Grand Strand Fishing Report June-July 2021
Mike Marsh’s book, Fishing North Carolina, shares his best-kept secrets for fishing 100 lakes, rivers, ponds, sounds and piers.
Fishing North Carolina ($26.60),
Inshore Angler – Carolina’s Small Boat Fishing Guide ($26.20),
Offshore Angler – Coastal Carolina’s Mackerel Boat Fishing Guide ($22.25)
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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 his boats would be running wide open, catching all available sportfish species from the inlets on out to the Gulf Stream.
"Everyone heading out on our offshore bottom fishing trips will their coolers with catches of nice bottom fish," he said. "We will be catching red porgy and jolthead porgy, ringtails, gray triggerfish, queen triggerfish, beeliners, black sea bass, rudderfish and white grunts."
Grouper season is open and anglers who hit the offshore live bottoms and ledges will catch them. They are big fish that fight hard and offer some of the best eating in the Atlantic Ocean. Anglers can easily catch the most common species, including red, gag and scamp grouper. Some of the less common species that will bite a hook are yellowmouth, yellowfin and black grouper, rock and red hind, and hog snapper. Red snapper season should open July 9 if it opens as scheduled.
Inshore and offshore trolling action will also be excellent. Anglers can book half-day trolling trips aboard the Starship to fish for Spanish mackerel, bluefish and sharks. For all-day trips, the best fishing will be for king mackerel, which form dense schools at The Jungle, 65-foot Hole, Shark Hole and Atlantic Ledge. Cobia will strike cigar minnows and live baits trolled for kings. They will also strike live baits drifted off the transom on light lines during the bottom fishing trips. If a live bait rod goes off, the mate will hand it to the closest kid. Therefore, if you have any young anglers along, make sure they sit near one of the transom corners.
Out in the Gulf Stream, big game anglers aboard the Starship will be trolling for mahi, sailfish, wahoo, blackfin tuna and yellowfin tuna. A blue or white marlin may also strike a trolling lure or strip bait. These big game species will be at the 100/400 line, Blackjack, Raritan and Steeples. To be successful, Gulf Stream anglers must find the right water temperature, which is between 74 and 78 degrees. They must also locate the correct water color for big game fishing, which is deep blue or purple, not bright “king” green, where king mackerel will be swimming.
Apache Pier, Myrtle Beach
Calvin Dickerson (Apache Pier, 843-497-6486) said the fantastic flounder action would draw anglers to the pier.
"We get a lot of people fishing for flounder in June," he said. "That's when the big ones arrive. When they get here, they bite all summer long. The best bait is a live mud minnow."
The sheepshead bite will be excellent by the time the water heats up around the end of June. King mackerel fishing will fire up at the end of the pier. Bluefish and Spanish mackerel will continue to make a strong showing after arriving earlier in the year. Other species that should give any angler a good excuse to head to the pier include red drum, black drum, pompano and whiting. Dickerson called whiting the pier's "year-round fish" because they will bite anytime, even during cold or hot weather and in the wind and rain.
Pier anglers will be casting Mackerel Trees, Got-cha lures and jigging spoons to catch some of the nicest Spanish mackerel and bluefish of the year. When the fish are schooling on top near the pier, anglers can use jigs and hard plastic lures to catch them. The best times to fish for Spanish mackerel and bluefish are early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
Anglers use trolley rigs to catch king mackerel, but Spanish mackerel and bluefish will also strike live baits fished on king rigs. There are many variations of a trolley rig, but it requires two rods – a fight rod and an anchor rod. The live bait slides to the water on the line of the anchor rod, which holds it in place. The best baits for king mackerel are bluefish and pinfish and a live bait tank is located at the end of the pier.
Shrimp is the universal bait for most of the bottom fish species. However, anglers will have good luck by using cut fish as well. Sheepshead and black drum will also bite fiddler crabs, sand fleas and barnacles fished beside the pier pilings. Besides live mud minnows, flounder will also strike frozen finger mullet and frozen mud minnows as well as shrimp, squid and various jigs with plastic or scented trailers.
The pier sells live mud minnows, night crawlers, red worms and blood worms. Also available from the pier house are frozen mullet, sand fleas and squid and artificial strips. Fish Bites shrimp and bloodworm scented strips, as well as strips in other flavors and colors, are growing in popularity because they are convenient and work well for catching many species.
The Grand Strand Rodeo King Mackerel Rodeo will be hosted June 5-6 at Apache, Springmaid, Cherry Grove and Myrtle Grove State Park piers.
Springmaid Pier, Myrtle Beach
After having been closed for four years in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, Springmaid Pier (843-315-7156) reopened last summer. The pier is its original length of 1,068 feet, but some changes are still ongoing. It costs $3 to walk the pier and $12 to fish with two rods. Pier Master Lucas Unger said fish are always biting at the pier.
