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Spanish Mackerel are back!

image: man fishing
Dennis Caruso tosses a line during a recent visit to the Myrtle Beach State Park Pier. Janet Blackmon Morgan
July 13, 2017 6:37 PM
Improved conditions lure Spanish mackerel back to the area, much to anglers’ delight

By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News


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

Comments: Capt. Mike McDonald of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service in Georgetown produced a solid catch of nine red drum on a Wednesday trip in the Winyah Bay vicinity, and one surprise – an 8.5-pound sheepshead. On Monday, it was more drum action for McDonald as his crew caught eight reds and four black drum while floating cut shrimp and finger mullet. Two of the reds were over the 15- to 23-inch slot limit, measuring 24.5 and 26 inches. On the north end, Capt. Patrick Kelly of Captain Smiley Charters said “it’s been a roller coaster ride of fishing this week.” Catches were slim for much of the week for Kelly, until Thursday. Kelly found good action on a rising tide in the Little River area, starting early in the day by catching spotted seatrout on top-water lures such as a Zara Spook. They switched to live shrimp on popping corks and, as Kelly said, “wore the trout out,” including a four-pounder. At high tide, Kelly switched to live bait on 1/4-ounce jig heads, jerk shad and Gulp shrimp to catch flounder and more trout. Kelly also noted large menhaden can be found for bait, and are producing bull reds at the Little River Inlet.

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

Comments: After a long windy stretch, sea conditions improved this week along the beach and in the near-shore waters, and so did the fishing. Spanish mackerel catches have been very good, especially in the vicinity of the near-shore artificial reefs such as Paradise, Jim Caudle and Ron McManus. Megan Maples of Reel Salty Charters reports a super catch of Spanish while trolling jigfish on Thursday at Paradise Reef, located three miles east of Murrells Inlet. The Reel Salty crew kept 14 Spanish in the 15-20 inch range, plus caught a 20-plus inch weakfish and a sizable bluefish. South Carolina’s new flounder minimum size limit of 15 inches had an impact on the trip, as the crew caught as many as 10 flounder that measured over 14 inches, though all under the 15-inch mark were released. Spadefish have also made a good showing on the near-shore reefs this week. Morgan Marohl of Cherry Grove Pier reports improved action this week with catches of black drum and red drum in the morning and whiting, croaker and pompano in the afternoon. Marohl reported a water temperature of 84 degrees both on the surface and at the bottom late afternoon Thursday.

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

Comments: Trolling can still produce some very solid trips in the heat of summer, as Underdog out of Murrells Inlet proved earlier this week. Underdog caught a variety of species including nine blackfin tuna, a pair of dolphin, three king mackerel, a wahoo and an amberjack. There was also plenty of action from barracuda on the trip. Sailfish action is also excellent especially in the Gulf Stream, with scattered fish closer in. Bottom fishing continues to be excellent on bottom spots in depths of 90 feet and beyond. Look for plenty of action from vermilion snapper, black sea bass, triggerfish, porgy, amberjack and grouper. Scamp and gag are the most common grouper species encountered. 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: The rivers are in great shape and the catches reflected it this week. Gage Fortson of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle reported a 7-pound largemouth bass was caught on a Bang-O-Lure from the Waccamaw River near Conway earlier this week. River Squires, also of Stalvey’s, reports a 40.6-pound catfish was landed near Conway Marina at the mouth of Kingston Lake. Also, Stalvey’s reported a very nice mess of bream landed from the Little Pee Dee including a big 1.3-pounder. “That was a slab,” said Fortson. Look for bream in 1-4 feet of water on the banks, hitting crickets, red worms or popping bugs.