Capt. Mike McDonald pulled his 21-foot Carolina Skiff away from the dock at South Island Ferry and eased northeast in the Intracoastal Waterway Sunday less than an hour after daybreak. The morning typified the crazy weather of this late spring – cloudy, damp, breezy, chilly for early June, with showers in the area.
No more than a few hundred yards from the dock, McDonald spotted the zig-zagging wakes of a school of finger mullet.
After a few perfectly placed throws of the cast net, 3-4 dozen mullet in the 3-5 inch range were safely in the live well. After all, McDonald’s two anglers included one weekend warrior (me) and a saltwater-fishing novice (Terri Dunn of Myrtle Beach) on this excursion into Winyah Bay. McDonald, operator of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service out of Georgetown, joked that the use of live bait, instead of artificials, is reserved for NTR fishing, or No Talent Required. At least, I think he was joking.
The wind was blocked in the narrow ICW, but when the run through the waterway opened up into Winyah Bay the breeze – 10-15 mph out of the east-southeast – made its presence felt, producing an aggravating 1-2 foot chop on the bay.
McDonald’s first stop was a shallow oyster bank where we dispatched the mullet on popping corks, which was largely the tactic of the day. The captain instructed us to give those corks a `violent’ jerk every 15 seconds to mimic the sound of fish crashing bait, and we did.
With the tide approaching low, the first spot produced a couple flounder, a thick 17-inch keeper and one just under South Carolina’s 14-inch minimum size, and a couple of attacks from marauding ladyfish, a.k.a. The Poor Man’s Tarpon. Also, a undersized spotted seatrout (14 inch minimum size) was released. After leaving the spot, the captain noticed the nervous water and a few flips from a school of menhaden and with one throw of the net added 4-5 dozen 4-6 inch pogeys to the live well.
Next, McDonald pulled into a winding creek off the bay and anchored off in a spot nestled between two small tidal creeks as the tide reached low and started to rise. With long casts, the captain tossed a mullet and a menhaden on a Carolina rig in the mouth of each small creek, set the rods in the rod holder and waited. But not for long.
Within 10-15 minutes, Terri was hooked up with her first red drum, and completed, already, her first Carolina slam of a redfish, trout and flounder. A few minutes later, a 19-inch redfish went into the live well. The spot produced three more reds, including a nice 27-incher that gave Terri quite a battle before being boated, held for a photo op and then released.
After a scenic ride through North Inlet, McDonald pulled up to the final spot of the day, a small grass island on the south side of the bay, not far from the ICW.
With a stiff southeast wind at our back pushing a heavy chop toward a grass bank, we tossed menhaden and mullet under the popping corks to the edge of the grass. This was more of a trout spot, McDonald pointed out, and the fish sluggishly responded.
With the corks riding the considerable chop, we added several more trout to our catch including three solid keepers in the 2-3 pound range. A light sprinkle began to fall and the sky had turned very dark to the west and southwest, so it was time to call it a day and McDonald headed back down the ICW to the ferry.
The final tally was seven trout, five redfish and two flounder, with enough fish kept for a few fish fries.
All in all, what could be finer than a pair of inshore slams on the coast of South Carolina? Not bad for a couple of NTR anglers.
Jolly Mon King Classic
The Yellowfin/Yamaha Jolly Mon King Classic out of Ocean Isle Fishing Center has been postponed for a week and rescheduled for June 22-24. The tournament is sanctioned by the Southern Kingfish Association and is the opening event of SKA’s Division 9.
A combination of another nasty northeaster in the forecast for this weekend, poor water conditions and a lack of king mackerel catches caused the postponement.
“It was just a perfect storm of problems between the pending weather and the state of fishery,” said Capt. Brant McMullan of the OIFC. “It was just going to leave extremely poor conditions and there was the potential for nobody to catch fish. There’s tons of bait, everything’s in place – the fish just aren’t.”
On June 22, the tournament kicks off with the Junior Jolly Mon plus registration and the Captain’s Meeting for the main tournament. The format is Captain’s Choice, with boats able to fish one of two days, June 23 or June 24. For more information, call 910-575-3474.