Look For: Red drum, spotted seatrout, flounder, black drum, sheepshead.
Comments: An extreme cold weather event in late December and early January this past winter quickly dropped water temperatures to dangerous levels and threatened local estuary species, especially spotted seatrout. There were confirmed fish kills in many areas along the Carolina coast. In response, South Carolina advised anglers to release any trout caught through the end of September while North Carolina closed the trout fishery through June 15. Now that the cooler weather of autumn has ushered in the traditional trout fishing season, the question has been how healthy would the trout stock be? From Little River to Murrells Inlet, the trout action has been strong this week. “They’re here, thank goodness,” said Capt. Jeff Maples of Reel Salty Charters in Little River. “I’ve caught a ton of 13 1/2-inch fish with a few keepers.” Maples has caught the trout on artificial Vudu shrimp presented under a float. Live shrimp are a good option but pinfish and other bait stealers can be bothersome until the water temperature cools further. Top-water lures are working well for trout, especially at dawn. Action has also been very good for red drum, flounder and black drum.
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Look For: King mackerel, Spanish mackerel, red drum, bluefish, spadefish, sheepshead, black sea bass, flounder, weakfish, whiting, croaker, pompano, black drum.
Comments: King mackerel action continues to be strong from the beach to 20 miles offshore as the kings are feasting on migrating baitfish such as mullet, menhaden and herring. Capt. Kyle Fisher of Warrior Charters landed five king mackerel, plus his customers lost several hook ups on a Tuesday five-hour trip to Buoy City, with two of the kings weighing just under 30 pounds. Fisher slow-trolled dead cigar minnows to catch the fish. A little closer in, also on Tuesday, Capt. Jeff Maples of Reel Salty Charters kept five kings up to 20 pounds while fishing Belky Bear using live pogeys (menhaden). “The water’s looking great, there’s about three feet of visibility,” Maples joked. “Normally you can see 10-plus feet down (at Belky Bear), but it’s better than that coffee we had after (Hurricane) Florence.” The king action continues to be good at the beach, too, as Apache Pier produced two kings (21.55 and 22 pounds) on Tuesday and Cherry Grove Pier produced two kings (26 and 22 pounds) on Wednesday. The run of the bull red drum continues with anglers catching the big spawners from Grand Strand piers and live-bottom areas within a mile or so of the beach. These fish should be caught quickly, handled delicately and released carefully. Weakfish, black sea bass, flounder and whiting are also available on the same live-bottom areas. The piers are also producing scattered catches of Spanish mackerel, bluefish, whiting, croaker, black drum, red drum, flounder, and a few spots. Wick Fisher of Cherry Grove Pier reports the ocean water temperature was 70 degrees at the surface and 69 at the bottom Thursday afternoon.
Look For: Wahoo, blackfin tuna, king mackerel, dolphin, barracuda, vermilion snapper, black sea bass, triggerfish, grunts, porgy, amberjack, grouper.
Comments: Capt. Brant McMullan of Ocean Isle Fishing Center says the offshore trolling scene in late October is simple - wahoo are available, but reasonably calm seas are needed to get to them. And reasonable seas have been few and far between of late. “Wahoo, they’re there,” said McMullan. “I guarantee you they’re there.” Unfortunately, a Gale Warning is on tap for Friday with winds gusting to 40 knots, and the next several days look rough too. Blackfin tuna are also available for trolling boats when conditions permit. Typically fall bottom fishing is excellent for grouper, vermilion snapper, black sea bass, grey triggerfish, amberjack, red porgy and white grunts. Red snapper must be released indefinitely in the South Atlantic Region.
Look For: Bream, bass, catfish, crappie.
Comments: Area rivers remain a mess well after the historic flooding spawned by Hurricane Florence. “I haven’t heard anything from the rivers,” said Ronald “Catfish” Stalvey of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle in Conway. Concerns of a confirmed fish kill on the Waccamaw River remain, with the extent of the kill unclear for the foreseeable future. The Waccamaw River at Conway was at 9.65 feet at 4:15 p.m. Thursday and was forecast to fall below 9 feet in the next few days for the first time since before the storm. The Little Pee Dee River remains high at 8.18 feet at Galivants Ferry as of 4 p.m. Thursday.