Blue marlin are among the species biting offshore recently. The Sun News file photo
What fishermen are finding as offshore trolling action remains torrid
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
May 18, 2018 04:47 PM
Look For: Flounder, red drum, black drum, spotted seatrout, bluefish, sheepshead.
Comments: A little over a decade ago, the South Carolina legislature enacted the first-ever limits on black drum in Palmetto State waters. The original slot limit of 14-27 inches and daily bag limit of five fish per person are still in place, and it shows. “It seems like the last 3-4 years the black drum fishing has been incredible,” said Capt. Patrick Kelly of Captain Smiley Fishing Charters in Little River. While the flounder fishing and red drum fishing have tapered off a bit this week for Kelly, the black drum bite has continued to be very good, with fish hitting fresh cut shrimp or blue crab quarters. Plenty of bluefish also have been available, wanted or not. “It seems like there’s a bunch of blues around anywhere you’re fishing for flounder or reds,” said Kelly, who noted a water temperature in the low 70s in Little River Inlet close to the ocean, but in the upper 70s back into the Intracoastal Waterway. Capt. Dan Connolly of O-Fish-Al Expeditions has caught red drum and flounder in Murrells Inlet. “I’ve caught the reds on fresh cut mullet at low tide,” said Connolly. “”(The flounder), there’s a lot of small fish still,” said Connolly. South Carolina’s flounder limits include a 15-inch minimum size limit and daily bag limits of 10 per person and 20 per boat.
Look For: King mackerel, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, weakfish, spadefish, flounder, whiting, pompano, croaker, black drum
Comments: Blues and Spanish mackerel continue to be the hot species in the near-shore waters and they can be found in the vicinity of near-shore artificial reefs, near inlet passes, along the beach and from Grand Strand Fishing Piers. Connolly got into some of the Spanish mackerel action early this week near Paradise Reef, located three miles east of Murrells Inlet. Connolly trolled mackerel trees on a No. 1 planer and caught 10 Spanish in one hour. “It was a pretty good bite for a while,” Connolly said. Slow-trolling live menhaden, mullet or blues can also produce Spanish near the reefs, and possibly a shot at king mackerel or cobia. Be on the lookout for inquisitive cobia while fishing the artificial reefs. Another popular species to target in May on the reefs is spadefish, which prefer cannonball jellyfish. Also look for weakfish, black sea bass, bluefish and flounder on the reefs. The Spanish and bluefish action has been good on the piers, also. “They’ve been doing really well with them,” said Wick Fisher of the Cherry Grove Pier. Also look for whiting, croaker, pompano, black drum and flounder off the piers. The surface water temperature at Apache Pier was 72 degrees Thursday at midday.
Look For: Dolphin, blackfin tuna, wahoo, blue marlin, white marlin, sailfish, barracuda, yellowfin tuna, grouper, amberjack, black sea bass, vermilion snapper, red porgy, triggerfish, white grunts.
Comments: It’s mid-May, and the offshore waters are producing some awesome catches on trolling trips. Capt. Buddy Smith and crew aboard Underdog out of Murrells Inlet produced 20 dolphin up to 18 pounds, two blackfin tuna and released a blue marlin in the 225-250 pound range last Saturday. Smith says the tuna were caught near the break and the dolphin offshore of the break. “If you have a weed line or flying fish you might find (dolphin) on the break, and there’s been some wahoo on the break,” said Smith. “The blue marlin bite is 50 fathoms and on out.” Trolling on the break can also produce king mackerel, barracuda and bonito. Don’t forget about the bottom fishing, either. Ledges and hard bottom areas in depths of 100 feet and deeper are producing black sea bass, vermilion snapper, gray triggerfish, red porgy, white grunts, amberjack and grouper, especially scamp. Red snapper are also inhabiting the reefs, but must be released indefinitely in the South Atlantic Region.
Look For: Bream, bass, catfish, crappie.
Comments: “We really are in the summertime mode,” said Ronald “Catfish” Stalvey of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle in Conway. Summertime mode means the bream are hitting crickets and worms in 2-4 feet of water on all the local rivers, including the Little Pee Dee, Great Pee Dee, Waccamaw and the ICW. Stalvey also notes crappie are taking the crickets and worms as well. Summertime mode also means bass are hitting top-water lures such as buzz baits and Bang-O-Lures plus wacky-rigged Senkos early and late in the day. Stalvey called catfish action “amazing,” with fish taking live bream, cut eel and frozen shad. Stalvey noted the Little Pee Dee remains low, with rain needed. “This storm has the weather people scratching their heads,” said Stalvey. “The Little Pee Dee is about to dry up if we don’t get some water soon.”