Give 11-year-old Cole Suggs credit for the Beerability crew being among the 57 boats that competed in Tailwalker Marine’s Offshore Challenge Saturday out of Georgetown Landing Marina.
The young fisherman also gets a lion’s share of credit for the Charleston crew headed by his Dad, Dow Suggs, pulling off the win in the Southern Kingfish Association-sanctioned event.
Fishing aboard his Dad’s 26-foot Sailfish, the younger Suggs was the angler on the top king mackerel caught in the tournament, a 40.80-pounder that put Beerability in the winner’s circle.
In 2008-09, Dow Suggs was a regular on the SKA circuit including competing in the SKA National Championship in Biloxi, Miss., when Cole was a 7-to-8 year-old budding fisherman. Then family circumstances kept the Suggs away from the SKA tournaments – until this year.
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In short, the now 11-year-old Cole was itching to go king fishing.
“It was because of [Cole] that we were out there,” Dow Suggs said. “He was the one who pushed us to get the team together and go. He was on me pretty hard to go fishing.”
Two other crew members – Kenneth Nelson and Danny Boulware – joined the Suggs duo to form the Beerability team.
“ It’s probably a once in a lifetime fish to catch one that big,” said Dow Suggs, who is celebrating his first win in a SKA-sanctioned event that earned over $13,000.
Cole Suggs, though, has plenty of years to work on topping that 40.80-pounder.
“He loves fishing. It’s amazing what he knows for his age,” the 49-year-old Dow Suggs said of his son. “He goes to the aquarium [in Charleston] and knows about every fish. He’s been fishing offshore with me since he was about 6.
“He’s the only kid I know if I wake him up at 3 or 4 in the morning jumps straight up and helps load the boat. He is my motivation to keep doing it like we do. I’m a lucky, proud Dad.”
The Beerability crew started their winning day by catching bait along the beach.
“Bait was everywhere, awesome bait,” Dow Suggs said. “Huge pogys (menhaden) – some of the biggest baits I’ve seen in many years.”
After two throws of the cast net filled the live well, the crew headed out to a ledge in 60 feet of water, but found cool water temperatures in the 76-degree range on the heels of heavy rain.
Suggs worked offshore of the ledge to 80 feet of water when a fish hit what he called “one of those monster baits on the downrigger.”
Cole Suggs, who already had caught two 30-pound plus kings in previous years, was ready on the rod, but the fish was sluggish at first.
“I don’t think [the fish] realized he was hooked and then all of a sudden he took like a freight train,” Dow Suggs said. “It was crazy. My son was saying ‘I’m going to run out of line.’ We had to chase [the fish] down pretty good.”
After a 30 minute fight, Nelson did his duty as the gaff man and the huge king was in the boat.
“Kenneth stuck it in a perfect spot, a little bit behind the head,” Dow Suggs said. “It didn’t bleed a drop.”
When the weigh-in subsided, Cole Suggs’ king outweighed the second place fish, a 35.91-pounder caught by Juggernaut, by nearly five pounds.
Rounding out the top five were In 2 Deep (31.63 pounds), Team Old School (30.36) and Flip Side (29.51). Flip Side was entered by Phillip Sawyer of Georgetown.
The 57 boats entered was down considerably from last year’s 87 and previous years in the event. Tournament director Stuart Ballard of Tailwalker Marine credits the economy, fuel prices and a rough weather forecast for the downturn in the number of boats competing.
“We lost quite a few small boats because of the [weather and marine] forecast,” Ballard said. “We had a quality event – we got a lot of compliments on it. We had a blastoff [to start the tournament] this year – that was fun. Some big fish were caught, more than I thought would be.”
For more information on the tournament, visit www.fishska.com.
The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources Freshwater Fisheries Section made a series of to state statutes (Chapter 13) regulating freshwater fishing.
“DNR utilizes scientific data through various research and monitoring programs and stakeholder input in developing creel and size statutes among other regulations,” said Ross Self, head of DNR Freshwater Fisheries. “It’s an effort to be as consistent in regulations as possible throughout the state.”
Some of the changes that have an affect in the Grand Strand area:
• Definitions of water bodies and gear types.
• Types of nongame devices allowable by location.
• An angler may possess a total of no more than five combined total per person per day of largemouth, redeye, smallmouth or their hybrids.
• Largemouth bass size limits.
• A 12-inch size limit on smallmouth bass statewide.
• Statewide crappie eight inch size limit and a maximum of 20 fish per person per day.
• An angler can possess 30 bream per person per day, of which not more than 15 can be redbreast sunfish. Bream includes bluegill, flier, redbreast, warmouth, pumpkinseed, green sunfish, redear and spotted sunfish.
• No more than 50 eels per recreational fishermen per day and eels must be six inches long.
• It is unlawful to take freshwater mussels without a permit except for Asian clams.
• A commercial fisherman may fish up to 50 crayfish traps. A recreational fisherman may fish up to five crayfish traps.
• All minnow traps must be identified with the name and department customer identification number of the user. A minnow trap may be fished with a recreational license only with a limit of five for each person and must not be fished for commercial purposes.
• Except bait lost incidental to fishing or fish released into the waters from which they were taken, it is unlawful to intentionally release any aquatic species, including bait, regardless of the stage of its life cycle, into the waters of this State without a permit from the department. It is unlawful to use any nonindigenous fish as bait that is not already established in the water body being fished except the following minnows: fathead minnows, golden shiners and goldfish, including ‘black salties’.
For a complete list of changes, visit www.dnr.sc.gov/fishregs/index.html.
The Seacoast Anglers Association will meet Monday at the VFW Post 10804 located at Hwys. 57 and 9 in Little River. Social hour begins at 5:30 p.m. with the meeting starting at 6:30 p.m. For more information, call Gary Whiteleather at 703-303-5632.
Thoughts and prayers go out to Capt. Brant McMullan, one of the owners of the Ocean Isle Fishing Center, and the McMullan family. McMullan recently suffered severe injuries from a 40-plus foot fall and is in the difficult process of recovering.