Saltwater Fishing Trends - May 9, 2019

Fishing Off shore

Popular Marine Species

South Carolina marine recreational fishing regulations

Get specific tide information for various SC stations from NOAA

Information on fishing trends provided courtesy of www.anglersheadquarters.com/, South Carolina's premier fishing report source. Customers of the Angler's Headquarters online tackle store have access to daily updates and full-length reports on its site.

SCDNR has a full-service boat/motor titling and licensing office located at:

SCDNR at the State Farmer's Market
326 Little Brooke Lane
West Columbia, SC 29172

The State Farmers Market has convenient parking and easy access to both I-77 and I-26.

North Grand Strand (Updated May 9)

Inshore water temperatures on the north end of the Grand Strand are around 71-72 degrees.

Flounder fishing has been good drifting Carolina rigs around the tide cycle in Hog Inlet and the Cherry Grove area, but this week Captain Patrick “Smiley” Kelly (843-361-7445) reports that fish have also started to show up in the Little River area. They can be caught casting ¼-ounce jigheads with live minnows or Gulp! baits into moving water. Deep holes in the creeks and drop offs have been the best place to fish, and the best bite has been on the falling tide.

They are also some catching redfish in the 15- to 27-inch range in 2-to 5-foot potholes in the creeks. Three hours either side of low tide when the water is out of the grass has been the best time, and the fish really seem to want blue crabs or mud minnows on a ¼-ounce jighead.

On higher stages of the tide you have to fish the grass, and if you can find a flat area with sparser grass or a clean bottom then anchoring cut mullet or crab and waiting is a good pattern.

Bluefish are around and in the same low tide holes as the reds.

Black drum can be caught around docks on fresh cut shrimp throughout the tide cycle, but the outgoing has been best.

The trout bite remains slowed down from its peak, but they are catching some undersized fish again.

Cherry Grove Pier (843-249-1625) reports that recently they had several king mackerel in the 21- to 36-pound range caught, as well as keeper Spanish mackerel up to 25 inches. Bluefish ranging from ½ to 5 pounds are also being caught as well as pompano, whiting and a few trout.

At the jetties, Spanish mackerel and blues can be caught casting spoons, and at the nearshore reefs spadefish, weakfish, bluefish and Spanish are around. Cobia have also just started to show up.

Southern Grand Strand (Updated May 7)

Inshore water temperatures at the Murrells Inlet jetties are in the lower 70s, and overall the water has been very clean.

It’s been slow inshore on the South Grand Strand, but Captain J. Baisch (843-902-0356) also of Baisch Boys Bait and Tackle (843-651-1915) in Murrells Inlet reports that there are still fish to be caught in the inlet. On low tide they have been catching some black drum on cut shrimp, and at the jetties there have been plenty of sheepshead as the fish have finished spawning and moved back to the rocks.

While there are plenty of flounder around, there don’t seem to be very many keepers right now. Trout have also been really spread out, and the redfish have been a little off.

Surf fishing has been very good, however, and with lots of good clean water the pompano bite has gotten off to an excellent early start. There have also been some huge whiting caught such as the 17-inch fish pictured below, with fresh salted sand fleas available at the store working very well for both as well as some black drum. Cut mullet have also been catching lots of bluefish as well as some whiting.

From the jetties out to the 3-Mile Reef Spanish mackerel fishing has been strong, with the Spanish mixed in with bluefish. Three-quarter-ounce iron Spanish Candy spoons have been working very well.

Saving the best for last, however, the king mackerel fishing is the best that Captain J can ever remember. Trolling cigar minnows behind a jighead in 40-60 feet of water has been phenomenal.

Charleston (Updated May 7)

Inshore water temperatures in Charleston are in the lower 70s.

The bluefish have arrived in the Charleston area, and David Fladd with Eye Strike Fishing reports that that they can be a lot of fun to catch – but can also make it difficult to target other species. They will hit most any topwater lure, jig or bait, and so on any given cast you are most likely to catch a bluefish.

