Myrtle Beach may be famous for golf, but fishing may be its best-kept sports secret. Folks know about the fresh seafood in the restaurants and the fishing boats that bring it to shore, but few consider the fun and exciting alternative of catching your own buffet. From the deeper waters far off the coast to the inland streams and rivers, the Grand Strand offers lots of ways to wet a line:
* Deep-sea fishing: To boat the big ones, you have to go where they are, and that means a 90-mile trip offshore to the Gulf Stream, the current traveled by a wide range of species. It's a long but necessary ride if you want to hook a huge trophy fish, like blue marlin and swordfish, and the larger and more popular eating fish, such as tuna and grouper. Most charter boats sail out of the North Myrtle Beach/Little River to the north and Murrells Inlet and Winyah Bay to the south. Experienced captains have state-of-the-art boats and high-tech equipment that can put you on the big schools, and the first mate will even bait your hooks so you can focus on fishing. It's a great one-day ocean getaway.
* Coastal fishing: You don't have to go far off the coast to catch some nice fish. In fact, you don't even need a boat. While there are half-day fishing trips that stay closer to the coast that can get you to larger schools of sea bass, snapper and spot, anglers can catch many of the same species from local fishing piers, jetties and even from the beach. There are eight piers located along the Grand Strand and each has a tackle shop where you can get licenses, bait, gear and information about which fish are running where and when. You might even catch a few tall fishing tales. There are specific zones that allow surf fishing but avoid crowded beaches where swimmers are present. For a complete list of local and state regulations, visit http://www.scdnr.org
* Intracoastal Waterway/River fishing: The Intracoastal Waterway is one of the most unique bodies of water for fishing because you can catch both freshwater and saltwater species. The Grand Strand's stretch of the manmade shipping channel enters at the Carolina state line in Little River and winds parallel to the coast between 1 to 5 miles inland. It eventually merges with the Waccamaw, Black and Pee Dee Rivers along with numerous Lowcountry creeks and swamps en route to Georgetown's Winyah Bay. Schools of ocean fish travel the route in search of food, including freshwater fish from local tributaries, so there's no telling what you might reel in from the Waterway's banks, or from aboard a john boat. Most watersports outfitters also offer tours and rentals for a day of fishing and exploring the backwaters of the Strand.
* Crabbing: Man can't live on fish alone, especially when there are so many other tasty critters crawling around in local waters. One of the most popular options is crabbing, a fun family activity that is simple and just might put a nice meal on the table. Purchase crab traps or baskets at a local tackle shop, pick up some chicken necks at the grocery store and find a nice ocean inlet that permits crabbing. Many people crab from causeways and boat docks and couple of hours before and after high tide, when the larger crabs scurry in to feed. There are also times and places where you can cast net for shrimp and dig for oysters to create a real seafood feast, and it will be the freshest and cheapest one in town.