Grand Strand Fishing Report June-July 2019
Mike Marsh’s book, Fishing North Carolina, shares his best-kept secrets for fishing 100 lakes, rivers, ponds, sounds and piers.
Fishing North Carolina ($26.60),
Inshore Angler – Carolina’s Small Boat Fishing Guide ($26.20),
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What to expect when you head out to fish the Grand Strand over the next few weeks. Get a clue from noted outdoor writer Mike Marsh.
Capt. Larry Horowitz (Voyager Deep Sea Fishing and Dolphin Cruises, 843-626-4900) said all of his boats would be running hard, putting their clients on fish from the inlets out all the way out to the Gulf Stream.
"Everyone who heads offshore bottoms is going to fill their coolers big catches of nice bottom fish," he said. "We will be catching red porgy and jolthead porgy, lots of ringtails, gray triggerfish, a few queen triggerfish and all the other usual suspects - beeliners, black sea bass, rudderfish and white grunts."
Since the season for grouper is now open, anyone heading to the live bottoms and ledges wants to catch them. They are big fish that fight hard and offer some great eating. Besides the more common species - red, gag and scamp grouper – some of the less common species will be swinging over the side. Some of the oddball bottom fish species are yellowmouth, yellowfin and black grouper, rock and red hind, and hog snapper.
The Super Voyager and Continental Shelf will be catching such a variety of fish that anglers should take along a saltwater identification chart or book. If not, the mates can tell them what is dangling at the end of the line. One of the strangest is the coronet fish, which is long and narrow and brightly colored. If a fish is brightly colored with bug eyes and lots of prickly spines, you should not touch it because it could be a venomous lionfish or scorpionfish. They are good eating, but it is not worth the risk of touching them so the mates will unhook them and let them go.
Inshore and offshore trolling action will be excellent. Anglers can book half-day trolling trips aboard the Starship for Spanish mackerel and sharks. For all-day trips, the best fishing will be for king mackerel, which form dense schools at The Jungle, 65-foot Hole, Shark Hole and Atlantic Ledge. Cobia will strike cigar minnows and live baits trolled for kings. They will also strike live baits drifted off the transom during the bottom fishing trips.
Out in the Gulf Stream, big game anglers aboard the Starship will be trolling for mahi, sailfish, wahoo, blackfin tuna and yellowfin tuna. A blue or white marlin may also strike a trolling lure. These big game species will be at the 100/400 line, Blackjack, Raritan and Steeples. To be successful, anglers must find the right water temperature, which is between 74 and 78 degrees. The must also find the correct color of water for big game fishing, which is deep blue or purple, not the bright “king” green, where king mackerel will be swimming.
Apache Pier, Myrtle Beach
Calvin Dickerson (Apache Pier, 843-497-6486) said the summertime fishing would grow torrid following a tepid start.
“The fishing has been great for bluefish, Spanish mackerel, whiting, black drum and flounder,” he said. “But, our pompano started arriving a little late. I even offered a free annual pass worth $375 to the first angler who landed a king on the pier. Last year, we caught our first king in late April, so they should be burning up the end of the pier any day now.”
The annual Grand Strand King Mackerel Rodeo is June 1-2. This year only Apache Pier and Cherry Grove Pier will participate because Myrtle Beach State Park will close June 1 for repairs.
Pier anglers cast Mackerel Trees, Got-cha lures and jigging spoons to catch Spanish mackerel and bluefish. When the fish are close to the pier, anglers can jig a spoon or lure up and down rather than making long casts. The best time to fish for them is early in the morning or late in the afternoon, when they can be seen leaping at the end of the pier.
For the bigger Spanish mackerel and to catch king mackerel, pier anglers use trolley rigs to slide live baitfish to the water. The best baits for king mackerel are bluefish and pinfish.
The universal bait for most of the bottom fish species is shrimp. However, anglers will have good luck with cut fish as well. Pompano will strike mole crabs and shrimp. Sheepshead will bite fiddler crabs and barnacles fished beside the pier pilings. Flounder will bite mud minnows.
Springmaid Pier, Myrtle Beach
Springmaid Pier sustained major damage from the waves of Hurricane Matthew, which struck the first week of October 2016. Officials closed the pier to access until further notice.
