When April rolls around, anglers along the Carolina coast are fired up for the start of perhaps the best offshore trolling action available during the calendar year.
While wahoo and blackfin tuna are available throughout most of the winter and early spring, it is at some point in April when migratory and prolific dolphin surge north, riding the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, to round out the three species that combine to make an offshore Carolina Slam. Or, as some call it, a meatfish slam.
This year as the water temperature heated up into the 70s in the offshore trolling grounds near the 30-Fathom Curve, which includes areas such as the Georgetown Hole and Winyah Scarp, the wind started blowing and has been relentless from late March through the first three weeks of April.
A few days during the stretch, the wind died down enough for a few boats to venture out, and the anglers quickly discovered that dolphin, also known as mahi mahi, had arrived on the scene as early as the second week in April.
“(Catches of wahoo and blackfin tuna have) been pretty decent all winter long, it never really stopped,” said Capt. Brant McMullan of Ocean Isle Fishing Center in Ocean Isle Beach, N.C. “Now we’re definitely seeing mahi show up, so you’ve got all three together out there now. That’s always interesting and fun. From mid-April to mid-May is probably the best time to (catch all three). As it gets later during that stretch, there will be more dolphin and less and less tuna and wahoo.”
As for the windy conditions that have prevented anglers from getting offshore, McMullan takes the glass half-full approach.
“I like when we have these long (windy) stretches,” McMullan said. “The weather is like a pendulum. I believe we’re putting days in the bank as far as good weather days. If it wants to blow in March and early April, as long as it’s calm in late April and May, that’s okay. I’m looking for good weather days to come.”
In the next few weeks, look for catches of dolphin to increase in numbers and then in size as we move further into May.
“It starts with the smaller 5-to-15 pound fish,” said McMullan of the dolphin run. “The bigger fish (arrive) on into May, even later May. Sometimes the bigger fish are off deeper. Some people fish the 30-Fathom Curve but a lot of times the bigger fish are going to be (farther) offshore. Dolphin are not structure-oriented fish, they’re ocean roamers. Most of the time they will be between the break and the 100-Fathom Curve (around) current rips and weed lines.”
McMullan’s business, Ocean Isle Fishing Center, has offshore fever and is offering a Stream Class to anglers looking to learn about offshore trolling.
The class features an actual instructional class before attendees head offshore for hands on experience on a trolling trip targeting tuna, wahoo and dolphin.
Ocean isle Fishing Center is also hosting the Far Out Shootout, a tuna, wahoo and dolphin rodeo, scheduled for May 7-15.
Georgetown Meatfish Slam
The first in a line of tournaments targeting tuna, wahoo and dolphin is the 8th annual Georgetown Meatfish Slam, hosted by Georgetown Landing Marina and benefiting Kids’ Chance of South Carolina.
The tournament features two fishing days, April 29-30, with boats able to fish one of the days. A mandatory Captains Meeting is set for Friday (April 28).
Entry fee is $250, which includes free dockage at the marina. Boats can also fish out of Charleston or Murrells Inlet, but must weigh their catch at Georgetown Landing Marina.
The grand prize of $5,000 (based on a field of 20 boats) is awarded for the heaviest aggregate of a participating boat’s largest wahoo, dolphin and tuna.
For more information, call Georgetown Landing Marina at 843-546-1776.
GSSWA Flounder Tournament
The tournament staged by the Grand Strand Saltwater Anglers Association is set for Saturday in Murrells Inlet.
A field of 200 anglers is expected to compete in the 8th annual event which features first prize of $1,500 for the largest flounder weighed in.
The weigh-in Saturday is set for 3:30 p.m. at the parking lot adjacent to the Murrells Inlet public boat ramp.
Southern Redfish Cup
The team of Jeremy Espiritu and Ashley Lowder weighed in a three-fish aggregate of 12.91 pounds to win a Southern Redfish Cup tournament last Saturday at Carroll Campbell Marine Complex on the Sampit River in Georgetown.
The duo weighed in the largest red drum caught in the tournament, a 5.02-pounder, to help secure the win.
Geoffrey Payne and Noah Payne claimed second place with an aggregate of 11.35 pounds.
The Georgetown event was the first of five tournaments on the tour’s schedule. For more information, visit www.SouthernRedfishCup.com
IFA Redfish Tour
The tournament series, including separate events for boats and kayaks, returns to Georgetown April 30-May 1. Both tournaments will be staged out of the Carroll Campbell Marine Complex.
The IFA Redfish Tour Presented by Cabela’s, the boat event, begins Friday (April 29), with registration from 5-7 p.m. at the Campbell Complex followed by the captain’s meeting. Anglers will launch at safe light on Saturday (April 30) and return for the weigh-in.
The IFA Kayak Fishing Tour Presented by Hobie Fishing will begin with registration at 6 p.m. on Saturday (April 30) with the captain’s meeting to follow at the Campbell Complex. Anglers will launch Sunday (May 1) from the location of their choice with the weigh-in scheduled for Surf the Earth, located at 47 Da Gullah Way in Pawley’s Island.
The IFA Redfish Tour consists of five divisions in the southeast from South Carolina to Texas. The Atlantic Division features two tournaments, both scheduled for Georgetown. The second event is set for Sept. 24-25, also at the Campbell Complex.
For more information, visit www.IFATours.com.
Gregg Holshouser: firstname.lastname@example.org