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AHQ INSIDER South Grand Strand (SC) Spring 2020 Fishing Report – Updated March 26

  • by Jay

March 26

Water temperatures have just reached 60 degrees in Murrells Inlet. Even though the water is still fairly clear with a blue tint, wind and releasing stringy grass are dirtying it up some.  

Baisch Boys Bait and Tackle (843-651-1915) has regular and jumbo mud minnows, live finger mullet, live fiddler crabs, fresh shrimp, salt clam, and a full range of frozen baits. 

The early flounder bite continues to improve, with Captain J Baisch (843-902-0356) reporting that the fishing for flatfish is hot! Due to the season fish are still seeking out warmer water and feeding most actively in those conditions, and so shallow areas with dark bottoms are still the best. They are also going further back in the creeks away from the cooler ocean. Vudu shrimp (Cajun pepper with a chartreuse tail) have been working the best, and mud minnows on a Carolina rig or jighead have also been very good. 

The bite for redfish and black drum is also very good, and with no bothersome pinfish around yet fishing cut shrimp is the best approach. While the two species are not quite as concerned about temperature as the flounder, they are still biting best on the last two or three hours of the outgoing when it is slightly warmer. The other key has been fishing around shell bottoms. 

Sheepshead have mostly showed up back inshore and they are stacking up at the jetties. Fiddler crabs or barnacles are fishing well at the tips of the jetties.

Nearshore bluefish have arrived, and the Spanish mackerel should show up any minute. Trolling Clarks spoons or Christmas tree rigs on planer boards around the Paradise Reef or Pawley’s Island Reef is a good pattern. Even though you can only keep one per person summer trout are around in excellent numbers, and early in the season there are bigger fish with plenty of 5- or 6-pounders. Vertical jigging with Jigfish or Spro bucktails is a good way to catch them.

March 13

Water temperatures have moved into the upper 50s in Murrells Inlet.

Baisch Boys Bait and Tackle (843-651-1915) has regular and jumbo mud minnows, live finger mullet, live fiddler crabs, fresh shrimp, salt clam, and a full range of frozen baits. 

Fishing is starting to really turn on at the south end of the South Carolina Grand Strand, and Captain J Baisch (843-902-0356) reports that most notably the flounder fishing has come on strong. Anglers report lots of 20-30 fish days – even though many of these fish are smaller. The combination of warm weather and the full moon has brought them back inshore.

As for most species the bite has been much better at low tide, especially on warm days, and either trolling with mud minnows/ finger mullet or casting with Vudu Shrimp (Cajun pepper with a chartreuse tail) they are hooking up. 

Unusually by the calendar, redfish are still highly schooled up and so the fishing is pretty much feast-or-famine. It is not unusual to get into a school and catch 25 or 30 fish in one spot, but you can also just miss them. The best fishing has again been on the bottom two or three hours of the tide in the very backs where it warms the most. Since there are no pinfish around yet cut shrimp has been hard to beat and is also picking up some smaller black drum.

The trout bite has temporarily slowed, and anglers are having to fish very hard to catch 4 or 5 fish in a day. 

Any day now the first bluefish should arrive.

While the larger black drum are still mostly offshore, sheepshead are starting to make their way back inshore where a bunch of nice fish are being caught at the jetties on fiddler crabs.

Black sea bass can still be caught in 60-80 feet of water, but they are starting to push deeper and will soon be in 80-110 feet with all the other bottom fish.

February 27

Water temperatures are up to about 55 degrees in Murrells Inlet, and clarity depends on weather conditions. Rain yesterday made for dirty water, but after a day of dry, calm weather it gets very clear again. 

Baisch Boys Bait and Tackle (843-651-1915) has regular and jumbo mud minnows, live finger mullet, live fiddler crabs, fresh shrimp, salt clam, and a full range of frozen baits. 

It is still that time of year when inshore species do not have to eat every single day on the Grand Strand, and Captain J Baisch (843-902-0356) reports that on warm days they frequently choose those to feed. On cold days they will often wait for the next mild day. Obviously, anglers would be well-advised to fish on pretty days when possible. 

Inside Murrells Inlet Mirrolures are still working for trout, with fish continuing to prefer baits with a black back and copper, orange, or chartreuse sides. Cast around oysters and try to target lower tides when the shallows warm.

