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King mackerel congregate


Marc Treurniet (left) and Nick Evans of Southport, N.C., show off a 49.75-pound king mackerel in 2017 at Southport Marina. The kings are being caught in large numbers off the Grand Strand coast. Courtesy of U.S. Open King Mackerel Tournament
Outdoors
King mackerel schools are “skyrocketing, going nuts” in offshore waters

By Gregg Holshouser

For The Sun News

May 03, 2018 06:36 PM

Updated May 04, 2018 06:14 PM

Estuary

Look For: Flounder, red drum, black drum, spotted seatrout, bluefish, sheepshead.

Comments: Capt. Dan Connolly of O-Fish-Al Expeditions hit Paradise Reef early Wednesday on slick seas to play with the Spanish, blues and weakfish but then came inside Murrells Inlet to finish the trip. Connolly’s crew catch eight flounder with one keeper over the 15-inch minimum size limit and two reds including one keeper in the 15-23 inch slot and a chunky 25-incher that was released. On the north end, Capt. Patrick Kelly of Captain Smiley Fishing Charters caught flounder, blues and reds in the Sunset Beach vicinity. Kelly landed the flounder on a 1/4 ounce jig head tipped with mud minnows, got the reds to hit mud minnows under popping corks and caught the blues on top-water lures and Berkeley Gulp minnows. Early this week, Capt. Mike McDonald of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service took a charter trip to North Inlet and produced two reds and five black drum, but that didn’t tell the whole story. “We lost a lot of fish,” said McDonald with a chuckle.

Inshore

Look For: Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, bluefish, weakfish, flounder, whiting, pompano, croaker.

Comments: May has arrived, and so have the mackerel – Spanish and king. With optimal southerly breezes blowing all week, there has been pretty water along the beach and in the near-shore waters and the catches show it. Kings have shown up nicely at Belky Bear, a little over 10 miles east of Murrells Inlet and figure to make a showing on the beach anytime now. Spanish catches have been superb at the near-shore reefs such as Paradise and Jim Caudle. On a Thursday trip, Capt. Jeff Maples of Reel Salty Charters enjoyed a little of it all, catching Spanish at Paradise, kings at Belky Bear and weakfish at Pawleys. Maples was impressed with the king action in particular. “There was a school out there, probably an acre wide, skyrocketing, going nuts,” said Maples. “I couldn’t get more than two lines in the water.” Maples slow-trolled cigar minnows to catch a limit of six in less than an hour. Keep an eye out for migrating cobia, which should move into the near-shore waters any time now. The action is also good for Spanish and bluefish off Grand Strand piers, with whiting and croaker also being landed. Look for a push of pompano to show, plus mid May is prime time to land a king off the piers. Wick Fisher of Cherry Grove Pier reported a water temperature of 64 degrees at midday Thursday.

Offshore

Look For: Blackfin tuna, wahoo, dolphin, barracuda, yellowfin tuna, grouper, amberjack, black sea bass, vermilion snapper, red porgy, triggerfish, white grunts.

Comments: Trolling hit a bit of a lull at midweek, but expect excellent catches of dolphin and blackfin tuna, with a few wahoo in the weeks to come. Dolphin have been found in good numbers, but well offshore this week. There have been occasional catches of yellowfin tuna, especially in northern areas along the break, from the Steeples and north. May marks the end of the shallow-water spawning closure for grouper, so species such as gag, red and scamp grouper are once again available for harvest. Bottom fishing is excellent for black sea bass, vermilion snapper, triggerfish and porgy, especially on bottom spots deeper than 100 feet. Red snapper are regularly inhabiting offshore reefs off South Carolina, but must be released indefinitely in the South Atlantic Region.

Freshwater

Look For: Bream, catfish, bass, crappie.

Comments: “The water’s high everywhere, but fishing is on point,” said Ronald “Catfish” Stalvey of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle in Conway. Stalvey called bream fishing for bluegills and shellcracker “phenomenal” with fish hitting crickets and worms in 3-4 feet of water. Stalvey says bass action is good with Senkos and top-water lures working well. Stacey Proctor of Conway won the big fish in the weekly bass tournament out of Conway Marina with her 6.6-pounder. Stalvey called catfish action “very, very good” on bush hooks and by rod-and-reel. Fresh cut eel and live bream work well for the catfish.