Look for the flounder numbers to start increasing over the next couple weeks as waters start to warm up and watch for the “snot” grass to start floating finally. Concentrate on areas that the water will warm quicker and that will have warm water flowing through during the tide changes. Mud Minnows and artificial baits such as Vuduu Shrimp and various plastic baits on jig heads like the Organized Chaos jigs will entice all the bites you want right now. Also, look for schools of reds in these same locations as they start to move out of the backs of the estuaries looking for a meal. Fresh or frozen shrimp as well as quartered blue crabs are great baits right now and will entice the nose of a hungry red or black drum. In Little River area right now the Speckled Trout are concentrated in the ICW and live shrimp under a cork can land you in a very active bite when you find these large schools of fish located along the banks and around structure.
Its time to head to the nearshore reefs with your fiddlers and fresh shrimp to get in on the incredible bite right now of Black Drum and Sheepshead. Target structure in the 35 to 45ft depth and be prepared to move around until you locate these fish in very large numbers up through April. Also, be sure to have your #1 planers rigged and ready with Clark and Drone spoons to get the kids in on the excitement as the first run of the blues and Spanish Mackerel start to show up on the reefs as well. Try to keep your speed between 4 and 5mph for the best results and get ready to do a lot of work filling up the coolers.
The winds have been harsh to say the least, but the catches are great of Blackfin Tuna and Wahoo for those that make it to the break. Be sure to get a surface temp report and go find the warmest water near the break for the best results. High Speed for the wahoo has been exceptional and producing large fish as well as the best numbers. Be sure to try small baits and fluoro for your best chance at tuna this time of the year.
The rivers along the Grand Strand have been at a great level for some time now and the fishing is on fire. Panfish such as Bream and Shellcrackers can be found in the backs of creeks off the main river and are going to be concentrated on structure for the next month or so. Crickets, worms, and artificial baits will produce some great numbers for next several months as each full moon will bring the fish to the spawning areas.
Bass are starting to move up and off of the beds and now is the time to catch that big girl feeding before or after she lays those eggs. Bed fishing can be great and use any artificial that will get that fish just mad enough to protect those frye and to jump on your line. You can find plenty of fish at the entrance areas to the spawning grounds and working a crank bait, spinner, or a worm will out plenty of bend in the end of your rod. Don’t over look the ricefields right now as many fish try to get in their to spawn and the many ditches leading in can be full of both males and female waiting to move up.
Catfish are going to be best at night and live baits and cut eels will produce on most limbs that are located near some good bottom structure that will be holding bream and other panfish. The bite with rod n reels may not be the best right now but heading into the areas around the rice fields with shrimp and worms can put a nice cooler full of dinner in the boat.
Crappie are going to be found on top of structure in 6 to 15ft of water and trolling beetle spins right now can help you locate the numbers. Switch to live bait after that and get some crappie minnows down on jigs to produce the best numbers along the Waccamaw River.
The most important and enjoyable part of this recipe is to get out and enjoy some great battles with two of the hardest fighting species in our estuaries. I like to filet my drum and leave the skin and the scales on. There are a number of reasons I choose this but I am a lazy fish cleaner and would rather fillet and get a nice clean piece of meat and I hate to descale fish. That being said the most important reason I leave the skin and scales on my drum is that in my experience and enjoyment of cooking these tasty fish on the grill, the fat layer just inside the skin is a source for incredible flavor. After creating my rub for my seasoning which includes some Redfish Magic and some brown sugar and a pinch of salt and pepper. I then coat my filets very generously with the rub and let them sit in the fridge for an hour or so and let it harden a bit. I then pull them out and prepare my Wilmington Grill at about 380 degrees to 400 and place them skin side down. One of the most important steps to this and I think exactly why that layer of fat (Omega 3) cooks into the meat perfectly at the same time that 2 or 3, 1/2 teaspoons of butter placed on top of the fillet melts. I basically let the butter tell me when my fish is done. I can take a spatula and the meat will normally separate perfectly from the skin and its time to cook some pasta or rice and chow down. I started with the brown sugar to see if I could increase the interest of my kids in fish and they jumped in head first. Give this recipe a try this spring and get some scales on your Wilmington Grill.
- 6 to 70z filets of Drum or Sheepshead
- Redfish Magic
- Brown Sugar