What a difference a year makes.
On New Year’s Eve of 2017, the area was in the early stages of an unusually extreme cold stretch that dropped the water temperature in local estuaries to dangerously cold levels.
For eight straight days culminating in early January, 2018, the low temperature dropped below freezing, all but one in the 20s or upper teens, with highs mainly in the 30s — cold stuff for coastal South Carolina.
On the morning of Jan. 9, 2018, Capt. Dan Connolly of O-Fish-Al Expeditions observed a water temperature of 40 degrees in Murrells Inlet, and fear of a die-off of spotted seatrout along the Carolina coast was running rampant.
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Fast-forward to four days ago, New Year’s Eve, 2018. The day dawned foggy but warm, in the mid-50s, and calm.
With a forecast high in the upper 60s, these were fantastic conditions for early winter, and fishing buddy Charlie Nash and I just had to go check on the trout.
With only a whisper of a southeast wind, Nash pulled his jon boat out of Inlet Harbor and into the main creek of Murrells Inlet.
Nash cruised into a winding series of creeks in the middle of the inlet amid the fog, slowed the Yamaha outboard to an idle and then deployed his new favorite lure on Shimano bait-cast reels.
The amazing shrimp imitation, the Vudu Rattling Shrimp, was the artificial of choice for Nash, and we began slowly weaving our way through the creeks with very little boat traffic and near dead-low tide.
Per Nash’s instruction, we dropped the shrimp way back, being sure the lures were bumping the bottom. The presentation was completed with hard jigging action on the rod, then letting the shrimp ease back, and repeat continuously.
Within minutes, the catching started. Plenty of spotted seatrout in the 11-13 inch range slammed the attractive shrimp look-alike, and over the next hour-plus we caught several each including a few double-hookups.
The numbers of trout were great but the size wasn’t, as we put one keeper just over the 14-inch minimum size limit in the cooler out of more than 15 fish caught. A bonus flounder just over the 15-inch minimum size limit ambushed a Vudu and found its way into the cooler.
Nash decided to make a move to the inlet’s jetties in search of bigger trout, but there the fog — and the boat traffic — was thicker, and the catches slower.
In less than an hour of weaving among the boats inside and outside of the jetties, we caught one trout just under 14 inches.
Early in the afternoon, we decided to head back to the solitude of the creeks.
By mid-afternoon, the fog lifted, save for a few wisps just above the marsh grass along the creek banks. The sun came out and it warmed up even further, nearing 70 degrees.
By now, the tide was nearing high, the creeks were filled with the pretty clear water typical of winter time and bigger trout showed up. All was right with the world, with yet another new year only hours away.
Over the next hour, we caught several trout above 14 inches, and kept three more in the 16-17 inch range. Over an hour of daylight remained, but, with New Year’s Eve obligations to keep, we left the fish biting.
The splendid day proved that South Carolina’s population of spotted seatrout survived the freeze from a year earlier in fine fashion. Now that’s something worth celebrating.
Rest assured the Vudu shrimp is an effective and long-lasting lure. Nash and I both caught easily over 15 trout each, and the Vudu lures were just as good as new — despite those canine teeth — when we called it a day and headed back toward Inlet Harbor.
The Vudu shrimp features a Kevlar nylon weave through the soft plastic to give it durability, and has a swimming motion that perfectly matches a live shrimp.
*Grand Strand Boat Show: The 2019 Grand Strand Boat and Sportsman Expo is underway at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.
Show hours are Saturday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets are $8 for adults, $7 for seniors, $5 for children under 12. Children under three are admitted free of charge.
The event features a combination of boat displays, fishing and boating-related vendors and a varied schedule of seminars conducted by local experts.
A variety of boats will be on display from dealers from Charleston to Wilmington. Every type of boat from kayaks and jon boats for saltwater marsh areas to huge offshore center consoles will be on hand for attendees to check out.