Cooling water kicks off good striper bite in ICW along NC/SC border

Schools of striped bass line the ICW between Little River and the confluence with the Calabash River every fall.

Fish hitting a variety of lures, live baits as water cools

Cooling weather and a load of baitfish in the Intracoastal Waterway has fired up the striped bass that call Little River home. And the fishing should only get better as the water temperature continues to drop.

For decades, Little River anglers have caught striped bass along the short segment of waterway between Barefoot Landing and the confluence with the Calabash River. The best fishing is typically when the water gets cold and most of the Myrtle Beach tourists are long gone. Locals say the first slug of fish usually shows up when the leaves start changing colors. And they will stick around until the trees begin to sprout their new leaves in the spring.

Capt. Tom “Cush” Cushman of Calmwater Myrtle Beach Fishing Charters catches his fair share of these fish every year. He catches plenty of them within minutes of his boat dock at Harbourgate Marina.

“We don’t typically target stripers. They can be elusive at times, but (in the fall) the fishing is strong and fairly predictable.” said Cushman (843-997-5850). “We come across most of the stripers we catch while fishing for trout and redfish in the waterway.”

Live bait and a variety of lures will work

Under fall conditions, the ICW fills with groceries that attract huge schools of speckled trout and redfish. And reasonable-sized schools of striped bass invade the area as well. Cushman encounters striped bass around typical ambush points along the ICW. Stripers will set up along places where the current is broken by structure or a change in depth.

“The bridges, dock pilings, creek mouths and along the edge of the channel are where we catch them mostly,” he said.

Stripers are filling up on fish and shrimp. So just about any bait and lure will potentially drum up a bite. Deep-diving crankbaits, lipless crankbaits, swimbaits, grubs and artificial shrimp catch stripers as well as any other lures or bait. Most fishermen catch the most stripers by trolling grubs and crankbaits. This method allows them to cover plenty of ground.

Cushman is a little partial to live bait.

“They will tear up a live shrimp or mullet,” he said.

Click here to read about the NCWRC stocking stripers in Hyco Lake.

About Jeff Burleson 1311 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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