Grand Strand Fishing Report April-June 2020
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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 wide open, catching all species of fish from the inlets to the Gulf Stream.
"South of Frying Pan Shoal Tower we will be catching some nice bottom fish,” he said. “Everyone will be reeling up amberjack, red porgy, jolthead porgy, ringtails, gray triggerfish, queen triggerfish, beeliners, black sea bass, rudderfish, snappers and white grunts."
The season for grouper opens May 1 and anyone heading out 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 bottom fish that anglers should take along a saltwater identification chart or book to see what they have landed. If they cannot identify the species, 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, nearshore trolling trips aboard the Starship for Spanish mackerel and sharks. The kings will be hitting skirts with belly strips, cigar minnows and Drone Spoons 20 to 25 miles offshore from Little River Inlet and at the Atlantic Ledge, 65-Foot Hole, The Jungle and Shark Hole. Anglers who locate the baitfish will find the kings.
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. They must also locate the correct color of water for big game fishing, which is deep blue or purple and clear, not the bright “king” green, where king mackerel are typically swimming. Combining a morning of trolling with an afternoon of bottom fishing is a great way to spend a day in the Gulf Stream.
Apache Pier, Myrtle Beach
Lynn Galloway (Apache Pier, 843-497-6486) said the summertime fishing would heat up right along with the water temperatures.
“The whiting will be biting until the water starts warming up,” she said. “We will start seeing lots of sheepshead and black drum in May. By May or June, the big runs of Spanish mackerel and bluefish will be coming on strong. We will also see an increase in catches of red drum by June.”
While big king mackerel are the hot bite in early summer, but the first king could be landed as early as late April. The annual Grand Strand King Mackerel Rodeo is typically hosted in early June. However, making a decision on hosting the event, which also involves the Cherry Grove and Myrtle Beach State Park piers, has been postponed due to coronavirus concerns. As the date approaches, anglers should call the pier to see if the event will be held or has been cancelled.
Pier anglers cast Mackerel Trees, Got-cha lures and jigging spoons to catch Spanish mackerel and bluefish. When the fish are schooling near the pier, anglers can jig a spoon or lure up and down rather than making long casts. The best times to fish for Spanish mackerel and bluefish are early in the morning or late in the afternoon when they can usually be spotted jumping near the end of the pier.
Anglers use trolley rigs to catch the biggest Spanish mackerel and king mackerel. There are many variations of a trolley rig, but it requires two rods – a fight rod and an anchor rod. The live bait slides to the water on the line of the anchor rod, which holds it in place. The best baits for king mackerel are bluefish and pinfish. Anglers catch them by fishing with cut baits and shrimp.
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.
The pier sells live mud minnows, night crawlers, red worms and blood worms. Also available from the pier house are frozen mullet and squid. Fish Bites shrimp and bloodworm strips as well as strips in other flavors and colors also work for catching many species.
Springmaid Pier, Myrtle Beach
Springmaid Pier in Myrtle Beach (843-315-7156) sustained major damage from the wind and waves of Hurricane Matthew, which struck the first week of October 2016. As a result, officials closed the pier to anglers access until further notice. The pier's owner, Hilton Doubletree, has since been rebuilding the pier and it has been scheduled for a grand reopening around Memorial Day, 2020.
In May and June, the fishing should be excellent for bluefish, flounder, king and Spanish mackerel, black drum, red drum, speckled trout and pompano.
Capt. Jay Baisch (Fishfull Thinking Guide Service, 843-902-0356 and Baisch Boys Bait and Tackle, 843-651-1915) said flounder fishing will be hot.
“In April and May, sheepshead will be at the Jetties,” he said. “They will bite barnacles or fiddler crabs fished on bottom rigs. Our good flounder bite should continue on through June. They will hit live baits fished on Carolina rigs.”
Baisch said another great way to catch flounder is with a tandem rig holding two Voodoo Shrimp about 16 inches apart. The best color is Shrimp/Cajun Pepper (clear/red flecks with a chartreuse tail) scented with Flounder Pounder ProCure.
Speckled trout should be running through April and May. The best bet for specks is trolling paddle tail grubs and TT808 and TT750 MirrOlures.
Red drum and black drum will gobble up cut shrimp until the pinfish start moving in with warmer temperatures. The best bet then is switching over to live mud minnows on Carolina rigs, which will catch more red drum than black drum.
Bluefish and Spanish mackerel will school around the jetties. Trolling a gold and silver Mackerel Tree rig with a No. 00 Clarkspoon trailer behind a No. 1 planer rig is the ticket to success.
Slow trolling live menhaden will entice king mackerel. For live baits, Baish uses a rig with two No. 4 4x Strong treble hooks tied with about six inches apart on No. 5 wire with a long wire leader. For frozen cigar minnows, his rig is a 1-ounce jig head for the nose hook and a No 2 4x Strong treble hook for the trailer hook tied with 10 inches of No. 6 wire in front of the jig and five inches of No. 6 wire between the jig head and trailing treble hook. The best places to catch kings are the Myrtle Beach Rock and Belkie Bear live bottoms.
In the middle of May, the cobia will move into the area. From 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. the cobia will swim around the menhaden schools and come to the top. A handtied jig called a Meat Hog or any other big jig with a paddle tail grub or a Berkley Powerbait Shrimp trailer is a great choice to pitch to a cobia. If nothing else works, a big Rapala Minnow should get their attention.
Spadefish will swarm the artificial reefs, with Paradise, Ten Mile and Pawley’s Island reefs good places. A stringer loaded with cannonball jellyfish should bring them to the boat where anglers will be able to catch them by using jellyfish mantle strips.
Dolphin will be hitting on the continental break or just a bit farther offshore along the weed lines. If you don’t find any grass, try fishing right along the break at around 68 miles. Trolling with lures will hook the bigger dolphin. For “bailers” the best bet is hooking a fish and letting it swim in the water while casting small jigs to following fish on a spinning rig.
CAPT. MIKE McDONALD, GUL-R-BOY GUIDE SERVICE
Capt. Mike McDonald (Gul-R-Boy Guide Service, 843-546-3625) said red drum action would be red hot.
“In Winyah Bay, our puppy drum will be striking soft plastics, hardbaits and topwater lures as soon as the water temperature hits 65 degrees,” he said. “The bigger channel bass will show up in the bay for a short period of time around the middle of May before they pull back out to the Winyah Jetties. Live and cut baits on the bottom will catch the big ones.”
Flounder will show up in May and the best bite will be in June. They will hit live menhaden, mud minnows and mullet fished on Carolina rigs.
Speckled trout will hit soft plastics, hard jerk baits and topwater lures. Any walk-the-dog lure will get them going, especially a Zara Spook or a Skitter Walk. If nothing else works, a savvy angler will try a float rig with a live minnow or shrimp.
For catching redfish and speckled trout on rattle float or popping cork rigs, anglers should hook a Berkley Gulp Shrimp because it will stay on the hook better than a live shrimp.
Tripletail will show up at the crab pot floats and certain areas near the bank and in the grass beds. Live shrimp and live mullet fished on float rigs will catch them.
Black drum will hit cut bait on the bottom. They will be in the same areas with the red drum.