow:
▪ King Mackerel Fishing, Capt. Jodie Gay of Bluewater Candy.
▪ Offshore Bottom Fishing, Capt. Keith Logan of North Myrtle Beach Fishing Charters.
▪ Trout, Drum, Flounder Fishing, Capt. Patrick Kelly of Captain Smiley Fishing Charters.
▪ Offshore Trolling, Capt. Shawn Thomas of Underdog.
▪ GPS Systems, Capt. David Cutler of Low Country Fishing Charters.
Brittain Hall is located at 23 Chanticleer Drive, Conway, SC, 29526. For more information, contact Coleman at jtcoleman@g.coastal.edu.

Bluefin tuna being caught in North Carolina

January 22, 2017 Uncategorized Comments Off on Bluefin tuna being caught in North Carolina

This giant bluefin tuna was landed off the Carolinas coast on Dec. 16, 2015. The Sun News file photo
BY GREGG HOLSHOUSER
For The Sun News

Earlier this week, bluefin tuna moved into the area off Wilmington, N.C., area beaches, specifically off Kure Beach and Carolina Beach southward toward Frying Pan Shoals.

The bluefin tuna season opened on Jan. 1 and anglers began catching them farther north, out of Morehead City, N.C. But late last weekend, the giant tuna moved south and within reach of boats fishing out of Brunswick County.

Capt. Brant McMullan of Ocean Isle Fishing Center in Ocean Isle Beach, N.C., reports approximately 15 fish were caught in the vicinity and more than 30 hooked up from Sunday through Wednesday.

“There have been some really big ones, up to 106 inches,” said McMullan, who noted some of the fish have been brought in to Southport. “(The bluefin bite) has been super slow for the last three to four years but this is breathing a little bit of life back into it.”

The tuna have been found around right whales that are migrating through the area, and feeding on schools of menhaden.

“If you’re looking for anything to find the fish it would be whales,” said McMullan. “The formula is find the whales, which means bait and birds, gannets, are around.”

The fish have been found very close to the beach, some within a half-mile offshore in only 25-35 feet of water, as anglers trolled horse ballyhoo to catch them. The bite slowed a bit on Thursday, but boats continued to search for the monster tuna on Friday.

“(Thursday) everything disappeared,” said McMullan. “They’re still somewhere, we’ve got to figure out where they went. We all were fishing the same area but now we’ve got to start looking around.”

New addition to the Little River fishing reef

January 22, 2017 Uncategorized Comments Off on New addition to the Little River fishing reef

The tug boat, Apollo, was dropped on the Little River Offshore Reef on January 12. Photo Courtesy Coastal Conservation Association South Carolina
BY GREGG HOLSHOUSER
For The Sun News

Coastal Conservation Association South Carolina and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources are teaming together to rapidly enhance artificial reef sites off the Palmetto State coast.

Since 2010, five additions to reef sites within South Carolina’s Marine Artificial Reef Program have been deployed by CCA SC and S.C. DNR, which manages the program through the Marine Resources Division.

“This is now the fifth major artificial reef construction project we’ve completed with CCA’s assistance,” said Robert Martore, S.C. DNR’s artificial reef coordinator. “They’ve helped with near-shore reef deployments along the entire South Carolina coastline, and we hope to continue this partnership well into the future.”

The latest addition was put in place on a reef site off Little River just nine days ago when Permitted Area-02, better known as the Little River Offshore Reef, was the recipient of a decommissioned 42-foot tugboat named Apollo. The substantial structure, placed in approximately 50 feet of water within the permitted area, has been named CCA-Little River Offshore Reef.

“Recreational fishermen along the Grand Strand are excited to have a new near-shore site with easy access for fishing and what we feel will offer excellent fishing opportunities for many species,” said Murrells Inlet resident Andy Ricks, of the local Waccamaw CCA Chapter and CCA state board member. “The vision of our reefing effort is to create near-shore sites that aren’t just a one-time project, but a continuous effort to reef the entire area.”

The Little River Offshore Reef is located 10.5 nautical miles south-southeast of Little River Inlet, on a compass bearing of 156 degrees. The new structure will soon hold numerous species such as black sea bass, sheepshead, spadefish and flounder, plus will attract pelagic species such as Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, cobia and barracuda in the spring, summer and autumn.

The Little River Offshore Reef is just as well known for diving. In fact, one adjacent area of the reef is named Barracuda Alley, with Coastal Scuba in North Myrtle Beach aiding in creating it. Coastal Scuba uses the spot for dive trips and diver-training excursions.

There is plenty of other reef material within the boundaries of the Little River Offshore Reef site, one of the oldest in South Carolina waters. The earliest structure was added in the 1970s and over the years S.C. DNR has worked with the area’s diving community to add numerous armored personnel carriers, barges and concrete culvert.

Giant Bluefin
Earlier this week, bluefin tuna moved into the area off Wilmington, N.C., area beaches, specifically off Kure Beach and Carolina Beach southward toward Frying Pan Shoals.

The bluefin tuna season opened on Jan. 1 and anglers began catching them farther north, out of Morehead City, N.C. But late last weekend, the giant tuna moved south and within reach of boats fishing out of Brunswick County.

Capt. Brant McMullan of Ocean Isle Fishing Center in Ocean Isle Beach, N.C., reports approximately 15 fish were caught in the vicinity and more than 30 hooked up from Sunday through Wednesday.

“There have been some really big ones, up to 106 inches,” said McMullan, who noted some of the fish have been brought in to Southport. “(The bluefin bite) has been super slow for the last three to four years but this is breathing a little bit of life back into it.”

The tuna have been found around right whales that are migrating through the area, and feeding on schools of menhaden.

“If you’re looking for anything to find the fish it would be whales,” said McMullan. “The formula is find the whales, which means bait and birds, gannets, are around.”

The fish have been found very close to the beach, some within a half-mile offshore in only 25-35 feet of water, as anglers trolled horse ballyhoo to catch them. The bite slowed a bit on Thursday, but boats continued to search for the monster tuna on Friday.

“(Thursday) everything disappeared,” said McMullan. “They’re still somewhere, we’ve got to figure out where they went. We all were fishing the same area but now we’ve got to start looking around.”