Grand Strand Fishing Report: Ocean catch good despite flooding and debris from rivers

Megan Maples of Reel Salty Charters in Murrells Inlet shows the run of the bull red drum has arrived for autumn in the near-shore waters of the Carolinas.
Megan Maples of Reel Salty Charters in Murrells Inlet shows the run of the bull red drum has arrived for autumn in the near-shore waters of the Carolinas. Photo courtesy Reel Salty Charters


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

Comments: Thanks to flooding runoff from area rivers, the Atlantic Ocean looks more like the Waccamaw or Little Pee Dee River these days. With the nasty, debris-filled flood waters well-entrenched along the beach, area estuaries have also been infiltrated by the dark, tannic water as the tide rises and falls. Such a scenario wouldn’t seem to bode well for fishing, but the calendar reads late September, and bait is plentiful, and fish available. “I would have thought different, but fishing’s excellent,” Capt. Patrick Kelly of Captain Smiley Fishing Charters in Little River said after a Wednesday trip. “We caught an inshore slam (red drum, spotted seatrout, flounder) within the first 30 minutes.” Kelly produced the reds on fresh, cut finger mullet to get scent in the murky water, a few trout in the 3-4 pound range hit a top-water lure simulating mullet, and the flounder took Gulp shrimp. Kelly then moved to the Little River jetties where bull reds were on hand, along with plenty of bluefish, hitting cut mullet. “We probably caught over 50 fish,” said Kelly, who noted a water temperature of 79 degrees. Capt. Dan Connolly of O-Fish-Al Expeditions reports red drum are the best bet this week in the stained water of Murrells Inlet. Bull red drum are showing up at area jetties and channels near ocean passes on their annual autumn spawning mission. These fish should be caught quickly with beefed up tackle and carefully released after being revived. The South Carolina slot limit for red drum is 15-23 inches.


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

Comments: The brown floodwater continues to spew from the Cape Fear River among other rivers north of the Myrtle Beach area, and likely will continue for a few more weeks, slowly subsiding. Such water conditions would not seem conducive to finding king mackerel, but anglers on the Apache Pier and Cherry Grove Pier had a real treat this week. From Sunday through Tuesday, 11 king mackerel were caught off the Apache Pier with the fish ranging in size from 14 to 29.8 pounds. On Wednesday, the Cherry Grove Pier produced three kings including fish weighing 19, 20 and 20 pounds. “We’ve caught a little bit of everything, blues, whiting, croaker, pompano, Spanish, flounder, weakfish and a few spots,” said Skyler Parks of the Apache Pier. “It slowed a little bit Wednesday, but it’s been really good since the hurricane.” The debris, mainly tree debris, in the ocean water has provided a neat fishery to target this week - tripletail, which are well-known to congregate around floating structure. “The tree debris, they’ve been hanging on the bigger pieces,” said Capt. Jeff Maples of Reel Salty Charters in Murrells Inlet. Maples has also found the fall staples of bull reds and weakfish on hard-bottom areas near the beach. Capt. Dan Connolly of O-Fish-Al Expeditions has found nice Spanish mackerel available near jetties and along the beach. Connolly has found the fish feeding on the abundant bait (mullet, menhaden, glass minnows) and deployed live finger mullet on light wire and a treble hook. Trolling spoons and mackerel trees will also work, but live bait will usually produce larger Spanish. Take A Kid Fishing Day in the Myrtle Beach area will be held Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon. Contact local fishing piers to participate in the event.


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

Comments: Jeff Martini, owner of Mid-Town Bistro in North Myrtle Beach, and his gallivanting crew aboard Dirty Martini headed offshore for a spear-fishing trip on Wednesday, and had success targeting grouper. They found what Martini described as “very dirty” water while working an area in depths of 130 feet and 45 miles out of Little River. Before Hurricane Florence struck, fall wahoo fishing was ramping up. A few boats have been out since the storm and have caught wahoo, but the jury is out on what’s available for trolling boats. “A lot of people are going this weekend, we’re waiting to see,” said Dave Christian of Marlin Quay Marina. Aside from grouper, bottom-fishing trips are producing vermilion snapper, black sea bass, grey triggerfish, amberjack, cobia, red porgy and white grunts. 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 and unnecessary boaters should stay off the water until the flood waters recede. Any boaters that 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.