Outdoors column: May brings warmer temperatures and mackerel

As May approaches, anglers along the Grand Strand eagerly await the arrival of the pelagic mackerels in the inshore waters where they will stay until the water cools again in late fall.

Exactly at what water temperature mackerel begin showing up is up for debate, but from-the-water results are hard to argue.

There are two key variables that dictate when both king and Spanish mackerel will begin showing up from the south on their springtime migration – water temperature and bait.

On Wednesday, Captain Jay Sconyers of Aces Up Fishing out of Murrells Inlet was on a charter trip to the spot he has been frequenting lately – Paradise Reef. Sconyers has had very good success on recent trips to the reef located three miles east of the inlet, catching weakfish and bluefish.

This time, there was another species in the mix for Sconyers and crew – Spanish mackerel.

After noting a water temperature of 62.5 degrees at 7 a.m., Sconyers’ crew landed six keeper Spanish that measured between 13 and 17 inches while casting artificials. The minimum size limit for Spanish mackerel is 12 inches.

“Bait was everywhere out there – it’s time,” said Sconyers, who identified the bait as glass minnows.

In addition to the Spanish, Sconyers’ crew caught large numbers of bluefish from 1.5 to 3.5 pounds and weakfish, the largest a 4-pounder.

Sconyers says he usually begins catching Spanish when the water temperature reaches 62-64 degrees each spring.

There have also been a few scattered catches of Spanish on Grand Strand piers over the last week.

With Spanish here, the question begs – where are the kings? Give it another week or so, let the calendar turn the page to May and then expect to see some kings on the beach.

Sconyers looks for the water temperature to reach 68 degrees for kings to begin showing up along the beach and in the near-shore waters.

Robert Wiggers, fisheries biologist with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources’ Marine Resources Division, is involved with the South Carolina Marine Game Fish Tagging Program and is familiar with tagging data on king mackerel.

“We have very few (kings tagged or caught) in April,” said Wiggers. “It seems to get started the first week in May.

“Just off the beach (the water temperature is) still in the 63-65 degree range,” said Wiggers. “As soon as it gets close to 70 you can expect to start seeing (kings). They’re following those menhaden schools and coming up with them.”

Cabela’s King Kat Tournament

The Carroll A. Campbell Marine Complex on the Sampit River in Georgetown is the site of a Cabela’s King Kat Tournament Trail catfish tournament today and Saturday.

The tournament guarantees a $10,000 payout, with weigh-ins both days at 4 p.m.

Kid’s fishing rodeos will be held on Saturday for children ages 12 and under. The rodeos will include two divisions, for ages 7 and under and ages 8 to 12. Each participating child will receive a prize.

Top winners in each division will win rod-reel combos, as well as being entered for a chance to win a $1,000 scholarship.

Registration for the kid’s rodeos is free and will take place from 8 to 9 a.m.

Saturday at the marine complex, with the event following on the dock from 9-11 a.m.

Live bait is allowed. Children should bring their own fishing poles, and each child must be accompanied by an adult.

Grand Strand Saltwater Anglers Flounder Tournament

The 13th annual Grand Strand Saltwater Anglers Spring Flounder Tournament will be held Saturday in the inlet.

All competing fishermen must attend the captains meeting and registration which will be held today, 6 p.m., at the Beaver Bar in Murrells Inlet.

Entry fee is $45 for the adult division and $20 for the youth division.

Fishing begins at 6 a.m. on Saturday, with weigh-in to follow at the Murrells Inlet boat ramp from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.

The largest flounder weighed in earns $1,500.

For more information on the tournament call Bill Cash at 843-237-9987 or Chick McDaniels at 843-651-2076.