During the dead of winter, anglers can expect a strong inshore bite, specifically in the section of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway around Little River, just a few yards south of the North Carolina-South Carolina border.
While many species have vacated the premises, several hunker down for the winter, and black drum are one of those that can bring steady action when many anglers are off the water.
Black drum are not only a good-eating fish, they are strong fighters and will continue to offer opportunities during the middle of the winter. They are a species that guide Keith Logan of North Myrtle Beach Fishing Charters targets in February.
“Black drum are a good fish to target during the winter,” said Logan (843-516-0614). “We typically get on a good bite this time of year on fresh shrimp in the waterway.”
Black drum are very tolerant of cold water but will seek out depressions along the waterway where scattered bait is present. Logan looks for deep water associated with docks or some other type of structure between Little River and Sunset Beach, N.C.
“We like to find places with water as deep as 15 feet at the end of docks if we can find it. Those places where people load their boats onto their boat lifts can be really good places to find a handful of fish resting in the depressions,” he said.
The section of the ICW between the Little River swing bridge and the Sunset Beach bridge is loaded with docks and deep-water hangouts perfect for holding black drum over the winter. In addition, the concrete wall at Tillman Point has both deep water and structure — a deadly combination for big schools of wintering black drum.
Logan recommends anglers getting to spots like this when the water is moving in either direction.
“It doesn’t matter as much if the tide is high or low, but they like the tide moving,” he said.
Black drum eat a wide variety of foods, from small crabs to shrimp and fish. Shrimp is an easy bait choice that is not only easy to get at local seafood markets, but it’s deadly on the end of the hook for black drum.
Logan uses a typical Carolina rig with an egg or tear-drop sinker with 16 inches of leader down to a No. 2 hook. Black drum feed on the bottom, and a Carolina rig is a perfect choice to get the bait down where it needs to be, right in a black drum’s feeding zone.
While black drum can run anywhere from a pound up to 100 pounds, the typical size for wintering fish in the Little River area is between 3 and 7 pounds. On light tackle, a 5-pound black drum can be well worth the price of admission on the water and on the dinner table.