Still, it continues to be a really good spring for both numbers of trout as well as big fish, with lots of fish over 20 inches. To target the bigger fish concentrate on hard, rocky areas such as riprap or other structures. Early and late there has been a good topwater bite, and from the Harbor up the rivers it is not uncommon to catch 6-8 fish on topwaters in a morning. Mullet is starting to show up in good numbers as well as what looks like balls of menhaden deep, and when the bait gets really thick the topwater bite should get even better.

The biggest spawn of the year is coming up soon on the May full moon, and fish are feeding heavily in preparation for that. After that it will get harder to target the bigger trout as they seem to spread out and at times vanish.

Fishing for redfish has been very strong, and David reports that they are moving into a summer pattern. In the Charleston area that pretty much means fishing for them around docks, shaded areas, and other structure, and they will frequent these same spots for the rest of the summer. Prospecting with a mud minnow on a jighead you can discover where the reds like to be on any given stage of the tide, which is an excellent predictor of where they will be on the same part of the tide cycle going forward.

As anticipated with a late start to the shrimp season which allows the juvenile fish to move into the estuaries, flounder fishing has been good. They are setting up around ambush points and areas that drain large flats, and they will be over sandy as well as hard bottoms. Work likely areas thoroughly with artificials on a jighead or live bait.

Folly Beach Pier (843-762-9516) reports that black drum as well as blues in the 2- to 3-pound range are being caught, as well as some nice whiting. Small Spanish mackerel are also around.

Inshore fishing is good, but Captain Rob Bennett (843-367-3777) reports that without a doubt the best thing going has been the nearshore reef fishing. They are slaying the bluefish, and there are also a ton of Spanish mackerel around. There are also lots of summer trout to be caught, of which you can only keep one, as well as some skipjack tuna and a few black sea bass. Cobia and king mackerel are also starting to show up. Spoons and mud minnows on the bottom are both sure-fire baits for most reef fish.

Edisto Island (Updated May 9)

Inshore surface water temperatures around Edisto Island are 74 degrees in the mornings, and the water in the North Edisto is still very clear with the South Edisto dingier. Steamboat Landing remains closed for repairs.

Trout fishing continues to improve around Edisto, and Captain Ron Davis, Jr. (843-513-0143) reports that the biggest spawn of the year is coming on the May full moon. From daylight to 9 a.m. they are catching trout on topwater lures around main river points close to the inlets, and during the day targeting clean water with a DOA shrimp four feet under a popping cork in the same areas is working. Live shrimp would be great if you could get them, and small menhaden and mud minnows will also work. Because clear water is so important, the top four hours of the tide cycle is typically the best period with the peak at the high incoming tide.

The redfish bite is tough on the flats, and Ron reports that they are about as finicky as he has ever seen them. The only change on the flats is that they are picking up some reds first thing on topwater lures.

In the creeks the bite is much better fishing at low tide around trees in deep bends, rocks and docks. Cut shrimp are not working very well right now, but cut mullet and cracked crab pieces are both effective. If you could get live shrimp they would probably do well.

The sheepshead bite has dropped off and now rates only as fair, with the best action still in the creeks around docks with 6-8 feet of water at low tide. Fiddler crabs, clams and oysters are all working.

Flounder fishing is good around main river points in Townsend, Frampton and Jeremy Inlet, but they are mainly catching lots of small fish. To target flounder fish mud minnows on a Carolina rig or jighead, and they are also catching lots of flounder while fishing for trout or redfish with a mud minnow under a cork but near the bottom.

At the Edisto 40, Edisto 60, Edisto Nearshore and 4KI reefs the action is still good for a variety of species including summer trout, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, black drum, red drum and sheepshead, although you still have to wade through a lot of bluefish when you drop a spoon or bucktail down.

The cobia have just started to show up at the reefs. Live or cut bait on the bottom is working, and you can also chum them in and jig for them or throw a bucktail with a 6- to 8-inch trailer at fish on the surface. You can also sight cast for cobia at dead high tide in the St. Helena Sound when the water is the cleanest.

