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Post Irma Fishing

image: fishing hooks
Long lines with large off-set circle hooks are used to catch sharks in Winyah Bay. JASON LEE
Fishing report: Why anglers are eager to get back on the water post-Irma

By Gregg Holshouser

For The Sun News

September 14, 2017 6:22 PM

Look For: Spotted seatrout, red drum, black drum, flounder, sheepshead, tarpon.

Comments: In the wake of Hurricane Irma, Capt. Mike McDonald of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service in Georgetown decided to head to North Inlet in search of relatively pretty water on a Thursday trip. What did he find? Dirty water. “The water was nasty,” said McDonald. “We caught a gar sitting right there looking at the ocean (at North Inlet). There’s a lot of freshwater out there.” Despite the water conditions, McDonald had a productive, yet strange trip. The catch of the day was a 24-plus inch, six-pound spotted seatrout caught on a finger mullet on a Carolina rig, a rig meant for flounder. The trout was released. McDonald’s crew also caught a flounder on an artificial grub, which was primarily intended for trout. For the day, McDonald’s crew caught eight trout, seven red drum and a few black sea bass in the 11-12 inch range. Capt. Patrick Kelly of Captain Smiley Fishing Charters found similar water conditions in the Little River vicinity. “(The water) was very dirty (with) lots of debris,” said Kelly regarding a Thursday trip. Kelly’s crew caught seven red drum in the 15- to 17-inch range and also landed small trout on live shrimp on popping corks and small flounder on finger mullet. Kelly noted action was best on an incoming tide. Look for black drum and bull red drum along with trout at area jetties.

Look For: Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, bluefish, black sea bass, spadefish, weakfish, flounder, whiting, croaker, pompano, black drum, sheepshead and red drum.

Comments: As soon as the ocean began to calm after Irma’s passage, anglers found good action on Grand Strand piers. Both the Pier at Garden City and Cherry Grove Pier reported surprisingly good numbers of black drum and red drum caught on Thursday, including a decent number of keepers. A slot limit of 14-27 inches applies to black drum while a 15-23-inch slot is set for red drum. The piers are also reporting catches of whiting, croaker, pompano, bluefish and spadefish. Capt. Brant McMullan of Ocean Isle Fishing Center reports a few boats targeted Spanish mackerel on Thursday, but had little success. “I predict by the weekend it will be a lot different,” said McMullan. Finger mullet were plentiful before the storm, and mackerel action should pick up any day now from the beach to bottom spots in the 10-15 mile range. Dock Jarman of Cherry Grove Pier reports a surface water temperature of 80 degrees, with a 79-degree reading on the bottom, Thursday at 5 p.m.

Look For: Wahoo, blackfin tuna, dolphin, sailfish, grouper, vermilion snapper, triggerfish, white grunts, red porgy, black sea bass, amberjack.

Comments: By Thursday, conditions were finally calming down enough for boats to head offshore, and actual reports from the water have been scarce. Capt. Jay Sconyers of Aces Up Fishing did take a crew offshore on Thursday, and they brought in amberjack, gag grouper and vermilion snapper. Don’t be surprised to find grouper on shallower than normal bottom spots in the next several days. Any day now, trolling action near the break should be good for wahoo and blackfin tuna, plus king mackerel a little closer in. “The water just needs to settle down and it won’t take long,” said McMullan. “The fishing will go from hardly anything to everything’s happening. Everything’s looking good for king mackerel fishing to get going any second.” Anglers should note that cobia cannot be harvested in 2017 in South Carolina waters (to three miles offshore) or federal waters (beyond three miles) and must be released. Also, red snapper must be released in the South Atlantic region.

Look For: Bream, catfish, bass, crappie.

Comments: “There’s a lot of water out there but the big Pee Dee and the Ricefields are producing pretty good,” said River Squires of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle in Conway. Squires recommends fishing deep, near the bottom, on the tree line using crickets for bream. “Bass are still hitting top-water – buzzbaits and frogs,” said Squires, a bass-fishing enthusiast. “They’re catching bigger fish on spinnerbaits.” Catfish are hitting fresh, cut eels, although a variety of baits such as mullet, menhaden or shad will work. The Waccamaw River at Conway was at minor flood stage, at 11.57 feet at 3:15 p.m. Thursday. The river was expected to recede in the next few days. The Little Pee Dee at Galivants Ferry was at 7.72 feet at 4 p.m. Thursday.

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