WINTER COLUMN: Black sea bass season looking up

  • Posted: Saturday, May 4, 2013 10:04 p.m., Updated: Saturday, May 4, 2013 10:12 p.m.
Black sea bass caught off Charleston. Buy this photo

Things might be looking up for the popular black sea bass fishery, which reopens June 1.

Over the past few years, federal regulators have cut short sea bass fishing seasons as commercial and recreational anglers reached lower annual catch limits. Truncated seasons disrupted what had been a popular and reliable wintertime fishing tradition: Running out to nearshore reefs to stock up on tasty “blackfish.”

But now, after a recent stock assessment showed that the black sea bass stock has been rebuilt, members of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council are considering increasing the annual catch limit. Depending on which plan is adopted and other factors, the changes could allow for longer fishing seasons, and possibly even a return to year-round fishing.

In an effort to speed up sea bass regulation changes so they could affect the 2013 season, the council plans to hold a special one-day meeting via webinar 1-5 p.m. May 13. Public comment will be taken during the meeting.

For details about the webinars, including instructions for registering and providing comment, go to safmc.net.

Dolphin on the way

Reports of dolphin catches are starting to trickle in from Charleston charter operations and tackle shop staffers.

Every year, offshore anglers and charters captains eagerly await the May push of dolphin in waters 40 miles or so off Charleston.

Though high winds and rain have kept much of the recreational and for-hire fleet at the docks recently, it looks like we could get some calm seas later this week.

Jeremy Burnham of Atlantic Game and Tackle said he’s heard the dolphin run is on fire in the Bahamas and heating up off Jacksonville.

The first wave of fish seems to have already arrived off Charleston, he said.

Wildlife, 60-foot Paul Mann owned by Ken Strickland, caught 21 dolphin, eight blackfin and a wahoo last Tuesday, Burnham said.

Capt. Gasper Marino on Wadmacallit, a 58-foot B&B out of Wadmalaw Island, has also found the dolphin bite, he said.

“It’s getting started.”

Offshore overnighters

Hungry for adventure? Pick a night in the middle of a long stretch of calm weather, grab your gutsiest friends and head out for an offshore overnighter.

It may sound crazy to spend the night 40-50 miles offshore, but seasoned crews do it all the time. They know that many types of fish bite better at night and that many others feed most aggressively at first light. While other offshore crews are just leaving the docks to start a two-hour run to the fishing grounds, overnight anglers are already catching fish.

To learn more about offshore overnighters, including safety precautions you should take, look for the May-June issue of Tideline magazine in tackle shops, marinas and grocery stores this week.

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