Look For: Spotted seatrout, black drum, red drum, flounder, sheepshead.
Comments: Well, it was great while it lasted. Right on cue with the arrival of December, the superb autumn weather of the last few weeks was swept aside by a cold front Wednesday, sending temperatures and angler activity plummeting. Before the front, fishing was fantastic, especially for spotted seatrout and black drum. Capt. Mike McDonald of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service in Georgetown caught 14 trout, all above the 14-inch minimum size limit, along with several red drum on a Sunday trip in Winyah Bay. McDonald noted a water temperature of 59 degrees, but trending down. All of the fish were caught on plastic grubs. On the north end, Capt. Patrick Kelly of Captain Smiley Fishing Charters ran a trip on Monday and caught four species — trout, black drum, sheepshead and red drum. The trout were most numerous, and Kelly caught them floating shrimp along the ledges of the Intracoastal Waterway in Little River on a falling tide. Kelly caught some of the fish, mainly black drum, on live shrimp presented on the bottom on jig heads.
Look For: Weakfish, black sea bass, whiting, croaker, black drum, bluefish.
Comments: Capt. Jeff Maples of Reel Salty Charters in Murrells Inlet hit the beach, that is hard-bottom areas in the ocean north of the inlet, on back-to-back trips Tuesday and Wednesday. Maples found plenty of weakfish holding in the area with numerous nice whiting mixed in. The near-shore artificial reefs such as Paradise and Jim Caudle are producing good numbers of black sea bass, plus weakfish and flounder. The number of keeper black sea bass on hand above the 13-inch minimum size limit should increase with the decrease in water temperature. Ronnie Goodwin of the Cherry Grove Pier reports whiting and croaker were the top catch before the cold front arrived, although most fish were small. Goodwin also noted an occasional black drum in the 10-inch range has been caught, plus a few bluefish. Goodwin observed a water temperature of 60 degrees Wednesday afternoon, but by Thursday at 3 p.m. had dropped to 59 degrees on the surface and 58 on the bottom. Don’t expect the 60-degree water temperature mark to be reached again along the beach until March or April.
Look For: Wahoo, blackfin tuna, grouper, vermilion snapper, triggerfish, porgy, black sea bass, grunts.
Comments: On Sunday, Capt. Danny Carey of Careyon Charters took advantage of good seas to troll an area just north of the Georgetown Hole. The crew finished the day with six wahoo including a 55-pounder, six blackfin tuna including a 20-pounder, four kings including a 35-pounder, and one dolphin. For an extra thrill, the crew released a sizable sailfish. Carey observed a water temperature of 79 degrees in the vicinity. “I’ve never seen the water that warm out there in December,” said Carey. The largest wahoo was caught on a high-speed trolling lure and two hit rigged mullet on a downrigger. The rest of the fish hit trolled ballyhoo, most combined with Bluewater Candy skirts. The additional weekend of the red snapper mini-season is set for Friday through Sunday (Dec. 8-10) for recreational anglers, with seas looking rough but fishable. The limit is one red snapper per person per day with no minimum size limit. Bottom fishing is excellent for vermilion snapper, black sea bass, grouper, red snapper, triggerfish, porgy and white grunts especially in depths over 100 feet. The greater amberjack fishery is closed to harvest for recreational anglers until March 2018. Also, cobia cannot be harvested in 2017 in South Carolina waters (to three miles offshore) or federal waters (beyond three miles) and must be released.
Look For: Crappie, bream, bass, catfish.
Comments: “I'm not sure what this weather’s going to do, but it’s been good up until today,” said Ronald “Catfish” Stalvey of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle in Conway on Wednesday. The rivers, especially the Pee Dee system, have been low, with the Little Pee Dee at 3.79 feet Wednesday at 3 p.m. at Galivants Ferry. “I’m kind of glad we’re getting some rain to raise the levels up a little bit,” Stalvey said. Stalvey pointed to excellent crappie fishing as fall turns into winter, with fish hitting minnows, jigs and beetle spins. Lead-lining on the bottom with nightcrawlers or red worms is the preferred method for catching bream, with Stalvey recommending a two-hook rig. Stalvey reports great bass action, as a five-bass limit of over 14 pounds won the Pee Dee Bassmasters’ monthly tournament out of Bucksport. Stalvey said crankbaits, Texas-rigged worms and craw baits working well.