Saltwater Fishing Trends - February 8, 2019
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.
North Grand Strand (Updated February 8)
Inshore water temperatures on the north end of the Grand Strand have risen all the way to 59 degrees; although the water is clear breezy conditions this week have reduced visibility.
Even as water temperatures warm, redfish continue to be in the same type of places they have been much of the winter, and Captain Patrick “Smiley” Kelly (843-361-7445) reports that on the falling tide they have been able to pick up some creek fish by positioning the boat in shallow water and casting into little holes with 3-4 feet of water. Sometimes low tide redfish will be in such shallow areas that they cannot even be accessed with a boat, and at times Captain Smiley will get out and walk in hard, sandy creeks. Fish are primarily in these spots hiding from dolphins looking to feed. When fishing the dropping tide you have to be conscious of water levels so you don’t get stuck.
Fish can also be caught on the flats, and at this time of year the best conditions on the flats are low to rising tide in the middle of the day when the shallow mud flats can warm. You can spot them just laying around, pushing water, or you can see puffs of mud where they have been.
Artificial baits like Vudu Shrimp, Gulp! baits in New Penny, and mud minnows fished under a popping cork have all been working, but Captain Smiley points out that you will miss a lot of fish right now. Every year at about this time they bite funny, grabbing half of the bait and sometimes spitting it out.
Trout can still be caught in the Intracoastal Waterway around drop offs in 5-10 feet of water, and they will also be around moving water near oyster banks. Recently they have mainly been catching smaller fish in the 13-inch range, but there are better fish around too. Gulp! baits on a 1/4-ounce jighead are working.
Fish can be also caught at the jetties, where the best pattern remains fishing live mullet, mud minnows or ideally shrimp under a slip bobber. Drifting the bait with the current in 4-10 feet of water is the best pattern, which usually means keeping the bobber about 5-10 feet off the rocks. Any closer than that and the bait will usually get hung up.
There is still a good bite for smaller black drum, with some of the fish keeper-sized. On the ledges fish can be caught in about 10 feet of water on small pieces of cut shrimp.
Cherry Grove Pier (843-249-1625) reports that surf temperatures have risen to about 50 degrees but only a few small whiting have been caught.
Southern Grand Strand (Updated January 24)
Inshore water temperatures have dropped a couple of degrees to about 49 in the Murrells Inlet area, and the water remains very clear.
There have been some unpleasant fishing conditions recently, but Captain J. Baisch of Fishful Thinking Guide Service (843-902-0356) and Baisch Boys Bait and Tackle (843-651-1915) reports that if anything the bite for big trout has gotten even better. In the last week there have been some monster 25-inch fish caught.
While some fish can still be caught out at the tips of the jetties, the most and biggest fish have been caught inside Murrells Inlet either casting or trolling Mirrolures (“808” color: black back, gold side, orange belly) or grubs.
Inside the inlet Captain J. continues to look for a few things in finding the best spots, including current (the bigger fish don’t mind fast-moving water); laid-down shell or live shell bottom; and areas with sandy, 2-foot ripples where the trout can sit and have bait washed over their heads. A good depth range remains 4-10 feet, and trout can still be caught across the tide cycle.
Catches of black drum remain excellent in the same areas as the trout, with the more current the better for drum. With pinfish gone Captain J. is still fishing for them the same way one would fish for catfish, putting out a number of rods with cut shrimp on the bottom and waiting. He is also doing some very light chumming up current with small pieces of shrimp. When the black drum take the bait it has generally been a very soft bite recently, while when redfish are picked up on the same technique it is generally a more aggressive strike.
Overall reds have been found a bit shallower than black drum, and in general Captain J. is still finding them in the warmest water way up the canals. The best time to target them is on the outgoing low tide when the water has the most potential to heat up and fish are the most active – on the incoming cold water often slows down the bite. The best bite is when the water is out of the grass.
Even though redfish will eat cut mullet, Captain J. is also targeting them with cut shrimp so that he does not cut out potential black drum (which are less likely to eat fish).
Some black drum have moved into the surf but overall surf fishing is pretty slow.
Nearshore at the 3-mile reef black drum and sheepshead can both be caught on fiddler crabs. For right now the sheepshead are mainly smaller males, but the bigger females should be showing up any day. From 10-20 miles offshore you can get your limit of good black sea bass.
Charleston (Updated February 5)
Inshore water temperatures in Charleston are around 52 degrees, but should rise significantly soon. The Cooper River is very dirty while flats to the south of Charleston are clear.
Dirty water in the Cooper River has made for some tough inshore fishing conditions in his area, but David Fladd with Eye Strike Fishing reports that trout and redfish should still be in the same areas. They should be found around hard cover like concrete, rocks, riprap, or private boat landings. Redfish should still be grouped up pretty shallow and feeding around the tide cycle. There have been some good trout recently caught in the Wando.
To the south of Charleston Captain Rob Bennett (843-367-3777) still reports an almost non-existent trout bite, but he continues to find a decent redfish bite for a couple of hours either side of low tide on the flats. Five- to 10-pound reds are schooled up, and when they aren’t getting chased by dolphins they are willing to take a bait. In the creeks the best pattern is fishing mud minnows in 3-6 feet of water around docks at low tide. Higher stages of the tide remain a tougher nut to crack.
Folly Beach Pier (843-762-9516) reports that water temperatures are about 53 degrees. Fishing activity has been very light but should pick up soon.
