Garden City Beach resident Charlie Nash shows off a spotted seatrout caught Tuesday in Murrells Inlet. Gregg Holshouser For The Sun News
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
The week of Thanksgiving had arrived, and it was time to indulge in some of the fantastic spotted seatrout action anglers have been enjoying in estuaries along the Grand Strand this autumn.
Garden City Beach resident Charlie Nash pulled out of Inlet Harbour into the main creek of Murrells Inlet on Tuesday and took a left in his sizable jon boat, with my brother-in-law Bryan Cox and myself along for the trip. It was a chilly start at 10:30 a.m., with temps approaching 50 degrees and a 10 mph northeast breeze under a sunny, bluebird sky.
The sun sets in the western sky Tuesday afternoon to end a day of fishing in Murrells Inlet. Gregg Holshouser For The Sun News
Less than five minutes later, we arrived at the inlet’s jetties and dropped back Yo-Zuri chartreuse shrimp on Shimano baitcaster reels. Nash began slow-trolling the lures, meandering parallel to the jetties, searching for the fish, as we kept the shrimp just off the bottom. However, the tide was rising, and the action was slow. Nash had previously caught trout by the same method on recent trips, but on a falling tide, and he moved on to plan B after about 30 minutes with no bites.
The next spot was on the north end of the inlet, well off the main channel, and this time we deployed live shrimp under adjustable-depth floats, letting the incoming current carry the bait through a productive area just off a Spartina grass bank. Again, the action was slow, but Nash was not fazed.
“Those fish are going to come in here, just let that water get moving a little more,” he said.
As the tide approached high before starting to turn, Nash was proven prophetic. In the span of an hour, we caught three black drum including two keepers on the lower end of the 14-27 inch slot limit, a pair of trout just over the 14-inch minimum size and a flounder under the 14-inch minimum size, for a quick Carolina slam.
But trolling the Yo-Zuri shrimp at the jetties was what Nash had in mind – in recent trips he had caught numerous fish by that method including some over 20 inches. The Myrtle Beach native and longtime local angler was biding his time, waiting on the tide to get right. A little after 3 p.m., an hour after high tide, Nash returned to our original spot at the jetties and we once again began slow-trolling the Yo-Zuri chartreuse shrimp. This time, with the wind laid down and the temperature up to about 60, the trout cooperated.
Problem was, the window of opportunity during the falling tide was small, with the early sunset of late autumn looming.
Nash wasted no time in getting the boat lined up the right distance from the rocks as we dropped our artificial shrimp back a good 100 yards, again, keeping them just off the bottom.
After a few minutes, I went from feeling just the resistance of the trolled lure on my rod to it being doubled over when a nice trout slammed the shrimp and was caught on the rear treble hook. In a few minutes, I had the fish beside the boat and Nash netted a nice 19-20 incher.
As the sun inched down closer and closer toward the south jetty in the western sky, we added five more solid keeper trout to our catch as Nash worked back and forth adjacent to the rocks.
The sunlight faded and the sky turned incredible shades of blue, pink, yellow and purple as we headed back toward Inlet Harbor with the sun disappearing behind the jetty.
Super weather, great fishing, great friendship and beautiful scenery – so much to be thankful for along our South Carolina coast on this Thanksgiving weekend.
CCA South Carolina Contribution
The marine species of fish raised at the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources’ Waddell Mariculture Center in Bluffton are crucial to the stocks of popular fish available to recreational fishermen in Palmetto State waters.
The center has raised species such as red drum, black drum, spotted seatrout, cobia, flounder and striped bass among others for stocking and research purposes over the last 30 years. The 1,200-acre property in Beaufort County features twelve 0.25-acre ponds, ten 0.5-acre ponds, and three 1.25-acre ponds.
The stocking program is especially important in areas along the Grand Strand that feature small estuaries such as Murrells Inlet, Cherry Grove and Little River that receive heavy fishing pressure. The stocking of species such as red drum in these inlets helps offset the lack of natural reproduction and the heavy fishing pressure.
Keeping the aeration pumps running non-stop is critical to the success of the center and stocking program, and Coastal Conservation Association South Carolina recently took a big step toward ensuring that happens.
CCA South Carolina stepped in this week to provide two generators large enough to keep all 25 outdoor fish ponds on the center’s grounds going in the event of power outages.
“For the mariculture center to maintain uninterrupted production systems is important,” said Al Stokes of S.C. DNR. “Because our work with several recreationally important marine species is seasonal, the loss of electrical service for a period of time jeopardizes our important work.
“These generators donated by CCA South Carolina will significantly reduce that risk and allow our researchers and scientists to continue their studies unimpeded.”
CCA South Carolina was able to secure the two generators in early August and with the help of Flint Equipment Company and Reeves Trucking the generators are in excellent working condition, insuring service for the mariculture center for years to come.
