Estuary• Look For | Red drum, spotted seatrout, flounder, black drum, sheepshead.
• Comments | The roller-coaster ride of weather continued with another frosty morning Thursday and a warm-up in store for the weekend. Local anglers are ready for spring to show up for real. Fishing action is marginal in local estuaries, because the fish don’t know what season it is. “It’s confused the fishermen and it’s confused the fish,” said Capt. Mike McDonald of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service. “We’ll have a few days of good weather and the fish turn on, then we get another blast of arctic air, the water temperature drops 4-5 degrees overnight and (the fish) don’t what to do, which way to go. Until we start getting some stable weather I don’t look for any giant catches.” McDonald did have marginal success on a recent trip, catching red drum while floating cut shrimp “up against the grass’’ in Winyah Bay. “(Red drum) have already come out of their winter mode and they’re just scattered out in the same age groups,” said McDonald. Brunswick County anglers are reminded spotted seatrout are closed to harvest in all North Carolina waters for recreational and commercial fishermen until June 15.
Inshore• Look For | Black sea bass, sheepshead, black drum, croaker, whiting.
• Comments | Cold water temperatures are the main story in the surf zone and near-shore waters. The ocean surface water temperature at Cherry Grove Pier was a chilly 51.45 degrees Thursday morning at 8:45 a.m., easily below normal for late March. Grand Strand piers continue to report scattered catches of small whiting and perch, but one species made a showing at Cherry Grove Pier that bodes well for the arrival of spring. Small flounder, well under the 14-inch minimum size limit, have been caught off the pier this week. Look for black sea bass and sheepshead on hard-bottom areas and artificial reefs. Black sea bass have a 13-inch minimum size limit and a daily bag limit of 5 fish per person.
Offshore• Look For | Black sea bass, vermilion snapper, porgy, amberjack, triggerfish, wahoo, blackfin tuna.
• Comments | Cooperative weather days have been few and far between during March, but when boats have made it out to the break, the wahoo bite has often been very good with a few blackfin tuna also available. Look to the south, and good news is on the horizon. Don Hammond, director of the Dolphinfish Research Program and Cooperative Science Services, LLC, notes that dolphin have made a showing off South Florida and the Keys, the Abacos in the Bahamas and even a few have been reported off the Georgia coast, so a welcome addition to the trolling mix is on its way. Bottom fishing is good for black sea bass and vermilion snapper, with triggerfish, porgy and amberjack are also available. The annual shallow-water grouper spawning season closure is in effect until April 30. Red snapper must be released until further notice in the South Atlantic region.
Freshwater• Look For | Bream, crappie, catfish, bass.
• Comments | Following another overnight freeze Thursday, it was still very chilly for late March on local rivers and activity this week has been slow through Thursday. “This week’s been dead with this cold weather,” said Jamie Dunn of Fishermen’s Headquarters in Conway. “Everybody I’ve talked to says it’s been slow – the Black River, the ICW, the Waccamaw - it’s just been real hard fishing. With this warmer weather starting this weekend it will start to pick up.” Dunn recommends fishing for bream in 15-20 feet of water on the bottom with worms. Look for crappie around structure in the same depths. Dunn noted a few catfish have been landed on the Pee Dee at Yauhannah and Port Harrelson.