Saltwater Fishing Trends - August 10, 2017
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.
Charleston (Updated August 2)
Inshore water temperatures in the Charleston area are around 84-85 degrees, but despite the heat the fishing has been really good. Captain Rob Bennett of Lowcountry Inshore Charters (843-367-3777) reports that it is as if the fall bite is getting off to an early start this year! With the creeks full of 3-5 inch shrimp everything is feeding up, and you don't need to look much further than these crustaceans for bait.
Numbers of redfish have been nothing short of phenomenal some days, and recently Rob caught 60 in the morning. Most of them are small in the 10-14 inch size range, but bigger fish can certainly be found mixed in – or out at the jetties. And with the creeks full of shrimp the fish are going to grow very fast. Inshore fishing around oysters either on the bottom or under a popping cork will work, and the key is a couple of feet of heavy 40-pound fluorocarbon leader. Fish are also around docks.
The trout and flounder bite has also been pretty good, usually in the same areas as the redfish. Finger mullet are also a good bait for these species, particularly flatfish. Overall trout sizes are small, but they will get bigger as things cool off.
Tarpon are around in very good numbers inshore, and there are also some jack crevalle schooling in the Charleston Harbor around Castle Pinckney. These fish can be caught on topwater lures and even the fly – hold on because they run in the 20-30 pound range.
Folly Beach Pier (843-762-9516) reports that plenty of whiting, black drum and sheepshead in the 2-3 pound range have been landed, as well as a few trout here and there.
At the nearshore reefs 3-5 miles offshore the Spanish mackerel bite has been really good, both casting and trolling with Clarks Spoons. Schools come up and go down, but when Rob is trolling he likes to use a number 1 planer to get down about 10 feet on 50-pound test line and "dig the fish up."
Little River/North Myrtle Beach (Updated July 13)
Inshore water temperatures on the North End of the Grand Strand are in the lower 80s, and water clarity is poor after the recent rain.
Despite less than ideal weather, Captain Patrick "Smiley" Kelly reports that the fishing has been pretty steady – especially on the outgoing tide. His boat has been catching redfish and black drum in the IntraCoastal Waterway around Tubbs Inlet, mainly fishing with live shrimp or finger mullet on a Carolina rig. They are fishing on the bottom in about 15 feet of water in the middle of the ICW. This is a pretty typical August pattern.
There is still a pretty good bite for trout first thing on topwater lures, and they are also catching fish on live shrimp fished underneath a popping cork. Tubbs Inlet, Little River Inlet, and the Calabash River have all been productive. On high water fishing around the grass is the best bet, and on lower tides fishing around oyster beds or drop-offs in the channel is most productive. The best bite of the day is early in lower light conditions before it gets hot.
Flounder have been caught on finger mullet in small drains off the main waterways, along with some redfish and topwater trout. Fishing finger mullet on the outgoing tide has been the best pattern.
Beaufort (Updated August 10)
Inshore water temperatures in the Beaufort area are in the lower 80s, and with lots of rain water is pretty muddy. There is strong population of bait-sized shrimp in the creeks, and a number of species are willing to eat the shrimp as well as prolific finger mullet right now, including migratory species like ladyfish and small jack crevalle.
The redfish bite in the Beaufort area has been pretty good, and Captain Tuck Scott of Bay Street Outfitters (843-524-5250) reports that whenever there is some water in the grass the fish seem to really want to tail. On the next flood tides he predicts really good tailing action. In addition to redfish black drum and even sheepshead have been tailing, with the sheeps being the hardest to get to eat. On the fly small brown crab patterns are a good bet for all of teh tailing species, and on conventional tackle Gulp! peeler crabs fished on a weedless hook are a good bet.
There have been a fair number of redfish schooled up on the low tide flats, and on the incoming tide they can be caught around oyster bars on the edges of flats when they are first covered up. Live bait or Gulp! baits on a 1/4 ounce jighead are good options.
Outside of the flats, this time of year fish will often wander up the smaller feeder creeks but only so far as the first shell mound on either bank – where the temperature is about the same as the main river. This is a good place to fish for either redfish or trout.
Trout can also be found at the mouths of creeks early, with fish a little deeper in 3 1/2 - 4 1/2 feet. In addition to live bait they will take electric chicken paddletail grubs on a 1/4 ounce jighead.
