Grand Strand Fishing Report October-December 2020
Mike Marsh’s book, Fishing North Carolina, shares his best-kept secrets for fishing 100 lakes, rivers, ponds, sounds and piers.
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What to expect when you head out to fish the Grand Strand over the next few weeks. Get a clue from noted outdoor writer Mike Marsh.
Capt. Larry Horowitz (Voyager Deep Sea Fishing and Dolphin Cruises, 843-626-4900) said the fishing in October is excellent from the inlets all the way out to the Gulf Stream.
"October is one of our best months," he said. "The water gets cooler and fishing for groupers, beeliners, snappers, triggerfish, jacks and African pompano is fantastic during our all-day bottom fishing trips. If you want to take a half-day trip, you will be catching some sea bass, porgies, ringtails, grunts and many other good eating fish after heading out only 5 or 10 miles."
For anglers who want to troll in the cobalt blue of the Gulf Stream, the fishing will be excellent for meat fish and big game fish all along the continental break. The Steeples is a good place to troll.
"Our boats will be catching lots of wahoo, tuna and mahi, blue and white marlin and sailfish," he said. "If you want to take a half-day trolling trip, the fishing for king mackerel and Spanish mackerel will be on fire at the 65-foot Hole, The Jungle and all of the other places that have good live bottoms."
The Super Voyager heads offshore every Friday at 9 p.m. for an overnight bottom-fishing trip while the Continental Shelf runs 13-hour bottom-fishing trips every Tuesday and Saturday. The Starship rotates with the party boats to run half-day near shore bottom fishing trips when it is not heading offshore for a trolling trip. The full fishing schedule is available at www.voyagersportfishingcharters.com.
Apache Pier, Myrtle Beach
Calvin Dickerson (Apache Pier, 843-497-6486) said the fall fishing turns on in October.
“The fishing will be good for sheepshead, whiting, spots, croakers, flounder, pompano, bluefish king mackerel and Spanish mackerel,” he said. “As the water cools down, we should see some of everything, with October a really great month for red drum.”
Sheepshead will bite fiddler crabs fished near the pilings. Red drum and pompano will bite shrimp and mole crabs fished in the surf. Flounder will strike mud minnows fished anywhere along the pier. A good run of spots and croakers should occur in September or early October if conditions are right. These small bottom fish eat bloodworms, shrimp and Fish Bites artificial strips.
Pier anglers who want to catch Spanish mackerel and bluefish should cast Mackerel Trees, Got-cha lures and jigging spoons. When the fish are close to the pier, anglers can jig spoons and lures up and down rather than making long casts, preventing tangles with other anglers’ lines. The best time to fish for these schooling fish is early in the morning or late in the afternoon when they are leaping all around the end of the pier.
To catch kings and the bigger Spanish mackerel, pier anglers use trolley rigs to slide live baitfish down to the water and hold them in place. The best baits for king mackerel and big Spanish mackerel are bluefish and pinfish.
The pier sells live mud minnows, night crawlers, red worms and blood worms. Also available from the pier house are frozen mullet and squid. Fish Bites shrimp and bloodworm strips as well as other flavors and colors are also available.
The Grand Stand King Mackerel Rodeo on Sept. 19-20 is hosted by Apache Pier, Myrtle Beach State Park Pier, Springmaid Pier and Cherry Grove Pier. On October 3, Apache Pier will hold the Third Annual Ashley Turner King Mackerel Tournament.
Springmaid Pier, Myrtle Beach
After nearly four years of closure due to destruction by Hurricane Matthew, Springmaid Pier (843-315-7156) reopened on July 3. It was rebuilt to its original length of 1,068 feet. It now costs $3 to walk the pier and $12 to fish with two rods according to the Pier Master, Lucas Unger.
“Our flounder fishing has been incredible all summer long and that should continue into the fall,” he said. “Anglers catch live mullet for flounder bait and bring them to the pier in aerated live bait buckets.”
