Saltwater Fishing Trends - May 19, 2017

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.

Update to Cobia Regulations (effective May 1, 2016)

Closed Season

  • May 1 - May 31. Catch and release only in SC waters south of 032 31.0' N latitude (Jeremy Inlet, Edisto Island).
  • June 20, 2016 – December 31, 2016. Fishery closed in state and federal waters.

Bag Limit

  • 1 per person, per day, and no more than 3 per boat per day. Applies only in SC waters south of 032 31.0' N latitude (Jeremy Inlet, Edisto Island)
  • 2 per person per day (Federal waters and all other SC state waters)

Charleston (Updated May 10)

Inshore water temperatures in the Charleston area are in the mid-70s.

The wind has been blowing for about two weeks in the Charleston area, but when you can get out on the water Captain Rob Bennett of Lowcountry Inshore Charters (843-367-3777) reports that the bite has been pretty good.

While some anglers will be fishing for bull red drum in Dynamite Hole, at the Grillage, and at the artificial reefs, Rob says this is his favorite time to start looking for tailing redfish on the extremely high tides. You need a shallow draft boat to get into the right areas but once there you can catch fish on spoons, flies, or by putting out a half-blue crab and letting the fish find it. On lower stages of the tide look around docks and oyster beds.

The flounder bite is also improving, and the key to catching flounder right now is to find areas with a mixture of hard shell, sand, and mud. They don't want to lie on straight oyster beds or plain black mud. The mouths of creeks are good spots, and live finger mullet or mud minnows fished on a Carolina rig are hard to beat. Know the minimum size because lots of fish are under 14 inches.

With the trout spawn underway there are plenty of big trout around right now, and for the next few months the best time to catch them will be in low light periods early and late. Vudu shrimp, live mud minnows or live shrimp fished under a popping cork will all work, as will topwater lures. Release big roe trout because harvesting one big female could be killing ten thousand more.

The big bluefish here a couple of weeks ago have mostly moved on, but with jelly balls starting to show up on the beaches it's a sure sign that spadefish are arriving at the artificial reefs. Spanish mackerel are also at the reefs, and further offshore this is a peak time for dolphin.

Little River/North Myrtle Beach (Updated May 9)

Inshore water temperatures in Little River had been in the mid to lower-70s, but recently they dropped into the 70-degree range – and even slightly cooler. With warm weather they will rebound quickly. Inshore fishing continues to be good in the Little River area, and Captain Patrick "Smiley" Kelly (843-361-7445) that most of the inshore species are feeding pretty well right now.

Even with the high winds redfish have been available, with 15-22 inches the average catch size. Fish have been biting best on falling tides, and they have been around docks and oyster beds. Live mud minnows and Gulp! baits fished on a 1/4 ounce jighead have been working best.

Black drum have been found in the same areas and on the same tides as the red drum, but shrimp have been working best for them. More and more bait stealers like pinfish show up each week so keeping a shrimp in the water until a drum finds it is getting harder and harder.

Trout have been found in slightly deeper water in the 6-10 foot range around ledges and oyster bars, with the low to rising tide most productive. Mud minnows or Vudu Shrimp fished under a popping cork have worked well, as has just jigging one of the imitation shrimp without a cork.

In the Tubbs Inlet-area lots of short flounder in the 12-15 inch range have been caught, while in Cherry Grove plenty of keepers are being landed. Guides report catching fish up to about 6 pounds in the area.

Cherry Grove Pier (843-249-1625) reports that on the bottom whiting, croaker and perch are around, and there have also been bluefish and Spanish mackerel. Recently they had a nice run of Spanish with some fish undersized, the biggest up to 22 inches, and a good number of 14-16 inch fish. There have been no kings in the last week but four so far this year, with those coming in mid-April.

Beaufort (Updated May 19)

Inshore water temperatures in the Beaufort area are in the upper 70s, and particularly at low tide the water has generally been pretty dirty.

Redfish in the Beaufort area are starting to get into a summer pattern, and Captain Tuck Scott of Bay Street Outfitters (843-524-5250) reports that at high tide tailing activity is right where it should be for this time of year. When you have several successive days of good tailing conditions during a higher-than-normal tide cycle the best fishing will be towards the beginning of the period, as later in the cycle fish have already gorged themselves (even if the tides keep getting better). On the fly brown crab patterns have been working well, and on spinning tackle casting Gulp! crabs on weedless hooks at tailing fish is a good bet.

On the dropping and rising tide redfish can be found around shell bars where the tide is coming out (or going in), and on spinning tackle live shrimp, mud minnows or Gulp! baits on 1/4 ounce jigheads will all work. If you want to sight-fish in the same period you can look along the edges of the grass for floating fish, or search over white shell banks where it’s easier to see them. For sight-casting at fish throw a DOA shrimp or shallow suspended twitch bait; since these lures are lighter they don’t make as much of a splash when cast.

