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Area full of fishing, boating options

Anglers wishing to wet a line in the Myrtle Beach area have plenty of options.

The big blue Atlantic Ocean is the main attraction for new residents and millions of visitors.

There are four main fishing scenes to be enjoyed along the Grand Strand from the coast to well inland.

Estuary

The saltwater marshes include - from south to north - Winyah Bay, North Inlet, Pawleys Island, Murrells Inlet, Cherry Grove and Little River.

These are the most accessible saltwater areas, with fishing possible from shore, bridge, dock or small boats. Species to look for include, but are not limited to, flounder, red drum, spotted sea trout, sheepshead, black drum, croakers and spots.

The difference in water level between high and low tide is drastic, especially in the smaller estuaries such as Murrells Inlet and Cherry Grove, so boaters should be careful to avoid being left high and dry at low tide.

Inshore

There are three main passes that allow access to the Atlantic Ocean by boat along the Grand Strand - Winyah Bay at Georgetown, Murrells Inlet and Little River - and a variety of fishing trips can be taken out of these inlets.

The Grand Strand is well-known for its wide expanses of sandy beach, and that same sand is the predominant feature on the bottom of the ocean near the beach.

The sandy bottom slowly slopes to deeper water, but there are plenty of artificial reefs and rocky, live bottom areas that provide relief from the miles of sandy bottom.

The live bottom areas and artificial reefs hold a variety of species that change with the time of year. They include reef-oriented species such as black sea bass, flounder, sheepshead, spadefish and black drum.

"There's nothing wrong with fishing inshore - the catches and landings at the Paradise Reef [3 miles off Murrells Inlet] and the 10-Mile [Reef] have been very good this year," said Lyn Smith of Capt. Dick's in Murrells Inlet.

"Black sea bass concentrations have been excellent, but you have to pay close attention to the size limit." Bass must be 12 inches at minimum.

Offshore

Roughly 30 miles out from the beach, there are more rocky ledges and hard-bottom reef areas leading out to the Continental Shelf, also known as the edge. Add in the presence of the Gulf Stream and you have a recipe for superb fishing.

Fishing where these ledges and the Gulf Stream combine can be spectacular, whether trolling or bottom fishing, starting at about 45-50 miles offshore.

Trolling generally is best from March through November when dolphin, wahoo, tuna and billfish all can be present.

Bottom fishing is usually good year-round for a variety of snapper and grouper as well as black sea bass, triggerfish, amberjack and cobia. Even more exotic species such as African pompano, yellowtail snapper and hogfish are occasionally caught in the summer.

More big fish reside here, such as the world-record 310-pound warsaw grouper (caught in 1976) and the state record, 130-pound, 5-ounce wahoo (caught in 1998), both landed in Murrells Inlet.

Freshwater

The perfect respite from the hustle and bustle of the Grand Strand is a boating/fishing trip to one of the area rivers including the Waccamaw, Great Pee Dee, Little Pee Dee and the man-made Intracoastal Waterway, all of which are scenic and produce good catches of bream, catfish, bass and crappie.

Try a weekday trip on one of these waterways since they can be quite crowded on weekends. The various lakes and ponds, natural and manmade, that dot the area often also hold the above species

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