During the spring and summer, flounder are one of the most-abundant fish in the estuaries along South Carolina’s coastline. They can be caught anywhere from jetties and nearshore reefs to every flooded channel, bay and grass flat, but they will not stay in one place for very long. They constantly move with changes in the tide, wind and bait behavior, and anglers should consider adopting a similar action plan.
Trolling is not necessarily a new strategy for catching saltwater fish and especially flounder in Murrells Inlet, where anglers often keep the outboard motor in gear and drag minnows behind the boat down creek channels and flats to locate flounder.
Kevin “Stump” Grant of Pawley’s Island Guide Service rarely begins his flounder trips without trolling in mind.
“I like to troll minnows on a double-hook rig to locate fish,” he said. “If we pick up a fish or two from a specific spot, we will either stop and cast or reel in lines 10 to 15 yards behind the boat and make short circles over where the previous fish came from.”
Flounder often find certain ledges or rips where they set up on a certain stage of the tide, but they rarely stay in a spot too long before they slide into the current and reposition 20 to 30 yards away. Trolling gives anglers the ability to locate fish after short moves or early in a trip when their home bases are unknown.
Grant prefers to move as slowly as possible against the current, with baits gently bouncing the bottom. In some cases, he will even let baits sit in one spot for a few minutes.
“Many times, fish will be concentrated on a little ledge, dropoff, hole or some kind of bottom contour (that holds them) in a particular spot. Trolling against the current allows better control of speed (and) direction and gives me the ability to position the bait right where I want it,” he said.
Grant doesn’t match the traditional Carolina rig — with or without a spinner — that many anglers use when trolling. He makes his own trolling rigs for better presentation: a double-hook right 3 to 4 feet long.
“It is really too long to cast but perfect for trolling because it keeps the baits separated and a little closer to the bottom,” he said.
His rig consists of two three-way swivels, two 18-inch long leaders to hooks, and 2 feet between each leader, plus another 3 inches to a 1-ounce casting sinker on the trailing end. Not only do the long leaders provide greater coverage in the water column, there is plenty of line to re-tie when a hook breaks off or gets buried in a fish, without re-constructing the entire rig from scratch.