The fall fishing season has arrived, and the fishing this year has been great at our pier here in Cherry Grove, South Carolina. The king mackerel seems to favor the Cherry Grove Pier where we have seen a number of tournament winners haul in prize-winning fish. The mullet are making their annual run, and the bait fish are plentiful. We have been pulling in blue fish and Spanish mackerel to our daily limits, as well as white pompano, lady fish, pin fish, red drum, black drum, and, even though the water is not cool enough yet, flounder. With the large numbers of bait fish available and the falling water temperature, red and black drum fishing will continue to boom. We have caught blues with gotcha plugs and cut bait, flounder with mud minnows, and pompano on shrimp, Spanish mackerel on gotcha plug, and occasionally some whiting.
The other day I was mulling over my bullet catch when a young guy from somewhere up state approached me and asked about my methods for catching fish. "To catch drum," I offered, "use live finger-sized bullet or live shrimp bait." You'll have amazing results. " "Thanks," and he wandered down the pier to try his own luck. The best catches have been coming from the pier pilings in the shallow water, but he wandered down to the end of the pier where many first-timers usually go. Early mornings and late afternoon have been the ideal times of day for catching fish, and that is when late-comers have a hard time to find a comfortable fishing spot, especially when fish are running.
Currently, this area just completed one of the spot runs, a seasonal fish in the drum or "croaker" family (named for the sound they make). A commonly found fish, spots occur along the Atlantic coast in estuarine and coastal waters from the Gulf of Maine to Florida, but they are especially abundant from Chesapeake Bay south to South Carolina. At maturity, they range from 7 inches and can reach up to 14 inches in length. Typically bottom feeders, they spawn off shore in coastal waters from fall to spring, so it is this time of year that people enjoy catching and eating them.
The Cherry Grove Pier, approximately 965 feet long, including its observation deck and gazebo, has a great atmosphere for fishing. The friendly staff at the pier serves a helpful atmosphere with its pier-side restaurant and lounge, bait and tackle shop, and, of course, front-door proximal to Prince Resort. In fact, that is where many of the people I met here first started their fishing experience on the Strand. They stayed at Prince while on vacation, discovered the joys of pier fishing, and have been returning once or twice a year for quite a while now just to go fishing. They rave about having the pier right at the doorway to the resort.
I prefer pier fishing for a number of reasons. For one, I do not have to spend big money on gasoline just to catch bait fish because the bait fish are catchable here at the pier. With my polarized sun glasses, I can see down into the water from the elevation of the pier, too, and see what is going on if the surf is not swirling around too much. Also, I have found three keys to successful fishing on the pier: water-flow, bait, and pilings. Each one cave me a bit of a learning curve before I could read the signs for where and when the fish are ready for me to catch them, but I'm enjoying learning along the way. Every person out there, young and old, with any experience catching fish has developed his or her own fish, so, as I told that guy on the pier, you will have to go with what works for you. Talking with some of the old "salts" who hang out at the pier will help you learn, too, assuming that they are not too intent with their own fishing experience. (Hint: you do not want to start a conversation while someone is fighting with a fish on a line.)
At the bait and tackle shop, check with Larry, Steve, Annie, Ronnie, or Mike for the latest in fishing information, news about what kind of fish are biting, types of bait to use, and generally what has been going on in the area. Forgot to bring a jacket? Buy a souvenir sweatshirt at the tackle shop or even all-weather gear for those great rainy-day fishing extravaganzas, such as today, or near-summer-like sunshine of last week. Hungry? The pier-side snack bar has great burgers and a host of other food choices as well!
I hope to see you at the Cherry Grove Fishing Pier with a reel in your hand!