Both redfish and black drum are also feeding pretty well on days when there is afternoon sun that warms the shallows. Both species want cut shrimp fished around oyster shells, with black drum seeking out areas with current. A late afternoon low tide like yesterday is ideal.  

Flounder continue to be caught inshore, including some decent-sized fish. They will be found over dark mud areas that heat up at low tide.

In March when greater numbers of flounder arrive they will briefly hang out at the jetties, but quickly fish will make their way inside the creeks where the water warms more quickly.    

At the nearshore reefs and wrecks sheepshead and black drum remain stacked up in 30-50 feet of water. Captain J reports they can be caught on fiddler crabs, clams and shrimp, with the black drum more likely than the sheepshead to eat the shrimp. However, you can often get both species activated chumming with shrimp.

A big sheepshead caught this week with Captain J Baisch
A big sheepshead caught this week with Captain J Baisch

Big black sea bass are still as close in as they will be all year, and in about 60 feet of water they can be caught around the reefs.  While grouper season is closed, in about 100 feet of water triggerfish, vermillion snapper and other bottom speciescan be found.

February 14

Water temperatures are still around 52 degrees in Murrells Inlet, and when the weather is calm the water is extremely clear.   

Baisch Boys Bait and Tackle (843-651-1915) has regular and jumbo mud minnows, live finger mullet, live fiddler crabs, fresh shrimp, salt clam, and a full range of frozen baits. 

Inshore fishing remains dependent on conditions along the south end of the Grand Strand, but Captain J Baisch (843-902-0356) reports that on mild days he is still doing well throwing a Mirrolure for trout inside Murrells Inlet. The fish seem to want a bait with a black back and copper, orange, or chartreuse sides. This 4.18 pound trout had a ten-inch mullet in its stomach, and so they are clearly eating some big fish right now.

Captain J and a young angler with a 4.18 pound trout caught this week
Captain J and a young angler with a 4.18 pound trout caught this week

If you can catch a day where low tide is on a warm afternoon then redfish seem to wake up to feed for a couple of hours. They will eat cut shrimp fished on the bottom around oysters in these conditions, while at other times they seem content to lay in deep holes and wait for spring.

Perhaps because it has not gotten super cold, for the second straight year there are still a decent number of large flounder that have stayed inshore for the winter. On both ends of Murrells Inlet, where it is warmer, there have been one or two flounder caught off of each spot on recent trips.   Even though many of them have been released, the “keeper” ratio has been about 50%.  

While the good ones have left inshore waters, nearshore sheepshead and black drum have stacked up and turned on at the ship wrecks in 30-50 feet of water. They can be caught on fiddler crabs, clams and shrimp. 

Big black sea bass are as close in as they will be all year, and 10-15 miles offshore the fishing has been really good for keepers. While grouper season is closed, out in 80-100 feet triggerfish, snapper and other bottom species can be found.

January 30

Water temperatures average around 51-52 degrees in Murrells Inlet, although on cold days they will drop a few degrees and on warm days they will rise to about 54. The water is crystal clear.  Baisch Boys Bait and Tackle (843-651-1915) has regular and jumbo mud minnows, live finger mullet, live fiddler crabs, fresh shrimp, salt clam, and a full range of frozen baits. 

Inshore fishing is dependent on conditions along the south end of the Grand Strand, and Captain J Baisch (843-902-0356) reports that if you can get relatively low water on a warm day that raises water temperatures a few degrees there can be a decent bite for redfish and trout.  Captain J advises just drifting down the bank and throwing Mirrolures around likely structure such as oyster beds, and then when you get a bite in a section of water repeat the run. Christmas tree color has been working well.

Out at the jetties there are decent numbers of trout, but again the bite is dependent on weather. On very cold days nothing seems to want to bite, while on warm days that approach 60 the action can be pretty good drifting shrimp imitations such as Vudu Shrimp or DOA Shrimp around the rocks.

A nice trout caught with Captain J Baisch
A nice trout caught with Captain J Baisch

 

Nearshore sheepshead are just beginning to really stack up on the reefs in 30-40 feet of water, and two days ago they caught 30 fish although only 4 or 5 were keepers. More big females are arriving every day. There are also some black drum mixed in with the sheepshead, and fiddler crabs will work for all of them. (Inshore there are plenty of black drum, but they are almost all small.)

There are excellent numbers of big black sea bass out in 100 feet of water as well as other bottom species.

