Flounders are quite abundant in the estuaries during the summer months. This is the time of the year when some folks drift along the shallows during calm nights on an early incoming tide to gig flounders. The boats are generally shallow draft such as jon boats and have lights set up on the bow to illuminate the bottom directly ahead of the boat. As one person poles the boat, the other stands in the bow with a four-pronged spear and strikes any flounders he can see on the bottom. When the night is calm, the water clear and the fish available, quite a few flounders can be harvested.
Many Grand Strand fishermen troll for flounders during summer around inlets. Live baits, such as mud minnows are trolled slowly along the bottom or adjacent to jetty rocks. Other areas where flounders can be caught are inlets north of Charleston, such as Dewees Inlet, Capers Inlet and Prices Inlet.
During the summer, sheepshead can be caught around jetties, pilings and bridge piers. Fiddler crabs and live shrimp are the best baits and they can be fished either with float rigs (which are successful around the jetties) or with 1/4- or 3/8-ounce split shot weights crimped to the leader. The hook sizes used are no. 1, 1/0, or 2/0 and the leader should be about 20-pound test monofilament. Frequently you have to move from place to place along the rocks to find fish.
Black drum are bottom feeding cousins of the red drum. They feed oncrabs, shrimp, clams and mussels and do not consume fish. They occur around rocks, pilings and bridge piers. Since they are mainly bottom feeders, a fish finder rig works well. When fishing for black drum you may hook a fish that weighs 5 pounds or you might grab onto one that weighs as much as 40 pounds.
The best bait for black drum is a large piece of blue crab. To prepare the bait, pull the top shell from the crab and cut it into quarters. Thread a large piece of crab onto a 5/0 to 9/0 hook tied onto a swivel with 50-pound test monofilament. Above the leader, which should be from 18 inches to 2 feet long, a 2 to 3-ounce slip sinker is used to get the bait to the bottom. Smaller black drum are delicious, but the larger fish (over 15 pounds) have a coarse flesh. If you catch a large fish you do not plan to eat, it should be tagged and released.
During late summer, the fine tasting pompano is relatively abundant in the surf zone but not heavily fished. Pompano frequent the surf zone right where the waves break in “suds” on the beach. These fish feed on mole crabs which live in this high energy area. The crabs burrow into the sand as the wave breaks, and as the water retreats from shore after breaking, the crabs strain the water for microscopic food items that are suspended by wave action. Before the next wave breaks, these small crabs (1/4 to 3/4- inch in length) burrow into the sand.
Not all mole crabs manage to bury themselves after each wave, however, and some are swept short distances from the beach by the retreating water. Pompano cruise just beyond the foam feeding on these crabs.
Pompano have small mouths and since mole crabs also are small, a no. 1 or no. 2 hook should be tied directly onto the line (8- pound test) from the reel. Flip the baited hook into this area and allow it to be carried about by the current. A very small piece of split shot (1/16 or 1/32 ounce) on your line will keep it slightly down in the water column as it drifts. A small float about 12 or 16 inches away from the hook gives a better idea of the location of the bait.
Pompano in the surf generally weigh less than a pound but are fine food fish. If the bait is too far offshore you will not catch pompano. If you fish directly in the suds, you might still miss them but you may latch onto a whiting, a small red drum, or even a flounder. Like pompano, these other fishes are letting the wave action bring them a nice mole crab dinner.
During the summer, whiting can be caught in the surf around the groins and in the sloughs and cuts along open beaches. Whiting feed on small worms, crabs, and shrimp. They generally weigh less than a pound and have a relatively small mouth. A rig with two leaders with no.1 or 1/0 hooks baited with cut shrimp fished on the incoming tide frequently will catch whiting during the summer. Although they are not large and do not fight as hard as many of the other inshore fishes, they certainly make up for these shortcomings by being excellent table fare.
King and Spanish Mackerel
During the summer months, the numbers of both of these fishes decrease in comparison with the spring. There are a few kings and Spanish around ship channels and on occassion you can locate a school of Spanish a few miles off the beach by looking for seabirds diving on the baits scared to the surface by the fish. Best times are at dawn and dusk which seems to be the period when these predators are most active.
During summer, kings are caught with live menhaden trolled slowly or drifted under a large float. The same general techniques that worked in the spring are used to catch kings in the summer.
When inshore waters warm in the summer, a southern visitor enters our estuaries to terrorize small menhaden and other small baitfishes. These are the ‘jacks.’ They do not make spectacular long runs like large king mackerel and they do not perform graceful jumps like tarpon, but they are one of the toughest fishes encountered in inshore waters.
At night or at dusk and dawn during the summer months, jacks lurk around rips during ebb tide feeding on mullets, menhaden and silversides. Experienced anglers use 20-pound test line on a large capacity reel and a moderately stout rod. Good baits for jacks are surface popping plugs like the Striper Swiper or swimming plugs like the Redfin, Rebel, or Rapala.
During the daytime you frequently can spot a school of jacks milling on the surface. This type of fishing requires two people; one casts from the bow of the boat while the other runs the boat to intercept the school of fish. Large yellow bucktails or Hopkins spoons work well during the day. During the daylight a hooked jack will attempt to run back to the school and once it gets into the school, the line will be cut by the other members of the school. Jacks are not good food fish and should be tagged and released.