Look For: Spotted seatrout, red drum, black drum, flounder, sheepshead.
Comments: Capt. Patrick Kelly of Capt. Smiley Fishing Charters in Little River reports the water temperature zoomed up all the way to 59 degrees late last week, thus species such as red drum, spotted seatrout, black drum and flounder are all active in local estuaries in the dead of winter. One of the main enemies of trout and reds, the bottlenose dolphin, invades the estuaries in winter, and these species can be found in holes and depressions in shallow creeks and on shallow flats to avoid them. Flounder can be scarce in the estuaries in February, but a decent number have been caught of late. “The water has never really gotten that cold,” said Capt. Perrin Wood of Southern Saltwater Charters in Murrells Inlet. “Go to some of your honey holes, work some live minnows in there, and I bet you’re going to catch some flounder.”
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Look For: Black sea bass, sheepshead, black drum, flounder, weakfish, whiting.
Comments: Fishing activity along the beach is often at a standstill in mid-February, but not this year. Lynn Galloway of Apache Pier reported a warm ocean water temperature, relatively speaking, of 53 degrees Thursday morning. Anglers on the pier have caught the occasional whiting and croaker this week. Nearshore reefs within 10 miles of the beach continue to hold sheepshead, black drum and black sea bass. Also look for flounder, weakfish and tautog. Wood of Southern Saltwater Charters reports a few juvenile red drum have even been caught on some of the reefs in recent weeks. Fiddler crabs are the go-to bait for sheepshead, and will also work for black drum and red drum. Plenty of black sea bass are available but most are below or, at best, right at the 13-inch minimum size limit.
Look For: Wahoo, blackfin tuna, king mackerel, vermilion snapper, black sea bass, triggerfish, grunts, porgy, amberjack.
Comments: Offshore spots such as the Georgetown Hole, Winyah Scarp, McMarlen Ledge and the Steeples are likely spots to find wahoo and blackfin tuna, with less desired barracuda and bonito also ready to ambush trolled ballyhoo. Bottom spots are holding black sea bass, triggerfish, red porgy, vermilion snapper and white grunts. Plenty of closures of reef species are in effect for recreational anglers in South Atlantic waters. The annual shallow-water grouper spawning season closure is in effect through the month of April. Greater amberjack is closed until March 1, and deep-water blueline tilefish and snowy grouper are closed until May 1. Red snapper are also off-limits indefinitely and must be released.
Look For: Bream, bass, catfish, crappie.
Comments: After months of little to no fishing action on local rivers thanks to relentless flooding, Ronald “Catfish” Stalvey of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle in Conway is excited to see the rivers come alive during this warm February. “The fish are biting,” said Stalvey on Thursday. “The bream are still deep but we’ve got crappie all the way from two feet to 10 feet with this warm spell we’ve had.” Bass action has also picked up. “The bass are stacked in the lakes, the coves and the marinas,” said Stalvey. “They’re in there starting to search for places to spawn.” Stalvey recommends throwing spinnerbaits, chatterbaits and jigs for bass. Shad are showing up in rivers all along the South Carolina coast, with a hot spot for anglers at the Tailrace Canal at Moncks Corner. With shad in the rivers, a prime bait for catfish is, you guessed it, fresh cut shad.