Gray trout are biting on Little River’s nearshore reefs

Don’t underestimate the “other” trout

Fall is arguably the best time to fish along South Carolina’s coast. And much of the craze is typically directed towards speckled trout and redfish. But another trout species, gray trout — aka weakfish —  is eating the bottom out of the boat within sight of North Myrtle Beach’s high rises.

There is nothing weak about a weakfish. These fish look, fight, and eat just as well as their speckled cousins. And as the water temperatures plummet this month, they stack up on the reefs and live bottom areas within sight of land.

Tom Cushman of Captain Cush Calmwater Fishing Charters, who fishes out of North Myrtle Beach, likes to take trips to nearshore reefs in December when he catches a calm day.

“Gray trout gather at the nearshore reefs to feed when the water temperatures cool off,” said Cushman (843-997-5850). “The ocean lacks a lot of structure. And wherever you find structure will have lots of bait. The gray trout will be all around the edges of the reef on top of the sandy areas.”

Cushman will drift around a reef site and deploy the anchor mode on his Minn-Kota I-pilot trolling motor when he catches a gray trout.

Grays typically travel in schools

“The grays are almost always in schools. So when we catch one, we will usually stop and fish until they stop biting. And then we’ll move around again,” he said.

Nearshore artificial reefs out of Little River, S.C., fill up with gray trout after Thanksgiving and into the winter.

Grays aren’t as food-selective as specks, which can be snobs when it comes to eating.

“Gray trout will eat about anything that resembles food: alive, dead, or in pieces,” he said. “They will eat shrimp, finger mullet and even cut bait. Speckled trout want the bait to be alive and kicking around,” he said.

Cushman typically uses a Carolina rig with a live mullet. But he will also use chunks of dead bait, as well as artificial lures.

“Jigs with Gulp! baits work well on the grays, too,” he said. “Gulp! shrimp, jerk shads or swimming mullet are usually the best. We vertically jig them off the bottom.”

When fish get into a feeding zone, they will eat just about any type of artificial lure jigged vertically.

The speckled trout are biting too! Click here to read about catching specks this time of year.

Jeff Burleson
About Jeff Burleson 1394 Articles
Jeff Burleson is a native of Lumberton, N.C., who lives in Myrtle Beach, S.C. He graduated from N.C. State University with a degree in fisheries and wildlife sciences and is a certified biologist and professional forester for Southern Palmetto Environmental Consulting.

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