Fishing improving off Grand Strand coast as water temperatures increase

Bottom fishing has been good for several species including black sea bass (pictured), especially in depths of at least 90 feet.
Bottom fishing has been good for several species including black sea bass (pictured), especially in depths of at least 90 feet. MCT


Look For: Red drum, black drum, flounder, spotted seatrout, sheepshead.

Comments: April has arrived, and fishing, as usual this time of year, is on an upswing. “We're not breaking records but fishing is improving,” said Capt. Patrick Kelly of Captain Smiley Fishing Charters. “The air temperature and water temperature has improved.” Kelly has focused on the Intracoastal Waterway's main channels in the Little River area this week and has had success with red drum and black drum, using mud minnows on popping corks along with mud minnows, cut shrimp and Gulp shrimp fished on a 1/4-ounce jig heads on the bottom. On Thursday, Kelly's crew caught red drum, black drum and one flounder under South Carolina's minimum size limit of 15 inches. Flounder catches are poised to take off at any time, with decent catches of the flatfish already reported in areas such as Cherry Grove Inlet and Murrells Inlet.


Look For: Black sea bass, weakfish, bluefish, flounder, whiting, croaker.

Comments: Capt. Jeff Maples of Reel Salty Charters headed out on a charter earlier this week in search of the elusive 13-inch keeper black sea bass, at least on near-shore bottom spots. Maples started out at Paradise Reef, three miles east of Murrells Inlet, and then hit the 10-Mile Reef, also east of the inlet. He found black sea bass, but no keepers (along with a few weakfish at Paradise Reef). Eventually, Maples wound up going out to depths of 70 feet to find keeper black sea bass and caught plenty in the 13-14 inch range plus a large 2.5-pounder. Maples also noted his customers caught numerous bluefish at the 10-Mile Reef, a sign of good things to come. “We caught a ton of bluefish, so I would say within a week we should be seeing Spanish (mackerel),” said Maples. “They come up with those blues - it's got to be time.” Michael Wallace of Cherry Grove Pier reported a water temperature of 59 degrees Thursday morning, a day after it had topped out at the 60-degree mark but dropped back into the 50s overnight. Wallace reports small whiting and croaker continue to be the main catch in the surf.


Look For: Wahoo, blackfin tuna, dolphin, grouper, vermilion snapper, triggerfish, porgy, black sea bass, grunts.

Comments: The seas finally calmed enough Sunday and Monday for numerous boats to get offshore to see what trolling action held in store. Most boats were targeting wahoo and competing in the S.C. Wahoo Series, and the monsters of the mackerel family were receptive. Capt. Buddy Smith was among the crew of Jeff Drake’s The Law, which used its first of two fishing days allowed in the series on Sunday. Smith reported the crew went two of three on wahoo bites and came in early to weigh in a 71.6-pounder. The crew fished the south side of the Winyah Scarp and also caught one blackfin tuna and one king mackerel. “The water temperature was 69.5 degrees, a little on the cool side,” said Smith. “There was a little bit of mid-level bait, (but) no flying fish.” A few dolphin have been caught but the real push from the south is likely a few weeks away. Bottom fishing is very good for vermilion snapper, black sea bass, amberjack, grey triggerfish, white grunts and red porgy, especially in depths of 90 feet and beyond. The annual Shallow-Water Grouper Spawning Season Closure is in effect through April 30. Also, red snapper are closed indefinitely in the South Atlantic region and must be released.


Look For: Bream, , bass, crappie, catfish.

Comments: The water temperature has made a nice jump over the last week, up to the lower-to-mid 60s, and the fish are responding. Bream action is on a definite upswing. “A lot of bream on crickets and worms, 3-4 feet deep,” said Ronald ‘Catfish’ Stalvey of Stalvey's Bait and Tackle in Conway. “Some are still lead-lining (with worms on the bottom), but the fish are pulling up (to shallower water).” April is the season for bedding bass in coastal South Carolina, but it's not quite prime time. “It's iffy - we've got some fish on the beds, some are roaming around searching,” said Stalvey, who recommends throwing Texas-rigged style baits or topwater for bass. Catfish catches are excellent with bream and shad currently serving as prime baits.