Offshore Fish Species
One of the most exciting fish in the ocean, King Mackerel are aggressive surface feeding predators who often come completely out of the water when making their attack. King Mackerel, also known as “kingfish”, are one of the most popular game fish in our area. The big money tournaments throughout the summer and fall will certainly provide proof of their popularity. Spanish Mackerel, the smaller of the two, is caught in the same spots with the same tackle. Depending on conditions and time of year, these fish can be caught just outside the mouth of the jetty, whereas they typically hold in the 50-60ft-depth range during the summer months, making them a great fish to target on 1/2 and 3/4 day trips.
King Mackerel fishing is best off of Murrells Inlet from April through November. The bigger fish showing up in the fall. As the water temperature starts to cool, these fish come closer to shore looking to feed on Menhaden and Mullet, which migrate from the north to south along the coastline. Typically, we slow troll live baits over live bottom areas or artificial reefs to catch Kingfish. Once hooked, kings are known for making their blistering first run, sometimes taking more than 300 yards of line. A second big run during the fight can indicate that you’ve hooked a “smoker”, which is a larger fish. Kingfish in our area are typically in the 15-pound range, but fish up to 50 pounds are not uncommon.
Capt. Robby, aboard “F/V Long Run”, competes on the Southern Kingfish Association tournament trail. He has won and placed in many tournaments.
The name Mahi-Mahi comes from the Hawaiian language, meaning “very strong”. They are commonly called Dolphin or Dorado. The females are normally smaller and have round heads, while the males tend to grow much larger and has more of a square shaped head. We call them “bulls”. The life span of a Mahi-Mahi is very short. Most do not live past the age of 4. However, females may spawn two to three times each year. Mahi-Mahi are abundant in our waters from April through October. They are known to eat just about anything, but typically key in on small baitfish, squid and crabs.
Trolling ballyhoo is our most popular tactic for catching Mahi-Mahi. We have caught them while live bait fishing for sailfish on occasion. A weed line or small floating debris like boards and bottles is usually a sure sign of feeding or Mahi-Mahi. They spend most of their time in the gulfstream. However, during summer months, catching them in shallower water is not uncommon.
The South Carolina state record of 77.5 pounds was caught back in 2008. There is an abundance of 12-15 pound fish, which is around the average size. These fish are a staple of the charter fishing industry here. Catching upwards to 20 per day is not uncommon. Mahi-Mahi are the ultimate gamefish, they fight like no tomorrow, are beautiful in color and make great table fare.
The Blackfin Tuna is a very popular sport fish in our area. They have dark blue backs, silver sides with a gold stripe and white bellies. They hold in the gulfstream waters offshore of Murrells Inlet throughout the year. Winter and spring months are the best for catching big numbers. They are a schooling fish that typically eat small baitfish on or near the surface. Throwing out a handful of live baits will let you know if you’re in the right spot.
There are a few ways to catch these tunas; trolling ballyhoo, casting plugs or fishing live bait. These fish can be a blast to catch on light spinning tackle. Trolling for them is the most common method. It usually produces the best results.
Blackfins are the smallest of the tuna family. Like all tunas, they are great fighters pound for pound and are arguably the best to eat. They are a fast growing species, with the average weight being in the 15-pound range. Fully-grown blackfins only weigh upwards to 40 pounds, but where they lack in size, they make up for in numbers. These fish, like all tunas, have great eyesight and can be shy of the boat. Fishing lighter leaders and getting your baits far away from the boat are a few key tactics.
The Atlantic Sailfish is one of the fastest fish in the ocean. These pelagic fish are acrobatic, make lightning fast runs and change direction quickly. This makes them one of the most popular recreational fish to target. Sailfish are abundant to our offshore waters and peak season is May through December. Sails grow very quickly, up to 4 feet during the first year of life, and have an average size of around 50 pounds. When hooked, sailfish normally break the surface and shake their heads as they try to spit the hook. This is called “tailwalking”. Sailfish are known change colors, from brown and gray to vibrant purple and even silver. They change colors based on mood and activity, and when “lit up” they are ready to strike.
These members of the Billfish family are surface feeders. Their meals normally consist of smaller baitfish and squid. Kite fishing and slow trolling live bait like Menhaden, Thread Fin Herring or Cigar Minnows are great ways to catch these fish. Sailfish have great eyesight, but with advancements in fluorocarbon and monofilament lines, they are now much easier to catch.
When targeting sails, we use circle hooks endorsed by the Billfish Foundation. Circle hooks are designed to catch fish in the corner of the mouth, which prevents them from swallowing the hook. Sailfish are “catch and release” only. They are a “bucket list” fish for many anglers and captains never get tired of catching them. There is nothing like drifting down the edge of a current break with live baits hanging from a kite and getting that visual sailfish bite. They put on one heck of a show!
Grouper and Snapper are always the target species when bottom fishing out of Murrells Inlet. To catch these tasty fish, having live bait is key. Menhaden, Cigar Minnows and Mullet Minnows make great baits for catching these bottom dwellers. We typically drop a couple live baits down on each spot before sending down cut bait or squid for the other species that are there, including black sea bass, white grunts and triggerfish. On a bottom-fishing trip, you can expect to have a lot of action. If you don’t get a bite within the first minute, we will typically move on to the next spot. These bottom fish can be caught on the 3/4 day trip, which is 35-40 miles offshore. On rare occasions when the top water fish of the gulfstream elude us, bottom fish are always there. “Deep dropping” for Snowy Grouper and Tilefish is an option. Electric reels come into play when deep dropping and using weights up to 8 pounds depending on the current. These deepwater fish like to reside in 500-800 feet of water.
The different types of grouper we catch are Gag Grouper, Scamp Grouper, Red Grouper, Strawberry Grouper and Snowy Grouper. Occasionally, we catch a few different Snapper species such as Red Snapper, Vermillion Snapper and Silver Snapper. All of these fish are great fighters and great eating. Bottom Fishing out of Murrells Inlet can be done year-round.
If you’re looking to just “catch something” or to “fill the freezer”, this is the trip you’re looking for.