January 17

Water temperatures are around 56 in Murrells Inlet and the water is clean but not clear. Baisch Boys Bait and Tackle (843-651-1915) has regular and jumbo mud minnows, live shrimp, live fiddler crabs, fresh shrimp, salt clam, and a full range of frozen baits. 

Inshore fishing remains spotty along the south end of the Grand Strand, although Captain J Baisch (843-902-0356) reports that they have caught some nice trout on Mirrolures in the last few days. The best fishing has been on high tide throwing the baits over laid down oysters. 

There are also plenty of smaller black drum in the creeks, as well as some slot-sized redfish. These are all being caught on cut shrimp.

While the ratio of keeper-sized fish is very low, there have also been some surprisingly good catches of flounder in the creeks. Fish can be caught at low tide over areas that have a dark bottom which warms up in the sun. While most of the fish are small, there have been a surprising number of 18-20 inch fish which for some reason are still around. 

Nearshore the sheepshead are congregating at the reefs in 30-50 feet of water, where they can be caught on fiddler crabs (available at Baisch Boys) fished on a Carolina rig. There are also good numbers of black drum at that depth, as well as a few keepers mixed in with a ton of smaller black sea bass.  To get better numbers of big black sea bass you need to go 25-30 miles offshore to 60-90 feet of water.

70 plus miles offshore there has been a strong wahoo bite.  This big fish was caught pulling ballyhoo on blue and white skirts, which seems to be working just as well as high speed trolling.

Kelly and Captain J. Baisch with a nice wahoo caught this week
Kelly and Captain J. Baisch with a nice wahoo caught this week

December 23

Water temperatures are around 54 or 55 in Murrells Inlet and the water is gin clear. Baisch Boys Bait and Tackle (843-651-1915) has regular and jumbo mud minnows, live shrimp, live fiddler crabs, fresh shrimp, fresh squid, salt clam, and a full range of frozen baits. 

Inshore fishing is becoming more spotty along the south end of the Grand Strand, and Captain J Baisch (843-902-0356) reports that trout are getting more difficult to catch. There are still some fish being caught along the jetty rocks on Trout Tricks or shrimp when the current is moving, but they are becoming fewer and further between. When water temperatures drop below 52 pretty much all of the fish will leave.

There are still some black drumbeing caught in the creeks on cut shrimp, and redfish are also around inshore. In the very clear water fish are easy to spot, but they don’t eat every day this time of year and so they can be hard to get to bite. 

Kelly Baisch with a nice black drum
Kelly Baisch with a nice black drum

 

Probably the best bite in the area right now is out at the reefs and wrecks in 30-50 feet of water. Black drum and sheepshead are spawning out there, and they are eating very well.

Keeper-sized black sea bass can also be caught fairly close in right now, such as at the 11-Mile Reef or the North Inlet Reef.

December 13

Water temperatures are around 55 or 56 in Murrells Inlet and the water is very clear before the heavy rains arrive. Baisch Boys Bait and Tackle (843-651-1915) has regular and jumbo mud minnows, live shrimp, live fiddler crabs, fresh shrimp, fresh squid, salt clam, and a full range of frozen baits. 

The trout fishing continues to be very good along the south end of the Grand Strand, although Captain J Baisch (843-902-0356) reports that the bite has largely transitioned out to the ocean since most of the shrimp have left the creeks. Shrimp are migrating down the beach, and as long as there is current trout will be found feeding somewhere along the jetty rocks. Stage of the tide does not matter as long as there is water moving in some direction. Trout Tricks have been working very well, and they have also picked up some impressive by-catch such as a 2.02 pound whiting just shy of the state record!

Captain J with the monster whiting!

Sheepshead can also be found out at the jetty rocks, and there are nice black drum there too. The creek black drum are mainly small.

There continues to be a surprisingly good bite for flounder, with some anglers catching a half dozen or so legal fish on a trip (and lots of small fish). Vudu shrimp have been working very well for flounder, and the key has been fishing inside the inlet on shallow flats at low tide where the water has warmed up. 

Some redfish have been caught in the creeks but the better action has come in the ocean. Redfish usually get lethargic before trout do, and the best pattern for catching them right now is to fish an easy meal they do not have to chase like cut mullet on the bottom around the tips of the jetties. Most of these fish have been over the slot. 

Black sea bass have come closer in to areas like the North Inlet Reef, while you still have to go way offshore for most bottom fishing.