On low tide clarity has often been poor, but when you can find fish they are very willing to eat. The same sight-fishing baits work well.

Reports indicate that trout fishing has been very good, with the best action in 2-3 feet of water around creeks mouths and moving water. Gulp baits on a 1/4 ounce paddletail grub are hard to beat. In clear conditions electric chicken is a good color, and in dirty water brown or purples have been working well.

Edisto Island (Updated May 9)

Captain Ron Davis Jr. (843-513-0143) reports that Edisto Island-area inshore water temperatures are around 75 degrees, and clarity is fair in the North Edisto. To the south it is poor due to recent rains.

Inshore trout fishing around Edisto Island has been very good, with fish caught around main river white shell banks and points. When the clarity is good Trout Tricks have been working well, but when clarity is only marginal DOA Shrimp under a popping cork have been a better bet. Early there has been good topwater action.

The redfish bite is mixed but on the slow side, and overall fishing on the flats has been poor. However, there have been more fish caught in the creeks this spring than in the last two years. Fishing about two hours either side of low tide in the deep bends in the creeks that have some sort of structure, particularly docks and trees, has been most successful. Cut mullet or crab sections fished on a Carolina rig has been the best bait.

Sheepshead fishing has been good around docks with 6-10 feet of water at low tide. Fiddler crabs, clam parts and oysters have all been working well.

Ron also reports that flounder have been showing up, with the best catches in creeks closest to the ocean with sandy bottoms. Fishing mud minnows on a jighead or Carolina rig for about three hours either side of low tide has been the best pattern.

Cobia are around but closed to harvest this year, while tarpon have not showed up yet.

Off the beaches out to about 10 miles offshore spanish mackerel are prolific, with plenty of fish very close to shore. Look for the birds and troll or cast small spoons. At the nearshore reefs you can also jig small spoons near the bottom.

However, the hottest bite is offshore for dolphin. Last week plenty of boats had 30-40 fish days, and while numbers have been a bit more restrained this week there have been plenty of 8-15 fish days. This bite should last through about Memorial Day then start to decline.

Greater Murrells Inlet (Updated May 19)

Water temperatures in the Murrells Inlet area are in the lower to mid-70s.

Perry's Bait and Tackle in Murrells Inlet (843-651-2895) reports that the flounder fishing is really heating up along the South Grand Strand, and they are getting more fish and better keeper ratios each day. Captain J of Fishful Thinking Guide Service (843-902-0356) reports that in Murrells Inlet itself the fishing has been a little tough at times, and he suspects that recent dredging may be part of the problem. However, the surrounding areas have been hot – in particular around Pawley's Island.

Perry's also reports that the bite for slot-sized redfish has been pretty good in the creeks. Again, the Pawley's Island area has been good with the Inlet a little weaker.

Bigger black drum are starting to return to holes in the creeks, and small sheepshead are showing up at the jetties. The sheeps aren't thick at the jetties yet, however.

Overall trout fishing has been spotty, but there have been some very good reports from the Georgetown area.

In the surf whiting have slowed down after a pretty good spring run, while pompano are just starting to show up. Bluefish have been caught on the beaches and Spanish have been caught just off the beaches trolling or casting spoons.

Captain J. has probably been spending the most time trolling for king mackerel, and the bite has been really good in 40-50 feet of water. If you can find live menhaden or mullet they are a great option, but trolling dead cigar minnows on a jighead rig will also work.

Perry's adds that at Belkie Bear they've had a lot of good king reports.

Hilton Head (Updated May 9)

Hilton Head inshore water temperatures are around 78 degrees, and with windy conditions the water is pretty stirred up and dirty.

It had been a tough few weeks for inshore fishing around Hilton Head, but Captain Dan "Fishin' Coach" Utley (843-368-2126) reports that all began to change last week. The redfish bite really began to pick up, and they started catching 5-10 good fish on most trips – to go with some trout and lots of small flounder.

For reds the best time to fish has been for an hour or two when the tide is about halfway in and out, and fish have been in 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 feet of water around large expanses of oyster beds. Coach has been using the tide to float cut mullet or mud minnows under a rattling cork to the fish. Fish have also been picked up at the bottom of the tide cycle at the mouths of small creeks which drain a large area of marsh. In these shallow areas Coach is downsizing his leader to 12 inches on the same bobber rig.

While there have not been a lot of trout caught, the ones his boat has been catching have come on the deeper edges of flats with faster moving water. The same baits/rigs have been working. The flounder have come while floating mud minnows on the very shallow rigs.