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Fishing is certainly feeling like fall, with lowering water temperatures and worries about hurricanes seemingly every week. Post Hurricane Irene, the inshore saltwater fishing in Brunswick County has gotten much better.
Redfish, flounder, pompano, bluefish and Spanish mackerel are being caught—not in fall numbers yet but in good early September action.
The best news is the big red drum have shown up at the Little River jetties on time. This is usually a September fishery. It is hard to call these fish redfish, they are more like the channel bass caught in the winter at the Outer Banks. Red drum 40 inches and up are caught this time of the year in northern South Carolina.
Heavy tackle is needed for these red drum, both to land them and because you don’t want to use light tackle because it tires the drum and this is a catch-and-release only fishery. If you have never chartered with a fishing guide, this is the month for a big red drum experience in Brunswick County (really Little River, S.C., but the guides from here and from Myrtle Beach, S.C., all meet in the middle to catch these fish). We don’t have these big ‘channel bass’ all year, so now is the time.
Inshore, the smaller reds (you can call these fish redfish, or spot-tail bass) are hitting in the creeks and shallows, running the tide and gorging on the finger mullet and blue crabs. Finger mullet on a fishfinder rig is a spot-on live bait. Gulp shrimp and shad bodies on lead heads work really well for these fish, too. I love to use Fishbites scented paddletails on this size of redfish.
Fish the last few hours of low tide and the first few of the rising tide. The only bad fishing time for these redfish is the few hours of high tide, when mullet and crabs are really dispersed and the spot-tails stop feeding.
Flounder are also being caught in decent numbers for the trollers, drifters and those anchoring up near structures. Big flounder are out there.
The piers have gotten some fat ones, too. Finger mullet or mud minnows on the bottom are perfect now; inshore, you can catch them on Gulp and Fishbites scented soft baits.
If you are passing up the Intracoastal Waterway docks as you speed by them now, you are making a mistake. Schools of finger mullet are running around the docks in the shallows and blue crabs are gathered there. That makes them prime flounder and redfish territory right now. Some of the biggest flounder of the season are waiting under those lonely-looking docks.
The surf has some nice pompano. You should fish for them with sand fleas while sand fleas are still around. Otherwise, use fresh cut shrimp. Remember the gold hooks. Big pompano will even hit small gold spoons and shiny small Gotcha plugs.
There are also some bluefish and Spanish mackerel nearshore and off the beach. They are running at the piers occasionally, very unpredictable and not in great numbers yet. If you are pier fishing, it is hard to beat a redheaded Gotcha for the blues and a gold hook rig for Spanish.
This is mostly an early morning fishery at the piers now; by about 9 a.m., the bite really is gone. The big disappointment seems a lack of speckled trout. Hopefully, the bite will increase as the water cools. The winter kill last year might have done more damage than we thought.
Some sheepshead are being caught around inshore structures and black drum hit at the same places at night. There have been a few silver spot on the piers and no ‘yellow-bellies.’ We’ll all be watching for them in the coming weeks.
Also my new book, “Surf and Inshore Saltwater Fishing in the Carolinas,” has just been released. You can find it on Amazon.com by searching “jeffrey weeks fishing.” Very comprehensive book about Carolina inshore fishing and well- priced as well. A few tips and stories are in there that have not made the columns or reports.
If hurricanes stay away, this week is the time to start fall saltwater fishing.