Ask Steve Chanilo of Murrells Inlet Outpost what he’s fishing for this month, and he’ll sound like a broken record. That’s because he believes in the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” approach. What worked in December last year, and the year before that is working again this year, and that is catching trout along the jetties.
“This month, the trout stay tight to the rock jetties and just school back and forth up and down the rocks, looking for baitfish. You might catch several in a 10-minute period, then it will cool off for a few minutes, but before you know it, they are biting again,” said Chanilo (843-651-6602).
The best thing about this kind of fishing, he said, is that anglers don’t even need a boat and don’t need to invest a lot of time in catching a limit of specks. They can be reached by wading fishermen.
“I have the best luck in the late afternoons, and while I prefer the tide to be moving, it’s not that critical. The trout are at the jetties. They will stick around them all month,” he said.
Chanilo suggests anglers wear a good pair of neoprene waders and a rain jacket, even if you’re not planning on doing any serious wading.
“If you get even just a little bit wet, it’s going to cut your fishing trip short, because the water is cold this time of year,” he said. “All you need is a pair of 3 mm waders, and having a rain jacket will keep any stray surf from blowing into the top of your waders. You can walk out on the rocks of the jetties or in the surf next to them.”
Chanilo uses Ugly Stik rods in the 6- to 7-foot range, 2000 to 2500 series spinning reels spooled with 10-pound line and lures like the MirrOlure 808 series of suspending baits.
“I usually like a fluorocarbon leader, but I’ve found that Berkley NanoFil works just as well without a leader. The trout seem to bite it just fine,” he said.
The trick to catching trout around the jetties, Chanilo said, is to know where the fish are, to present your bait to those spots and to know where the strike zone is.
“You have to watch where the tide and surf are pushing into the rocks the most prominently. Those are spots that trout go to and hunker down just under the rocks. They know baitfish will be getting washed to them,” he said.
Once anglers have identified those spots, they need to make a cast in such a way that their lure will get washed into them, just like the real baitfish are.
“With these MirrOlures, you’ll feel them getting pulled by the current, then you’ll feel a sudden surge when the strongest current gets hold of it and pushes it into the strike zone. Once you recognize what that feels like, you’ll have an easier time knowing when to get ready,” said Chanilo.
One key mistake a lot of anglers make, he said, is having too much slack in their line.
“When you feel that rush of current push your bait, it’s getting pushed into the area where trout are waiting to bite, so if you’ve got too much slack in your line, you’ll either not feel the bite at all, or you’ll feel it before you have time to reel in the slack and set the hook,” Chanilo said. “Keep the slack out and pay attention, because you’re in the strike zone at that point, and you’re very likely to get bit.”
The best spots will change as the tide does, so Chanilo doesn’t mind moving to stay in casting range, but other than that, he doesn’t suggest anglers move too much. As long as you can cast to the areas where the current is pushing into the jetty the strongest, he said, you should sit tight.
“The trout are patrolling up and down the jetty, so if you’re moving, you might miss them altogether. As long as you are casting to those points and getting your lure into the strike zone, at some point you’ll get into them,” he said.
Chanilo doesn’t mind continuing to fish until dark.
“The later in the day it gets, the better they seem to bite this time of year,” he said.