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Spring-like conditions playing part in surprisingly good catches

Captain Mike McDonald of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service navigates through shallow water in North Inlet during a recent fishing expedition. JASON LEE jlee@thesunnews
Spring-like conditions playing part in surprisingly good catches

By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News

Look For: Spotted seatrout, flounder, red drum, black drum, sheepshead.
Comments: Capt. Jason Burton of Fly Girl Charters in Murrells Inlet was a bit surprised by the action on his trip on Thursday. It sure didn’t seem like February 23rd. “The fish bit awesome, I couldn’t believe it,” said Burton, also known as the Flounder Pounder. “I found 62-63 degree water in the little area I was fishing in at low tide.” Burton’s crew used mud minnows on jig heads to catch 10 flounder, most above the minimum size limit of 14 inches, and kept two 15-inch fish and one 16-incher. They also landed three black drum and several undersized red drum. Burton had been using floats to avoid the green algae known as ‘snot grass’ that is prevalent on the bottom in winter in the inlet and gathers on fishing tackle, but noticed much of the grass is already releasing from the bottom and heading out with the tide. “It’s early for the snot grass to be breaking up,” said Burton. The captain doesn’t normally have that many trips in February, but this hasn’t been your typical February. “The phone’s ringing like it’’ April,” said Burton. Catches of spotted seatrout have been very good for late February in Murrells Inlet. Earlier in the week, on Monday, Capt. Mike McDonald of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service also found spring-like conditions, and action. McDonald observed a water temperature of 61 degrees at South Island Ferry. “It’s about 2-3 weeks early, by the temperature,” said McDonald. McDonald’s crew caught six trout, including a 5.25-pounder, on plastic grubs, plus a 16-inch red drum, a 15-inch black drum and numerous small sheepshead all on cut shrimp in Winyah Bay and North Inlet.
Look For: Sheepshead, black sea bass, black drum, whiting, croaker.
Comments: A 60-degree ocean water temperature on Feb. 22? Rare, indeed. Steve Gann, Operations Manager of the Cherry Grove Pier, observed a 60-degree surface water temperature on the pier’s data station, with a 58-degree reading on the bottom. Has he ever seen a 60-degree reading in February? “I can’t recall it,” said Gann. “There seems to be more activity. I saw a spot today, believe it or not and we’re starting to see some bigger whiting.” Gann noted one angler caught 30 small whiting Thursday. Croaker and small sharks have also been caught this week. The near-shore artificial reefs are producing good catches of sheepshead and black sea bass, plus some black drum, flounder and tautog. Be aware of the 13-inch minimum size limit and 7-fish per person daily bag limit for black sea bass.
Look For: Wahoo, blackfin tuna, vermilion snapper, black sea bass, porgy, triggerfish, grunts, amberjack.
Comments: Wahoo action continues to be very good for trolling boats when the wind lays down enough to get offshore. Be ready for some smokers too, as Ocean Isle Fishing Center ( reported a 75-pounder was caught last Saturday. The crew also brought in six blackfin tuna. Bottom fishing continues to be excellent for vermilion snapper, black sea bass, triggerfish, grunts, red porgy and amberjack. The annual Shallow-water Grouper Spawning Season Closure is in effect through April 30. Red snapper cannot be harvested and must be released in the South Atlantic region.
Look For: Crappie, bream, bass, catfish.
Comments: The Waccamaw River has been producing large crappie in the 1-pound range, with fish hitting minnows around structure. Bream are taking worms and nightcrawlers on the bottom, but don’t be afraid to try fishing with a float on the banks with the water temperature approaching 60 degrees. Eels and large shiners will work for catfish. Crankbaits and plastic worms have been producing bass. The Waccamaw was at 8.17 feet at 5 p.m. Thursday and making good tides.