Grand Strand Fishing Report: How it looks for the next king mackerel tournament

Bryan Baxter and Matt DeAntonio show off the winning 44.20-pound king mackerel in the James Island Yacht Club King Mackerel Tournament earlier this summer.
Bryan Baxter and Matt DeAntonio show off the winning 44.20-pound king mackerel in the James Island Yacht Club King Mackerel Tournament earlier this summer. Courtesy photo


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

Comments: On the heels of the first real cold front of autumn, action is good for the four main species targeted in local estuaries - red drum, black drum, flounder and spotted seatrout. The bull red drum bite is on at local jetties, and Capt. Patrick Kelly of Captain Smiley Inshore Charters caught “seven big ones” in about an hour on Wednesday. Kelly has also caught all four species in the creeks of Dunn Sound and Bonaparte Creek, using Berkeley Gulp lures, small finger mullet or cut mullet or menhaden. On Thursday, Kelly noted a big drop in water temperature to 72 degrees. With another cold front in store over the weekend, Kelly is ready for some trout action. “I think it’s gonna get good,” said Kelly. “When the water temperature gets into the 60s, the trout are on.” Capt. Mike McDonald of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service produced a solid catch of red drum and black drum on a Wednesday trip, with the largest red measuring 28 inches. McDonald used live shrimp, which he netted in Winyah Bay, for bait. “There are some live shrimp still in the bay,” said McDonald. “The water’s black, it looks like the Waccamaw River, the same way it looks in the ocean. The tides are working normal, just a little higher than normal, and on every tide the water is black.”


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

Comments: There have been good signs this week for near-shore king mackerel fishing, which bodes well for the 15th annual Rumble in the Jungle king mackerel tournament this weekend out of Captain Archie’s and North Myrtle Beach/Little River. The strong bite of kings along the beach has continued. Case in point, the Apache Pier, where four kings up to 39.4 pounds were caught within about an hour late Thursday afternoon. The action has been hot on Cherry Grove Pier too, where 15 kings were caught Sunday through Tuesday including a 41-pounder on Sunday. The tournament kicks off Friday with registration at Captain Archie’s beginning at 3 p.m., dinner at 6 p.m. and the Captains Meeting at 7 p.m. Competing boats can fish Saturday or Sunday, Captain’s Choice. Aside from the hot king action, plenty of other species have been caught from the piers this week including red drum, black drum, bluefish, whiting, croaker, pompano, flounder, trout and, yes, a few spots. Although seas are looking dicey over the weekend, the near-shore bottom spots are producing weakfish and bull red drum, along with black sea bass, whiting and flounder. Cherry Grove Pier reports the good news that the ocean water temperature has dropped thanks to the cold front, from 80 degrees on Tuesday to 78 surface and 77 bottom Thursday afternoon.


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

Comments: Trey Jordan of Conway headed out Sunday for a bottom-fishing excursion aboard his 22-foot Sea Pro, with Ronald Stalvey of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle, Trey Jordan, Logan Estep, August Mize and Chelsea Davis along for the trip. The crew had a superb catch of gag grouper, amberjack, vermilion snapper, black sea bass and triggerfish. Stalvey took live pinfish for bait, which produced the four keeper grouper. The crew fished 38-41 miles offshore in 100 to 110 feet of water. With cold fronts in the offing, offshore trips have been few and far between. “I’m hoping after this front moves through when the weather settles down, we’ll get back out there and catch some wahoo,” said Capt. Danny Carey of Careyon Charters. “When (the water temperature) gets down into the upper 70s out there it ought to really turn on for the wahoo.”


Look For: Bream, bass, catfish, crappie.

Comments: Stalvey offered a glimmer of good news on the freshwater fishing front, as the historic and devastating flooding event from Hurricane Florence winds down. Many local rivers have had fish kills related to the flooding, but one river is getting closer to normal. “The Little Pee Dee is looking good and smelling good,” said Stalvey. “The Waccamaw still smells like a septic tank with all those dead fish. The (Great) Pee Dee is a little rough too. The Waccamaw is going to take a while before it clears out and cleans out. I’m hoping for the best but there were a pile, I mean a pile of fish that died.”