“As part of our on-going commitment to improving marine habitat and our support of science based fisheries management, providing this equipment was an investment that our state board knew would further both of those causes,” said Richard Berry, CCA South Carolina State Chairman. “Given the impressive track record of scientific study and research to come out of this facility, we know this will pay dividends to recreational angling and fisheries management for years to come.”
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
Look For: Spotted seatrout, black drum, red drum, flounder, sheepshead.
Comments: Fishing continues to be excellent in estuaries throughout the area, from the Georgetown vicinity to Brunswick County, N.C. Spotted seatrout, black drum and red drum can be caught in very good numbers in many areas, from tidal creeks to jetties at Winyah Bay, Murrells Inlet and Little River. Live shrimp fished under floats will work well for all three species, particularly trout and black drum. A variety of artificial shrimp such as Vudu, Gulp and Yo-Zuri will work well specifically for trout, plus red drum. Also look for sheepshead and tautog at area jetties, hitting live or dead shrimp, or fiddler crabs. The occasional flounder can also be found in all areas. Capt. Mike McDonald of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service had a typical solid trip on Tuesday, catching 17 trout and several red drum fishing south of Georgetown. The trout hit plastic grubs while the reds took cut shrimp.
Look For: Black sea bass, whiting, weakfish, black drum, red drum, flounder, perch, croaker.
Comments: Capt. Jeff Maples of Reel Salty Fishing Charters and his daughter, Megan, hit Paradise Reef (Three-Mile Reef) out of Murrells Inlet on a fun trip and found some very nice weakfish (summer trout), including a pair of 20-plus inch keepers. In addition, the Maples caught numerous black sea bass, all under but within an inch or so of the 13-inch minimum size. Look for solid keepers to begin showing up on the near-shore bottom spots and artificial reefs soon, with some likely already available. “It’s time for them to start showing up,” said Jeff Maples. A few bull red drum well over the 15-23 inch slot limit remain on near-shore bottom spots and just off the surf, but with the water temperature headed further down, the big spawners will soon be gone for the season. Ronnie Goodwin of the Cherry Grove Pier reports one angler landed three keeper red drum in the 17-inch range from the pier on Wednesday. Otherwise, Goodwin reports whiting, croakers, perch and small black drum have been caught off the pier this week. Whiting and spots were caught off the Apache Pier on Wednesday, the first showing of spots in over a week. Catches of puffers along with a few blues and flounder were also reported. The ocean water temperature at Cherry Grove Pier was 62 degrees on Wednesday.
Look For: Wahoo, blackfin tuna, dolphin, grouper, vermilion snapper, black sea bass, porgy, triggerfish, grunts, amberjack.
Comments: Near the break, catches of wahoo are very good in areas such as the Winyah Scarp, Black Jack Hole and MacMarlen Ledge, with blackfin tuna and a few dolphin mixed in. A little closer in, on bottom spots and ledges in about 60 to 90 feet, catches of king mackerel and grouper are very good. Cigar minnows will work well for both species, preferably live for the grouper. Overall, bottom fishing is excellent for grouper, especially gag and scamp, black sea bass, vermilion snapper, porgy, triggerfish, grunts and amberjack. Red snapper are off-limits in the South Atlantic region and must be released.
Look For: Crappie, bream, catfish, bass.
Comments: Water levels and conditions are getting better by the week on the Waccamaw River, with the area blessed with little rain since Hurricane Matthew’s devastating deluge on Oct. 8. With the improved conditions and cooler water temperatures, crappie action has picked up nicely with fish hitting minnows around structure and brush. Bream are headed for deeper water, as lead-lining worms on the bottom is the best method to catch them as December approaches. Catfish action has been very good in recent weeks.
The On A Mission/OIFC fishing team of Ocean Isle Beach, N.C., including Chris Bryan, Taylor Henkel and Bailey Auten, finished second in the SKA Nationals last weekend in Ft. Pierce, Fla., thanks to this 51.67-pound king mackerel. Submitted photo
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
After the first day of fishing in the 2016 Mercury Southern Kingfish Association National Championship in Ft. Pierce, Fla., there was a clear-cut favorite.
The tournament featured two days of fishing on Nov. 11-12 out of Ft. Pierce City Marina, and a team from around that area, Team Tuppens/Garmin, weighed in a huge 62.33-pound king mackerel to smoke the rest of the field by almost 23 pounds, as Augy One’s 39.60-pounder held down second place.
Still, there was another day of fishing to go, as the Nationals featured a format of a two-day, two-fish aggregate to determine the 2016 national champion of king mackerel fishing.
“I thought it was going to be virtually impossible to beat that,” said Chris Bryan of Ocean Isle Beach, N.C., head of the On A Mission/OIFC fishing team. “In the back of my mind I knew the entire field was fishing for second place after they weighed the 62-pounder.”