The pier no longer has a live bait tank for king mackerel fishermen and the end of the pier is no longer reserved for the sole use of king mackerel fishermen. The king mackerel club is also a thing of the past. Therefore, bottom fishermen and king mackerel fishermen will have to be respectful of one another to avoid tangled lines when a big king mackerel is on the hook. Using cast nets to catch mullet and greenbacks for king mackerel bait is allowed. But most king fishermen will be using bluefish, pinfish and other small bottomfish they can catch with a spinning rig.
The Spanish mackerel and bluefish will swarm the pier in October. Spots, croakers, whiting, red drum, black drum and speckled trout will bite well as the water cools down.
The pier sells pier sells frozen mullet, squid and shrimp. Bottomfish anglers will not have any bloodworms this fall due to a shortage. Therefore, the best substitute bait for spots and other small bottom fish will be Fish Bites artificial strips.
Capt. Jay Baisch (Fishfull Thinking Guide Service, 843-902-0356 and Baisch Boys Bait and Tackle, 843-651-1915) said fishing in October fishing can be as successful as spring fishing.
"The mullet run is the key,” he said. “Everything following the mullet schools so great game fish are swimming everywhere."
Anglers should catch live mullet in cast nets to use as bait and fish them on bottom rigs for flounder and red drum at the base of the inlet’s jetties. Sheepshead and black drum will bite live fiddler crabs fished on the bottom of the jetties as well.
Trout will strike live mullet and shrimp fished on float rigs at the jetties as well as on the oyster beds in the creeks. Other good bets for trout include topwater lures and soft plastics on light jig heads.
In October and November, Spanish mackerel and bluefish will be schooling inside and outside the inlet as well as at the near shore reefs and along the beach. Trolling with Clarkspoons or casting weighted spoons, jigs and other small lures are the best methods for catching blues and Spanish.
King mackerel and big Spanish mackerel will be biting at the Belkie Bear Reef, Myrtle Beach Rock, Paradise Reef and Pawley's Reef. Slow trolling or drifting with live menhaden fished will catch these speedy game fish. The bite tapers off as the water turns cold in December.
At the offshore ledges and reefs, fishing for sea bass and other bottom fish will be great. The best places to fish are live bottoms and reefs in 70 to 100 feet of water. Sea bass will bite into December, as long as the water temperature doesn't get too cold.
CAPT. MIKE McDONALD, GUL-R-BOY GUIDE SERVICE
Capt. Mike McDonald (Gul-R-Boy Guide Service, 843-546-3625) said the red drum bite will be excellent.
“We will be fishing for spot-tails with cut baits and live mud minnows or mullet on bottom rigs and float rigs. Topwater lures will work well until the first of December when the water chills to less than 65 degrees.”
To catch smaller red drum without deep-hooking them, McDonald uses a downsized Owen Lupton rig baited with a mud minnow or mullet. It will not tangle in the swirling currents. The rig is a 1/0 circle hook with a 4-inch, 30-pound test leader and a half-ounce sinker.
Speckled trout will hit live shrimp and mullet fished on float rigs. If live baits are scarce, Berkley Gulp Shrimp are great substitutes. Jigs with soft plastic grub tails and topwater lures are excellent choices. To really wake them up when they are finicky, a hard jerkbait such as the Rapala Clackin’ Minnow is a good option. When the water is calm, topwater lures like Zara Spooks and Skitter Walks are great because they are easy for anyone to fish.
Flounder will bite live mullet fished on bottom rigs and float rigs. They will also hit soft plastic grubs and Berkley Gulp Shrimp. The best places to float fish are shell banks. The best places for using bottom rigs are jetties and creek mouths.
Black drum will hit cut shrimp fished on float rigs and bottom rigs. The best places to catch them are oyster beds and marsh flats covered with grass. In wintertime, they head for the warmer, deeper water in the upper ends of the creeks.