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Red Snapper mini seasons reveals valuable data


Amy Vincent and Capt. Robert Strickland show off a large red snapper caught aboard the New Inlet Princess out of Murrells Inlet. Submitted photo
Outdoors
Here’s what the red snapper mini-season told us about the health of the species

By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News

August 25, 2018 03:56 PM

The stock of red snapper off the South Carolina coast is pretty darn good these days, as the two weekends of the 2018 red snapper season proved.

The 2018 mini-season concluded last Sunday, and Capt. Robert Strickland of the New Inlet Princess party boat was able to run trips targeting red snapper each of the six days of the season, Aug. 10-12 and 17-19.

It was a successful mini-season for Strickland, with plenty of fishermen aboard and plenty of red snapper landed.

Anglers were able to keep one red snapper per person with no minimum size limit, and on two of his trips Strickland said he produced 85-90 red snapper.

Earlier this year, with red snapper closed to harvest, Strickland found them so thick on a few bottom spots that he had to move to avoid catching them.

“I had a couple days where . . . by the time I got (everybody’s line) back up, we had close to a hundred (red snapper caught and then released),” said Strickland. “You just try to get out of there.”

Considering the resurgence in red snapper numbers, you will not be hard-pressed to find fishermen who want more access to the fishery throughout the year in the South Atlantic Region, instead of the short and quick mini-seasons NOAA Fisheries has offered the last two years.

In 2009, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) determined the South Atlantic red snapper stock was overfished and undergoing overfishing, and the fishery was closed in 2010 with a 35-year rebuilding plan put in place.

Over the last eight years, there have been sporadic mini-seasons, including consecutive seasons in 2017 and 2018, but largely the species has been closed to harvest since 2010.

Count Strickland among the South Atlantic snapper-grouper fishing experts that believe the process is a good one, and is working.

“I think they need to keep doing what they’re doing for a few more years, I don’t think (the red snapper stocks) are quite where they need to be yet,” said Strickland. “They’ve got that regulation right, I think they’re doing it right, and I don’t say that that often. I think they’ve got that one pretty dialed in.”

While some anglers have never seen red snapper fishing this good in local waters, the 48-year-old Strickland has.

Strickland, who has been a captain for 29 years, reflected back to his teenage days when he was a mate on a party boat out of Murrells Inlet.

“When I was working for (Capt.) Jack Orr when I was 15 or 16 in the late 80s, on some trips we had 200 to 300 head of red snapper on the boat,” Strickland said.

With the flurry of the red snapper mini-season over, Strickland is looking forward to the fast-approaching fall fishing season, when the bite is excellent, the weather cooler and the crowds smaller.

Strickland noted the New Inlet Princess will be running 11-hour Gulf Stream trips on Thursdays and Saturdays in September and October.

For more information, visit www.CrazySisterMarina.com.
Cherry Grove Pier

The staff at the Cherry Grove Pier is enduring a tough time after the untimely death of two longtime employees within a period of three days.

The staff is mourning the deaths of Matt Potts and Ronnie Goodwin, who died on Aug. 10 and Aug. 13, respectively.

“Ronnie had been with me 17 years and been my assistant for five years now,” said Steve Gann, manager of the Cherry Grove Pier. “Ronnie was a good boy. Matt was in his sixth year and he was best known for his long hair and body art – just a happy-go-lucky kid.

“We’re not over it.”

Goodwin and Potts were both natives of the North Carolina piedmont who fell in love with the beach life, and lived it out while working right on the beach at the pier.

Over the years, Goodwin usually answered the phone when I would call the pier looking for the latest info for my weekly fishing report.

Goodwin always answered the phone in his booming voice. He was always upbeat, easy-going, easy to talk to and eager to share quality fishing information.

I will greatly miss our weekly conversations.
Jake’s Project

Now this was one heck of an Eagle Scout project.

Jake Birchmeier, of Boy Scout Troop 360 at St. Paul’s Waccamaw United Methodist Church in Litchfield Beach, has practically single-handedly provided the south end of Pawleys Island with a beach accessible wheelchair for public use.

The 16-year-old Birchmeier, the son of Rob and Lisa Birchmeier and a junior at Waccamaw High School, also built a storage building for the wheelchair to be housed in.

Jake and his dad, Rob Birchmeier, are avid saltwater anglers, and can often be found surf-fishing on Litchfield Beach and Pawleys Island beaches.

The idea was spawned when Jake saw beach wheel chairs at Huntington Beach State Park, and realized the need for them on Pawleys Island beaches.

The Pawleys Island Town Council approved the project along with a small space for the storage shed beside the public parking lot on the south end of the island.

A big boost to the project came when Pawleys Island Masonic Lodge 409 donated a wheelchair.

The Birchmeiers teamed up to construct the storage building as donated funds came in to support the project.

The completed project, completely funded by private donations and volunteer work, was turned over to the Town of Pawleys Island on Monday.

Of note, the wheelchair and storage building are located at the public beach access adjacent to one of the prime shore-fishing spots along the Grand Strand.

“This chair is in a perfect location for surf fisherman,” said Rob Birchmeier. “It will allow access to the surf and the creek. The spot we do most of our surf fishing is right where the chair is located.”

The project left Mom and Dad pleased with their son.

“Lisa and I are so very proud of Jake,” said Rob Birchmeier. “His kindness, honesty and perseverance during his project is inspiring.”

In order to gain access to the wheelchair, contact the Town of Pawleys Island, located at 321 Myrtle Ave. in Pawleys Island.

Jake Birchmeier shows off the beach wheel chair and storage building he provided for the Town of Pawleys Island as an Eagle Scout project. Submitted photo