Grand Strand Fishing Report: Saltwater action strong, rivers pose dangerous threat

Fall red drum action is in effect in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence.
Fall red drum action is in effect in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence. For The Sun News


Look For: Flounder, red drum, black drum, spotted seatrout, sheepshead, ladyfish, bluefish, tarpon.

Comments: Hurricane Florence’s rains had barely moved out of the area on Tuesday when Capt. Patrick Kelly of Capt. Smiley Fishing Charters in Little River headed out to investigate what was happening in the storm’s aftermath. The returns were good. “I went out today to check and it was really good,” said Kelly, who caught and released red drum and spotted seatrout. “I caught the reds on finger mullet but switched to Vudu shrimp and that worked too. We caught one on a top-water mirrolure. There’s plenty of bait, the only change I saw in fishing was the really large shrimp in the creek have filtered out. The smaller shrimp are still in the creek. The water was really dirty.” Capt. Dan Connolly of O-Fish-Al Charters checked out the action in Murrells Inlet earlier this week. “It was pretty good for the amount of time I spent fishing,” said Connolly. “If you thought there was a lot of bait before the storm, you ought to see the bait that’s out there now. I did catch a few nice shrimp in the net catching mullet. I caught a few nice reds, one just shy of 23, one over 24 inches and a couple of flounder (16-17 inches). Just went out to see what the heck was going on with an (upcoming) trip.” Connolly caught and released all the fish on live and dead mullet, plus noted the water temperature was down to 79 after sitting at 82 before the storm. Epic flooding is far from ideal for Winyah Bay, which is the recipient of water from five rivers on the the coastal plains of North and South Carolina and is the second-largest watershed on the East Coast. “All that flood water you’ve been seeing is coming through Winyah Bay, simple as that,” said Capt. Mike McDonald of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service. “It means they’re going to have a lot more freshwater, cooler water to swim around in.” McDonald pointed out a silver lining, though. “But the fish still gotta eat,” he said.


Look For: King mackerel, Spanish mackerel, red drum, bluefish, spadefish, black sea bass, flounder, weakfish, whiting, croaker, pompano, black drum.

Comments: Capt. Perrin Wood of Southern Saltwater Charters went out on The Pier at Garden City Wednesday to check out conditions in the surf zone and near the beach. He loved what he observed. “I saw miles and miles of mullet moving south along the beach, with sharks, Spanish, kings and possibly tarpon crashing on them,” said Wood. “Fishing’s going to be real hot right now. Things get real active this time of year.” Mark Lawhon of Marlin Quay Marina sees the bait on the beach as a very good sign. “The big female kings head toward the beach by late September and early October, and that’s when the king bite on the beach is excellent. In October, I’ve caught them 100 yards off the pier. Just follow the bait.” Also look for red drum on the bottom feeding under the schools of bait. Live or hard-bottom areas near the beach, along with near-shore artificial reefs will hold a variety of species as the fall run commences, including weakfish, black sea bass, flounder and bull red drum. The bull reds are in spawning mode and can be found at area jetties and the channels of inlets, hence one of their many nicknames - channel bass. The slot limit for red drum in South Carolina is 15-23 inches. All the spawning fish measure over the slot and must be released, carefully, to help preserve the future of the species. With the bait marching southward down the beach, Grand Strand piers are producing Spanish and king mackerel, bluefish, along with whiting, pompano, red drum, black drum and, soon, spots.


Look For: Wahoo, blackfin tuna, dolphin, king mackerel, sailfish, barracuda, vermilion snapper, black sea bass, triggerfish, grunts, porgy, amberjack, grouper.

Comments: Mark Lawhon of Marlin Quay Marina points out that the wahoo bite had been solid to very good before Hurricane Florence, and expects that trend to continue as fall weather becomes entrenched. “Right before the hurricane the wahoo bite was getting real good,” said Lawhon. “Look for the wahoo and tuna to really turn on here.” Trolling boats in areas such as the Georgetown Hole, Winyah Scarp and Black Jack Hole can also expect to see scattered dolphin along with king mackerel, barracuda and bonito. Fish move around during a hurricane, notably reef fish. It will be interesting to see what has taken up residence on live-bottom areas, ledges and artificial reefs when boats get back to spots in depths of 60-120 feet. Wise anglers will be prepared to catch grouper that have taken up residence, plus bottom-fishing staples such as vermilion snapper, black sea bass, grey triggerfish, amberjack, red porgy and white grunts. Don’t be surprised to encounter more species uncommon to local reefs, perhaps queen triggerfish, African pompano, yellowtail snapper or mutton snapper. Red snapper must be released indefinitely in the South Atlantic Region.


Look For: Bream, bass, catfish, crappie.

Comments: With all-time record flooding occurring on the Waccamaw and other area rivers, anglers are advised to stay off the water until the flood waters recede. Any boaters who must be on the rivers or the Intracoastal Waterway should beware of floating debris and above all else navigate at idle speed, especially around residences and structures that are undergoing flooding. Wakes can easily cause further, unnecessary damage to the properties. “It’s rough, I hate it for everybody in North Carolina and down here in South Carolina,” said Ronald “Catfish” Stalvey of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle, who has spent his recent days helping friends and family with property along the Waccamaw prepare for the flooding. “It’s a mess. I’m going to say a month to a month-and-a-half for it to get back to normal.”