NOAA Fisheries on July 31 will be implementing five special spawning management zones in federal waters of the South Atlantic, closing the areas to all bottom fishing.
A final rule for Amendment 36 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery within the South Atlantic Region has been announced, currently establishing five areas – one off North Carolina, three off South Carolina and one off the southern tip of Florida.
The areas designated are known as South Cape Lookout off North Carolina, Devil’s Hole/Georgetown Hole off South Carolina plus waters designated as Areas 51 and 53, and Wassaw Hole off the tip of the Florida Keys – all specifically marked by north, east, south and west navigational coordinates.
Size of closed areas
The size of the South Cape Lookout area is 5.10 square miles, Devil’s Hole/Georgetown Hole 3.03 square miles, Areas 51 and 53 each 2.99 square miles. Wassaw Hole is 3.60 square miles.
Under the rule, fishing for, retention and possession of fish species in the snapper-grouper complex will be prohibited year round by “all fishers,” meaning both recreational and commercial. Trolling for pelagic species such as dolphin (mahi), wahoo, tuna and coastal migratory pelagic species will be allowed.
According to the bulletin announcing the establishment of the spawning zones, the snapper-grouper complex consists of 55 species including (red, vermillion, yellowtail, etc.), groupers (gag, scamp, snowy, etc.), sea bass, jacks, triggerfish and others.
Anchoring inside all of the areas, except Area 51 and 53, will be prohibited.
All the spawning SMZs, except Areas 51 and 53 will expire in 10 years if not reauthorized. There are no expiration dates for the South Carolina Areas 51 and 53.
Amendment 36 also modifies the SMZ procedure to allow for the designation of more spawning SMZs within the South Atlantic Fishery waters.
At least one area off the Georgia coast is under consideration.
A full description of Amendment 36 along with latitude and longitude coordinates can be obtained online through the SAFMC website.
On the fishing scene
The coastal saltwater action is in full speed ahead, both offshore and inshore with the only apparent distraction being wind and rough waters, particularly offshore.
Emails, text messages and phone calls show a lot of action in both areas when winds allow, with flounder, spotted sea trout, black and red drum, tripletail and shark in this week’s inshore spotlight, while offshore it is big Spanish, little tunny, black sea bass, barracuda and more.
We start with a phone call report from Capt. David Newlin (912-756-4373), who operates out of Fort McAllister Marina in Bryan County (912-727-2632). On Monday, he told of flounder action last week that was the best he has seen in is many years of guiding.
He told of his clients catching 82 flounder throughout the week, landing as many as 19 on a single day and surpassing 17 on others.
He also spoke of some big trout being landed along with tripletails, telling of one tripletail weighing 22 pounds that was caught by an unidentified angler whom he helped clean the fish at the Fort McAllister docks.
Capt. Newlin also noted that tarpon are beginning to show up but did not mention any being caught. He did say that while heading out on Monday, several were spotted chasing schools of live baitfish.
Capt. Brad Stewart, who with his father James operate Stewart’s Tybee Island Bait and Tackle (912-786-7472) on Lazaretto Creek, in an email also told of some excellent flounder action in the Tybee Island and Wassaw Sound waters along with some equally good offshore action for large Spanish and little tunny.
Capt. Jimmy Armel, who guides under the Stewart’s Tybee Island Bait and Tackle flag, also told of some excellent inshore flounder and large trout action taken almost exclusively on live mud minnows, plus an excellent offshore bite for little tunny, whopping-size Spanish and barracuda.
Capt. Judy Helmey (Miss Judy Charters 912-897-4921), in phone call Monday told of some excellent inshore action both she and her team of guides have been locating for their clients.
Capt. Judy specifically mentioned some large trout being caught, some in the 24-inch range.
She also spoke of black drum action picking up, noting that one of her team of guides, Capt. Tommy Williams, regularly has been putting clients into areas where the species are now congregating.
Sharks have been and remain high on the catch list. Capt. Ray Crawley (Action Charters 912-429-3433), who frequently specializes in catch and release, had Pennsylvania residents Ralph Morton and sons Andre and Bishop on the water last weekend targeting blacktips and apparently getting the trio into plenty of action.
Jay Crane (www.Coastalgafishing.com -478-356-3422) texted a message covering both inshore and offshore action this past week and into the weekend. On Saturday, he and Danny Henderson were fishing Sapelo Sound area waters, found the bite on the high flood after a slow start that included dealing with a 5-foot shark, then filling a cooler with reds, trout and flounder.
The offshore run of 28 miles with Kurt Sasagawa and Casey Childers included a hookup and battle with a 10-foot shark that broke off at the boat, then “having a blast” catching barracuda and bonita.
As July hits its mid-mark, tide levels are now in the 6-foot range but will begin to spring by July 19 in conjunction with the new moon phase (new moon is July 23). Tide levels will be in the mid to high 8-foot range through July 24, during which time tidal waters will be muddy and currents swift. Look for best fishing to be during the slack tide periods, mostly on the high flood.
The latest survey shows the live bait shrimp availability improving, with indications a healthy white shrimp crop is developing coast-wide. We continue to urge those wanting local white shrimp to contact their suppliers in advance of any outing.
That said, indications are fishing action both inshore and offshore is steady and geared to get better as the early fall season approaches. Check it out.
‘Fishin for Jamie’
A big weekend is coming up at Hogan’s Marina on Wilmington Island. The 11th annual melanoma cancer fundraiser in memory of the late Jamie Fulcher gets underway Friday with a captains meeting commencing at 5 p.m., followed by a two-day inshore fishing tournament starting Saturday and carrying through Sunday and a one-day bottom fishing tournament which will be held Saturday.
Full details on all events can be obtained from flyers available at most marinas, sporting goods locations and bait supply locations or by contacting Chris Caldwell (912-667-4861), Jay Wainwright (912-398-3395), Will Curry (912-547-0458) or Hogan’s Marina (912-897-3474).
The event since its inception has donated $137,000 to the Nancy N. and J.C. Lewis Cancer and Research Pavilion for melanoma research and clinical trials.
John Burke can be reached at 912-655-8505, or by email at email@example.com.