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AHQ INSIDER North Grand Strand (SC) Spring 2020 Fishing Report – Updated March 13

  • by Jay

March 13

Inshore surface water temperatures on the north end of the Grand Strand have reached the upper 50s, and the water is still fairly dingy.

As water temperatures have warmed fishing has picked up in the Little River area, and Captain Patrick “Smiley” Kelly (843-361-7445) reports that the bite for both redfish and trout has turned on. Both species are being caught on lower stages of the tide both rising and falling, and they are mixed together in the same shallow potholes in the backs of creeks. Finger mullet, mud minnows, Gulp! and Vudu Shrimp are all working. 

While clarity is not really good enough for traditional sight-fishing, you can locate the fish when you see them pushing water. When you do actually see them in super shallow water it is usually too late to catch them. 

A nice redfish caught this week with Captain Smiley
A nice redfish caught this week with Captain Smiley

Black drum are likely to be found around docks where they will take cut shrimp on moving tides going in or out. They have been a nice 17-18 inches. Some redfish have also been found around docks.

Cherry Grove Pier (843-249-1625) reports that water temperatures are about 55 degrees and only a few whiting are being caught. 

Black sea bass fishing is still good about 30 miles offshore.

February 27

Inshore surface water temperatures on the north end of the Grand Strand are around 50 degrees, and the water is not particularly clear. 

The redfish bite has gotten really good on the north end of the Grand Strand, and Captain Patrick “Smiley” Kelly (843-361-7445) reports that they are catching very good numbers of fish. There have been a lot of fish in the middle of the slot, as well as some that are pushing 30 inches. The population seems very strong.   

On low tide the best pattern has been making long casts to very skinny water in areas where anglers can see reds pushing water. The best bait has been cut shrimp on a 3/8 ounce jighead, good for long casting. Cast ahead of the school and let the bait sit as the fish approach. 

On higher stages of the tide anglers need to fish docks, bulkheads in the Intracoastal Waterway, or other structure. There are also fish that head up in the grass on high tide, but they are more difficult to locate and get to bite. Black drum are mixed in with the reds around structure.

A nice redfish caught with Captain Smiley Fishing Charters
A nice redfish caught with Captain Smiley Fishing Charters

Trout fishing has gotten tougher, but a few fish have been caught on the ledges in the ICW with Vudu Shrimp. Last March the bite got good at the jetties, and so look for the action to pick up there soon. 

Cherry Grove Pier (843-249-1625) reports that the catch still mainly consists of whiting, dogfish, and the occasional croaker.   In the ocean water temperatures are around 54 degrees, but when they hit 60-62 then first bluefish, then Spanish mackerel and then flounder will arrive. Last March there was an excellent bluefish run. 

At the nearshore reefs there are abundant sheepshead and black drum, but it does take some work chumming to activate the schools and keep the small black sea bass at bay.  Fiddler crabs have been the best bait. 

The black sea bass bite in about 70 feet of water remains strong.

February 14

Inshore surface water temperatures on the north end of the Grand Strand are around 54 degrees, while back in the rivers it can get warmer. After all the rain conditions are murky. 

Inshore the fishing is a little spotty, but Captain Patrick “Smiley” Kelly (843-361-7445) reports that redfish are definitely the best thing going. Fish can be caught way back in the creeks as well as shallow in the Intracoastal Waterway, and they are ranging from 16-27 inches. 

The combination of cold snaps and recent rain seems to have put off the trout bite, but if you really work at it you can pick up on or two here and there. 

Cherry Grove Pier (843-249-1625) reports that the catch still mainly consists of whiting and dogfish.

At the nearshore reefs there are abundant sheepshead and black drum, but it does take some work chumming to activate the schools and keep the small black sea bass at bay.  Fiddler crabs have been the best bait. 

Almost certainly the best thing going has been the black sea bass bite, and in about 70 feet of water there has been an awesome bite. The fishing has been so good that they are culling keepers, and on a recent trip they threw back everything below 15 inches.

Some nice black sea bass caught this week with Captain Smiley Fishing Charters
Some nice black sea bass caught this week with Captain Smiley Fishing Charters

January 31

Inshore surface water temperatures on the north end of the Grand Strand are around 52 degrees. The water is stained in areas and at times because of the rain and wind, but it generally clears quickly. 

