Grand Strand fishing report for the weekend of October 2-4
To look for: Red drum, plaice, black drum, spotted sea trout, blue fish, sheep’s head, Spanish mackerel.
Comments: Ah, October! Air and water temperatures tend to drop, coves are filled with red mullet and menhaden, yellow butterflies are in the air and fantastic fall fishing is looming on the horizon. But it’s not quite there yet. “It was pretty tough,” said Captain Dan Connolly of O-Fish-Al Expeditions in Murrells Inlet. “I caught reds here and there and small dabs while fishing for reds. It has been very irregular. Connolly notes that most of the Red Drums passed South Carolina’s 15-23 inch slot limit or just at the top end of the slot. He used live and cut red mullet to catch the reds. Ronald “Catfish” Stalvey of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle in Conway personally found a really good bite of black drum in Murrells Inlet and Winyah Bay by simply using cut shrimp on a Carolina rig. At the north end, Captain Chris Ossman of Fine Catch Charters said the annual fall event of the red bull drum moving through creeks and bays on a spawning mission is underway. The fish, mostly 35 to 40 inches in size, made an appearance at the piers of Little River. “(October 22) must have been the first time they showed up,” Ossman said. “It was on fire, one after the other. They would hit anything, live mule, cut mule, cut pogey, live pogey. Now, says Ossman, boats are lined up on both sides of the piers targeting red bulls on sunny days, which have been prevalent in recent times. Anglers should remember that these fish are the breeding stock of the red drum and the future of the species is at stake. Careful revival and release of each fish is imperative to give it the best chance of survival. Ossman also caught reds in the slot and in creeks in the Little River area, with small “peanut” pogeys that work best for bait. Ossman caught spotted sea trout on shell bottoms, especially near oyster beds with drop offs. Live shrimp are prime bait for trout, but estuaries are teeming with bait thieves such as pinfish and croakers. Captain Mike McDonald of the Gul-R-Boy Guide Service in Georgetown noted that the cold front that moved a week ago has had a big impact on water temperature. “It went from 84 to 77 degrees in about five days,” McDonald said. On Tuesday at Winyah Bay, the McDonald’s team produced six red bulls or, as he calls them, channel basses measuring 38 to 44 inches. Last Saturday, McDonald’s produced 13 trout with four keepers on a variety of plastic worms. “It wasn’t a special color, we were changing until we caught a few,” McDonald said. Tarpons are still active in the bay, as McDonald observed on Tuesday. “Tarpon had schooled mules and was going after them,” McDonald said.
To look for: King mackerel, Spanish mackerel, plaice, spadefish, black sea bass, whiting, croaker, pompano.
Comments: There is a lot of bait along the beach and mackerel are on their tracks. “I saw a lot of kings skiing on the beach, and we saw a tarpon,” Connolly said. “Dude, there is so lots of bait going up and down the beach. Although there are random kings, including smokers near the beach, the Spanish mackerel is thick within three miles. “The Spaniards are everywhere on the jetties and on the reef and the three miles,” said Ossman, who caught them using live lures, spoons and mules. “Its been good.” For more prolific king action, head a step further, recommends Connolly. “There is a better bite if you go out just because there is so much bait on the beach,” Connolly said. “It’s hard to get the fish to find your bait. On Tuesday, Connolly walked over to Belky Bear and found the water temperature to be 76-77 degrees while slowly trolling for the kings. “The water is a bit cooler and there was definitely some fish there,” Connolly said. “I had three king bites in an hour.” Connolly is just waiting for cooler water temperatures for the fall mackerel race to take off. “Next month the king’s bite is going to be really good all over,” Connolly said. “When the water temperature is between 65 and 70, it’s going to be pretty good.” Angler Luke Johnson proved there are great kings on the beach when he landed 29.95 pounds on the Apache Pier on a Sunday. The jetties also produce good catches of Spanish, as well as bluefish, plaice, whiting, croaker and pompano.
To look for: King mackerel, wahoo, barracuda, dolphin, blackfin tuna, yellowfin tuna, sailfish, bonito, grouper, red snapper, amberjack, red snapper, triggerfish, red porgy, black bass.
Comments: With fall officially here, wahoo action is intensifying in the offshore waters. “Hanging out on the break we see wahoos, they’re usually more abundant in the fall,” said Captain Brant McMullan of the Ocean Isle Fishing Center. “There’s a ton of barracuda out there. As it cools (the barracuda) will come out. Dolphins are random for the trolling boats – find late weed lines or a floating structure and you will find the fish. Also be on the lookout for dolphins approaching the boat when bottom fishing. McMullan also says to look for action from the blackfin tuna to start improving. “Dolphin, I don’t think you can go dolphin fishing, you can catch some but not consistent enough in number or location,” McMullan said. “You can catch those swimming up to you. Blackfin, since it’s cooler, November is the best time in the fall for blackfin. McMullan also notes that there is good trolling and bottom fishing. in 65 to 90 feet of water. “There are a lot of school kings in 65-90 feet – that’s the go-to thing for the numbers,” McMullan said. “Grouper fishing in the fall (at 65-90 feet) can be quite good. Vermilion snapper is really prevalent in the fall in the same depth range. Also look for amberjack, red snapper, triggerfish, red porgy, and black sea bass at times. Bottom fishing trips Do not hesitate to go further, to depths of 90 to 120 feet, to find the reef species.
To look for: Bream, catfish, crappie, sea bass.
Comments: September was a superb month on local rivers, with no tropical system dumping massive amounts of rain for the first time in several years. “The river has been beautiful,” said Stalvey of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle. “There have been beautiful, beautiful bream caught in the Ricefields. There is good fish everywhere but definitely on fire there. On crickets and worms. Until it is much cooler, the cricket bite will be on fire. Bream always holds at depths of 2 to 6 feet. With October here, the shit action is on the rise. “I also had good reports on crappie,” Stalvey said. “We’ve had this cooler weather for a few nights, and the crappie bite is about to get better and better.” With good river levels and good tides, catfish action is predictably very good. “Catfish have been phenomenal on eels,” Stalvey said. “A lot of guys (using) rods and reels catch them in traffic jams and deep curves, especially on the big Pee Dee. On the bush hooks, the Pee Dee, the Waccamaw, all rivers produce good numbers. The bass is still in daylight saving time mode with the water temperature still in the upper 70s. The water temperature in the vicinity of Ricefields on Sunday afternoon was 77-78 degrees. “Bass always reach surface waters, but Texan-style worms catch the bigger fish,” Stalvey said. “The Shaky Head worms have been very effective. “