Outdoors

Grand Strand Fishing Report: Bottom fishing a solid option with high water temperatures

The hot days of August and early September are prime time to find tarpon roaming the waters of Winyah Bay and other estuaries along the South Carolina coast.
The hot days of August and early September are prime time to find tarpon roaming the waters of Winyah Bay and other estuaries along the South Carolina coast. Photo courtesy of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service

Estuary

Look For: Flounder, red drum, spotted seatrout, black drum, sheepshead, bluefish.

Comments: Early this week in Murrells Inlet, the water temperature was 86.5 degrees at 7 a.m., just after high tide. In the next few hours, the temperature soared to near 88 degrees in a main channel on the north end of the inlet. On the same excursion, finger mullet quickly died after being cast-netted and placed in a bait bucket. Yes, it’s August. “I think the hot temps has got a little of the low (dissolved) oxygen thing going on,” said Capt. Dan Connolly of O-Fish-Al Expeditions. “I think a lot of fish are going closer to the ocean right now.” Still, Connolly has managed to catch some spotted seatrout, red drum and flounder using mainly large finger mullet. He has also caught redfish on fresh cut finger mullet. Connolly recommends a few select hours to catch fish. “I’ve had a brief couple hours of success, the first few hours of the fall and the first few of the incoming,” said Connolly, who has been using a Carolina rig with a 3/4-ounce egg sinker and a 1\4-ounce Organized Chaos jig head (chartreuse). August means tarpon are roaming the estuaries along the South Carolina coast, including Winyah Bay. Use large mullet, menhaden or croaker and deploy them near the jetties or channel of the bay, sit back and wait for the big bite. Although there is absolutely no reason to kill a tarpon, the South Carolina regulations for the species are 1 per person per day with a 77-inch minimum size limit (fork length).

Inshore

Look For: King mackerel, Spanish mackerel, cobia, bluefish, whiting, pompano, black sea bass, spadefish, weakfish, black drum, flounder.

Comments: Near-shore artificial reefs such as Paradise and Pawleys out of Murrells Inlet and Jim Caudle and Ron McManus out of Little River are holding black sea bass (13-inch minimum size limit), flounder, spadefish and weakfish, with Spanish and possibly kings and cobia roaming the vicinity. Spadefish activity has been high with fish spotted at the surface adjacent to the Murrells Inlet jetties earlier this week. Cannonball jellyfish are the preferred food of spadefish. Spadefish are among the species Tony McElveen reported caught from the Cherry Grove Pier, along with whiting, croaker, pompano and bluefish. The ocean water temperature at Cherry Grove Pier was 83 degrees Thursday morning.

Offshore

Look For: Dolphin, wahoo, blackfin tuna, vermilion snapper, black sea bass, triggerfish, grunts, porgy, amberjack, red snapper.

Comments: One of the best bets of late summer fishing is trolling for wahoo. When August rolls around, wahoo show up in better numbers along the break, in areas from the Georgetown Hole to the Winyah Scarp to the Black Jack Hole. Of course trolling in these areas can also produce scattered catches of dolphin, blackfin tuna, barracuda, king mackerel and possibly yellowfin tuna and billfish. Of late, the best bet has been bottom fishing, with very good catches of vermilion snapper, red porgy, grey triggerfish, black sea bass, grunts, grouper and amberjack reported. Scamp have been the most common grouper found. Red snapper seem to outnumber the grouper these days, but alas they are once again off-limits in the South Atlantic Region and must be released.

Freshwater

Look For: Bream, crappie, catfish, bass.

Comments: “Fishing’s been absolutely wonderful,” said Ronald “Catfish” Stalvey of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle in Conway. “We’ve been seeing a pile of bream. The Little Pee Dee and the big Pee Dee (are the best rivers) as far as biggest size and quality.” The bream are hitting crickets, worms and beetle spins mainly in 2-4 feet of water. Bass action has also been very good, Stalvey says. “It’s been taking some big weights and big fish to win tournaments,” said Stalvey, who recommends using Texas-rigged worms and spinner baits. Catfish action is very good on fresh cut eel. “All the river levels are good but they’re getting low,” said Stalvey. “The Little Pee Dee is low and the Waccamaw is low north of Conway. Be careful out there.”

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