The offshore trolling action busted loose about a week ago, just in time for last weekend’s sixth annual Georgetown Meatfish Slam out of Georgetown Landing Marina.
The blackfin tuna bite had been good most of the spring, and then a sudden strong showing of dolphin made for excellent fishing in the tournament.
“We had the bite turn on it seems like in one week time,” said John Horton, general manager of Georgetown Landing Marina. “It went from nothing and then seven days later, we had boxes full of dolphin. They were on the scene quick – when they’re here, they’re here.
“The tuna fish were already here, and good-sized fish. We had a couple in the 20-plus (pound) range, that’s pretty good for a blackfin. They seem to be a little bigger than average especially for this time of year.”
Captain Ed Keelin of the Georgetown boat Earl E Bird stuck with his tried-and true-trolling method and had a super day on Saturday for the tournament’s targeted species – dolphin, wahoo and tuna.
Keelin trolled ballyhoo on Sea Witch skirts and Earl E Bird, owned by Earle Atkinson of Georgetown, produced 18 blackfin, eight dolphin and one wahoo on the day.
“Sea Witches, that’s all I ever pull,” said Keelin. “Same thing I’ve pulled for 20 years.”
Earl E Bird weighed in the largest tuna, a 26.4-pound blackfin, and the largest wahoo, a 30.6-pounder. Add in a 13-pound dolphin, and Earl E Bird claimed both the Aggregate category and the Big Dog Aggregate category with a total of 70.4 pounds.
Keelin noted he was fishing near the Georgetown Hole, about four miles north, in 150-200 feet of water.
Don Hammond of the Dolphinfish Research Program, based in Charleston, was on the hand for the tournament and was able to weigh and measure 45 dolphin. A number of dolphin were also tagged by the 16 boats fishing in the tournament.
A 50-50 drawing was held, with 50 percent of the amount being donated to Hammond’s program. Nauti Girl won the drawing but the boat’s owners, Justin and Angie Kohl promptly donated their portion to the Dolphinfish Research Program.
In all, Hammond received $700 for his program, which uses tagging of dolphin to study the movement patterns and essential habitat of the species in the U.S. territorial waters including along the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico, the western North Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea.
Other award winners were:
• 1st Place Dolphin | Nauti Girl A Team, 21.0 pounds.
• 2nd Place Dolphin | Mirage, 20.6 pounds.
• 2nd Place Wahoo | Miss Dot, 15.4 pounds.
• 2nd Place Tuna | Suzanna Jules, 22.2-pound blackfin.
• 2nd Place Aggregate | Nauti Girl B Team, 48 pounds.
• Lady Angler | Katie Cook aboard Earl E Bird, 26.4-pound blackfin tuna.
• Youth Angler | Hayden Lewis aboard Suzanna Jules, 14.8-pound dolphin.
Hayden Lewis also accomplished the first billfish release of the season for a boat out of Georgetown Landing Marina, releasing a sailfish aboard Suzanna Jules.
Charleston deep reef deployment
On Sunday, the first of two barges were placed on a sandy bottom area in 330 feet of water within the Charleston Deep Reef MPA.
The barge is 50-feet wide by 260-feet long and had numerous structures added to it, including a 120-foot crane and stacked shipping containers.
Bottom fishing is not allowed in the MPA, and the barges will create habitat for long-lived grouper species such as Warsaw grouper, snowy grouper and speckled hind.
The size of the structure and its height above the bottom will hopefully attract pelagic species such as billfish and tuna.
The second barge is scheduled to be deployed later this month in the same general area, which is located 50 miles due east of Charleston.
Both structures will be monitored annually using ROVs (Remotely Operated Vehicle) and side-scan sonar to document recruitment and succession as the reef is colonized by various corals, forage species and apex predators.
Far Out Shootout
The Ocean Isle Fishing Center is staging this event targeting the offshore trio of dolphin, wahoo and tuna. Boats can fish one out of eight days from Saturday through May 17.
The Dinner and Captains Meeting will be held tonight at 8 p.m. at the OIFC Wing & Fish Company, located at 4764 Main Street in Shallotte, N.C. The Wing & Fish Company will also be the site of the Awards Ceremony and Dinner at 9 p.m. on May 17.
For more information, call 910-575-3474 or visit www.oifc.com.