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks on the north end of the Grand Strand, and Captain Patrick “Smiley” Kelly (843-361-7445) reports that temperatures went from the 60s to 48 in about a week. After it got super cold fishing got very tough, but now that temperatures have rebounded it has gotten better again. 

Trout have started biting again in 4-6 feet of water, particularly where there is a good dropoff. If you can get live shrimp that is the best bait, but they are still biting DOA shrimp well. Moderate stages of the tide when there is some current but not too much have been fishing the best. When the tide is very slack or ripping the bite gets tougher, perhaps because the fish want some movement but do not want to have to expend too much energy.

A nice trout caught this week with Captain Chris Ossmann
A nice trout caught this week with Captain Chris Ossmann
There have been some redfish mixed in with the trout, but in general the reds are more likely to be found on muddier bottoms or around structure such as oysters. They are also shallower, and just yesterday they saw a massive school of 100 plus fish literally with their backs out of water trying to avoid dolphins. These pressured fish can be very difficult to get to bite, and anglers may have more success back in the creeks in holes or over mud flats that have warmed.  A variety of baits will work if you can find fish willing to feed.

There are also some black drum being caught around shell banks, particularly where there are drop offs. Shrimp are hard to beat. 

At the nearshore reefs there are abundant sheepshead, and if you have the right baits such as fiddler crabs they will eat. There are also abundant black sea bass in 50 plus feet of water, although the keeper ratio is much better in 60 plus feet.

Cherry Grove Pier (843-249-1625) reports that the catch still mainly consists of small whiting and dogfish.

January 16

Inshore surface water temperatures on the north end of the Grand Strand have risen into the high 50s and even low 60s. The water is a dirty green in some areas. 

The fishing was better on the north end of the Grand Strand before temperatures rose and the water dirtied up, but Captain Patrick “Smiley” Kelly (843-361-7445) reports that they are still doing pretty well for redfish. There are fish shallow in the creeks and in the IntraCoastal Waterway, and even though true sight-fishing has gotten tough they can see the fish pushing water and making a wake. The best pattern has been fishing lower stages of the tide along shelly areas of the bank, and mud minnows, cut mullet, and Gulp! baits have all been working.

The trout bite is still fairly strong, and they are catching fish along the banks in areas where the water drops off a bit. There are also some fish being caught deeper in holes, such as areas where a shallow flat drops off to 5-6 feet. Overall 3-6 feet is the best depth to look. The bite has been better on mid-tide moving in either direction, and live shrimp, mud minnows, DOA, Gulp!, Vudu Shrimp and Trout Tricks are all working. 

A gator trout caught on the north end of the South Carolina Grand Strand
A gator trout caught on the north end of the South Carolina Grand Strand

When they are fishing cut shrimp on the bottom some black drum have been picked up in the creeks over shelly areas. There have been keeper-sized fish, but on the shorter end of the slot. 

With very warm weather some small flounder have also been caught in the creeks.

Cherry Grove Pier (843-249-1625) reports that the catch mainly consists of whiting and dogfish right now.

December 20

Inshore surface water temperatures on the north end of the Grand Strand have dropped into the lower 50s, to about 51-53 degrees. The water is super clear. 

It’s gotten pretty cold, but Captain Patrick “Smiley” Kelly (843-361-7445) reports that the trout bite is still really hot. For the past couple of weeks the trout fishing has been excellent pretty much everywhere – from the jetties to the ledges and drops in the ICW to deeper sections of shallow creeks. A good depth to fish is 3-5 feet down in 8-10 feet of water. 

With fish at that depth one good way to target them is with a slip bobber, and a few area bait stores can still provide live shrimp. Artificial lures will work well, too, and sometimes fish are biting DOA shrimp just as well as the real thing. 

Tide has not seemed to matter very much, as long as there is moving water in any direction. At slack tides the fish turn off.

The fishing should stay good for a few more weeks until water temperatures get very, very cold.

