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Warmer weather heats up catch

Ashley Smith shows off a 6-pound spotted seatrout caught in Murrells Inlet with Capt. Dan Connolly of O-Fish-Al Expeditions. Photo courtesy of O-Fish-Al Expeditions

Grand Strand Fishing Report: Above-average water temperature assisting anglers

By Gregg Holshouser

February 21, 2019 06:43 PM


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

Comments: Capt. Dan Connolly of O-Fish-Al Expeditions focused on the Murrells Inlet jetties on Sunday and had a quality outing, catching trout, red drum and sheepshead. Connolly, who used live shrimp to catch all three species, says action is still good considering the time of year. “(Catching fish) is harder than it was a month ago but there’s definitely still some fish out there,” said Connolly. In February, when the water temperature is usually the coldest, the aggravating algae not-so-affectionately known locally as snot grass typically becomes widespread on the bottom of Murrells Inlet. This year, Connolly says, it’s not so bad. “At low tide I really don’t see a whole lot,” Connolly said. “It’s not nearly as bad as previous years. It hasn’t gotten cold enough and stayed cold for long (for it to develop).”

Look For: Black sea bass, sheepshead, black drum, flounder, weakfish, whiting.

Comments: The ocean water temperature remains above normal for late February, with Michael Wallace of Cherry Grove Pier reporting a surface reading of 54 degrees at 1 p.m. Thursday, with a bottom reading of 53. There is some activity in the surf zone, too. “We’re starting to see a little bit more whiting,” said Wallace. “We had a school of puffers come through, a few stingrays, a few dogfish.” Windy weather has left the ocean rough most of the week, with most boats staying in port. Nearshore reefs within 10 miles of the beach continue to hold sheepshead, black drum and black sea bass. Also look for flounder, weakfish and tautog.

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

Comments: Capt. Perrin Wood of Southern Saltwater Charters headed offshore last weekend, targeting wahoo and blackfin tuna in 180 feet on out to 500 feet of water in the Winyah Scarp area. Wood and crew came home with one wahoo in the 35-pound range and one blackfin, plus had two wahoo cutoffs. “It wasn’t action-packed,” said Wood. “It was typical winter-time fishing.” The wahoo hit a ballyhoo and blue/white ilander combo, and the blackfin hit a cedar plug. Jeff Martini of Dirty Martini out of Little River recommends heading to 100 to 120 feet of water to find reef fish such as black sea bass, triggerfish, red porgy, vermilion snapper and white grunts. “Black sea bass are chewing in 100 feet, guaranteed,” said Martini. There are numerous closures of reef species in effect for recreational anglers in South Atlantic waters. The annual shallow-water grouper spawning season closure is in effect until May 1. Greater amberjack is closed until March 1, and deep-water blueline tilefish and snowy grouper are closed until May 1. Red snapper are also off-limits indefinitely and must be released.

Look For: Bream, bass, catfish, crappie.

Comments: Even though the Pee Dee rivers, especially the Great Pee Dee, are high, they are producing some quality fish. Ronald “Catfish” Stalvey of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle in Conway reports a group of anglers had good success catching bream on the Pee Dee lead-lining two-hook rigs in 15 feet of water, using worms. “They were hand-size, mostly bluegill, some morgans and a few shellcracker,” said Stalvey. The anglers targeted lakes and deep ditches off the river. Crappie are hitting medium shiners around structure, particularly at ditch or creek mouths. Stalvey said bass action is good on shallow-running crankbaits, shaky head worms and Texas-rigged worms. Shad season is upon us, and catfish are hitting fresh cut shad. In the Waccamaw, shad are being caught in nets. For hook and line action for the hard-fighting, wide-bodied shad, head to the Santee rivers or the Tailrace Canal at Moncks Corner. The Waccamaw River at Conway was in good shape at 8.63 feet at 3:15 p.m. Thursday while the Little Pee Dee at Galivants Ferry was at 7.72 feet at 3 p.m. Thursday and rising slightly.

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