Grand Strand Fishing Report July-September 2020
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),
Offshore Angler – Coastal Carolina’s Mackerel Boat Fishing Guide ($22.25)
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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 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, everyone heading out to the live bottoms and ledges wants to catch them. They are big fish that fight hard and offer some of the best eating in the Atlantic Ocean. Anglers will catch the most common species, including red, gag and scamp grouper. Some of the less common species that anglers will catch include 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 may have to take along a saltwater fish identification chart or book because a smart phone will not pick up a signal that far offshore. If you don’t have an identification chart, the mates can tell 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 for you and let them go.
Inshore and offshore trolling action will also be excellent. Anglers can book half-day trolling trips aboard the Starship to fish for Spanish mackerel, bluefish 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 on light lines during the bottom fishing trips. If a live bait rod goes off, the mate will usually hand it to the closest kid, so, if you have any young anglers along, make sure they sit near one of the transom corners.
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 for 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 heats up along with the water.
“The fishing is great for bluefish and Spanish mackerel all summer long,” he said. “As the water warms up, all of the other fish will start biting and we be seeing lots of flounder, whiting, black drum, red drum, sheepshead and pompano. July is a great month for flounder fishing. By June, our king mackerel fishing should get better, followed by August and September, which are some of our best months for kings.”
Sheepshead will bite fiddler crabs fished near the pilings. Black drum and pompano will bite shrimp and mole crabs fished in the surf. Flounder and red drum will strike mud minnows fished anywhere along the pier. A good run of spots and croakers may pop up in September if conditions are right. These small bottom fish eat bloodworms, shrimp and Fish Bites artificial strips.
Pier anglers who want to catch Spanish mackerel and bluefish cast Mackerel Trees, Got-cha lures and jigging spoons. When the fish are close to the pier, anglers can jig spoons and lures up and down rather than making long casts, preventing tangles with other anglers. The best time to fish for these schooling fish is early in the morning or late in the afternoon when they are leaping all around the end of the pier.
To catch kings and the bigger Spanish mackerel, pier anglers use trolley rigs to slide live baitfish down to the water and hold them in place. The best baits for king mackerel and big Spanish mackerel are bluefish and pinfish.
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 other flavors and colors are also available.
The Grand Stand Fishing Rodeo king mackerel tournament will be held Sept. 12-13 at Apache, Myrtle Beach State Park and Cherry Grove piers. Springmaid Pier may also participate if reconstruction is complete.
Springmaid Pier, Myrtle Beach
Springmaid Pier (843-315-7156) sustained major damage from the waves of Hurricane Matthew, which struck the first week of October 2016. Officials closed the pier until further notice.
The pier's owner, Hilton Doubletree, has been rebuilding the pier. It was scheduled to reopen June 1, but construction was delayed. The pier should reopen during this fishing report period, so anglers should keep checking with the pier for details.
Capt. Jay Baisch (Fishfull Thinking Guide Service, 843-902-0356) said everything is biting.
“If you want some fast action, try fishing a live mullet on a bottom rig near some structure, like the jetties,” he said. “The flounder, red drum and speckled trout will be biting and the seaweed should be out of the inlet and waterway so it won’t get up on your hook.”
Back in the creeks, the same three species will bite live baits fished on bottom rigs. Speckled trout will bite live shrimp and finger mullet fished on float rigs. Red drum and speckled trout will also strike topwater lures.
Spanish mackerel will eat live mullet fished on light lines and float rigs at the artificial reefs. They will also hit spoons and jigs trolled or cast near the jetties. If they are finicky, rigging a bird rig with a Mackerel Tree or spoon should turn them on. If they are deep, a planer rig does the trick.
One of the most popular offshore 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 will catch spadefish, king mackerel and Spanish mackerel. Spadefish will eat cut strips of jellyfish. Spanish mackerel will inhale live mullet and kings will attack live menhaden. King mackerel will also chew on small bottom fish jigged up from the structure with Sabiki rigs. They will also inhale frozen cigar minnows and squid.
Bottom fishing for grouper, sea bass and snapper will be good in 100 feet of water, with the Parking Lot a good bottom to begin fishing for them. For bait, bottom fish anglers should use cut fish, frozen cigar minnows cut in half, or small baitfish jigged up on Sabiki rigs.
Dolphin will be schooling at all of the grouper ledges. Anglers should look for flying fish and Sargasso weed and troll along the weed edges with frozen ballyhoo and cigar minnows. A good trick for reeling in more dolphin is dropping a live cigar minnow or menhaden on a light line off the stern when you are fishing for bottom fish. Another tip is watching when you are playing a dolphin for others to follow it to the boat. Casting a spoon, tinsel jig or skirt rigged with a strip bait on a light spinning rod lets anglers “bail” lots of small dolphin from the water. Anglers who refer to dolphin as "bailers," are speaking of these smaller schooling fish. Bigger schooling dolphin are called “shingles,” a reference to their size.
CAPT. MIKE McDONALD, GUL-R-BOY GUIDE SERVICE
Capt. Mike McDonald (Gul-R-Boy Guide Service, 843-546-3625) said topwater anglers should churn up some super action in Winyah Bay.
“The puppy drum will be in the shallow water in July where they will go crazy over any walk-the-dog lure,” he said. “I like to use Zara Spooks and Skitter Walks because they are easy to fish and they work.”
Redfish and speckled trout will also hit rattle float and popping cork rigs baited with live shrimp or Berkley Gulp Shrimp. Flounder will strike mud minnows, mullet and soft plastic lures fished on the bottom. To catch smaller red drum without deep-hooking them, McDonald uses a downsized Owen Lupton rig baited with a mud minnow or mullet. It also will not tangle in the swirling currents. 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 trailers for catching trout, redfish and flounder are Bass Assassin and D.O.A grubs. In shallow water, anglers should cast a jig that weighs one-quarter ounce or less.
Flounder fishing will bite best in July and live mullet fished on bottom rigs and float rigs will catch them. They will also hit soft plastic grubs, especially Berkley Gulp Shrimp.
The tarpon action will fire up in July. The best way to catch tarpon is to spread the baits by fishing with two float rigs and two bottom rigs. The huge fish will strike live and cut menhaden, mullet and other baitfish.
Big channel bass (adult red drum) will be at the jetties in July before they move to the bay, where they will spawn in August and September. They will strike the same baits as tarpon fished on the bottom in the deeper channels.