Here’s how it’s looking as red snapper mini-season gets underway along Grand Strand

Photo Courtesy Dr. Jason Rosenberg

The 2019 red snapper mini-season arrived on Friday in federal waters of the South Atlantic, but so did a stiff southwesterly wind, at least in the Carolinas.

If Capt. Robert Strickland wasn’t willing to get offshore to the ledges that hold red snapper aboard the 80-foot party boat New Inlet Princess out of Crazy Sister Marina in Murrells Inlet with 80 anglers ready to go, you can bet it was rough.

When Strickland checked conditions Friday morning, the wind was blowing at 21 knots and gusting to 25 out of the southwest with 5 foot seas.

Strickland hopes to get out Saturday and Sunday, the next two days of the mini-season, and then again next Friday and Saturday (July 19-20).

“That’s part of the game,” said Strickland. “Saturday looks iffy, Sunday looks doable. If it’s not blowing at 20, we’re going to get it in.”

In 2009, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) determined the South Atlantic red snapper stock was overfished and undergoing overfishing, and the fishery was closed in 2010 with a 35-year rebuilding plan put in place.

Over the last nine years, there have been sporadic mini-seasons, including consecutive seasons from 2017-2019, but largely the species has been closed to harvest for recreational anglers since 2010.

A year ago, Strickland was able to fish all six days of the mini-season, which was set in August, and his customers landed plenty of red snapper including 85-90 on two of the trips.

Anglers are able to harvest one red snapper per person with no minimum size limit during the season, but have to release the species throughout the rest of the year.

If he can get out there, Strickland is confident he will have good success this time around, too.

“It seems like we’ve been releasing more fish than in previous years,” said Strickland.

Hard-bottom areas and ledges are holding red snapper, along with a host of other reef species such as grouper, vermilion snapper, black sea bass, grey triggerfish, porgy, grunts and amberjack.

The question is, how far do boats have to go to find red snapper?

“In shallow, we’ve found a few in 60 feet, but it’s not consistent back in there,” said Strickland. “We’re mostly finding them in 75-110 feet.”

Anglers and boat captains are encouraged to report their catches during the red snapper mini-season at www.myfishcount.com and cooperate with fishery biologists they may encounter dockside after the fishing trip.

SAFMC Red Snapper Tips

The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council offers these tips for anglers targeting red snapper:

  • Avoid areas likely to have red snapper if you already have met your recreational bag limit. If you are approaching your commercial vessel limit, move to a different area.
  • When red snapper are out of season, avoid areas where they are common.
  • Use single hook rigs since the recreational bag limit for red snapper during the proposed limited fishing seasons will be one per person per day. This will potentially reduce the number of red snapper that are caught on one drop.
  • Use non-offset circle hooks while fishing in areas where red snapper are common.
  • Use a dehooking device to remove the hook. Keep fish in the water if you plan to release them or return them to the water as quickly as possible.
  • Use descending devices when releasing fish with signs of barotrauma.

Bassmaster Junior Championship

A pair of Conway Middle School anglers are headed to Huntingdon, Tenn., in August to compete in the Bassmaster Junior Championship on Carroll County Lake.

On April 6, then-sixth graders Cody Wilder and Dalton Williams finished second in the South Carolina middle school championship on Lake Murray with a five-bass limit of 13.69 pounds including a 4.64-pound lunker.

That lofty finish qualified the duo for the junior national championship, set for August 6-7 on Carroll County 1000 Acre Recreational Lake.

Fifty teams, for student anglers from age 7-13, are expected in the tournament, with an adult serving as captain and navigating the boat for each two-man team.

Cody Wilder and Dalton Williams, a pair of Conway Middle School anglers, are headed to Huntingdon, Tenn., in August to compete in the Bassmaster Junior Championship on Carroll County Lake. Submitted photo

Cody Wilder’s dad, David Wilder, will serve as captain for the duo that will represent Conway in the tournament.

“They’re very excited,” said David Wilder. “Every day these guys are practicing and talking about the tournament. To have the chance to do it as sixth graders is pretty impressive.”

The threesome plans to pre-fish before the tournament, and will be in the Huntingdon area for about six days, an expensive venture.

The local fishing community is helping to offset the expenses of the trip. A Facebook page has been established to raise funds for the trip. See David Wilder’s Facebook page for details on the fund-raiser.

If it has to do with fishing on the Grand Strand, you can bet the crazy crew of the Southern Anglers Radio Show are involved. That group is selling boiled peanuts at Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle in Conway, Baisch Brothers Bait and Tackle in Murrells Inlet and at Murrells Inlet Fishing Center to help fund the trip.

IFA Redfish Tour

The Atlantic Division of the tour returns to the Carroll Campbell Marine Complex in Georgetown next weekend (July 20-21) with a top prize of more than $25,000 going to the two-man team that weighs in the heaviest two-fish red drum bag limit.

The IFA Redfish Tour launches from the facility on the Sampit River at dawn on July 20. Weigh-in is set for 2:30 p.m. Both the launch and weigh-in are open to spectators, and is free of charge.

The IFA Kayak Tour is scheduled for the following day, July 21, in Georgetown.

Registration and a Captain’s Dinner will take place at the Campbell complex July 19 from 5-7 p.m. For more information, visit www.IFATours.com.

Bobby Clarke Reel Kids Tournament

The 18th Annual Bobby Clarke Memorial Reel Kids, Reel Fun Tournament will be held July 27 at Georgetown Landing Marina.

For more information, call the marina at 843-546-1776.