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Weather and fishing warm up

Warmer temperatures are here, much to the delight of fish and angler alike
A net-full of hatchery-raised red drum pour into a 300 gallon tank for boat transport to the marshes of Winyah Bay. File photo The Sun News

By Gregg Holshouser

For The Sun News

Estuary

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

Comments: Activity of red drum has picked up in local estuaries with a quick increase in water temperature, thanks to a prolonged stretch of spring-like weather. Capt. Dan Connolly of O-Fish-Al Expeditions fished Monday through Wednesday in Murrells Inlet and found good action with red drum. “They’re not easy to find but once you find them and the water’s moving pretty good, they’re hungry,” said Connolly, who cast-netted mullet and used them for cut bait, which pleased the reds. A few reds were caught on mud minnows. Connolly also caught a few black drum and noted a water temperature of 62 degrees on a falling tide. Capt. Mike McDonald of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service in Georgetown had a solid day on Sunday, catching nine reds, including three over the 15- to 23-inch slot, all on plastic grubs in the Winyah Bay vicinity. McDonald also went on a scouting trip Thursday afternoon and observed a 68-degree water temperature in the back of a creek and a 63-degree reading at South Island Ferry in the Intracoastal Waterway. S.C. Department of Natural Resources is asking anglers to practice catch and release of all spotted seatrout through the end of September. In North Carolina waters, spotted seatrout are closed to harvest for all fishermen — recreational and commercial — until June 15.
Inshore

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

Comments: The calendar says February, but the activity along the beach has been more typical of early spring. “Things are starting to pick up,” said Steve Gann of the Cherry Grove Pier on Thursday. “The last few days we’ve had a good number of whiting landed and some blues. They caught a bunch of whiting out there today. Everybody out there today has been happy.” At 4 p.m.Thursday, Gann observed water temperature readings of 59 degrees on the surface and 58 on the bottom. “It’s been active for February,” Gann said. “We shouldn’t see this until mid-March. That’s not to say it’s not going to cool back down.” Sheepshead continue to provide the most action on near-shore artificial reefs. Anglers are reminded there is a daily bag limit of 10 sheepshead per person, a boat limit of 30 per day and a minimum size limit of 14 inches (total length).
Offshore

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

Comments: Jeff Martini and crew aboard Dirty Martini out of Little River had a solid day deep-dropping for snowy grouper on Tuesday. On the way out, Martini noted a water temperature of 68 degrees at the Winyah Scarp. Trolling boats are targeting wahoo and blackfin tuna with success on favorable weather days. Bottom fishing is productive for black sea bass, grey triggerfish, vermilion snapper, red porgy and white grunts, among other species. The annual Shallow-Water Grouper Spawning Season Closure is in effect through April 30, the Greater Amberjack Fishery is closed to harvest for recreational anglers until March, and red snapper are closed indefinitely in the South Atlantic region and must be released.
Freshwater

Look For: Bream, crappie, bass, catfish.

Comments: There’s a rise in the rivers, but spring is in the air, and fish are biting. Ronald “Catfish” Stalvey of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle in Conway even reports that, with a quickly rising water temperature, bream are beginning to hit crickets along with the winter-time staple of worms. Stalvey reports crappie action continues to be good with fish hitting minnows and beetle spins around structure on points and in coves. The shad run is on, and so is the catfish bite, which means cut shad is a prime bait. Stalvey noted the Ricefields area is currently a top spot for bass, hitting Texas-rigged worms, crankbaits and spinnerbaits. The Waccamaw River at Conway was at 8.36 feet at 4:15 p.m.Thursday, while the Little Pee Dee at Galivants Ferry was at 7.3 feet at 5 p.m.