Most homes were surrounded by river water after the Waccamaw River rose at Jackson Bluff from the effects of Hurricane Matthew.
Janet Blackmon Morgan firstname.lastname@example.org
BY GREGG HOLSHOUSER
For The Sun News
It was a busy season for the outdoors scene in 2016. Here are the top five stories of the year:
1. Hurricane Matthew
For over a week residents of coastal South Carolina watched and hoped, even prayed, as Hurricane Matthew meandered through the Caribbean and took a northward turn toward the Bahamas.
The turn out to sea residents were looking for never happened, and on Oct. 8 Matthew made landfall near McClellanville. The storm continued northeast, straddling the coast before finally heading east at North Carolina’s Outer Banks.
Matthew’s storm surge caused tremendous beach erosion and a 2-to-4 foot storm surge wreaked havoc along the beachfront and on waterfront property. Fishing piers along the Grand Strand were damaged, with the Surfside Pier and Springmaid Pier both sustaining heavy damage.
The effects of the storm were just beginning to be felt on the day of landfall. Matthew dumped a devastating deluge of rain in the watershed of rivers such as the Waccamaw, Little Pee Dee, Great Pee Dee and Black.
Flood damage was rampant along the rivers, and nine days after the storm moved through, the Waccamaw River crested at 17.9 feet in Conway to set an all-time record.
After the storm, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources temporarily closed areas along the Waccamaw, Great Pee Dee and Little Pee Dee River drainage systems to hunting due to the flooding.
Long-time residents recognized Matthew as the worst hit from a hurricane in the greater Myrtle Beach area since Hurricane Hugo in 1989.
2. Low Dissolved Oxygen Event
The ongoing issue of critically low levels of dissolved oxygen in ocean water in close proximity to the beach made another dramatic appearance along the Grand Strand, creating concern for many observers but a frenzy for flounder fishermen.
In mid-to-late August, Dr. Susan Libes, Professor of Marine Chemistry at Coastal Carolina University, very closely monitored ocean water conditions from data stations at three Grand Strand piers – Cherry Grove Pier, Apache Pier and 2nd Ave. Pier.
“This past week we have seen water dissolved oxygen drop below that two milligram per liter threshold which is technically hypoxia,” said Libes, who is Program Director of CCU’s Environmental Quality Lab. “(The dissolved oxygen level dropped) below four milligrams per liter on Aug. 14, and the recovery happened (Aug. 23). The very lowest oxygen was on Aug. 19 – .4 milligrams per liter. I’m not sure our sensors can even detect the difference between .4 and 0.”
In the last 12 years there have been three other events where oxygen levels dropped near or to a state of hypoxia – lack of oxygen in ocean water – and flounder catches increased dramatically each time. The previous events occurred in 2004, 2009 and 2012.
Anglers headed to the piers, and even the surf, to take advantage of easy catches of flounder, which readily took baits such as mullet, mud minnows and shrimp.
Capt. Joe Winslow and crew aboard Hooligan, a 34-foot Yellowfin, had a record-breaking king mackerel fishing season in 2016 while competing in the Southern Kingfish Association’s Division 9.
Winslow is a professor of instructional technology at Coastal Carolina University and calls on current and alumni members of CCU’s Saltwater Angler Club to make up his crew in SKA tournaments.
The Hooligan crew fished all five tournaments in the division, winning the East Coast Got ‘Em On event on July 10 in Carolina Beach, N.C. In the other four tournaments, the crew finished second, fourth, seventh and 22nd.
In all, Hooligan set a new division record of 110 points, which combines the weight of the top three fish weighed in, an average of 36.7 pounds per king.
“We’re very excited about it,” said Winslow. “It’s always a goal for any team to be the top regional winner.”
Winslow has won nine SKA Division titles over the years and pointed out this is the first season he has used all CCU students or alumni for the crew.
“It’s an amazing opportunity for the students,” said Winslow. “I’m happy to have them on board for this. This one was very special because it’s the first time the team was composed of all students. They’ve fished hard, they’ve learned a lot and they’re great teammates.”
In mid-November, at the SKA Nationals in Ft. Pierce, Fla., Winslow was inducted into the SKA Hall of Fame.
4. Georgetown Blue Marlin Tournament
When it comes to seeing a blue marlin at the dock, the Georgetown Blue Marlin Tournament is the place to be among the tournament venues in the South Carolina Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series.
For the second time in the last four years, two blue marlin were landed in the 49th annual tournament at Georgetown Landing Marina, both on May 27, the final day of fishing in the tournament.
To put that into perspective, the last year more than two blue marlin were landed in the entire Governor’s Cup series was in 2005, when nine were landed in the series including three at Georgetown.
In the 11 years (including 2016) since that banner year in 2005, a total of nine blue marlin have been landed in the series – seven of them at Georgetown.
Victor “Bubba” Roof’s Game On crew, based out of Toler’s Cove Marina in Mt. Pleasant, landed the larger of the two blue marlin, a 477.2-pounder, and released two more blue marlin – all within a span of five hours – to win the points and cash award portions of the tournament.
