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Warmer weather improves catch


Capt. Jeff Maples of Reel Salty Charters hit the 10-Mile Reef east of Murrells Inlet on Thursday and found plentiful black sea bass, many in the 12-inch range, and several keepers above the 13-inch minimum size limit (seven fish per person per day). The Sun News file photo
Outdoors
With warmer weather, here’s what’s biting in the Grand Strand fishing scene

By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News

March 30, 2018 03:30 PM

Updated March 30, 2018 03:31 PM
Estuary

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

Comments: The weather finally turned nice at midweek, and the water temperature is finally poised to make a push toward the anticipated 60-degree mark. Capt. Dan Connolly of O-Fish-Al Expeditions targeted black drum on a Wednesday trip in Murrells Inlet and had success fishing fresh cut shrimp, from the fish market, on the bottom. Connolly, who noted a 58-degree water temperature Wednesday, is looking forward to the flounder bite kicking off soon. “I’m sure there are some male flounder in the creek that stayed over the winter,” said Connolly. “Once the water temperature gets up into the 60s, and the bait shows up good, those big females will move in and we’ll start catching those 17-20 inchers. About 16-17 inches is the max for the males.” Connolly has been fighting plenty of snot grass in the inlet, and will be glad to see it gone. “The snot grass is starting to float out,” he said. “We’ll have to deal with it a couple more weeks, then it will be back to normal.” Capt. Patrick Kelly of Captain Smiley Fishing Charters in Little River also has had success with black drum this week, and expects the flounder bite to start in Cherry Grove any time, perhaps as soon as Easter weekend.

Inshore

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

Comments: Sure the air temperature has finally moved up to near-normal, but that doesn’t mean action will quickly pick up in the surf. Cherry Grove Pier reported a water temperature reading of 56 degrees on the surface and 54 on the bottom at midday Thursday, with only a few small whiting and croaker being caught this week. Capt. Jeff Maples of Reel Salty Charters hit the 10-Mile Reef east of Murrells Inlet on Thursday and found plentiful black sea bass, many in the 12-inch range, and several keepers above the 13-inch minimum size limit (seven fish per person per day). Maples’ crew also caught keeper weakfish above the 12-inch minimum size limit (one fish per person per day). Sheepshead, however, were nowhere to be found.

Offshore

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

Comments: Chris Lawhon of Marlin Quay Marina and his crew aboard Molar Man, a 42-foot Yellowfin, headed out in rough seas on Wednesday in search of wahoo, and came home with a Carolina offshore slam. The crew caught eight wahoo, two dolphin and a blackfin tuna with the largest wahoo weighing 53.9 pounds and making the leaderboard in the South Carolina Wahoo Series. A near twin, 52.1-pound wahoo was also in the box. “We fished from the (Winyah) Scarp south to the (Georgetown) Hole and we were picking them off all through there,” said Lawhon, who fished in depths of 180-200 feet the whole day, alternating between high school trolling and trolling dead ballyhoo. “The water temperature was 71-72 degrees all day, there was some grass (sargassum) and we saw a few rips. It was good fishing weather, just rough.” The New Inlet Princess ran its first trip of 2018 on Saturday, with a group from Coastal Carolina University’s Saltwater Fishing Club among the crew. The trip produced a great catch of grouper, amberjack, vermilion snapper, black sea bass, grey triggerfish and grunts. The annual Shallow-Water Grouper Spawning Season Closure is in effect through April 30 and red snapper are closed indefinitely in the South Atlantic region and must be released.

Freshwater

Look For: Bream, crappie, bass, catfish.

Comments: “It’s wide open,” said Ronald “Catfish” Stalvey of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle after a hectic Thursday morning at his bait and tackle shop. Stalvey reports limits of bream caught on the Little Pee Dee and Waccamaw, with anglers fishing crickets under floats and worms on the bottom. “The crickets (under floats) are hit or miss, and they’re still catching a lot on red worms,” said Stalvey. “With this warmer water they’ll be pulling back up (to shallower water) hitting crickets.” Stalvey has had a hard time getting a read on bass lately. “They’ve been weird, kind of hard to pinpoint.” said Stalvey. “One day they’re hitting on the bottom, the next day hitting toward the top.” Stalvey suggests using a Texas-rigged worm or a Senko, and trying top-water lures. “The bass will be pulling up, Saturday’s the full moon,” he said. Crappie continue to hit minnows or beetle spins while cut shad is a prime bait for catfish.