Edisto Island (Updated August 2)
Captain Ron Davis Jr. (843-513-0143) reports that Edisto Island-area inshore water temperatures are around 84 degrees, and the creeks are full of shrimp making it easy for fishermen to get bait. Days are already about 30 minutes shorter than at their peak length, and when water temperatures drop to about 80 the fall bite should begin.
The redfish action has been strong, and on the oyster flats the fish are feeding well when you can find the schools. Live shrimp fished about 18 inches under a cork have been the ticket. The creek bite has been excellent with lots of undersized fish in the 10-14 inch range, and there have also been a good number of slot and over-slot sized fish. Creek reds are in their usual areas in the deep bends with structure. Shrimp will catch redfish but also get tons of bites from smaller fish, and so small 2 1/2 to 3 inch finger mullet are probably the best bet.
Trout numbers have been excellent but sizes are a little down, with only one out of every six or seven trout keeper-sized for most fishermen during the day. At daylight there is a pretty good topwater bite with some keepers mixed in between 6 and 7 a.m., but as the day progresses the better fish become more and more scarce. They are just not comfortable in the shallows when the sun is up right now, and in the heat trout either go deep or into swift moving, heavily oxygenated water. They also feed at night.
Ron predicts that this will be the best fall for trout fishing in 10 years, and after a number of mild winters the numbers of fish are definitely around. Around the end of August or beginning of September when water temperatures dip into the 80s the fishing should really take off.
Fishing for sheepshead remains good around docks that have 6-10 feet of water at low tide. The best fishing is at the lower part of the tide cycle and with so many small bait stealers around using fiddler crabs is a must.
The size limit for flounder was recently changed to 15 inches, and even with this new limit on most trips Ron says they have been catching at least one good keeper as a by-catch. Small finger muller in the 2 1/2 to 3 inch range fished around oysters flats and in the creeks are the best bet.
For some reason numbers of black drum are way down this year, and they are not catching nearly as many juvenile fish in the 14-25 inch range.
Tarpon have arrived around the Deveaux Banks, the South Edisto Bar, and the Bluefish Bar, and while you have to weed through sharks (with about five sharks caught for every one silver king) there are some big fish to be caught. The best bet is to put out three rods behind the boat with a crab on the bottom, live/cut mullet or menhaden on the bottom, and then one fish under a float rig (on big 8/0 circle hooks). It's not uncommon to see tarpon rolling in the morning but they can be hard to catch then.
Probably the best game in town is the Spanish mackerel, and on any day that is navigable in an 18-20 foot boat anglers can head out to about 30 feet of water off the beaches and find them schooling everywhere. Numbers and sizes are better than in previous years, and even though the later afternoon is choppiest that is when there is usually the best bite. Trolling Clarks spoons or casting Hopkins or Crippled Herring Spoons is a good bet; the 1/2 ounce size is best for casting.
Bluefish and ladyfish are mixed in with the Spanish mackerel, and there are also plenty of oversized red drum in the 30-40 inch range around on the nearshore reefs. 1-2 ounce bucktail jigs with white curly tail Gulp! trailers are hard to beat. Right now there are a lot of billfish and particularly sailfish offshore, but it's not a good time for meatfish. At the full moon in August there should be a good run of wahoo with 4-5 fish days average and 9-10 fish days not unheard of.
Greater Murrells Inlet (Updated June 21)
Perry's Bait and Tackle in Murrells Inlet (843-651-2895) reports that they are still getting some good catches of flounder along the South Grand Strand, but they are receiving really strong reports on redfish and black drum. Captain J of Fishful Thinking Guide Service (843-902-0356) says that he is catching both species on pieces of shrimp fished over shell bottoms where there is some current. The shells can be live or dead, but the key is just not having a mud or sand bottom. The tide hasn't mattered much, and it will take some patience to weed through the pinfish but after a few minutes the drum show up and seem to run off the bait stealers.
Trout fishing has also been pretty good inshore, with plenty of 15-16 inch fish being caught on live shrimp and smaller live finger mullet.
At the jetties sheepshead fishing has been strong, and off the beaches there have been a lot of sharks, bluefish, ribbonfish, ladyfish and croakers caught. Before the storms pompano were doing well, but they have slowed down since the rain started.