Big Sky, owned by Georgetown’s Jim Johnston, brought in the other blue marlin, a 460.1-pounder. Johnston docks the 59-foot Paul Spencer Yacht at Georgetown Landing Marina.
5. SKA Runner-Up
Chris Bryan of Ocean Isle Beach, N.C., and his On A Mission/OIFC Fishing Team ventured south to compete in the SKA Nationals in Ft. Pierce, Fla., in November.
A local entry from nearby West Palm Beach, Team Tuppens/Garmin, weighed in a 62.33-pound king mackerel on the first of two fishing days, virtually relegating the rest of the field to battle for second place.
“I thought it was going to be virtually impossible to beat that,” said Bryan. “In the back of my mind I knew the entire field was fishing for second place after they weighed the 62-pounder.”
Team Tuppens/Garmin easily won the championship with a 99.78-pound two-fish aggregate.
Bryan and crew were in 16th place after the first day of fishing but brought a 51.67-pound king to the weigh-in on the second day. The crew’s 74.22-pound aggregate earned them second place among 113 boats competing in the prestigious championship tournament.
“We were real excited,” said Bryan, the real estate sales manager at Coldwell Banker Sloane Realty in Ocean Isle Beach. “It’s a very surreal experience to finish second amongst that level of competition. The camaraderie at the SKA National Championships is second to none. I’ve forged relationships with fishing teams throughout the Southeastern U.S. that have turned into lifelong friendships.”
Fishing report: Milder temps make for better fishing of area estuaries, freshwater
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
Look For: Spotted seatrout, black drum, red drum, flounder, sheepshead, tautog.
Comments: Area jetties at Winyah Bay, Murrells Inlet and Little River are currently hot spots with spotted seatrout and black drum the best species to target. Red drum, tautog and sheepshead can also be found around the rocks. Capt. Rayburn Poston, founder of the Student Angler League Tournament Trail (SALTTFishing.com), headed out on Murrells Inlet with Jerry Condenzio of Capt. Crumbs Outpost in Myrtle Beach on Wednesday. The duo found plenty of black drum, catching eight keepers within the 14- to 27-inch slot limit and releasing nine more using cut shrimp on a Carolina rig. The black drum were all in the 13- to 19-inch range. They also caught a few undersized red drum and one over the 15- to 23-inch slot limit. Poston noted a water temperature of 56-57 degrees near the Murrells Inlet jetties, which bodes well for trout action as the calendar turns to 2017. There are no major cold fronts in the 10-day forecast, and as long as the water temperature remains above 50 degrees, the solid trout bite should continue. Trout will hit a variety of baits including live shrimp, plastic grubs or artificial lures such as shrimp or Mirrolures, cast or trolled.
Look For: Black sea bass, weakfish, black drum, red drum, tautog, flounder, whiting, croaker.
Comments: The near-shore reefs are the place to be with plenty of black sea bass around. Black sea bass have a daily bag limit of seven per person with a 13-inch minimum size limit. As of mid-week there appeared to be more throwbacks than keepers on spots like Paradise Reef and Jim Caudle Reef, so head to deeper water to find bigger fish. The reefs are also holding weakfish, tautog and flounder, with sheepshead likely to make a showing soon. Action is slow on Grand Strand piers with a few whiting, croaker, perch and black drum caught. Most of the black drum caught off the piers have been in the 10-inch range, below the 14- to 27-inch slot limit for the species, but catching a keeper is not out of the question. Ocean water temperature Wednesday at the Cherry Grove Pier was 54 degrees Wednesday.
Look For: Wahoo, blackfin tuna, dolphin, grouper, vermilion snapper, black sea bass, porgy, triggerfish, grunts, amberjack.
Comments: Sea conditions have not been conducive for offshore fishing in general the last few weeks. But if the opportunity arises, trolling action should be good for wahoo in areas such as the Winyah Scarp, Black Jack Hole and MacMarlen Ledge. All anglers have another week to harvest grouper before the annual Shallow-water Grouper Spawning Season Closure goes into effect Jan. 1, and continuing through April 30. The closure means no recreational and commercial harvest or possession of gag, black grouper, red grouper, scamp, red hind, rock hind, coney, graysby, yellowfin grouper, and yellowmouth grouper is allowed for the four-month period. Plenty of other reef species are available on bottom fishing trips though, including black sea bass, vermilion snapper, porgy, triggerfish, grunts and amberjack, but red snapper are off-limits in the South Atlantic region and must be released.
Look For: Bream, crappie, bass, catfish.
Comments: Despite a cold start to the week, Ronald ‘Catfish’ Stalvey of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle in Conway reports good action for bream, crappie, catfish and bass. “The bass fishing has been phenomenal,” said Stalvey. “They’ve been smoking them on the Waccamaw and on the North Santee fishing’s still great.” Stalvey said plastic worms fished on the bottom, shad rap crank baits and jerk baits have worked for bass. Bream and morgans are taking worms fished on the bottom on a two-hook rig. “Some are still shallow in 5-6 feet but most are in the 8-12 foot range,” said Stalvey. Crappie action has been very good around structure with fish hitting minnows or jigs. Cut eel is producing good catches of catfish.