A nice trout caught this week with Captain Smiley Fishing Charters
A nice trout caught this week with Captain Smiley Fishing Charters

On lower stages of the tide there has been good fishing for redfish and black drum at low tide in shallow water. Fish will get in deep pot holes in the shallows. Gulp!, fresh cut shrimp, or live mud minnows will all work.

There have been lots of small ten-inch flounder around but the big ones seem to have left.

November 20

Inshore surface water temperatures on the north end of the Grand Strand have dropped into the lower 60s. The water is still murky. 

This is the about the best time of the year to fish in the Little River area, and Captain Patrick “Smiley” Kelly (843-361-7445) reports that it’s a no-brainer to target trout right now. Last year at this time they were catching a bunch of fish in the 13-inch range, while this year the average size is an impressive 18 inches with plenty of fish in the 20-25 inch range (almost always released). There is a really good population of fish around.

Captain Smiley’s boats are mainly targeting the ICW, but they are also catching fish in the shallow creeks. Fish are off ledges, in deeper holes, and around oyster beds beside grass; they are as shallow as 2 feet and down to about 10-12. Tide does not seem to matter as long as there is moving water in either direction. Live shrimp, DOA Shrimp, Vudu Shrimp, and Trout Tricks are all working. 

A gator trout caught this week with Captain Smiley Fishing Charters

There are also redfish and black drum around in the same areas, although most of the redfish have been small in the 15-18 inch range. There are not a lot of 20-27 inch fish. The black drum are mainly in the 18-20 inch range, and they will eat live or cut shrimp. The reds will eat anything, and some of the bigger trout are also being caught on minnows. 

They are still picking up some short flounder. 

Cherry Grove Pier (843-249-1625) reports that they are still having some nice black drum caught off the pier as well as good numbers of whiting and croaker. 

 

October 31

Inshore surface water temperatures on the north end of the Grand Strand still range from the mid-70s on up. With water temperatures still very warm the water has not yet cleared, and there are prolific mullet around as well as plenty of shrimp if you know where to look.

Captain Patrick “Smiley” Kelly (843-361-7445) reports that even with persistent warm temperatures a strong fall bite is in place, but just in time for his 3rd Annual Inshore Slam and Festival temperatures are about to drop. This should kick-start an even better fall bite as inshore species realize that they need to feed up as the days are numbered before the bait leaves the creeks. With flounder harvest banned in North Carolina anglers will be competing for the best aggregate weight of trout and redfish, with over $3,000.00 on the line for first place. The event will take place out of Cricket Cove Marina, and proceeds will benefit the Humane Society. Sportsman’s Choice Marina is the headline sponsor. 

The trout bite has really picked up, and the best fishing is taking place on the low to rising tide around ledges and drops. On higher tides the fish are doing well around grass and oyster beds. Live shrimp, Zman baits, and Vudu Shrimp have all been working. 

Trout have also been feeding well at the jetties, mostly on live shrimp floated under a cork around the rocks. 

There is good action for redfisharound ambush points, oysters and docks, and fish are also being caught around the same drops where the trout are feeding. It is hard to find an area that only has one species right now, and reds are also out at the jetties. 

For redfish cut mullet, cut shrimp and artificial lures are all working. 

Bull red drum can still be found, but the bite is not as good as it was a few weeks ago.

Black drum are in the same areas as the reds, although they are less likely to shy away from a strong current. Docks, ledges and rocky bottoms all hold black drum with cut shrimp the best bait right now.

A few flounder are still being picked up. 

Cherry Grove Pier (843-249-1625) reports that with water temperatures still a very warm 74 degrees fishing has been good. This past weekend a number of king mackerelwere caught, and they have also had Spanish mackerelandbluefishcaught off the pier. Bull red drum over the slot have also been released, as well as black drum including some legal fish. There have also been pompano, whiting, and a few spots caught. With water temperatures still very warm this cold front should not push the fish out because water temperatures have so far to go before fish leave. 

 

October 17

Inshore surface water temperatures in the morning on the north end of the Grand Strand are still in the mid-70s. There are finger mullet around but off the beaches menhaden are the most prolific baitfish.