Nearshore Perry's reports weakfish, gulf flounder and spadefish at the 3-Mile and 10-Mile reefs, although Captain J. says that at times it's been a little tough to catch spadefish with so much of their natural bait (small jellyfish) around.
Captain J. is having a lot of success trolling 16-18 miles offshore in 30-60 feet of water for king mackerel. Pulling live menhaden and cigar minnows over live bottom areas has been producing a good number of smaller 10-12 pound fish, while the artificial reefs have barracuda which often don't mix well with kings. Perry's has gotten good king reports at Belkie Bear.
Georgetown Landing Marina (843-546-1776) reports that they have had some bottom fish hit the docks, and the trolling trips have produced some spotty dolphin fishing. Blackfin tuna are in their traditional areas – the trick is just getting them to bite!
Hilton Head (Updated August 10)
Inshore water temperatures in the Hilton Head area are in the low to mid-80s, and with a ton of rain the water is pretty stained. There is lots of bait shrimp around when the water is out of grass and there also shrimp being caught in deep holes.
It may not be a good news if you are looking for dinner tonight, but for anyone who has an eye on the future Captain Dan "Fishin' Coach" Utley (843-368-2126) has great news. Since about July 4th the area has been absolutely filled with fat redfish in the 11-14 inch range, and with catches of 30-40 small reds – or more – per trip it has been hard to keep a bait in the water long enough to get a big one. Coach says that this is obviously a great sign for the future, and as early as November plenty of these fish should be in the slot. Numbers like this have not been seen in several years.
Overall, the best pattern for catching redfish has been to fish the main waterways on the outgoing tide after the water falls out of the grass almost down to low water. Some good fish can be caught around shell rakes and areas that drain the grass.
Coach is also continuing to catch fish in some of the bigger creeks in bends where there are downed trees, riprap or other structure and 8-15 feet of water. Live shrimp fished on a slip cork rig have been working well and also picking up some bonus 15-20 inch black drum.
On the trout front there has been so much rain that fishing has been a little spotty. Coach has caught a few fish around high tide near marsh islands where there are oyster beds and glass minnows being chased near the surface. Mud minnows under a rattling cork have been working well.
Numbers of tarpon have been low but that should pick up.
Southern Grand Strand (Updated August 2)
Water temperatures in the Murrells Inlet area are around 83 degrees, and clarity varies.
Captain J of Fishful Thinking Guide Service (843-902-0356) reports that this week they have had northeastern winds that have made for muddy conditions, and as a result he has been fishing for black drum. Drum have super sensitive senses of smell, and so fishing for them is almost like targeting catfish. Captain J. puts out several rods with cut shrimp on the bottom, and then waits for the drum to arrive. You have to feed the pinfish at first, but once the drum move in they will run off the pinfish. If after 20 or 30 minutes you are still just catching pinfish then you need to move on to the next spot.
Some of the spots they fish are in 10-14 feet, and some are in only 5 feet or less. The incoming tide has been good recently, but the real key is the right kind of bottom.
Some old, laid down shell that has growth, crabs, and other critters feeding in it is ideal. Live oyster shells are not as good.
The redfish fishing has not been great, but there have definitely been some fish caught recently. They will eat live mullet, but probably the most common way Captain J. has been catching them recently is while he is black drum fishing. In Murrells Inlet there is a lot of boat traffic and so the reds don't get super shallow, and 5-6 feet around the same shells the drum are frequenting is a great place to look for them.
Trout fishing has been pretty good, and the key has been floating live shrimp around grass edges, little rips or off the ends of points. Suspended jerkbaits have also been working. Unlike drum trout are not as particular about the bottom structure – they just want a good ambush point that has some current flowing around it and where bait is disoriented.
A few flounder have been picked up but that bite is slowing down.
In the surf whiting, pompano and bluefish are around.
Just offshore there are a bunch of Spanish mackerel right now, and once you locate them you can troll or throw lures. King mackerel fishing has been very good, and while you have to weed through lots of small fish there are also some good ones around. Either trolling dead cigar minnows, or fishing spoons on planer boards, will catch fish, and fishing over live bottom areas (best) or near reefs can both work.