Captain has conquered lifelong goal of catching great whites; just don’t ask for his secret
A great white shark just under 10 feet long comes to the surface before being released Tuesday off Hilton Head Island. Courtesy Outcast Sport Fishing
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
In the early 1990s, a number of sea turtles washed up on the beach of Hilton Head Island, with definitive bite marks from large sharks leaving no doubt of the cause of death.
The question was, what species of shark was responsible for the turtles’ demise?
Chip Michalove, then a teenager attending Hilton Head High School, had a differing opinion than the general consensus that tiger sharks were responsible for attacking the turtles. He suspected something much larger.
“Just by looking at the bite, it didn’t take any biologist to tell it wasn’t a tiger shark,” Michalove said Friday. “Right then I thought we had white sharks going by. I remember thinking we’ve got them out there, these people are just misdiagnosing the bite.”
From there, Michalove, a native of Louisville, Ky., who moved to Hilton Head Island as an 11-year-old, became determined to learn whether the renowned great white shark occurred off the South Carolina coast.
“The drive to see one was pretty high at that point,” Michalove said.
In 2000, then Capt. Michalove opened a charter fishing business, Outcast Sport Fishing, which provided him the means to really search for great whites off the coast of Hilton Head.
He became a shark-fishing specialist – in the early years of his business even offering his customers a giant shark guarantee, promising a refund was due if an 8-footer such as a tiger or hammerhead wasn’t caught and released.
In about 2002, Michalove really ramped up his efforts to locate, catch and release a great white off Hilton Head.
“I was putting together the puzzle,” Michalove said. “I made it my part-time job. I just made a plan of attack, what water temperature, water depth, finding the time frame when they would be in the area and what would be my best chances to see one.
“I was kind of studying from everyone else’s experiences of seeing one. If you put the time in and you’re passionate about it and driven toward it you can accomplish it.”
About three years ago, Michalove completed the puzzle of precisely where and when to find the great whites, but don’t ask him for any real details. He is very protective of the species he has grown to love.
“I really want to protect this species,” he said.
Michalove discovered finding the great white sharks was one accomplishment, but hooking them up and getting them to the boat by rod-and-reel was another matter altogether.
“How do you land something that size?” queried Michalove. “Nobody’s ever done it down here so there’s nothing to go on. At first we missed a lot of fish. The tackle we use for tiger sharks doesn’t hold up for these animals.”
After several years of frustrating winter time trips with no success, Michalove hooked up with his first great white on Jan. 29, 2014 while fishing by himself but he didn’t catch and release the shark.
Michalove ramped up the tackle, and about two months later, he caught his first great white in March, 2014.
“There was a lot of trial and error there,” Michalove said. “I had to learn how to stop a fish of that size.”
Now that Michalove is dialed in on exactly where, when and how to catch the great whites, the encounters and catch-and-releases have been surprisingly common.
In less than three years – 33 months to be exact – Michalove has released nine great whites off the Hilton Head coast, not including the ones he couldn’t slow down.
One such case of Michalove not being able to slow one down came on Tuesday, when the biggest great white he has seen in local waters, estimated to weigh over 3,000 pounds, took a bait near his 26-foot Glacier Bay center console.
“She ripped off about 400 yards of line on a slow swim and didn’t even know she was hooked,” Michalove said. “I had a massive amount of pressure on the line. I hooked her right at the boat, she wasn’t panicky, she was just slowly swimming away.”
But the hook pulled, and after that disappointment, Michalove and crew nearly headed in. But they put the baits back out and soon caught and released a great white he estimated to measure nearly 10 feet in length, the only male Michalove has caught.
The male became the third of nine sharks Michalove has implanted with an acoustic tag before releasing.
“Some were too chaotic to tag,” Michalove said.
The acoustic tags provide valuable information to the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, based in Chatham, Mass.
The acoustic tags enable the sharks to be tracked, and breaching the surface isn’t necessary for them to be located.
“There are receivers in the ocean from Maine to Miami,” Michalove said. “When the fish swims past the receiver, it logs into the database. The fish just has to swim within a few hundred yards of a receiver (to be detected).”
The frequency he has encountered the apex predators of the Atlantic Ocean off the southern South Carolina coast, and the number he believes are out there in the winter months are surprising.
“There are over 1,000 that are here in the colder months, between North Carolina and Florida, in this general region, the Southeast,” Michalove said. “For years I thought we just had a few, I had no idea the population was that big.”
Michalove stresses the occurrence of the great whites in local waters is nothing for the general public to be concerned about.
“There’s nothing to be scared of,” Michalove said. “Nobody’s in the cold water in the winter anyway. We’ve never had a shark fatality in this state in the modern era. The odds of getting bitten are millions to one, the odds of dying are zero.”
Michalove has enjoyed learning about great whites over the years, and is getting confident in finding and catching them.
“It’s been a fun process,” he said. “If you would have told me five years ago, I would catch multiple great whites in a winter, I would have told you I’m going to win the lottery every night this month.
“This year I’ve been once and hooked two and lost one. It’s the first time I’ve hooked two (on one trip). There’s going to be some crazy stuff this winter. I feel so confident I could almost guarantee it right now.”