Fall fishing is good on the north end of the Grand Strand, but Captain Patrick “Smiley” Kelly (843-361-7445) predicts that in the next week or two it will approach its peak and we will be into some of the best fishing of the year. 

Bull red drum are still being caught in the inlet on live, fresh cut or even frozen menhaden, and they will also eat mullet or most any other live or fresh cut bait. The incoming tide has been the best time to target them, and high slack tide has also been good.  

There are lots of fish at the jetties, and while they can be caught right by the rocks the better way to catch (and land) them is to fish in cleaner holes out from the rocks with 25-30 feet of water. The other way to catch them is to run the beaches and fish around menhaden balls. 

With water temperatures still warm blacktip and bull sharks are still thick, and so Captain Smiley suggests a big 6/0 circle hook and beefy tackle so that you can get the fish in quickly. No one wants to see a bull red drum struggling on the end of a line become shark bait.

Smaller reds can also be caught casting live mullet or live shrimp on a split shot rig or under a float into the jetty rocks, and there have also been plenty of 12-17 inch redfish caught inshore around grass and oyster beds. Cut shrimp, live shrimp, finger mullet and Gulp! baits are all working for inshore reds. There are still some big redfish inshore but the 12-17 inch range has been most prolific.  

The trout bite is improving but it’s still not as good as it should get. Right now trout are being caught on live shrimp fished along inshore drops and oyster beds in areas with moving current. They are also being caught with shrimp fished on a split shot rig at the jetties. 

There has been good flounder fishing around the jetties with mullet fished around the rocks. Nearshore reefs like the Jim Caudle Reef have also had some nice ones. 

Black drumfishing is getting better with fresh cut shrimp. The Tillman Docks are still holding fish and a Carolina rig fished on the bottom in 15-20 feet of water on moving tides continues to work. There are also plenty of good fish being caught around ledges and docks in the IntraCoastal.    

Cherry Grove Pier (843-249-1625) reports that Spanish mackerel, bluefish, pompano, whiting, and a few spots have been caught off the pier. There have also been some large red drum out of the slot caught.

 

September 30

Inshore surface water temperatures in the morning on the north end of the Grand Strand are in the low 80s. There are still massive schools of finger mullet in the IntraCoastal Waterway and its tributaries.

Bull red drum remain about the most exciting game in town on the north end of the Grand Strand, and Captain Patrick “Smiley” Kelly (843-361-7445) reports that more and more reds are in the inlet and off the beaches. 

There are lots of fish at the jetties, and while they can be caught right by the rocks the better way to catch (and land) them is to fish in cleaner holes out from the rocks with 25-30 feet of water. The other way to catch them is to run the beaches and fish around menhaden balls. Since the fish are around menhaden they really only want to eat pogies right now. 

In addition to the fishermen sharks have realized that the bull reds are thick, and so Captain Smiley suggests a big 6/0 circle hook and beefy tackle so that you can get the fish in quickly. No one wants to see a bull red drum struggling on the end of a line become shark bait.

There have also been some really big reds inshore, and this week Captain Smiley’s boat landed a 42-inch fish on a topwater plug! There are also plenty of redfish that run from under 15 inches to about 28, and these fish are very common. They can be caught on mullet fished on a ¼ ounce jighead, and they are around grass and oyster beds on the outgoing tide.   

Small trout have started to get plentiful, although in the next few weeks the bite should get much better for big fish. Right now trout are being caught on live shrimp fished along drops inshore in areas with moving current, and they are also being caught with shrimp fished on a split shot rig at the jetties. 

The flounder fishery will remain closed to harvest in North Carolina for the foreseeable future, but Captain Patrick “Smiley” Kelly (843-361-7445) reports that south of the border there is still very strong flounder fishing. The key to catching fish is still fishing in places where there is an abundance of mullet and current, be that on the flats, around grass, etc. Tide does not seem to make a huge different as long as mullet and current are present. Both finger mullet and Gulp! baits are working well.

There is also still good black drumfishing with fresh cut shrimp. The jetties are improving for black drum, and at the Tillman Docks fishing on the bottom with a Carolina rig in 15-20 feet of water on moving tides is still working. There also continue to be good catches in Bonaparte Creek in 5-10 feet of water.  