Finally, the bull dolphin have arrived offshore. The smaller fish come earlier in the season, but by now you are likely to catch several over 20 pounds if you get into fish. It took a 50 pounder to win the last tournament!

Beaufort (Updated April 29)

Inshore water temperatures are about 71 degrees around Beaufort.

It’s hard not to talk about the cobia first when they arrive in the Beaufort area, and Captain Tuck Scott of Bay Street Outfitters (843-524-5250) reports that they are showing up offshore, nearshore and inshore. When conditions are good they have been spotting some fish on the surface, but early in the season fish only come to the top later in the day and sometimes the wind has gotten up too much for sight-fishing by that time. Tuck’s boat has caught some fish on the fly, and of course anglers are also catching them on menhaden and live eels.

Overall the redfish bite has been good, and on low water Tuck says they will still group up to some extent but on high tide they are splitting off from their schools. More fish are in the grass tailing and eating fiddlers by this stage of the season, and they are also seeing individual fish chasing finger mullet, mud minnows, and some early shrimp. There is getting to be a lot of bait around and you can catch bait throwing a net now.

On low water sight casting with bait or Vudu Shrimp, DOA Shrimp or a shallow suspended twitch bait will work, while at middle stages of tide you want to fish near ambush points where reds can set up beside the current and wait for it to bring bait to them. Oyster bars at the mouths of feeder creeks are good structure to fish around. On higher stages of the tide when they are not tailing then you can put shrimp or cut mullet under a cork around points and other likely areas. Gulp! peeler crabs or flies in a crab pattern are good for tailing fish.

There are some trout being caught in 3-4 feet of water with grubs on 1/4-ounce jigheads.

Hilton Head (Updated May 8)

Inshore surface water temperatures around Hilton Head are in the low to mid-70s.

The fishing for migratory species is getting better and better, and Captain Kai Williams (843-816-7475) reports that in the past week or two the tripletail have really been showing up. Boats like his that have a tower can look in the Port Royal Sound, Calibogue Sound, and of course the Atlantic for fish at the top of the water column, as it’s pretty much all a sight-casting bite with shrimp lures. There are some places you can blind cast but you need to know them.

There has also been some good sight-fishing for cobia in the Port Royal Sound, although anglers are reminded that fish inside state waters have to be handled carefully and released. People are also blind fishing at the Broad River Bridge and the Turtle, and anglers anchoring and chumming are catching fish.

Redfish remain in a similar pattern around Hilton Head, and Kai’s boat is catching them on the mud flats or around shell bars at low tide. Around high tide you need to fish the grass. Mud minnows are not working very well at all, and as the water warms the fish want nutrient rich baitfish like cut mullet or cut menhaden that has a lot of smell. They will eat live shrimp, too.

Captain Dan “Fishin’ Coach” Utley (843-368-2126) reports that in the creeks on low tide he is still catching fish at the bends that have structure as well as around docks, and the fish they have caught have been big.

At higher stages of the tide he is still doing some sight-fishing for reds cruising in the grass, and even though they get very scattered you can pick up a few fish this way. You need to cover a lot of water to find fish. Weedless rigged Gulp! shrimp are good in the grass, and cut mullet and mud minnows will work whenever you can fish them.

When tides are high enough there are fish tailing.

There are big trout being caught right now, and even though the numbers aren’t huge they are definitely moving shallower. Early or on calm, cloudy days there has been a good topwater bite, and during the day they are killing live shrimp under a cork. Look around shell bars, grass edges, and pot holes with 4-5 feet of water. Areas with moderate current and clean green water usually fish best, which means that the incoming tide is usually the best time.

Captain Kai suggests releasing the big females that are full of eggs.

Nearshore there are lots of bluefish and Spanish mackerel that can be caught on live menhaden and artificial lures, and when it is calm, they are easy to spot. At the artificial reefs like Whitewater Reef, the Hilton Head Reef, and the Betsy Ross spadefish are eating jellyballs and cobia are starting to show up. By late May and June there will be more cobia on the reefs.