Outdoors

Grand Strand Fishing Report: Trout remain active amid warm water temperatures

Spotted seatrout in the 12- to 14-inch range are plentiful in local estuaries as 2019 arrives, like this specimen caught in Murrells Inlet on New Year’s Eve.
Spotted seatrout in the 12- to 14-inch range are plentiful in local estuaries as 2019 arrives, like this specimen caught in Murrells Inlet on New Year’s Eve. Photo courtesy of Gregg Holshouser

Estuary

Look For: Spotted seatrout, red drum, black drum, flounder, sheepshead.

Comments: The water temperature remains in the mid-to-upper 50s in local estuaries in early January, which is great news for anglers after spotted seatrout. A variety of methods including live shrimp will catch trout, but numerous artificials will work just fine. Shrimp imitations are a hot item including Vudu, Gulp and DOA. A variety of soft plastic paddle-tail grubs, typically on 1/8- or 1/4-once jig heads, have also worked well. Trolling, floating or jigging artificials are all producing fish. Spotted seatrout have a minimum size limit of 14 inches, with a daily bag limit of 10 fish per person. Anglers are urged to release large trout over 20 inches, due to their significant spawning contribution. Flounder, with a minimum size limit of 15 inches, continue to be active and are hitting the same artificials. Area jetties are holding plenty of trout plus red drum, black drum, sheepshead and tautog.

Inshore

Look For: Black sea bass, sheepshead, black drum, flounder, weakfish, whiting, croaker.

Comments: The warm weather has parlayed into a warmer-than-normal ocean water temperature, and the fish have responded. Apache Pier in Myrtle Beach reported a water temperature of 58 degrees Thursday afternoon, and an increase in fish activity compared to recent weeks. A mix of whiting, croaker, trout and a few flounder have been caught this week off Apache Pier. Most fish have been small, but a few keeper trout and flounder have been landed. Capt. Jeff Maples of Reel Salty Charters in Murrells Inlet headed to Paradise Reef, located three miles east of the inlet, on Sunday looking to target sheepshead using fiddler crabs for bait. “I tried the fiddlers but couldn’t get them past the black sea bass,” said Maples. Black sea bass are thick on the reef, with the huge majority under the 13-inch minimum size limit. Maples also caught keeper black drum and red drum on the reef. Head to depths of about 50 feet and beyond for a better shot at keeper black sea bass.

Offshore

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

Comments: The ocean was just too pretty on New Year’s Eve, so Capt. Danny Carey of Careyon Charters in Murrells Inlet headed out to the Winyah Scarp with wahoo on the brain. Carey and crew hooked up and lost one wahoo, and otherwise sharks were a problem. “Every fish we caught was destroyed by sharks,” said Carey. “There were a lot of blackfin (tuna) but they never made it to the boat.” Bonito were also plentiful. Carey noted he tried high-speed trolling for wahoo but got no bites. The ocean water temperature was in the 72-73 degree range at the Winyah Scarp. When 2019 rang in, grouper season went out. The annual shallow-water grouper spawning season closure went into effect on Jan. 1 and lasts through the month of April. Plenty of reef fish are available for harvest including vermilion snapper, black sea bass, grey triggerfish, amberjack, red porgy and grunts. Red snapper are off-limits indefinitely in the South Atlantic Region and must be released.

Freshwater

Look For: Bream, bass, catfish, crappie.

Comments: The rain has been virtually relentless, and the rivers remain high. It’s simply a lousy time for river fishing in Horry and Georgetown counties. Ronald “Catfish” Stalvey of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle in Conway reports launch spots such as Pitch Landing and Savannah Bluff are flooded. “Everybody’s burning up to go (fishing) but the landings are flooded,” said Stalvey. The Waccamaw was at 12.06 feet at 4:15 p.m. Thursday, just at moderate flood stage, and falling. The Little Pee Dee at Galivants Ferry was at 9.42 feet at 4 p.m. Thursday, in minor flood stage.

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