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Who needs a calendar?

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By Barrett McMullan

I open this week’s report with a reminder to watch “No Limits Fishing,” co-hosted by Capt. Brant McMullan and me, on ATMC-TV. The show is broadcast 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. It is viewable anytime at On Demand.
This is a show that highlights fishing adventures and reports from the Brunswick County coast. We are a few months into filming the show now and we are steadily learning new things about what does and doesn’t work on film. It certainly adds a new element into the fishing game when you work not only to catch fish but also to get the right shot.
Without looking at a calendar, I can feel summer winding down. While it’s not quite to the level of Jimmy Buffett’s “The Coast Is Clear,” the tourist crowds are thinning out, the sky is a deeper blue looking slightly tropical and, yes, we are already seeing/feeling the first cold fronts. I know everybody loves summer, but for me this is the time of year I look forward to the most. I’m not saying it’s fall yet, but I’m starting to think about it. Truthfully, a fisherman could probably function pretty well without a calendar. Every year the pattern is the same, more or less. So with that in mind, what is happening on the water, why and what’s next?
Late August into September on the inshore scene means an abundance of bait. Shrimp are in the creeks but the big deal is the biomass of mullet minnows traveling the waterways. The mullet schools will continue to grow over the coming weeks and with every cold front massive schools of mullet will migrate right along the beachfront or in the waterways. This in turn attracts the predator fish.
Flounder and redfish action this time of year is excellent. They are feeding on all the baitfish in the inshore waters. The flounder are also thick on the nearshore reefs.
This past week many local fishermen took advantage of the good weather and headed to spots like the Jolly Mon reef and the Little River, S.C., inshore reef and hammered the flounder. These reef flounder are typically larger on average and are usually holding in groups in a very specific place on the reef. Fishing mullet minnows on Carolina rigs from an anchored boat is the tactic of choice. The key is finding that exact spot where they are lying.
The midrange depths of 65 to 85 feet are hit or miss this time of year. Kings, mahi-mahi and sailfish are in the area but their exact locations are more difficult to predict. There are many theories on what these fish are doing this time of year, but for every theory I can show you an exception. What is a fact is that in a month’s time, the king mackerel will storm the beaches on their annual migration. For now, trolling live baits over structure in this range will produce.
To what level? That’s why they call it fishing.
Offshore fishing is the new game this week. Summer is usually a pretty slow time to fish the Gulf Stream or the “break” out of this area. That pattern is broken normally in late August and into September by the resurgence of the wahoo. And right on cue, the wahoo showed up in a big way this week. Fishermen had great catches of wahoo up and down the break at areas like the Blackjack Hole and Wynyah Scarp this week. Trolling ballyhoo behind lure heads at 6 to 8 mph is the method most commonly used to catch wahoo and is very effective. The wahoo fishing only will continue to improve really all the way through November. Finding bait pods over structure is the key to getting on the best action.
In a way, fishing is once again in transition as we start to move into the fall patterns. Summer fishing is not over, but things are happening. I can already smell Carolina Treet sauce and a barbecue loaded with fresh mullets. It’s coming.

Barrett McMullan, a two-time winner of the SKA national championship, is a charter captain and fishing columnist for the Beacon. Reach him at captbarrett@oifc.com.