Grand Strand Fishing Report October - November 2018
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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 the fishing in October is great from the inlets all the way out to the Gulf Stream.
"When the water cools off in October, we have some of our best fishing of the year," he said. "The fishing is fantastic for groupers, beeliners, snappers, triggerfish, jacks, rudderfish and African pompano on our all-day bottom fishing trips. On our half-day trips to five or 10 miles, you are going to catch sea bass, porgies, ringtails, grunts and many other good eating bottom fish."
For anglers who want to troll in the cobalt blue of the Gulf Stream, the fishing will be excellent for meat fish and big game fish all along the continental break. The Steeples is a good place to troll. It is a great time of year for catching the true trophy fish, blue marlin and white marlin. Other fish coming over the stern will be wahoo, yellowfin and blackfin tunas and mahi.
On half-day trolling trips, anglers will experience some fast action with king and Spanish mackerel at the 65-foot Hole and the Jungle and many other live bottom areas and ledges.
The Voyager fleet includes the Continental Shelf, which runs 13-hour bottom-fishing trips every Tuesday and Saturday. The Super Voyager heads offshore every Friday at 9 p.m. for an overnight bottom-fishing trip. The Starship rotates trips with the party boats to run half-day near shore bottom fishing trips when it is not heading out for an offshore trolling trip. The full fishing schedule is available at www.voyagersportfishingcharters.com.
Apache Pier, Myrtle Beach
Calvin Dickerson (Apache Pier, Myrtle Beach, 843-497-6486) said October would see some of the best king mackerel catches of the year at the end of the pier.
"King fishing has been fantastic all summer, so we should have some big kings coming in," he said. "They usually bite until sometime in November when the water turns cold."
The pier will host the Apache Pier Ashley Turner Memorial King Mackerel Tournament on October 6. The annual tournament was named after Ashley Turner, the assistant pier manager, who passed away at a very young age on August 14, 2018. For more details, anglers should visit www.apachecampground.com.
The pier has a live bait tank at the end and king mackerel fishermen can use cast nets in the king mackerel fishing area at the end of the pier to catch menhaden for bait. Some of the biggest Spanish mackerel of the year will hit baits intended for kings and a fall cobia run may develop as well.
Anglers who want to catch schooling fish can cast Mackerel Trees, Got-cha lures and spoons to surfacing bluefish and Spanish mackerel, with the best time to fish dawn and dusk.
Bottom fishing will be excellent for spots, whiting and pompano in October. Game fish hitting bottom rigs will include red drum, black drum, flounder and speckled trout. By December, the best action will be the whiting and black drum fishing, with a few speckled trout perhaps still around. The best bottom fishing baits are bloodworms, earthworms, shrimp and artificial bloodworm strips. The pier also sells minnows, sand fleas and fiddler crabs.
Springmaid Pier, Myrtle Beach
Springmaid Pier sustained major damage from Hurricane Matthew, which struck the first week of October 2016, taking all but 100 feet of the former 1,088-foot pier. Officials closed the pier to access until further notice. The pier's owner, Hilton Doubletree, intends to rebuild the pier. Watch this report for updates on the pier's reconstruction progress in future issues. Hilton Doubletree Resort reopened for lodging.
Capt. Jay Baisch (Fishfull Thinking Guide Service, 843-902-0356) said fall fishing is usually better than spring fishing.
"October is my favorite month of the year," he said. "All of the game fish will be chasing the mullet schools, which are going to be everywhere."
Anglers use cast nets to fill their live wells or bait buckets with live mullet and fish the versatile baits on bottom rigs or float rigs. Casting Carolina rigs to the base of the Murrell's Inlet jetties will entice strikes from flounder and red drum. Use a float rig and you will catch speckled trout, red drum, bluefish and Spanish mackerel. To catch sheepshead, anglers can stick fiddler crabs or barnacles on small hooks and fish them on bottom rigs.
Speckled trout anglers who are fishing in the backwaters have good success with live mullet and live shrimp fished at the grass beds in the creeks. Trout will also strike topwater lures and jigs with soft plastic trailers.
In October and November, Spanish mackerel and bluefish will be schooling at the inlet, at all of the near shore reefs and just off the beaches. Trolling with spoons is the standard way to catch them. However, using light spinning rigs to cast heavy spoons, jigs and hard plastic lures to visible fish results in more exciting hookups.
King mackerel and big Spanish mackerel will be biting at the Belkie Bear Reef, Myrtle Beach Rock, Paradise Reef and Pawley's Reef. Anglers slow or drift with live mullet or menhaden on light tackle to catch them. Amberjack and barracuda will be around, so anglers should watch out for these big brutes, which can steal hooked game fish. As the water chills, the bite will end by December.
The bottom fishing for seas bass sea bass, porgies, groupers, grunts and snappers will be outstanding. The best places to find them are at the live bottoms, ledges and reefs in 70 to 100 feet of water. Sea bass should continue to bite in December, until cold water temperatures shut down the bite.
Capt. Mike McDonald (Gul-R-Boy Guide Service, 843-546-3625) said that in the Winyah Bay area, October's cooler weather would make the channel bass action heat up.
"The big adult red drum that we call 'channel bass' will bite in October and probably well into November," he said. "When they will leave to head for the offshore waters depends upon the weather. When it turns cold, they will be gone until next summer, when they return to the bay to spawn."
The big channel bass, which can top 40 pounds, prefer deep water, which is why old-timers call them channel bass. The best place to catch them is in the deep creeks and navigation channels. The best way to catch them is by fishing with cut mullet, croakers or menhaden on bottom rigs. The best rig is the Owen Lupton Old Drum Rig that has an 8/0 circle hook, a 4-inch leader and a 3- to 5-ounce egg sinker crimped in place so it will not slide. The rig allows the fish to set the hook in its lip as it picks up the bait so there is little chance of it swallowing the hook.
In the shallower backwaters, anglers will catch plenty of the juvenile red drum McDonald calls "spot tails." The juvenile fish will remain in the estuary systems for four years, until they mature and leave for the offshore waters except during the summer spawning season. These aggressive fish, which can run up to 32 inches long, will strike nearly anything. The best way to catch them is with live baits and cut baits fished on Carolina rigs or float rigs along the grass beds. However, the most exciting strikes come when they attack topwater walk-the-dog lures, including Skitter Walks, Top Dogs and Zara Spooks.
The speckled trout should swim in 4 to 10 feet of water. They will hit the same walk-the-dog lures as red drum. They will also strike D.O.A, Bass Assassin and Haw River soft plastic trailers fished on ¼-ounce jig heads. Trout may key in on a specific trailer color. Therefore, anglers should try several color combinations if they are not getting strikes to see what the fish prefer on a particular day. When the trout head to deeper water during late November and December, the best lures are Rapala subsurface jerk baits and stickbaits. Live mullet, mud minnows and shrimp will be the best bait choices when it turns so cold they turn up their noses at lures.
Flounder anglers should use Carolina rigs baited with small menhaden. Any hard structure will attract flounder, with some of the best places oyster beds, grass beds, docks, bridges and seawalls. They will bite well as long as water temperatures remain in the upper 60s.
CAPT. MIKE McDONALD, GUL-R-BOY GUIDE SERVICE