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N.C. Crew scores Kingfish Tournament win

September 21, 2019 Gregg H Live Great Outdoors Blog Comments Off on N.C. Crew scores Kingfish Tournament win

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‘It was on fire’: How an N.C. crew won an hour-and-a-half fight and kingfish tournament

By Gregg Holshouser
September 20, 2019

The crew of Xcessive Risk knew the bite was on for smoker kings in the boat’s home waters near Emerald Isle, N.C., last weekend.

Meanwhile, the Marlin Quay King Mackerel Shootout was on tap out of Marlin Quay Marina in Murrells Inlet, some 180 miles to the south.

That’s quite a distance to run to weigh in a king, especially with Hurricane Humberto spinning off the north Florida coast, but that’s no problem considering Xcessive Risk is a 39-foot Contender with triple Yamaha 425s.

So, owners Cliff and Athan Parker, fishing with Trask Cunningham of Myrtle Beach and lady angler Ireland McKeiage, decided to fish the Emerald Isle area and make the run if they landed a big enough king.

“We needed one 50 inches or better,” said Cunningham.

Boats were able to fish one of three days in the Marlin Quay event, but most selected last Friday with an easterly wind forecast to blow up on Saturday and Sunday.

Xcessive Risk found a flurry of kingfish activity Friday morning off Emerald Isle, with bluefish caught the previous day proving to be hot baits.

“The bite was between 8 and 9:30 a.m.,” said Cunningham. “We caught all of our fish in that time frame. We caught probably 50 blues the day before. Without those blues we may not have caught those fish.”

A huge king that Cunningham estimated at 45 pounds, skyrocketed on but missed one of the blues in the trolling spread, and the crew promptly checked the bait.

“We checked on it, took it off, put another blue on and put (the line) back out,” said Cunningham. “I had just put it in rod holder and the fish boiled on it, hit it right away.”

Cunningham took over as the angler and after a standard fight, Athan Parker applied the gaff and a king in the 30-pound class was in the boat.

During the hour-and-a-half stretch, McKeiage was the angler on a king slightly smaller than Cunningham’s fish, plus the crew caught three more in the 15-20 pound range.

“For that hour-and-a-half it was on fire,” said Cunningham. “Then the east wind started blowing and it was pretty much done.”

With the threat of Hurricane Humberto limiting the field to 43 boats, the Xcessive Risk crew knew the fish they had aboard would contend in the tournament.

“With the hurricane, we felt good about it,” said Cunningham. “We picked up about 1:30 p.m. and cruised back to Murrells Inlet, and were there by 5 p.m. with a 6 p.m. (weigh-in) deadline.”

At the scales at Marlin Quay Marina, the king weighed 32.70 pounds, good for first place in front of runner-up Little Lure with a 31.00-pounder.

Xcessive Risk racked up about $24,000 in prize money.

My Boat was third with a 30.20-pounder followed by Mas Pescado with a 29.20-pounder.

A pair of Marlin Quay entries, Carolina Fly (28.60) and Molar Man (26.80) finished fifth and seventh, respectively.

“It was a full moon bite so all the fish were pushed on the beach,” said Chris Lawhon of Marlin Quay. “Most people caught their fish in 30-60 feet of water.”

Lawhon said the two Marlin Quay entries caught their fish at the Palm Tree Hole north of the the Winyah Bay jetties.

McKeiage was the top Lady Angler and Ben Freeman of Mas Pescado was the top Junior Angler with the 29.20-pounder.

It’s been quite a late summer for Cunningham, who has been aboard the winning boat in the last two king tournaments he has fished in. The first win was in Leg Three in the Cape Lookout Shootout Tournament Series’ South Division July 20 with Corey Bellamy aboard Choice Of Two.

“Got a little horseshoe right now,” said Cunningham.

The Marlin Quay King Mackerel Shootout was the final tournament in the inaugural Palmetto Kingfish Tour.

The championship tournament is next weekend, Sept. 27-28, out of Charleston, with James Island Yacht Club serving as headquarters. Boats are allowed to fish both days and weigh one king each day, with the heaviest aggregate of two kings winning the championship.

