Outdoors

Grand Strand Fishing Report: The arrival of bluefish and mackerel is approaching

Capt. Dan Connolly of O-Fish-Al Expeditions shows off a red drum caught earlier this week in Murrells Inlet in chilly weather.
Capt. Dan Connolly of O-Fish-Al Expeditions shows off a red drum caught earlier this week in Murrells Inlet in chilly weather. Photo courtesy of O-Fish-Al Expeditions

Estuary

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

Comments: The return of cool weather has kept the trout schooled up, says Capt. Dan Connolly of O-Fish-Al Expeditions, and Wednesday’s full moon brought the spawners out. All this combined for a gator trout extravaganza Thursday for Connolly’s crew on a trip in Murrells Inlet. “This morning, every fish we caught was 4-7 pounds,” said Connolly, who worked the jetties and the creeks. This week Connolly has also produced red drum both in the 15-23 inch slot limit and over the slot, along with flounder and sheepshead. Prime spring flounder action is coming soon but the cooler weather has held it off, for now. “(Flounder) have an internal clock that tells them when it’s time to migrate, but bait movement and water temperature plays a part too,” said Connolly, who noted a water temperature in the 54-55 range Thursday. With chilly, cool weather most of this week, Connolly is ready for spring to arrive for real. “I’m tired of being cold when we’re fishing,” said Connolly. “I’m ready for some warm weather.”

Inshore

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

Comments: The ocean water temperature topped the 60-degree mark early this week, but not for long. The cool spell ensued, and the temperature settled in at 58 degrees on Thursday at Apache Pier. “We’ve had some pretty good size whiting (caught),” said Skyler Parks of Apache Pier. Parks also noted croaker and puffers have been caught but no bluefish just yet. The near-shore waters in the Atlantic Ocean are in a state of change as baitfish will arrive along with pelagic species such as blues, Spanish mackerel and king mackerel over the next month. For now a variety of species are available on the near-shore artificial reefs including black sea bass, sheepshead, flounder, weakfish and possibly black drum and red drum. Look for bluefish to start the parade of pelagics during the next warm spell, possibly within the next week.

Offshore

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

Comments: An Ocean Isle Fishing Center crew headed offshore Monday in sporty conditions with northeast winds at 15-20 knots for their first day of action in the 2019 S.C. Wahoo Series. Capt. Brant McMullan reports the crew, in a new Freeman Boatworks 37, started at the Winyah Scarp vicinity, fishing in scattered weed and 71-72 degree green water. They moved toward the MacMarlen Ledge where they found a temperature break and decent blue-green water, but caught only false albacore, barracuda and amberjack. The targeted species finally showed up late in the afternoon when they landed a blackfin tuna, went 1 for 2 on small wahoo and capped the day by landing a 35-pound wahoo. Bottom fishing has been very good for vermilion snapper, black sea bass, red porgy, grey triggerfish, white grunts and amberjack. Closures of reef species currently in effect for recreational anglers in South Atlantic waters include the annual shallow-water grouper spawning season closure, and deep-water blueline tilefish and snowy grouper closure until May 1. Red snapper are also off-limits indefinitely and must be released.

Freshwater

Look For: Bream, bass, catfish, crappie.

Comments: Well, the rivers continue to be up and the number of anglers out fishing has been down this week, as spring officially arrived on Wednesday. “There’s been some nice fish caught, just not many people going,” said Ronald “Catfish” Stalvey of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle in Conway. The Waccamaw River was at 9.5 feet Thursday at 12:15 p.m. near Conway while the Little Pee Dee was at 8.3 feet Thursday at 1 p.m. at Galivants Ferry, just under Minor Flood Stage of 9.0. Stalvey says bream are mainly deep in the high water, with anglers focusing on lakes and ditch mouths using worms for bait. A few bream have been caught on crickets, Stalvey says. Bass are beginning to get into bedding mode, and Stalvey reports two fish over seven pounds were released this week. “A bunch of big fish have already been broke off on the beds,” said Stalvey. “This week they ought to be hot and heavy on the beds. I’d use spinnerbaits, chatterbaits, Senko and craw-type baits - anything that imitates a crawfish on the bottom.” Stalvey says catfish are “doing real good” with large shiners, cut shad, nightcrawlers and cut mullet all working well for bait.

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