Saltwater Fishing Trends - December 30, 2016

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 December 27)

Inshore water temperatures in the Charleston area have fall into the 50s, and water clarity is good. Now that water temperatures have dropped significantly in the Charleston area spotted seatrout fishing has really slowed down, although Captain Rob Bennett of Lowcountry Inshore Charters (843-367-3777) reports that experienced anglers still have some spots where they can catch them. However, for the typical weekend angler catching trout has gotten a lot tougher.

Luckily, there are plenty of redfish to be caught around docks, deep pools in small gutter creeks close to the ocean inlets, and around oyster mounds. Anglers who have shallow draft flats boats can also pursue them on the mud flats. Fish are in schools of 10 to 50 to 200 fish, and on calm, windless days anglers can sometimes see the schools coming. They will eat mud minnows as well as shrimp, and you can also anchor half of a crab ahead of the fish. Reds will also fall prey to artificials such as Zman Silver Streakz or most any grub (curly tail or flattail) behind a jighead.

This is a time of year when fishing three hours either side of low tide is far preferable to the higher stages of the tide, in large part because it is easier to locate the fish. If you have to fish higher tides the best option can be to anchor baits in areas where you know there are schools at low tide since they can't be sighted.

While the weather can be iffy for fishing offshore at this time of year, through the winter months larger black sea bass and sheepshead are both stacked up at the artificial reefs. On nice, calm days anglers can catch a lot of fish at this kind of structure, although to catch sheepshead you may have to really pick through the blackfish. If you don't catch sheepshead on one type of structure move to another. Fiddler crabs are available in stores and in the winter months they are very hard to catch.

Little River/North Myrtle Beach (Updated December 27)

Inshore water temperatures in the Little River area are 48-52 degrees, and in the shallows conditions are gin clear. Water temperatures in the surf are about 55 degrees, with conditions fairly clear in the mornings before the wind gets up most afternoons. Temperatures have dropped significantly in the last month or so, but despite the falling mercury Captain Patrick "Smiley" Kelly (843-361-7445) reports that black drum, redfish and trout have continued to feed pretty steadily.

On most trips they are catching double digit numbers of trout, and even though you could use live bait (particularly mud minnows or live shrimp, if you can get them) Vudu shrimp fished under a popping cork have been working very well. Trout are being caught around ledges in 6-8 feet of water, and the moving water in the middle couple of hours on both the rising and falling tide has been most productive.

Redfish have also been biting well at the same stage of the tide, and Gulp! baits as well as fresh, dead shrimp have both been working for reds as well as black drum. "Dead-sticking" the Gulp! has been working very well. They are catching these fish beside docks, in holes in small creeks, and around oyster beds. On lower stages of the tide redfish are also feeding around docks in the ICW.

While there are reports of a few flounder being caught, Patrick's boat has not picked up any.

Cherry Grove Pier (843-249-1625) reports that mostly small fish are being caught off the pier, including small whiting, croaker, perch, a few trout, pufferfish, and a couple of surprising (for so late in the season) snapper bluefish.

Beaufort (Updated November 30)

Redfish: Temperatures haven't gotten especially cold yet, but nonetheless Captain Tuck Scott of Bay Street Outfitters (843-524-5250) in Beaufort reports that redfish are clearly starting to show some winter tendencies. Fish are starting to get into bigger groups, and at low tide Tuck says you can see schools start to come together like they do in the winter. Sight casting the flats with grubs or live bait on moderate, falling tides when there is still some water in the grass has been the best pattern. Even though winter is coming, Tuck advises that anglers should still not discount fishing in the grass. Fish are less likely to be tailing and more likely to be cruising in the grass, and they are eating shrimp before those disappear for the season. On warmer days some fiddler crabs are definitely still out.
Trout: The trout bite has been good recently, and anglers are having success throwing Gulp! shrimp or paddletail grubs on a ¼ ounce jighead. The better fishing is in and around the mouths of creeks on moving water, with the dropping tide the best.
Note that the Hunting Island Pier (843-838-7437) is closed for fishing due to damage from the October storm. Repairs should be completed by the spring.

Edisto Island (Updated December 28)

Captain Ron Davis Jr. (843-513-0143) reports that water temperatures are still in the upper 50s in the Edisto area and clarity is good.