November 25

Water temperatures are around 57 in Murrells Inlet. Baisch Boys Bait and Tackle (843-651-1915) has regular and jumbo mud minnows, live shrimp, live fiddler crabs, salt clam, and salt sand fleas as well as a full range of frozen baits. 

Late fall is usually a good time for trout fishing on the Grand Strand, but Captain J Baisch (843-902-0356) reports that right now the trout bite is about as good as he can ever remember. Last year there were a lot of 13-inch fish at this time, but now they are all grown up to a very nice 17-19 inch range. The pattern is highly related to the tide, and at the end of the incoming and beginning of the outcoming there is a great bite out at the jetties – even though slack water is slow. On middle to lower tides the bite in the creeks is good deep off of oyster beds.   

The easiest way to catch them is with live shrimp fished under a cork, but since the fish are fairly deep a slip bobber is working better than a rattling cork. A size 4 treble hook is getting much better hooksets. 

However, the biggest fish seem to be coming on artificial lures. Mirrolures and grubs have both been working well, cast or trolled. A suspended X-Rap is also working really well.

Just another day with Captain J. Baisch

The bull redfish are gone, but lots of smaller fish are mixed in with the trout. Black drumhave also been biting extremely well at the tip of the jetties as well as in the creeks on cut shrimp. With the pinfish gone they are much more fun to fish for.  There are also plenty of sheepshead around, and tautogare also beginning to show up.

There are still some nice flounder around in the creeks but the numbers are starting to thin out. The good news is that, while there are still some small fish, a high percentage of the remaining flounder caught have been large. A 6-pound fish was caught this week.

 

November 1

Water temperatures have remains in the low to mid-70s in Murrells Inlet. Shrimp and mullet are still prolific. Baisch Boys Bait and Tackle (843-651-1915) has regular and jumbo mud minnows, live shrimp, live fiddler crabs, live finger mullet, live pinfish, salt clam, and salt sand fleas as well as a full range of frozen baits. 

Water temperatures are finally beginning to drop, but already Captain J Baisch (843-902-0356) reports that troutfishing is getting stronger on the Grand Strand. Since pinfish are still abundant fishing live shrimp in the creeks can be a nuisance, and so suspending jerkbaits and grubs have both been working pretty well. As the bait stealers migrate away then floating shrimp under a cork will become the premier pattern. 

The best places to catch trout are over oyster shells covered with water on higher tides. 

The action for slot-sized redfish has picked up, with mullet the best bait for catching them. Fish are around oyster beds and areas where gutter creeks drain the marsh.

There are also bull reds to be caught off the beaches. 

With persistent northeast winds recently, muddy water conditions have lent themselves to black drum fishing, and at the tip of the jetties the bite remains very good. They have also been eating well at low tide inside the creeks on shrimp fished in deep holes and around structure. 

Inshore flounder fishing continues to be just so-so.

 

October 18

Water temperatures have dropped into the low to mid-70s in Murrells Inlet. Shrimp and mullet are still prolific. Baisch Boys Bait and Tackle (843-651-1915) has regular and jumbo mud minnows, live shrimp, live fiddler crabs, live finger mullet, live pinfish, salt clam, and salt sand fleas as well as a full range of frozen baits. 

As would be expected in October, Captain J Baisch (843-902-0356) reports that fishing is picking up on the Grand Strand. There have been some good trout catches inside the creeks early on surface lures, and when the sun comes up artificial lure anglers are switching over to suspending jerkbaits. Right now fish are on a better mullet than shrimp bite.

The best places to catch trout are over oyster shells covered with water on higher tides. 

There are quite a few rat redfish around in the creeks, and there are also some fish over 27 inches. However, there are not a lot of fish in the slot. With pinfish still around fishing live mullet is the best bet. Fish are around oyster beds and areas where gutter creeks drain the marsh.

On windy, muddy days the black drum fishing at the tip of the jetties has been fantastic. Black drum feed best in low light conditions so they like muddy water, which also means they can be caught really well at night (when a lot of the shrimp bait stealers are hiding from predators). 

Inshore flounder fishing has been off.

A few hundred yards off the beaches around hard bottom areas in 15-20 feet, bull red drum, weakfish and big whiting can be caught. Today Captain J caught about 17 whiting up to two pounds, 20 or 30 weakfish (you can only keep one per person), and several bull reds. They will all take pieces of cut mullet.

