Last time I checked South Carolina was NOT part of the tropics but according to this article many species of fish and mammal (old white yankees excluded) are living in the ever warmer waters off the Palmetto State. This is a rather dry and fact filled post written for anglers, but if you must, giggle at “bonefish” then stay up at night staring at the ceiling wondering if you should move to Canada to escape global warming.
Rare catches popping up at local piers
http://www.myrtlebeachonline.com | Posted on Fri, Oct. 26, 2007
Angler Clyde Teague was simply jigging up some bait on the Surfside Pier to use in a club tournament held by the Surfside Float Fishing Club on Oct. 13.
Teague, a part-time Garden City Beach resident from Hickory, N.C., was using a two-hook bottom rig tipped with shrimp near the breakers, looking to catch a bluefish or some other common bait to deploy off the end of the pier for king mackerel, Spanish mackerel or other large predators.
What he pulled over the rail was surprising to say the least.
“I thought at first it was a mullet,” said Teague. “I didn’t really know what it was.”
After another pier angler determined the mysterious fish was a bonefish, Teague put it in his cooler and the S.C. Department of Natural Resources was called to confirm the catch.
Kris Reynolds, a DNR wildlife biologist who also serves as a creel clerk in the local area, arrived at the pier unsure what he was going to see.
“When I got the call, I was expecting to look at a ladyfish, a whiting or a summer trout, not a bonefish, just because of the rarity of that species,” Reynolds said earlier this week.
Reynolds said he was more than a bit surprised when he did identify the fish as a juvenile bonefish, measuring 11 inches and weighing 9 ounces. Reynolds froze the fish and plans to forward it to DNR’s Marine Resources Research Institute at Fort Johnson in Charleston.
Even more surprisingly, another Surfside Pier angler, Merle Jackson of Surfside Beach, also caught a bonefish on Monday while fishing for whiting, using shrimp for bait.
Faye Skipper of the Surfside Pier reported the catch and said the fish weighed 12 ounces.
Bonefish are certainly a rarity in South Carolina waters. The species, renowned for its lightning-fast speed and dogged runs when hooked, is predominantly found and sought as a gamefish in south Florida, the Bahamas and the Caribbean Sea.
Florida is the only state in the Southeast that has any limits or restrictions on the catch or possession of bonefish.
They have occasionally been documented north of the Sunshine State but occurrences as far north as the Grand Strand are rare, indeed.
The two specimens landed off the Surfside Pier are undoubtedly juveniles, since bonefish are slow to reach sexual maturity. According to www.myfwc.com, male bonefish reach sexual maturity at 3Â½ years of age and 17Â½ inches long, females at four years and 19 inches.
Another marine species rare in local waters was spotted, ironically, on the same day Teague caught his bonefish.
Capt. Jay Baisch of Fishful Thinking charters was fishing the outside of the south jetty at Murrells Inlet when he spotted a manatee.
“It dove, arched out of the water and its tail came out of the water,” recalled Baisch. “[The tail] was round – it was definitely a manatee. It probably dove because of the boat noise. It appeared to me it was headed south down the beach.”
With two bonefish landed and one manatee spotted, the question arises: Are these isolated episodes? Baisch has an opinion.
“There are probably more southerly species showing up around here,” said Baisch, a Socastee native who has been operating his charter service for five years. “There seems to be a trend of more southerly species making a living around here.”
On Sunday, during a fishing trip in Murrells Inlet, the stiff easterly wind relegated me and my fishing partner, Trevor, to fishing the inshore side of the north jetty. After anchoring up, we cast small live menhaden to the edge of the rocks, hoping for red drum, spotted sea trout or flounder.
Soon, I hooked a fish that felt like a red drum but after a short but spirited fight, I was surprised to pull a juvenile gag grouper about 14-inches long aboard.
In all, we caught two grouper with one pulling the hook near the boat.
Baisch informed me juvenile grouper have been a common catch this year on his inshore fishing trips. The small grouper move into the jetties and area estuaries this time of year to gorge themselves on the abundance of bait before moving offshore when the water cools and the bait departs.
“I usually catch one to two a year in the inlet, but this year I’ve caught several hundred,” Baisch said. “I literally catch eight to 10 a trip this year. It’s [unusual] in the quantity that they’re here.”
Anglers should beware – to the untrained eye, juvenile grouper can be mistaken for black sea bass, which are also members of the grouper family.
However, the minimum size limit for gag grouper is 24 inches and anglers could be fined $1,000 for each illegal fish in their possession. The minimum size limit for black sea bass, which can also be landed from area jetties and inlets, is 12 inches.
Range | A tropical species largely confined to south Florida, although wondering specimens have been encountered as far north as New England
Habitat | Although they stick to deep water most of the time, bonefish regularly explore shallows for food over mud, sand or grass flats, or near calm beaches.
Size | Averages 3 to 4 pounds but is fairly common at 10 pounds and can exceed 15 pounds. World record is 19 pounds.