"Flounder will be coming in and there will be some good-sized ones caught," he said. "The flounder best bait is a finger mullet and anglers catch them 200 yards north of the pier in an area called The Swash. They catch them with cast nets and bring them to the pier in aerated bait buckets. Mud minnows and live shrimp also work for catching flounder."
King mackerel will skyrocket in June. While the pier has no dedicated area at the end for king mackerel fishing or a live bait tank, anglers can hang live bait buckets from the rail. King fishermen must bring their own rod holders for their anchor rods and fight rods.
Spanish and blues will swarm full force. Mackerel Trees and soda straw rigs are the mainstay rigs of anglers dedicated to catching these schooling fish. Sunrise and sunset are the best times to catch them.
As the water temperatures increase, the other bottom fish will perk up. The pier had already seen some huge pompano bouncing on the deck in May. Whiting, red drum and black drum will be striking squid, frozen shrimp and cut baits.
Sheepshead anglers rely on barnacle bundles. Scraped from seawalls and pilings, the barnacles are wound with thread or surrounded with fabric cut from pantyhose and held on the hook with small elastic hair bands.
When the menhaden and mullet schools arrive, in addition to king mackerel the sharks, cobia and tarpon will be following them. While tarpon can't be landed on the pier, anglers who hook them can walk their rods to the pier house, down to the beach and release them in the surf. Most of the tarpon are hooked by anglers casting big big-lipped Rapala X-Raps for Spanish mackerel, but anglers who fish with live baits on king mackerel trolley rigs hook them as well.
The tackle shop expanded its offerings and is now a full-service, one-stop tackle bazaar. Unger said that fishermen never need to stop anywhere else to shop before they walk out on the pier. If they lose, break or forget anything for catching fish, replacements are readily available at the tackle shop. The bait supply has also been expanded until it includes salt clams, sand fleas (mole crabs), mullet, squid, shrimp, blood worms and Fish Bites artificial strips. While the pier does not sell live shrimp, anglers can buy aerated buckets and carry them onto the pier after catching them or buying them from other sources.
Capt. Jay Baisch (Fishfull Thinking Guide Service, 843-902-0356 and Baisch Boys Bait and Tackle, 843-651-1915) said there's nothing sheepish about summer sheepshead fishing.
"The sheepshead will come back to the jetties where they hit barnacles and fiddler crabs fished on bottom rigs," he said. "Black drum will also bite sheepshead rigs."
Spanish mackerel will swarm the tips of the jetties and nearshore reefs in June and anglers who troll spoons will catch plenty of them. Cobia will lurk in the same areas and will strike live baits and jigs.
The ledges and artificial reefs will attract king mackerel. Slow trolling with live baits and frozen cigar minnows on light tackle rigs is the way to catch them. Kings will also hit trolled Drone spoons.
Flounder fishermen will catch flatfish by using live baits and jigs at the inlet jetties and in the backwaters as well at the nearshore artificial reefs and ledges. Red drum will bite live mullet at the jetties and in the creeks.
Offshore bottom fishing will be excellent with the red snapper season scheduled to open July 9.
CAPT. MIKE McDONALD, GUL-R-BOY GUIDE SERVICE
Capt. Mike McDonald (Gul-R-Boy Guide Service, 843-546-3625) said that inshore big game fish will fill anglers' bucket lists by July.
"Some of the biggest tarpon will move into the bay in July," he said. "The best way to catch them is by spreading your baits. Live menhaden, mullet or other fish will work. I set out baits on two float rigs and two bottom rigs and anchor the boat in a good location, which is I have seen tarpon moving, where I have caught them before or along the channels and bars where they travel and feed."
Big channel bass (adult red drum) arrive at the jetties in July before they move into the bay to spawn in August. They strike the same live baits as tarpon, fished on the bottom in the deeper channels.
Puppy drum and speckled trout will be swimming in the shallow water areas in July where they will go crazy over topwater walk-the-dog lure. Zara Spooks and Skitter Walks are among the best because they are easy to use. These fish also strike live shrimp on rattle float and popping cork rigs. Flounder will hit live shrimp and mullet and soft plastic lures fished on bottom rigs and float rigs.
To catch smaller red drum without deep-hooking them, angles should fish with a downsized Owen Lupton rig baited with a mud minnow or mullet. The rig also won't 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.
Anglers should use jigs weighing 1/4-ounce or less with soft plastic trailers to keep them above the oyster beds. The best soft plastic grubs for catching trout, redfish and flounder are Berkley Gulp Shrimp, Bass Assassin, Haw River and D.O.A.