Saltwater anglers looking for something a little different are finding a hot flounder bite in saltwater ponds along the southern portion of the Grand Strand. A variety of fish find their way into these waters, most of which are man-made drainage ponds with one or two culverts that allow the water to flow freely in and out with the tide. This kind of fishing gives shore-bound anglers access to some trophy-sized fish.
Paul Dunagan of Murrells Inlet has been fishing these pounds for 20 years, and he said some big flounder are currently biting, among other fish. Dunagan said he sees a lot of novice anglers make the mistake of using weights that are bigger than necessary.
"Anglers don't have to worry about current in these ponds, so all you really need is a ¼-ounce weight," said Dunagan, who uses that size weight on Carolina rigs with 15-pound test line, which allows fishermen to feel the lightest of bites while limiting the amount of resistance the flounder can feel.
Dunagan starts by catching baitfish with a cast net at low tide. For flounder, he prefers mullet and mud minnows, and he threads a size 2/0 hook through the minnow's lips on a 12- to 15-inch leader. A swivel and the ¼-ounce weight complete the terminal tackle. Dunagan said while many anglers cast as far as they can, then slowly reel in hoping for a flounder bite, he takes a different approach. "I cast my bait around the sea walls, and rather than reeling, sometimes I will walk along the wall, dragging my bait slowly. Other times I reel in, but I always keep it near the sea walls. The flounder hunker down in pockets and lay there looking for baitfish to ambush," he said.
Dunagan said the best bite typically happens on the rising tide and throughout the high water.
"When the tide rushes in, whirlpools are formed just in front of the culverts,” he said. “Baitfish get swirled around in this whirlpool, and big fish move in for an easy meal. I'll cast right into those whirlpools and let the bait settle. This often draws a strike, but when it doesn't, I will slowly reel it in, then cast again into the whirlpools. Once it's high tide, the whirlpools disappear and I just go back to casting near the sea walls and slowly work the bait back."
Most folks are surprised at the size of fish in the ponds, but Dunagan isn't one of them. He knows first-hand that these fish are as big as anglers will find in area creeks, rivers and lagoons. A flounder he recently caught in a Pawleys Island pond measured 27 inches and weighed more than 12 pounds. He said anglers who overlook these ponds are passing up some of the best fishing along the Grand Strand.