The weigh-in will be held both days at Saltwater Cowboys on Shem Creek in Mt. Pleasant.
Student Angler League Tournament Trail

The trail kicked off last Saturday with a record field of 55 two-angler teams, and the student anglers were greeted by high river levels left behind by Hurricane Dorian and high winds from the approach of Hurricane Humberto.

“The kids were ready to start the season even with 20 mph winds and flooded rivers,” said Rayburn Poston, SALTT founder and coordinator. “As expected, they still came back to the weigh in with some great fish.”

All SALTT events are held from the Carroll Campbell Marine Complex in Georgetown.

Middle School Redfish Division: Cubby Weaver of Coastal Montessori Charter School won with two fish weighing 8.09 pounds. Weaver fished solo and landed the big fish, a 4.80-pounder. Chappell Miller of Georgetown was second with two fish weighing 7.24 pounds. Chloe Skipper of Andrews was third with one fish weighing 2.68 pounds.

High School Redfish Division: Brandon Poston of Georgetown and Thomas Bodiford of Macedonia teamed up to claim first place with two fish weighing 7.47 pounds including the big fish, a 4.08-pounder. Christa Edmonds of Carolina Forest was second with one fish weighing 3.40 pounds and Devan Harrelson and Carson Watford of Georgetown were third with one fish weighing 3.04 pounds.

Elementary School Bass Division: Tucker Howard of Andews won with one fish weighing 2.55 pounds followed by Mack Hardee of Conway with one fish weighing .93 pounds.

Middle School Bass Division: Gavin and Luke Porter of Loris had a five-fish limit weighing 9.03 pounds to win the division. Cody Wilder and Dalton Williams of Conway were second with a limit weighing 8.75 pounds. Dawson Hawley of Green Sea Floyds was third with a limit weighing 6.90 pounds. Chapin Holmes of Conway weighed in the big fish, a 2.61-pounder.

High School Bass Division: Austin Winburn and Chandler Brown of Conway had a five-fish limit weighing 13.87 pounds to win the division, including the big fish of 4.19 pounds. Dalton Hewitt and Brantley Todd of Georgetown were second with a limit weighing 13.64 pounds. Andrew Ackerman and Jeremy Owens of Georgetown were third with a limit weighing 10.48 pounds.

The next SALTT event will be held next Saturday, Sept. 28. For more information about the trail, visit

Our President since 1999, Gregg Holshouser, is an avid fisherman writing the weekly fishing report and outdoors column for The Sun News since 2004.  Gregg and his sister “Sam” invite you to visit Custom Outdoor Furniture to see how you, too, can Live Great Outdoors.  Click here for more information and to check out this week’s fishing report or find us on Facebook. #LiveGreatOutdoors

Unexpected catch of tarpon

September 20, 2019 Gregg H Live Great Outdoors Blog Comments Off on Unexpected catch of tarpon

Judy Klopp handles a 24-inch tarpon caught off the boardwalk in Garden City Beach early this week, with her husband, Bill, in the background. The Klopps, part-time residents of Surfside Beach, released the juvenile tarpon. Photo courtesy of Judy Klopp

Grand Strand Fishing Report: Juvenile tarpon provides surprise for boardwalk anglers

By Gregg Holshouser
September 19, 2019 0


Look For: Red drum, flounder, black drum, spotted seatrout, sheepshead, bluefish

Comments: Early this week, Judy Klopp was fishing with a finger mullet off the public boardwalk adjacent to Atlantic Ave. in Garden City Beach. She got an aggressive bite on her Zebco 33 on a Shakespeare rod and immediately summoned her husband, Bill. For a moment, the retired couple and part-time Surfside Beach residents thought they had hooked up with a red drum. They quickly knew different. “It started jumping out of the water, and I said ‘Judy, that’s a tarpon!’ “ recalled Bill Klopp. “It was a pretty good tussle for the two of us.” After several minutes of action from the juvenile tarpon, the Klopps had landed the 24-inch silver king in an unlikely place, the backwaters of the inlet. After a quick photo op, the tarpon was released back into the inlet, and the couple had a fishing memory of a lifetime. Farther south in the inlet, Capt. Dan Connolly of O-Fish-Al Expeditions bemoaned the conditions at mid-week. The much-anticipated cool temperatures were ushered in by a stiff northeast wind. “Fishing was pitiful,” said Connolly Wednesday afternoon. “Of course it blowing 30 (mph) out of the northeast probably had something to do with it. The reds are biting pretty good when the wind’s not howling.” Connolly has used live or fresh cut finger mullet to catch the redfish. He also caught several spotted seatrout in the 17-21 inch range on Saltwater Assassin grubs on a trip in the creeks this week. “I don’t think we have big numbers (of trout) yet,” said Connolly. “I think I just stumbled across a school.” Capt. Patrick Kelly of Captain Smiley Fishing Charters in Little River has had success with red drum, black drum and flounder this week. “It’s been challenging with the wind, but fishing’s been excellent,” said Kelly. Bull reds have made the scene at the Little River jetties, said Kelly, and should already be on hand at other local jetties and inlet mouths. “The big reds have shown up at the jetties,” said Kelly. “They’re eating cut or live menhaden. They’ll bite mullet as well but they really want those pogeys out there.”

