Grand Strand Fishing Report: Juvenile tarpon provides surprise for boardwalk anglers

Judy Klopp handles a 24-inch tarpon caught off the boardwalk in Garden City Beach early this week, with her husband, Bill, in the background. The Klopps, part-time residents of Surfside Beach, released the juvenile tarpon.
Judy Klopp handles a 24-inch tarpon caught off the boardwalk in Garden City Beach early this week, with her husband, Bill, in the background. The Klopps, part-time residents of Surfside Beach, released the juvenile tarpon.


Look For: Red drum, flounder, black drum, spotted seatrout, sheepshead, bluefish

Comments: Early this week, Judy Klopp was fishing with a finger mullet off the public boardwalk adjacent to Atlantic Ave. in Garden City Beach. She got an aggressive bite on her Zebco 33 on a Shakespeare rod and immediately summoned her husband, Bill. For a moment, the retired couple and part-time Surfside Beach residents thought they had hooked up with a red drum. They quickly knew different. “It started jumping out of the water, and I said ‘Judy, that’s a tarpon!’ “ recalled Bill Klopp. “It was a pretty good tussle for the two of us.” After several minutes of action from the juvenile tarpon, the Klopps had landed the 24-inch silver king in an unlikely place, the backwaters of the inlet. After a quick photo op, the tarpon was released back into the inlet, and the couple had a fishing memory of a lifetime. Farther south in the inlet, Capt. Dan Connolly of O-Fish-Al Expeditions bemoaned the conditions at mid-week. The much-anticipated cool temperatures were ushered in by a stiff northeast wind. “Fishing was pitiful,” said Connolly Wednesday afternoon. “Of course it blowing 30 (mph) out of the northeast probably had something to do with it. The reds are biting pretty good when the wind’s not howling.” Connolly has used live or fresh cut finger mullet to catch the redfish. He also caught several spotted seatrout in the 17-21 inch range on Saltwater Assassin grubs on a trip in the creeks this week. “I don’t think we have big numbers (of trout) yet,” said Connolly. “I think I just stumbled across a school.” Capt. Patrick Kelly of Captain Smiley Fishing Charters in Little River has had success with red drum, black drum and flounder this week. “It’s been challenging with the wind, but fishing’s been excellent,” said Kelly. Bull reds have made the scene at the Little River jetties, said Kelly, and should already be on hand at other local jetties and inlet mouths. “The big reds have shown up at the jetties,” said Kelly. “They’re eating cut or live menhaden. They’ll bite mullet as well but they really want those pogeys out there.”


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

Comments: Autumn officially arrives on Monday, and the bull reds and weakfish are ready for the season on the near-shore hard-bottom areas. “They’re here,” said Capt. Jeff Maples of Reel Salty Charters. Maples found both species on a trip last weekend out of Murrells Inlet before the cold front arrived and made for very rough seas through Thursday. Fresh cut mullet or menhaden will earn bites from the mature spawning-stock red drum that measure from about 32 inches on up to 50 inches or so. Keep in mind the slot limit for red drum in South Carolina is 15-23 inches, and these fish should be revived and carefully released. The limit on weakfish is 1 per person per day with a 12-inch minimum size limit. Maples also found a good flounder bite on the near-shore reefs before the front. The Apache Pier and Cherry Grove Pier will host the 2019 Fall King Mackerel Tournament this Saturday and Sunday. Neither pier has produced a king this week, but the trend looks for calming conditions and clearer water for the fishing days, which bodes well for the tournament. This week, a variety of species have been landed from the piers, including whiting, croaker, pompano, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, flounder, red drum, black drum and ribbonfish. The ocean water temperature at Cherry Grove Pier was 81 degrees on the surface and bottom Thursday at 3 p.m.


Look For: Wahoo, dolphin, blackfin tuna, vermilion snapper, black sea bass, triggerfish, grunts, porgy, amberjack, red snapper

Comments: The same cold front that brought cooler air and water temperatures, along with the promise of the great fall fishing ahead, has kept most boats in port this week thanks to rough seas. Last weekend before the front, the wahoo bite was very good with a few dolphin and blackfin tuna mixed in. “Before the blow, the wahoo bite was good - one boat had five, one had eight,” said Capt. Danny Juel of Fish Screamer Charters in Little River and the party boat Atlantic Star across the state line in Calabash, N.C. “When it calms down, I think they’ll bite better.” Bottom fishing was excellent before the front for vermilion snapper, black sea bass, grey triggerfish, red porgy, white grunts, amberjack and grouper. “Bottom fishing is going to be good,” said Juel. “October and November are our best months for bottom fishing.” Red snapper are common on bottom spots from 90-120 feet but must be released in the South Atlantic Region.


Look For: Bream, bass, catfish, crappie

Comments: Fine fall fishing is available on local rivers, says Ronald “Catfish” Stalvey of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle in Conway, but the anglers have been few and far between. Two weeks ago, Hurricane Dorian roared past, just off the South Carolina coast and put a serious rise in the rivers. That rise is all but over. “People think the rivers are messed up, but the Waccamaw, big Pee Dee, Little Pee Dee, the Black River, the Ricefields, they’re all phenomenal right now,” said Stalvey. “The handful of people, and I mean a handful, that are going are catching the fool out of fish.” Add in a drop in water temperature thanks to the cold front, and conditions are very good. Bream are hitting crickets and worms in 2-4 feet of water and catfish action is excellent on cut eels and live bream. The cooler weather has bass more active. “There’s a bunch of bass hitting buzz baits right now, they’re feeding on the surface again,” said Stalvey, who also recommends using Texas-rigged worms for bass. The Waccamaw still had a rise in it at 9.27 feet at 2:15 p.m. Thursday in Conway, but was forecast to continue falling. The Little Pee Dee at Galivants Ferry was at 6.53 feet Thursday at 3 p.m. and is forecast to slowly fall.

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