It was near dead low tide at mid-afternoon early this week as Garden City Beach resident Charlie Nash pulled his jon boat into the main creek of Murrells Inlet.
About 10 days earlier, Hurricane Florence had departed the Carolinas, leaving behind an incredible deluge of rain followed by miserable and devastating flooding along rivers from Wilmington, N.C., to Georgetown.
Murrells Inlet is strictly a saltwater estuary, with no freshwater influx, yet the water in the inlet has taken on the look of a blackwater river thanks to the floodwaters that have inundated the near-shore Atlantic. With each rise of the tide, the inlet has been filled with murky, dark water instead of the normal greenish, relatively clear water.
With such unusual conditions, Nash and I were curious to get out in the inlet to check out fishing activity, especially considering late September is typically an excellent time for fall fishing along the Carolina coast.
Nash pulled up along a Spartina grass-lined bank on the northern side of the inlet and gave me the go-ahead to drop the anchor. A bait bucket loaded with live shrimp powered by a battery-operated aerator sat in the middle of the boat within reach of Nash at the stern, and I at the bow.
Bait, namely finger mullet, was plentiful despite the water conditions.
We dropped the live shrimp back on adjustable float rigs, but action was slow until the tide began to rise, with only a few bluefish bites and a small flounder.
Nash moved up the bank adjacent to a tidal creek, where we noticed bait being crashed about 30 feet out from the grass.
I tossed a shrimp in the vicinity, the float disappeared, and I quickly knew I was hooked up with a good fish. Five minutes later, a sizable slot red drum just over 21 inches was in the net after a spirited battle.
We continued to work the area and caught several more reds, in the 13-16 inch range.
But with the tide continuing to rise and the current running swiftly along the bank, Nash had one species in mind - spotted seatrout.
We fished hard and tried several more spots, but never were able to get a trout bite over the next couple hours.
It’s certainly been an interesting week for fishing since the storm’s passage. With the unprecedented floodwaters and highly unusual water conditions along the beach, anglers were not sure what to expect.
But they quickly found out that bait was plentiful and the mackerel were at home. King mackerel catches have been superb off the Apache and Cherry Grove piers, with a total of 18 kings caught from the Apache Pier from Sunday through Thursday.
In addition, Spanish mackerel have shown up nicely around bait along the beach, inlet passes and for pier anglers.
The debris-filled floodwater along the beach even harbored tripletail, which are rarely caught in the near-shore Atlantic off the Grand Strand. Tripletail are well-known to congregate around floating structure, and have been caught in multiple numbers around tree debris.
In addition, bull red drum have shown up right on cue for their fall run on hard-bottom areas along the beach and from the surf, despite the water conditions.
Ashley Turner Memorial King Tournament
The Apache Pier is staging a king mackerel tournament in honor of assistant manager Ashley Turner, who passed away unexpectedly on Aug. 14.
The Ashley Turner Memorial King Tournament will be held on the pier on Oct. 27, with a $25 entry fee. A donation of $5 of the entry fee will go to a favorite charity of Turner’s, Teen Angels of North Myrtle Beach.
“She was a great person,” said Calvin Dickerson, Apache Pier manager. “She was a great asset to our pier and to our community. Just a great lady, always willing to help and always smiling.”
For more information on Teen Angels, visit www.NMBTeenAngels.com, plus donations can be made on the Apache Pier’s Facebook page.