Look For: King mackerel, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, red drum, flounder, spadefish, whiting, pompano, black sea bass, weakfish, black drum

Comments: Autumn officially arrives on Monday, and the bull reds and weakfish are ready for the season on the near-shore hard-bottom areas. “They’re here,” said Capt. Jeff Maples of Reel Salty Charters. Maples found both species on a trip last weekend out of Murrells Inlet before the cold front arrived and made for very rough seas through Thursday. Fresh cut mullet or menhaden will earn bites from the mature spawning-stock red drum that measure from about 32 inches on up to 50 inches or so. Keep in mind the slot limit for red drum in South Carolina is 15-23 inches, and these fish should be revived and carefully released. The limit on weakfish is 1 per person per day with a 12-inch minimum size limit. Maples also found a good flounder bite on the near-shore reefs before the front. The Apache Pier and Cherry Grove Pier will host the 2019 Fall King Mackerel Tournament this Saturday and Sunday. Neither pier has produced a king this week, but the trend looks for calming conditions and clearer water for the fishing days, which bodes well for the tournament. This week, a variety of species have been landed from the piers, including whiting, croaker, pompano, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, flounder, red drum, black drum and ribbonfish. The ocean water temperature at Cherry Grove Pier was 81 degrees on the surface and bottom Thursday at 3 p.m.

Look For: Wahoo, dolphin, blackfin tuna, vermilion snapper, black sea bass, triggerfish, grunts, porgy, amberjack, red snapper

Comments: The same cold front that brought cooler air and water temperatures, along with the promise of the great fall fishing ahead, has kept most boats in port this week thanks to rough seas. Last weekend before the front, the wahoo bite was very good with a few dolphin and blackfin tuna mixed in. “Before the blow, the wahoo bite was good – one boat had five, one had eight,” said Capt. Danny Juel of Fish Screamer Charters in Little River and the party boat Atlantic Star across the state line in Calabash, N.C. “When it calms down, I think they’ll bite better.” Bottom fishing was excellent before the front for vermilion snapper, black sea bass, grey triggerfish, red porgy, white grunts, amberjack and grouper. “Bottom fishing is going to be good,” said Juel. “October and November are our best months for bottom fishing.” Red snapper are common on bottom spots from 90-120 feet but must be released in the South Atlantic Region.

Look For: Bream, bass, catfish, crappie

Comments: Fine fall fishing is available on local rivers, says Ronald “Catfish” Stalvey of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle in Conway, but the anglers have been few and far between. Two weeks ago, Hurricane Dorian roared past, just off the South Carolina coast and put a serious rise in the rivers. That rise is all but over. “People think the rivers are messed up, but the Waccamaw, big Pee Dee, Little Pee Dee, the Black River, the Ricefields, they’re all phenomenal right now,” said Stalvey. “The handful of people, and I mean a handful, that are going are catching the fool out of fish.” Add in a drop in water temperature thanks to the cold front, and conditions are very good. Bream are hitting crickets and worms in 2-4 feet of water and catfish action is excellent on cut eels and live bream. The cooler weather has bass more active. “There’s a bunch of bass hitting buzz baits right now, they’re feeding on the surface again,” said Stalvey, who also recommends using Texas-rigged worms for bass. The Waccamaw still had a rise in it at 9.27 feet at 2:15 p.m. Thursday in Conway, but was forecast to continue falling. The Little Pee Dee at Galivants Ferry was at 6.53 feet Thursday at 3 p.m. and is forecast to slowly fall.

