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Welcome gift to Grand Strand anglers


Captain Mike McDonald throws a cast net to catch menhaden to use for bait in Winyah Bay, Georgetown. JASON LEE jlee@thesunnews

Abnormal February temps a welcome gift to Grand Strand anglers

By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News

Estuary
Look For: Spotted seatrout, black drum, red drum, flounder, sheepshead.
Comments: How’s the fishing currently for spotted seatrout in February, sometimes a month when the species is lethargic and clinging to life due to cold water temperatures in local estuaries? It is just great, as Capt. Mike McDonald of Gul-R-Boy Guide Service in Georgetown found out earlier this week. On Monday, McDonald’s customers caught 28 trout in the Winyah Bay vicinity including a couple gator trout weighing 5 1/2 and 6 pounds. “That’s a damn good day anytime, much less February,” said McDonald. McDonald’s crew was simply fishing with artificial grubs on 1/4 and 1/8-ounce jig heads. “Those are some of the biggest trout I’ve ever caught with my guide service,” said McDonald. “It was just a monster bunch of fish for this area down here. They get them in Murrells Inlet and Little River, but we just don’t get that many big (trout) in this inlet.” The bay was alive and warm for February said McDonald, who noted schools of mullet and glass minnows and saw a consistent water temperature of 54 degrees, plus one area with 58-degree water. Capt. Patrick Kelly of Captain Smiley Fishing Charters in Little River produced eight trout on a Wednesday trip using Mirrolures and Berkely Gulp artificials.
Inshore
Look For: Sheepshead, black drum, croaker, whiting.
Comments: You need to know exactly where to go, but there are sheepshead and black drum holding on near-shore artificial reefs, including some monster sheepshead upwards of five pounds. Black sea bass (13-inch minimum size limit, 7-fish per person) are also prevalent on the reefs, but finding keepers can be a challenge. Also look for tautog and possibly weakfish and flounder. On Grand Strand piers, small whiting, croaker and black drum are being caught but action is slow overall. The ocean water temperature at Cherry Grove Pier Thursday afternoon was 54 degrees.
Offshore
Look For: Wahoo, blackfin tuna, vermilion snapper, black sea bass, triggerfish, grunts, red porgy, amberjack.
Comments: There was a window of opportunity early in the week, and a few area boats made it to the offshore ledges and found trolling for wahoo to be productive. Blackfin tuna are also a possibility. Bottom fishing continues to be excellent for vermilion snapper, black sea bass, triggerfish, grunts, red porgy and amberjack, if conditions permit. Be ready to release some fish though, as the annual Shallow-water Grouper Spawning Season Closure is in effect through April 30, plus red snapper cannot be harvested and must be released in the South Atlantic region.
Freshwater
Look For: Crappie, bream, bass, catfish.
Comments: Ronald ‘Catfish’ Stalvey of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle in Conway reports very good action on local rivers for February. Stalvey noted the Ricefields area and ponds off the Waccamaw River at Conway have been productive areas. Crappie have been caught on minnows both on floats on structure and lead-lining. Bream are hitting worms and nightcrawlers lead-lining on the bottom. Catfish are taking eels and large shiners. Bass action has been very good, Stalvey said, with fish in pre-spawn mode hitting plastic worms, jerkbaits and crankbaits. “Bass are hot right now,” said Stalvey. “They are fanning things out, hanging off ledges.” The Waccamaw at Conway was at 7.8 feet at 6 p.m. Thursday and making good tides.