Grand Strand Fishing Report January - February 2017
Mike Marsh’s book, Fishing North Carolina, shares his best-kept secrets for fishing 100 lakes, rivers, ponds, sounds and piers.
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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, but many of the trips would only be half-day trips due to the cold, winter winds.
People should still come on out to catch a ride out to catch some great fish," he said. "We will be catching plenty of black sea bass within 10 miles of the beach and many of them will be 13-inch keepers. From 10 to 40 miles, the bottom fishing action will be great, with some good catches of beeliners, grunts and porgies coming in over the side. Anyone who has not been on the ocean in winter does not realize just how great the fishing can be for king mackerel, but we will be catching some of the biggest kings of the year out there around Frying Pan Tower."
On the calmer days when there is good weather, anglers can peel off their shirts and get a suntan by fishing in the Gulf Stream, where the water temperatures will heat up the air temperatures into the 70s. A trolling trip or bottom-fishing trip along the continental break is a great way to have a mini vacation and escape the chill back onshore.
Bluefin tuna will be striking trolled lures at Frying Pan Shoal in January. Farther offshore at the Blackjack and the Steeples, some great catches of wahoo will be in store. Mixed with the wahoo should be some hard-fighting and tasty blackfin tuna.
At the inlets, canals and creeks, anglers will catch trout and redfish, along with a few flounder. A few striped bass will be hitting lures at the bridges.
Apache Pier, Myrtle Beach
Apache Pier (Myrtle Beach, 843-497-6486) lost the end of the pier and the dance canopy to Hurricane Matthew during the first week of October 2016. However, after inspections found the pier safe, the pier reopened shortly after the storm's passage.
Carson Fisher said that the winter months would host a great whiting bite.
"The whiting run has been strong and they are all nice, big fish," he said. "We will also see some small spots and croakers."
Depending upon the weather and wind direction, the fishing will pick up for other species as March rolls around. Red drum and black drum will start to show up. A few speckled trout will also make an appearance from time to time.
The best all-around bait will be shrimp. However, anglers will also have tood luck with bloodworms and artificial bait strips. When the bluefish show up, anglers should hit the end of the pier and cast jigs, Christmas tree rigs and spoons to catch to the surfacing fish.
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 intends to rebuild the pier. Watch this report for updates on the pier's reconstruction progress in future issues.
Capt. Jay Baisch (Fishfull Thinking Guide Service, 843-902-0356) said anglers should find sheepshead fishing at the near shore reefs and fiddler crabs are the best bait for catching them.
"The sheepshead move offshore when it turns cold inshore," he said. "But you can catch a lot of them at the reefs."
Fiddler crabs also make good baits for black drum at the jetties or back in the creeks. Red drum will also eat them.
In the backwaters, anglers will find red drum and speckled trout. While the fish can be finicky and hard to find in January and February, the will start eating better in March. The bigger creeks and the marina basins are the best places to catch speckled trout and red drum.
Anglers can search for the fish by trolling with MirrOlures and jigs with twisty tail grubs. The best places to try are the deeper channel edges. When fish strike a trolled lure, anglers should stop and make some casts to try to locate the main school. Casting soft plastics to hard structure such as jetties, seawalls, marina basins and bridges is also effective.
On calm days, anglers can head out 40 miles to catch king mackerel on Drone spoons, live baits and frozen squid and cigar minnows. To find the kings, anglers should look for water temperatures in the upper 60s by searching for the correct temperature eddies on the Internet before heading out. Once they arrive, they should be able to find kings feeding on the baitfish schools. The fish may be at any depth, so anglers should check the entire water column for the presence of baitfish and predatory kings that eat them.
Capt. Mike McDonald (Gul-R-Boy Guide Service, 843-546-3625) said in the Winyah Bay area, winter weather would send the fish into shallow water.
"In January and February, the biggest thing is our redfish bite," he said. "The fish will be up on the flats and in the shallows."
The redfish will be seeking the warmest water they can find, which means shallow waters with dark bottoms that absorb and radiate the sunlight. Therefore, they will feed most actively on sunny days. The best way to catch them is by casting jigs with soft plastic trailers, especially the D.O.A.C.A.L and Bass Assassin trailers. McDonald said the soft plastics with less movement seem to work the best and he does not fish for redfish with cut baits or shrimp during this time of year because they may swallow them deeply enough to endanger the health of the fish.
March is one of the worst months for catching redfish because the big schools begin breaking up. Once the fish start scattering out throughout the marshes, they become difficult to find and their patterns become inconsistent from day to day.
Speckled trout will strike the same lures fished in the same places. However, for the best trout fishing he looks for deeper holes that may have two or three feet of water.
CAPT. MIKE McDONALD, GUL-R-BOY GUIDE SERVICE