At the Edisto 40, 4KI, and Capers the sheepshead are stacked up and when the wind lays down anglers can whack ’em. If you can’t get fiddler crabs then frozen sand fleas will work well.
Edisto Island (Updated February 6)
Inshore surface water temperatures around Edisto Island are around 53-54 degrees, and water clarity is getting decent.
On the redfish front, Captain Ron Davis Jr. (843-513-0143) reports that we are into two of the toughest months of the year. A lot of the time the flats fish are feeding on incredibly small bait less 1/4 of an inch or less long, including young of the year baitfish and tiny crabs, and this can make them harder to catch. When temperatures start to warm they can also get more skittish and swim off faster than what is old cold and they are more dormant.
Overall the flats pattern is about the same, and anglers need to realize there will be times when the fish just will not eat a bait but you can see them rolling on clouds of small fish. Scented soft plastics seem to be working better than mud minnows or shrimp on the flats.
Redfish in the creeks can be a little less finicky, and fishing the lower stages of the tide is still best. Fish will be around a variety of structure including docks, trees, rock or other hard cover. However, the best area in the winter is usually the last couple of bends in the creeks, especially if they have deep water and a downed tree. In the creeks cut shrimp is still working a little better than cut mullet.
In the creeks black drum can be found in the same places as the reds and will eat cut shrimp.
The trout bite around Edisto has gotten even tougher, although Ron does expect a good spring for trout. Trolling might be the best way to locate the few resident fish in the creeks, or you can fish in 8-15 feet of water around trees, deep holes, rock walls and other structure. Translucent colored baits are starting to work a little better as the water clears.
Sheepshead have pretty much moved to the nearshore reefs, and bull reds and black drum can also be found in the same areas. In 60-90 feet of water, false albacore, bluefish, and keeper-sized black sea bass can be caught.
The best fishing is in 90 feet of water where the temperatures can be 15 degrees warmer than 40 feet, and a variety of bottom fish as well as king mackerel will be found out there.
Wahoo and tuna can be found out on the ledge.
Beaufort (Updated February 8)
Inshore water temperatures are around 55 degrees around Beaufort, and the visibility remains very good.
Overall it’s been good recently for redfish in Beaufort, but Captain Tuck Scott of Bay Street Outfitters (843-524-5250) reports that when temperatures first started to rise the fish seemed to channel that extra energy into evading predators. As temperatures have stabilized they have gotten back into eating more reliably.
Since fish have remained very schooled up low tide sight casting has been the best pattern, and the rules for sight-fishing remain the same. Sometimes the fish will be stationary and you will just be looking for a dark patch, and at other times there will be some subtle swirls or a slight ripple on the water that gives away a school. At other times they will actually be visible because of a calm area, as their subtle finning will break up an otherwise bumpy surface. And at other times a muddy cloud will give the fish away.
On higher tides finding the redfish remains more of a challenge, but the schools staying intact presents both a challenge and opportunities. Instead of just blind casting around shell bars, look for surface disturbances as well as fish floating high in the water column on sunny days. Schools are also likely to be hanging around medium-length grass and grass points.
DOA shrimp and Vudu Shrimp have been working as well as bait, but live shrimp, mud minnows and cut mullet will also catch fish. On the fly natural tans and browns have been good.
On the trout front, there continues to be some good action slow trolling jigs and grubs in 4-6 feet of water.
Hilton Head (Updated February 8)
Inshore surface water temperatures around Hilton Head have risen to about 60 degrees, and the water is fairly clear.
Once again the pattern has changed for inshore fishing in Hilton Head, and even though it has gotten warmer Captain Dan “Fishin’ Coach” Utley (843-368-2126) has actually seen fish more schooled recently than before. Some days the fish have been pretty aggressive, while at times they have been more finicky. They have had trouble locating fish on higher stages of the tide, but fishing large live shell banks on falling tides they have been able to sight-fish when the water is getting low.
Look for large flats that have two feet of water or less, because these areas warm quickly and fish feel safer from the dolphins. Ideally the flat will be adjacent to a small feeder creek with grass and oyster beds that fish will head up to feed at higher stages of the tide.
Cast the bait ahead of the school, and then pull the bait back towards the fish. If you cast into the fish and scare them you might as well abandon that school and then search for it later. Gulp! shrimp on a 1/4 or 3/8 ounce jighead are working well, and in cloudy or dirty conditions white is a good color. When the water is clear and the sun is out then natural or new penny color works well.
On the rising tide the best bet remains fishing pockets in the grass or along the edges with the same baits, but with fish so schooled up there are fewer spots that hold fish.
Captain Kai Williams with Awesome Adventures Charters (843-816-7475) reports that as temperatures rise the redfish seem to be getting pickier but they are still able to sight fish at low tide on 1 – 1 1/2 foot deep flats. In the creeks he will be fishing around docks using mud minnows on lower stages of the tide.
With rising temperatures Kai has also been sight fishing on higher tides, and fishing very lightly rigged artificials such as natural-colored Gulp!, Zman PaddlerZ, and Swimming Trout Tricks, or free-lined mud minnows, is working for sight-fishing in the grass on higher tides.
Captain Kai reports that they have been catching decent numbers of smaller trout around bends or deep holes in the creek in about 10 feet of water. Paddletail grubs have been working very well.
At the nearshore reefs in 30-50 feet of water, black drum and sheepshead can be found in good numbers, and they will bite best on moving tides in either direction. Anchoring over or beside the edges of the structure you can catch drum on shrimp or sheepshead on fiddler crabs. Both Carolina rigs and knocker rigs will work.