Cherry Grove Pier (843-249-1625) reports that they have had excellent king mackerel fishing off-and-on for the last ten days. As of this afternoon 4 fish had been caught today and 8 yesterday! Beyond the kings standard fare including red drum, black drum, whiting, pompano, and bluefish have been caught this week.    

 

 

September 20

Inshore surface water temperatures in the morning on the north end of the Grand Strand are around 81 degrees. There are still massive schools of finger mullet in the IntraCoastal Waterway and its tributaries, but it remains a little hard to find shrimp.

The biggest news this week is that the bull red drum have started biting, and Captain Patrick “Smiley” Kelly (843-361-7445) reports that they are catching 35-40 plus inch fish.  There are basically two ways you can catch them. There are lots of fish at the jetties, and while they can be caught right by the rocks the better way to catch (and land) them is to fish in cleaner holes out from the rocks with 25-30 feet of water. The other way to catch them is to run the beaches and fish around menhaden balls. Since the fish are around menhaden they really only want to eat pogies right now. 

Inshore fishing remains excellent, and while the flounder fishery is still closed to harvest in North Carolina on both sides of the border Captain Patrick “Smiley” Kelly (843-361-7445) reports that there is still very strong flounder fishing. The key to catching fish is still fishing in places where there is an abundance of mullet and current, be that on the flats, around grass, etc. Tide does not seem to make a huge different as long as mullet and current are present. Both finger mullet and Gulp! baits are working well.

Besides the bulls, inside the creeks there are plenty of redfish that run from under 15 inches to about 28 inches, and these fish are very plentiful. They can be caught on mullet fished on a ¼ ounce jighead, and they are around grass and oyster beds on the outgoing tide.   

There is also still good black drumfishing with fresh cut shrimp. At the Tillman docks fishing on the bottom with a Carolina rig in 15-20 feet of water on moving tides is still working. There also continue to be good catches in Bonaparte Creek in 5-10 feet of water.  

Trout action is still not as good as it will be soon, but some fish can be caught at the jetties on the falling tide. Live shrimp fished on a split shot rig or under a floating cork are the best bait.  

Cherry Grove Pier (843-249-1625) reports that they have had good catches of red drum, black drum, whiting, pompano, and bluefish. Most of the reds are below the slot but a few are keepers. When there is some clear water Spanish mackerel are around. 

 

September 13

Inshore surface water temperatures in the morning on the north end of the Grand Strand are around 83 degrees. There are massive schools of finger mullet in the IntraCoastal Waterway and its tributaries, but it is a little hard to find shrimp.

The flounder fishery is closed to harvest in North Carolina, but on both sides of the border Captain Patrick “Smiley” Kelly (843-361-7445) reports that there is still excellent flounder fishing. Yesterday his boat caught a fish that was almost 6 pounds as well as some 3-pounders. The key to catching fish is still fishing in places where there is an abundance of mullet and current, be that on the flats, around grass, etc. Tide does not seem to make a huge different as long as mullet and current are present. Both finger mullet and Gulp! baits are working well.

The redfish population seems to be in excellent shape, with a good number of fish and a broad range of sizes being caught. Inside the creeks there is one group of fish that runs from under 15 inches to about 28 inches, and these fish are very plentiful. They can be caught on mullet fished on a ¼ ounce jighead, and they are around grass and oyster beds on the outgoing tide. 

There is a second, bigger group of fish in the 25-35 inch range that can be caught out at the jetties on cut bait or live mullet. Again, these fish are biting best on the outgoing tide. 

There has also been some good black drumfishing with fresh cut shrimp. At the Tillman docks fishing on the bottom with a Carolina rig in 15-20 feet of water on moving tides has been working. There have also been good catches in Bonaparte Creek in 5-10 feet of water.  

Trout action is not as good as it will be soon, but some fish can be caught at the jetties on the falling tide. Live shrimp fished on a split shot rig or under a floating cork are the best bait.  

Cherry Grove Pier (843-249-1625) reports that they have had good catches of whiting, pompano, and black drum. There are some small red drum and some in the slot being caught, as well as Spanish mackerel. A few small bluefish are around. 

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