Redfish are feeding very well around Edisto Island, and even though numbers aren’t great when fish are located they are very cooperative. There is plenty of sight fishing on clear, windless days. On the low tide flats if you can find a good school of fish then on the first 3 or 4 casts it is common to get a bite, although they can get skittish after that. Dead low tide is tough because fish can be very spooky, and so fishing 1-3 hours each side of low tide is best. Cut shrimp and mullet both work very well as will live mud minnows and scented plastics. In the creeks fishing cut mullet and shrimp in holes for two hours each side of low tide is the best bet. Shrimp are pretty much gone inshore except in some of the deep holes, and mullet can be a little tricky to get at times.

Trout have moved off the main river into creeks and deep bends with an average depth of 7-15 feet. They will usually be around some sort of structure such as trees or older docks. Locating fish with most any ¼ ounce jighead with a curly or boottail grub will work, and once you find a school you can experimenting with changing colors and styles to catch as many fish as possible. The best action is within several hours of low tide.

Inshore there are still some sheepshead around docks in 10-15 feet of water at low tide. However, a lot of the better fish have already migrated out to nearshore reefs in 30-40 feet of water. Black sea bass are thick at the reefs and 10-12 inch, sub-legal black sea bass will drive you crazy as you have to fish through them first to get to the sheepshead. Black sea bass will eat most anything including the fiddler crabs that sheeps love.

Usually by this time of year the bottom fishing closer in has started to shut down and anglers have to go out to 120 feet of water and then the ledge to catch grouper, snapper, porgy and big black sea bass. However, temperatures in 70-90 feet are still so warm in the 65-68 foot range that the bite is really good there.

Greater Murrells Inlet (Updated December 28)

Murrells Inlet water temperatures are in the mid to upper-50s, and the water is fairly clear but some northeastern winds have kept things a little stirred up recently.

Water temperatures have cooled significantly, but there is still a good inshore bite in the Murrells Inlet area. Captain J of Fishful Thinking Guide Service (843-902-0356) reports that his boat has been a catching bunch of redfish, trout, and black drum around the jetties because of the prevalence of bait out there. Redfish and black drum are being caught on cut shrimp, which should be fished very close to the rocks. Drum (which have an excellent sense of smell) will bird dog the bait if anglers are patient. Sometimes they will suck it up and eat it slowly, and so anglers need to give them time to get the bait fully into their mouths.

Redfish and trout are being caught trolling grubs inside the jetties. Trout are also being caught around the jetties trolling Mirrolures up and down the rocks, or using a troll motor and casting into the rocks (like a bass fisherman). Anglers can also do really well casting a live shrimp under a float around the rocks, although there are limited stores that have shrimp.

Black drum can also be caught inshore on shell bottoms in the creek, and again they will eat pieces of cut shrimp. Black drum are running from about 1-5 pounds, and inshore the outgoing tide has been best while around the jetties the tide does not matter as much.

Some trout are also being caught in the creeks with the same techniques of trolling grubs/ Mirrolures as well as throwing them. As alluded to above, for now there are pretty good shrimp in the ocean which is why a lot of fish are staying out there. If the shrimp leave the fish will retreat back into the creeks.

A few flounder are still being picked up while throwing grubs.

Some sheepshead are being caught around the jetties using barnacles or fiddler crabs, and there are also sheeps and black sea bass, which will eat about anything, out at the North Inlet Reef.

Hilton Head (Updated December 28)

Hilton Head inshore water temperatures are around 60 degrees, and while clarity is good (depending on the tide) it is not as good as it will get later in the season.

On much of the coast captains report that it can be pretty tough to catch inshore fish outside of the lower stages of the tide, but around Hilton Head Captain Dan “Fishin’ Coach” Utley (843-368-2126) advises that redfish can be caught throughout the tide cycle. In fact, while the redfish bite is good most of the time sometimes higher tides are a little easier to fish because the reds may not be as skittish.

About a month ago the fish were not yet hanging around the edges, but now they can be found pretty much everywhere around the grass edges – particularly when the water is just coming into the grass but also on the outgoing. If they can’t actually see schools anglers can run a trolling motor and look for areas where the grass is moving, and Coach has also found that fish are generally hanging out in the same areas where he has caught them in past years. It’s hard to beat a ¼ ounce jighead with a Gulp! grub, either worked or even dead sticked on the bottom.

Even though he has not been targeting them as much as reds, Coach advises that trout fishing is also pretty good. His boat has caught trout in creeks that have some deeper water around oyster bars, and they can also be found in the main rivers around points and other areas that have some fast-moving water – particularly over oysters. White Gulp! shrimp and electric chicken screwtail grubs have both been working, and the incoming tide has been most productive for trout.