The pier's owner, Hilton Doubletree, said the company is rebuilding the pier and that construction should be complete in time to welcome visitors back by Memorial Day 2020. Once the pier is fully restored, the resort is also planning to reopen its Southern Tide Bar & Grille, as well as the gift and tackle shop, which both rest on the shoreline of the pier at the north end of the resort property.
Capt. Jay Baisch (Fishfull Thinking Guide Service, 843-902-0356) said flounder fishing will be hot.
"If you want to catch all kinds of fish, just use live bait,” he said. “Fishing a mullet on a bottom rig near structure is the surest way to get some action. The flounder will be biting and all the grass should be out of the inlet and waterway so it won’t wind up on your hook. You are also going to catch some red drum and speckled trout while you are flounder fishing if you are at the right spot."
Tossing a rig to the bottom of one of the jetties is always a good bet. Back in the creeks, speckled trout and red drum will bite live finger mullet fished on float rigs, but flounder will bite finger mullet and mud minnows fished on bottom rigs. If you can find some live shrimp, they are the best bait for speckled trout.
At the reefs, Spanish mackerel will strike live mullet fished on light lines and float rigs. Those who prefer trolling will find great Spanish mackerel action at the jetties, around the inlet and at the artificial reefs where they will hit spoons and bird rigs. If the fish are deep, rigging a small planer on the line ahead of the spoon will take the lure down to the fish. Another great tactic is trolling a diving lure.
One of the most popular destinations is Paradise Reef. Anglers can catch flounder on the same bottom rigs they use at the jetties. Higher up in the water column, they can catch spadefish, king mackerel and Spanish mackerel. Flounder bite live minnows, spadefish will eat strips of jellyfish and kings will chomp down on live menhaden. King mackerel will also chew on small bottom fish jigged from the structure with Sabiki rigs. They will also eat frozen cigar minnows and squid.
Bottom fishing for grouper, sea bass and snapper will be good in about 100 feet of water, with the Parking Lot a good place to start fishing. For bottom fish, anglers should use cut bait, frozen cigar minnows, or small baitfish jigged up on a Sabiki rig.
Dolphin will be schooling at all of the grouper ledges. Anglers should look for flying fish and Sargasso weed and troll the weed edges with frozen ballyhoo and cigar minnows. A good trick for reeling in more dolphin is dropping a live cigar fish or menhaden on a light line off the stern when you are fishing for bottom fish. Another tip is, after a dolphin is hooked, watching for others that may be following it to the boat. Casting a spoon, tinsel jig or skirt rigged with a strip bait on a light spinning rod will allow anglers to “bail” lots of the small dolphin from the water. Anglers who refer to dolphin as "bailers," are speaking of these smaller fish.
Capt. Mike McDonald (Gul-R-Boy Guide Service, 843-546-3625) said topwater topnotch anglers should toss topwater lures all around Winyah Bay.
"In June and July, the red drum and speckled trout are on fire,” he said. “All the walk-the-dog lures will catch them, but I like the good old Zara Spooks and Skitter Walks. They are easy to use and they work."
Flounder will strike mud minnows, mullet and soft plastic lures fished on the bottom. To catch smaller red drum, McDonald uses a downsized Owen Lupton rig baited with a mud minnow or mullet because it will not tangle in the swirling currents and will not gut hook the fish. The rig is a 1/0 circle hook with a 4-inch, 30-pound test leader and a half-ounce sinker. The best soft plastic jigs for catching trout, redfish and flounder on the bottom are the Bass Assassin and D.O.A grubs. In shallow water, anglers should use ¼-ounce jig or smaller jig.
For catching redfish and speckled trout on rattle float popping float rigs, anglers should use Berkley Gulp shrimp because the soft lures stay on the hook better than live shrimp.
The hottest tarpon action will fire up around the middle of July. The best way to catch tarpon is to use two with float rigs and two rods with bottom rigs. The huge fish will strike live and cut menhaden, mullet and other baitfish.
Big channel bass (adult red drum) will be all over the jetties unless the sharks are so thick that they chase them off or cut the anglers leaders. The big reds will strike the same baits as tarpon.
CAPT. MIKE McDONALD, GUL-R-BOY GUIDE SERVICE