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Seasonable water temps improve fishing

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources is asking anglers to practice catch and release of all spotted seatrout (pictured) through the end of September. In North Carolina waters, spotted seatrout are closed to harvest for all fishermen, recreational and commercial, until June 15. The Sun News file photo
Outdoors
Water is warming up, though action remains slow overall; spotted seatrout protected

By Gregg Holshouser

For The Sun News

February 15, 2018 09:56 PM

Estuary

Look For: Red drum, black drum, spotted seatrout, flounder, sheepshead, tautog.

Comments: Capt. Mike McDonald of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service in Georgetown scoured the whole Winyah Bay area, even south down the Intracoastal Waterway into Charleston County waters, on a Wednesday trip. McDonald and crew caught four red drum and a flounder all on plastic grubs. “We fished everywhere, and caught a fish here and one there,” said McDonald, who released all five fish. “I don’t think we caught a fish on the same color grub.” McDonald noted a water temperature ranging from 50 early in the day rising to 55 degrees in the afternoon at South Island Ferry. Capt. Dan Connolly of O-Fish-Al Expeditions in Murrells Inlet ventured over to the northern reaches of Winyah Bay to catch a mix of red drum and catfish. Connolly reported a water temperature of 56 degrees. The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources is asking anglers to practice catch and release of all spotted seatrout through the end of September. In North Carolina waters, spotted seatrout are closed to harvest for all fishermen, recreational and commercial, until June 15.
Inshore

Look For: Sheepshead, black sea bass, black drum, tautog, weakfish, flounder, whiting, croaker.

Comments: Sheepshead lead the action on the near-shore reefs, as Capt. Jeff Maples of Reel Salty Charters found out on a Thursday trip out of Murrells Inlet. Maples’ crew caught a total of 15 sheepshead including three keepers on fiddler crabs, the largest a 7.4-pounder. A 17-inch black drum and several tomtate were in the mix. Dispersing some type of chum is recommended to get the sheepshead worked up on the reefs. Maples reported a water temperature of 51 degrees at the Murrells Inlet jetties. Along the beach, the best news is the water temperature has risen to a more seasonable reading in the lower 50s. Steve Gann of Cherry Grove Pier reported a surface reading of 53 degrees and 52 on the bottom at the pier. Gann noted a few whiting were landed earlier this week, but action overall is very slow.
Offshore

Look For: Wahoo, blackfin tuna, king mackerel, grouper, vermilion snapper, triggerfish, porgy, black sea bass, grunts.

Comments: There’s been little fishing activity this week in the offshore waters, with rough seas prevailing. On fishable days, late-winter wahoo action is good for trolling boats with blackfin tuna also around. Bottom fishing is very good as usual for black sea bass, grey triggerfish, vermilion snapper, red porgy and white grunts, among other species. The annual Shallow-Water Grouper Spawning Season Closure is in effect through April 30, the Greater amberjack fishery is closed to harvest for recreational anglers until March, and red snapper are closed indefinitely in the South Atlantic region and must be released.
Freshwater

Look For: Bream, crappie, bass, catfish.

Comments: The rivers are up and fishermen are scarce, but those that are going are catching fish, summed up Ronald “Catfish” Stalvey of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle in Conway. Stalvey called crappie action “hot and heavy” with fish hitting minnows. Lead-lining for bream continues to work with fish hitting worms. Bass activity is “fairly good” in Stalvey’s view, with fish hitting Texas-rigged worms and crank baits, with spinner baits and chatter baits also working to a lesser degree. A five-fish limit of over 12 pounds won the weekly bass tournament out of Bucksport. Stalvey says cut eel is the prime bait for catfish.