As expected, Team Tuppens/Garmin, headed by Steve Sprague of West Palm Beach, Fla., went on to win the prestigious tournament, adding a 37.45-pounder to its first-day smoker to easily claim the championship with a 99.78-pound aggregate.
But, the intense battle for second place raged on last Saturday during the final day of fishing and On A Mission/OIFC was in the mix.
“After day one we were in 16th place,” Bryan said. “That wasn’t too far down the totem pole.”
Bryan and his two fishing partners – Bailey Auten of Ocean Isle Beach and Taylor Henkel of Belmont, N.C. – headed to the same spot south of Ft. Pierce where they caught a 22.55-pounder the previous day in the 34-foot Fountain powered by three Mercury 350s.
Soon after arriving at the spot, a live bottom area in 74 feet of water about three miles off Stuart, Fla., the trio caught three small kings in the 7-8 pound range, which they released.
At 10 a.m., they got a good bite on a blue runner on a downrigger.
“I picked up the rod and the fish ran offshore, which is a trait of those bigger fish,” Bryan recalled. “After that he just essentially swam along with the boat for about 40 minutes, staying under the boat out of our sight. We finally saw the flouro knot and the fish came out from underneath the bow. When we saw the knot we knew he was 12 feet away and was about to pop up.”
Auten manned a 12-foot gaff and nailed the fish on the first shot.
“Bailey stuck it, I reached down and grabbed the tail and we pulled him in the boat,” said Bryan. “There were a bunch of high fives, yelling and screaming.”
The fish measured 58 inches in length with a 24-inch girth.
At the weigh-in, the smoker king tipped the scales at 51.67 pounds, the second-biggest fish caught in the tournament. That left the trio with an aggregate of 74.22 pounds, good for second place among 113 boats in the 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.”
Bryan has been fishing in the SKA since he was a 19-year-old in 1994, first competing in the SKA Nationals in 1999, also in Ft. Pierce. Bryan has qualified for each SKA Nationals event since 2003, and his best finish was eighth-place a year ago when the tournament was held in his backyard, in Morehead City, N.C.
Rounding out the top five were Raymarine/Strike Two with a 64.71-pound aggregate, Spiced Rum III with 59.85 pounds and Auggy One with 57.54 pounds.
The McMullan crew of Ocean Isle Fishing Center, including Brant, Barrett, Amy, Rube, Caroline and Brayden McMullan, finished 11th with a 47.72-pound aggregate.
Blondie, a 26-foot Yellowfin, won the Small Boat Class with a 51.36-pound aggregate while G-Force, a 25-
foot Bluewater, won the Single Engine Class with 52.11 pounds.
SKA Hall Of Fame
One angler was inducted into the SKA Hall of Fame during the week of events at the Nationals in Ft. Pierce – Capt. Joe Winslow of Sunset Beach.
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 aboard Hooligan, a 34-foot Yellowfin, in SKA events.
Hooligan and his CCU fishing team won SKA Division 9 this year, setting a division record of 110 points, the aggregate weight for the crew’s top three kings weighed in during the season.
Winslow has won nine SKA Division titles over the years.
“Joe Winslow is an outstanding fisherman and mentor who is very knowledgeable and has achieved so much in his career,” said CCU student James Coleman, President of the CCU Saltwater Angler Club. “Myself and others can always count on Joe for guidance, fishing-related or not, and he is always honest and kind.”
No Pitty weighed in a 66.74-pound wahoo on Oct. 18 to win Martini’s Hook-A-Hoo Rodeo over a field of 49 boats.
Boats were able to fish one out of 28 days in the tournament, from Oct. 8 through Nov. 5 and were able to weigh in fish at any of seven weigh-in stations in South and North Carolina, from North Myrtle Beach to Atlantic Beach, N.C.
Bluewater Express finished second with a 64.45-pounder and Game Hawg third with a 63.41-pounder.
Captivation caught the largest tuna, a 30.2-pound blackfin, while No Pitty weighed in the largest dolphin, an 11.62-pounder.
The tournament was founded in 2007 by fishing buddies Jeff Martini and Ace Parker in order to annually donate to the Shriners Hospitals for Children. This year’s event raised $7,000 for the organization.
The second Student Angler League Tournament Trail (SALTT) event of the school year was held last Saturday in cool and windy conditions out of the Campbell Marine Complex on the Sampit River.
Andrews’ Noah Payne and Kadyn Kellahan won the redfish division with a two-fish aggregate of 8.41 pounds, with Kellahan catching the big fish, a 4.36-pounder.
Conway’s Blake Thompson claimed first place in the bass division, weighing in five fish for a winning aggregate of 13.45 pounds including the big fish of 3.49 pounds.
Georgetown’s Shawn Benton and Logan Benton were second in the bass division with 11.88 pounds. Andrew’s Caleb Thornell and Brandon Porter were third with 9.02 pounds.
The next SALTT event will be held Feb. 11, 2016, also at the Campbell Marine Complex.