Our President since 1999, Gregg Holshouser, is an avid fisherman writing the weekly fishing report and outdoors column for The Sun News since 2004.  Gregg and his sister “Sam” invite you to visit Custom Outdoor Furniture to see how you, too, can Live Great Outdoors.  Click here for more information and to check out this week’s fishing report or find us on Facebook. #LiveGreatOutdoors

Dorain affects shrimp catch

September 14, 2019 Gregg H Live Great Outdoors Blog Comments Off on Dorain affects shrimp catch

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Here’s how Hurricane Dorian’s impacts affected start of shrimp baiting season on Strand

By Gregg Holshouser
September 13, 2019

What are the pros and cons of commercial shrimping versus aquafarming shrimp? Craig Reaves, a Beaufort based commercial shrimper for 20 years, Scott McNair, a shrimp farmer in Yemassee for more than 30 years, and Al Stokes, the manager at Waddell By Delayna Earley

South Carolina’s shrimp baiting season opened last Friday at high noon, a sure sign the much-anticipated days of autumn will soon arrive.

But just 24 hours earlier, South Carolina’s coastline was being pummeled by torrential rainfall and near-hurricane force gusts as Hurricane Dorian eased by perilously close to the east.

Forty-eight hour rainfall totals were upwards of 10 inches including 13.38 inches in Georgetown and 15.21 inches in Pawleys Island during the three days, Sept. 4-6, of the storm’s passage.

A deluge of rain isn’t exactly a good recipe for the start of the shrimp baiting season. Or is it?

Prior to Dorian’s arrival, local rivers were at their lowest levels since the historic flooding spawned almost a year ago by Hurricane Florence.

The conjecture was the rainfall may have only flushed smaller shrimp out of the tidal creeks and into the main body of area estuaries, instead of flushing all sizes of shrimp into the ocean.

Biologists with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources were out sampling with an otter trawl in Charleston Harbor and the Ashley River on Monday, just about three days after Dorian’s rains departed.

“We thought we might see some of the smaller shrimp from the creeks, and that is something we saw in our sampling,” said Dr. Michael Kendrick of S.C. DNR’s Crustacean Research and Monitoring Section. “We saw a higher than average number of shrimp. (The small shrimp) normally stay in the creeks and continue growing and developing before moving into the main harbors.”

Kendrick isn’t sure what happens from here as autumn arrives, officially on Sept. 23. Shrimp baiting season continues through Nov. 5.

“We don’t know what they’re going to do next,” said Kendrick. “Are they going to move back in the creeks? The sampling was so close after this big freshwater event, it’s hard to know what this is going to mean for the fall shrimp fishery.”

With the trawling samples showing some small creek shrimp and good overall numbers, that is exactly what shrimp baiters can expect to find especially in Charleston County waters, including Bulls Bay and Cape Romain.

But the rain was heavier farther north, as mentioned, in Georgetown County, and S.C. DNR has done no sampling and currently has no sampling on the schedule for the Winyah Bay vicinity.

With no info available on the status of shrimp in the bay, local shrimp baiters will surely find out this weekend.

Commercial shrimp trawlers from McClellanville to Murrells Inlet have had success in the ocean since the storm, meaning quality fresh shrimp are available for purchase.

Marlin Quay King Mackerel Shootout

The tournament, the final of four events in the inaugural Palmetto Kingfish Tour, is underway out of Marlin Quay Marina in Garden City Beach.

Boats are able to fish one of three days, Friday through Sunday, with the largest king mackerel weighed in winning first place.

A field of 46 boats is competing in the tournament, with weigh-ins open to the public at the marina each day from 4-6 p.m.

Our President since 1999, Gregg Holshouser, is an avid fisherman writing the weekly fishing report and outdoors column for The Sun News since 2004.  Gregg and his sister “Sam” invite you to visit Custom Outdoor Furniture to see how you, too, can Live Great Outdoors.  Click here for more information and to check out this week’s fishing report or find us on Facebook. #LiveGreatOutdoors

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