The sun rises over Winyah Bay Sunday morning at the start of a trout fishing trip. Photo Courtesy Gul-R-Boy Guide Service
Stage set for super fall trout fishing, if Irma doesn’t mess it up
For The Sun News
September 08, 2017 5:35 PM
With temps in the upper 60s, it was a little chilly when Capt. Mike McDonald opened up his new Bulls Bay 2200 mere moments after daybreak, even though the calendar read Sept. 3, nearly three weeks before the arrival of autumn.
McDonald pushed the spiffy center console powered by a 150 Mercury Optimax up to about 40 mph headed northeast in the Intracoastal Waterway after leaving South Island Ferry, headed for Winyah Bay.
With the sun just above the horizon and reflecting on the water, McDonald zoomed across the channel into Muddy Bay, and eased into a narrow creek, right at high tide, looking for bait.
With McDonald, owner-operator of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service in Georgetown, on the bow clutching a 7-foot Fitec Super Spreader cast net and I at the helm, the width of the creek steadily narrowed from 20 feet across to 10 feet, or less.
The calm surface was alive with ripples created by finger mullet and menhaden, plus shrimp.
Several throws of the net produced several dozen finger mullet in the 2-4 inch range, plus some menhaden and a few shrimp. The crew, also including an old buddy of mine, Kerry Morgan of Camden, was set for bait.
Despite it being Sunday, a day before Labor Day, boat traffic was surprisingly light on the bay.
“They’re all waiting for tomorrow,” quipped McDonald.
The comfortable temps combined with a westerly breeze of 5-10 mph made for a sunny, beautiful early September day.
McDonald headed for a tried and true spot for starters, an oyster shell bank, where Morgan fished with an artificial Shrimp Pasta lure and I tossed a finger mullet under a three-inch torpedo float.
“This is more of a trout and flounder spot, isn’t it Mike?” I inquired.
Moments later, the captain had a good chuckle when Morgan caught the first fish of the day, a 13-14 inch red drum.
Soon, however, the spotted seatrout took over, as expected. The finger mullet were producing more bites, and Morgan switched to a float rod.
As the trout bite warmed up, McDonald – half-captain, half-drill sergeant – barked out angling suggestions. Or were they orders?
▪ “Keep that rod tip up!”
▪ “You’re hung up. Don’t raise the rod tip, grab the spool and pull the rod straight toward you.”
▪ “You’re trying to super-throw that float. Just flip it out there and it will go just about as far and you won’t throw your bait off.”
As the tide fell closer to low, we consistently caught trout in the 14-17-inch range, with a few frantic bites from ladyfish and even gar mixed in. When Morgan caught a small flounder, we had landed all three species of a Carolina Slam.
In all, we caught around 20 trout and left the spot with a dozen keepers.
I had a hankering to target black drum, and the westerly wind combined with a falling tide meant conditions at the sprawling Winyah Bay jetties were tranquil.
Inside the jetties, the brown water of the bay rushed out toward the ocean, while on the ocean side of the rock mound, the water was a striking blue-green with bluefish and Spanish mackerel cutting through plentiful schools of mullet and menhaden.
McDonald pulled up to one of his preferred jetty spots and let it be known up front – in his opinion a rising tide would be better for black drum, but we’d give it a try.
We used cut shrimp for bait, and McDonald was proven correct. We caught no black drum over the next hour, but the variety of species on hand at the jetties was on display.
First, we caught, and released, some of the largest pinfish I’ve ever seen. Then the grunts – blue-striped grunts – showed up. We caught several including a large one measuring 12-13 inches that went home for dinner.
A black sea bass just under the 13-inch minimum size limit was caught and released before McDonald moved to another spot farther down the jetties.
Red drum, or spottails, were holding on this spot, and we caught and released several more in the 13-15 inch range before calling it a day.
As McDonald headed back toward South Island Ferry, I surveyed the unspoiled scenery at the entrance to Winyah Bay, and thought of Hurricane Irma, which then was just approaching the Leeward Islands far out in the Atlantic.
The question then was – as it is now – what will Irma’s final destination be?
This trip proved that the stage is set for a super fall season of trout fishing in the Winyah Bay vicinity.
That is, if Irma doesn’t mess it up.