This week’s break in the cold weather has been just what the doctor ordered for two Murrells Inlet charter captains, who have been putting beat-downs on some bottomfish just a few miles off the beach.
From redfish and black sea bass to a few colossal-sized tautog and black drum, Dan Connolly of Offishial Expeditions (843-241-7022) and Matt Bellamy of Dirty Boat Charters (843-568-8203) have had a number of good trips.
“Since the inshore fishing was so slow, we moved to the nearshore reefs to find some action,” Connolly said. “Basically, any bottomfish that is out there is pretty hungry right now.”
Connolly has been targeting the reefs close to shore, including the Paradise Reef 3 miles out to the 10-Mile Reef, and most of the reefs and livebottom areas out of Murrells Inlet are holding bottomfish.
“A high diversity of fish species is covering up the reefs within 10 miles of shore. Or you can go deeper and find plenty of other fish to catch, including some keeper-sized black sea bass in 60 to 80 feet of water too,” Connolly said.
Since these fish are practically starving, a wide variety of bait options will bring fish to the boat.
“A chunk of shrimp will get them all, but cut squid and even Gulp baits will work well too,” he said.
A very simple bottom rig is all that is needed. Connolly uses his own hand-tied rigs consisting of two 12-inch dropper loops made of 30-pound monofilament, two red 3/0 circle hooks, and enough weight to keep the baits anchored to the bottom in the strike zone.
For Connolly, positioning hid boat right on top of the strike zone is a critical component to his success.
“We fish artificial reefs and unmarked livebottom all the time, and you must position the boat right on top of the structure to get any bites. Even if it takes half an hour to get the boat anchored correctly, we will get it right before we ever make our first drop,” he said.
Connelly said these reefs and livebottoms should continue to produce good catches for at least another month, and in a few weeks, big flounder will start showing up as well.