Through Thanksgiving there is the potential for king mackerel to be caught, but they just have not been around. To the north and south the fishing has been good.

 

September 30

With no significant cooling water temperatures are still very warm in Murrells Inlet. Shrimp and mullet are still prolific, and the mullet run remains the biggest in years. Baisch Boys Bait and Tackle (843-651-1915) has regular and jumbo mud minnows, live shrimp, live fiddler crabs, live finger mullet, live pinfish, salt clam, and salt sand fleas as well as a full range of frozen baits. 

Even though air and water temperatures have yet to really drop fishing has picked up on the south end of the Grand Strand, and Captain J Baisch (843-902-0356) reports that catches of flounder, redfish and trout have signficantly improved. It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that more fish have been caught inshore in the last week than in the previous few months! However, the flounder have been a little on the small side with a fairly low keeper ratio. With finger mullet still so abundant it’s hard to beat mullet on a Carolina rig for most species. 

In the surf pompano, whiting and black drumare still being caught, while catches of redfish appear to have slowed down off the beaches. Bluefishhave not been as thick as could be expected with this many mullet around, but they should be coming.

There are still some bull reds being caught at the jetties but the numbers haven’t quite arrived yet.   

Nearshore there are a lot of flounder being caught out at the 3-Mile, and Spanish mackerel are around close to the beaches and at the jetties. However, while there are always some fish busting they don’t seem to be in huge schools. And with so much bait around they are a little selective.

This should be a prime king mackerel time but right now the action is a little spotty.  

 

September 20

After two recent storms the water inside the Murrells Inlet jetties is warm and muddy. Shrimp are prolific but the September mullet run is noteworthy as one of the biggest in years; it should continue for some time. Baisch Boys Bait and Tackle (843-651-1915) has regular and jumbo mud minnows, live shrimp, live fiddler crabs, live finger mullet, live pinfish, salt clam, and salt sand fleas as well as a full range of frozen baits. 

Shortly after Dorian left the waters on the south end of the Grand Strand got pummeled by another offshore storm, and the net result is that a lot of new water has come into the inlets but it is very dirty. What is clear is that the big reds have started to show up, with some fish over the slot being caught at the jetties and some bull drum being caught off the live bottom areas in 15-22 feet off Surfside Beach. Cut mullet are working well.

The floundercatch has been okay but not exceptional since the storms, and there have been some good days and some not-so-good days for trout. One angler caught six nice keeper-sized fishing trolling paddletail grubs in Murrells Inlet, but the next two days only caught one or two.

In the surf bluefish and whiting are being caught, and if the water ever clears before it gets cold some pompano should show up again. 

 

September 13

Inshore water temperatures inside the Murrells Inlet jetties are around 84 degrees. There are plenty of shrimp back in the creeks after storm, and the mullet migration is well underway, including the big roe mullet. Baisch Boys Bait and Tackle(843-651-1915) has regular and jumbo mud minnows, live shrimp, live fiddler crabs, live finger mullet, live pinfish, salt clam, and salt sand fleas as well as a full range of frozen baits. 

The first pretty, clean water since the storm finally arrived again yesterday. 

Post-Dorian the fishing has gotten better on the south end of the Grand Strand, and

Captain J Baisch (843-902-0356) reports that perhaps the most exciting development is that the big bull reds have started to show up. They can be found in live bottom areas just off the beaches in 20-30 feet of water, and they will take cut mullet or most any other cut bait. 

Weakfishcan be found in the same areas as the bull reds, and they also eat the same cut mullet. The key to catching both species is their excellent senses of smell, and Captain J advises dropping multiple lines straight down to draw the fish in rather than fan-casting all around the boat. 

Inshore there are also a pile of small redfish to be caught, from the creeks to the jetties. The freshwater inflow after the storm has also pushed a ton of redfish into the ocean from the inlets, and they are right in the surf. Two days after the storm there were redfish at the tip of the north Murrells Inlet jetty, but they seem to have left (perhaps temporarily) now. 

Some better trouthave just started to be picked up inshore, and in the early morning casting surface lures has generated some nice blow-ups from good fish. There have also been some better flounder caught trolling live finger mullet or mud minnows again. 

In the surf there have been waves ofbluefish around as well aswhiting and somepompano. There have also been sometarpon feeding on the big roe mullet, although targeting them can be unpredictable. 

 

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