Dylan Garrity, of Berlin, N.J., throws a cast net from the Apache pier in hopes of catching bait. Jason Lee firstname.lastname@example.org
Action slow on area estuaries, but good fishing to be found elsewhere
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
Look For: Spotted seatrout, red drum, black drum, flounder, sheepshead.
Comments: Water temperatures continue to be above average for mid-February, generally in the mid 50s, with red drum, spotted seatrout, black drum and some flounder remaining active. High tides around a full moon and windy conditions a week ago created murky water, hampering a trip for Capt. Mike McDonald of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service in Georgetown. McDonald produced three trout, one red drum and a sheepshead on the trip, despite trying a variety of grubs, cut shrimp and mud minnows. “I don’t think it was a thing of the fish weren’t there, they just weren’t biting,” said McDonald. Look for trout, reds, black drum, sheepshead and possibly tautog at area jetties.
Look For: Sheepshead, black sea bass, black drum, tautog, weakfish, flounder, whiting, croaker.
Comments: The best bet inshore is to head to near-shore artificial reefs such as Paradise (three miles east of Murrells Inlet) and Jim Caudle (three miles south of Little River) and fish fiddler crabs on the structure for sheepshead and black drum. Black sea bass are also common on the reefs but anglers should keep the 13-inch minimum size limit in mind. Tautog, flounder and weakfish may also be found on the reefs. Action is slow as usual in February on Grand Strand piers, with just a few small croaker and whiting being caught. The water temperature at Cherry Grove Pier was 55 degrees Thursday afternoon, easily above normal.
Look For: Wahoo, blackfin tuna, black sea bass, vermilion snapper, triggerfish, red porgy, grunts, amberjack.
Comments: Find a nice day and the offshore wahoo bite can be very good. Capt. Danny Carey of Careyon Charters headed to the south end of the Winyah Scarp early this week and had a very productive day, landing six wahoo including a 58-pounder and a few blackfin tuna in 70-degree surface water. Carey trolled ballyhoo with Bluewater Candy skirts and spotted sea turtles and flying fish on the trip. “Seventy to 74 (degree water) is working for me,” Carey said. Super bottom fishing is available for vermilion snapper, black sea bass, triggerfish, grunts, red porgy and amberjack. Grouper must be released thanks to the annual Shallow-water Grouper Spawning Season Closure through April 30. Also, red snapper cannot be harvested and must be released in the South Atlantic Region.
Look For: Crappie, bream, bass, catfish.
Comments: Crappie action is very good on area rivers with fish hitting minnows presented both on floats or lead-lined on the bottom. Bream are hitting worms, also on the bottom. Catfish action has been excellent on cut eel, plus bass have been hitting a variety of lures including plastic worms, jerkbaits and crankbaits. The Waccamaw at Conway was at 7.7 feet at 6 p.m. Thursday and making good tides.
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.
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 email@example.com.
Captain Mike McDonald throws a cast net to catch menhaden to use for bait in Winyah Bay, Georgetown. JASON LEE jlee@thesunnews
Abnormal February temps a welcome gift to Grand Strand anglers
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
Look For: Spotted seatrout, black drum, red drum, flounder, sheepshead.
Comments: How’s the fishing currently for spotted seatrout in February, sometimes a month when the species is lethargic and clinging to life due to cold water temperatures in local estuaries? It is just great, as Capt. Mike McDonald of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service in Georgetown found out earlier this week. On Monday, McDonald’s customers caught 28 trout in the Winyah Bay vicinity including a couple gator trout weighing 5 1/2 and 6 pounds. “That’s a damn good day anytime, much less February,” said McDonald. McDonald’s crew was simply fishing with artificial grubs on 1/4 and 1/8-ounce jig heads. “Those are some of the biggest trout I’ve ever caught with my guide service,” said McDonald. “It was just a monster bunch of fish for this area down here. They get them in Murrells Inlet and Little River, but we just don’t get that many big (trout) in this inlet.” The bay was alive and warm for February said McDonald, who noted schools of mullet and glass minnows and saw a consistent water temperature of 54 degrees, plus one area with 58-degree water. Capt. Patrick Kelly of Captain Smiley Fishing Charters in Little River produced eight trout on a Wednesday trip using Mirrolures and Berkely Gulp artificials.
Look For: Sheepshead, black drum, croaker, whiting.
Comments: You need to know exactly where to go, but there are sheepshead and black drum holding on near-shore artificial reefs, including some monster sheepshead upwards of five pounds. Black sea bass (13-inch minimum size limit, 7-fish per person) are also prevalent on the reefs, but finding keepers can be a challenge. Also look for tautog and possibly weakfish and flounder. On Grand Strand piers, small whiting, croaker and black drum are being caught but action is slow overall. The ocean water temperature at Cherry Grove Pier Thursday afternoon was 54 degrees.
Look For: Wahoo, blackfin tuna, vermilion snapper, black sea bass, triggerfish, grunts, red porgy, amberjack.
Comments: There was a window of opportunity early in the week, and a few area boats made it to the offshore ledges and found trolling for wahoo to be productive. Blackfin tuna are also a possibility. Bottom fishing continues to be excellent for vermilion snapper, black sea bass, triggerfish, grunts, red porgy and amberjack, if conditions permit. Be ready to release some fish though, as the annual Shallow-water Grouper Spawning Season Closure is in effect through April 30, plus red snapper cannot be harvested and must be released in the South Atlantic region.
Look For: Crappie, bream, bass, catfish.
Comments: Ronald ‘Catfish’ Stalvey of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle in Conway reports very good action on local rivers for February. Stalvey noted the Ricefields area and ponds off the Waccamaw River at Conway have been productive areas. Crappie have been caught on minnows both on floats on structure and lead-lining. Bream are hitting worms and nightcrawlers lead-lining on the bottom. Catfish are taking eels and large shiners. Bass action has been very good, Stalvey said, with fish in pre-spawn mode hitting plastic worms, jerkbaits and crankbaits. “Bass are hot right now,” said Stalvey. “They are fanning things out, hanging off ledges.” The Waccamaw at Conway was at 7.8 feet at 6 p.m. Thursday and making good tides.