Look For: Spotted seatrout, red drum, black drum, flounder, sheepshead.
Comments: Well, as of Thursday, the run of warm weather in late December and early January came to a halt thanks to the current cold front. The resulting quick drop in water temperature figures to slow the spotted seatrout bite some, but not completely shut it down. Capt. Patrick Kelly of Captain Smiley Fishing Charters in Little River reported a water temperature of 56-58 degrees at midweek, just before the front moved in. “That’s pretty warm for this time of year,” Kelly said. Before the front, the trout bite continued to be very good, with Kelly catching most of his fish on Berkeley Gulp shrimp (New Penny). “I think you could throw anything out there, Vudu, Trout Trick,” said Kelly. The captain has also had success this week floating mud minnows to catch red drum on a falling tide along the flats. Even if the cold snap shuts down the trout bite, the drum will still be available. “We’re going to catch reds all winter,” said Kelly. “It seems like the trout stop biting but (red drum) should bite regardless of the cold.”
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Look For: Black sea bass, sheepshead, black drum, flounder, weakfish, whiting, croaker.
Comments: The Cherry Grove Pier reports catches of whiting and croaker this week, but the fish have been very small. One keeper, 16-inch flounder was landed. With colder weather and water now in the offing, look for sheepshead to make a real showing on artificial reefs such as the Paradise, Ron McManus and Jim Caudle reefs within several miles of the beach. Black drum and tautog may be mixed in with the sheepshead. Weakfish and flounder are also a possibility on the reefs. Black sea bass are also plentiful on the reefs, but anglers should be aware of the 13-inch minimum size limit. The ocean water temperature Thursday morning at the Cherry Grove Pier was still 56 degrees but trending down, with a chilly weekend in store.
Look For: Wahoo, blackfin tuna, king mackerel, dolphin, vermilion snapper, black sea bass, triggerfish, grunts, porgy, amberjack, grouper.
Comments: The cold front with the strong west-northwest wind pushed any pretty water near the break well offshore, replacing it with cooler, green water, which is not conducive for holding wahoo. When conditions improve, the wahoo will return. “If you find the right water you’ll get the bite,” said Capt. Buddy Smith of Underdog Charters. As Smith pointed out, however, the bottom, or reef fish aren’t going anywhere. Look for vermilion snapper, black sea bass, grey triggerfish, amberjack, red porgy and grunts, especially in depths of 90 feet and beyond. The annual shallow-water grouper spawning season closure went into effect on Jan. 1 and lasts through the month of April. Red snapper are off-limits indefinitely in the South Atlantic Region and must be released.
Look For: Bream, bass, catfish, crappie.
Comments: What shape are the local rivers in? “High as a Georgia pine,” said Ronald “Catfish” Stalvey of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle in Conway. Since Hurricane Florence’s floodwaters hit the eastern Carolinas in early September, it’s been a mess on local rivers. “It’s been so high for so long,” said Stalvey. “The water’s running so hard, it’s wicked. I don’t want any rain for four months. Fishing in ponds is all I’ve been hearing.”