Saltwater Fishing Trends - January 11, 2019

Fishing Off shore

Popular Marine Species

South Carolina marine recreational fishing regulations

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Information on fishing trends provided courtesy of, 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 urging catch and release to help spotted seatrout recover

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Update to Red Drum Regulations (effective July 1, 2018)

Red Drum

The South Carolina General Assembly has passed a new law intended to reverse Red Drum overfishing. The lowered bag limit allows two fish per person per day and no more than six fish per boat per day. The previous catch limit was three fish per person per day, with no boat limit. The slot limit (15-23 inches) remains unchanged.

Slot Limit:

  • 15-23 inches (total length)

Bag Limit:

  • 2 per person per day, and no more than 6 per boat per day

Learn More About Red Drum

North Grand Strand (Updated January 9)

Inshore water temperatures on the north end of the Grand Strand have warmed up to 56-58 degrees. Because of rain, wind and warmer than usual temperatures the water is not as clear as usual at this time of year.  

Probably because of the unseasonably warm weather, Captain Patrick “Smiley” Kelly (843-361-7445) reports that fishing is excellent for a variety of species. They are catching a lot of slot-sized redfish as well as over-the-slot fish, and even though it’s winter fish are not grouped up in huge schools. Frankly the fish are not in that different a pattern from what they have been in. Fish can be found around oyster beds, docks, and on the flats, and both the incoming and outgoing tide have been productive in the right places. 

Artificial baits like Vudu Shrimp, Gulp! baits in New Penny, and mud minnows fished under a popping cork have all been working. 

The trout bite is still good, and they are catching fish in 5-10 feet along the ledges in the Intracoastal. Both live mud minnows and Vudu Shrimp are working well, and while the best action has generally come on the rising tide yesterday they caught some fishing on the outgoing.

There is still a good bite for smaller black drum, although some of the fish are keeper-sized. On the ledges fish can be caught in about 10 feet of water on small pieces of cut shrimp.

Captain Smiley’s boats have evened picked up some small flounder lately!
Cherry Grove Pier (843-249-1625) reports that surf temperatures have risen into the upper 50s, and as a result some fish have come closer to the beach. There has been a pretty strong whiting run for January, and they have also caught some bluefish and a few flounder up to 16 inches. 

Southern Grand Strand (Updated January 11)

Inshore water is cold and very clear on the south end of the Grand Strand.
The fishing has been excellent around Murrells Inlet, and Captain J. Baisch of Fishful Thinking Guide Service (843-902-0356) and Baisch Boys Bait and Tackle (843-651-1915) reports that they continue to catch a ton of fish.

Trout are in a transition period, but fortunately for fishermen it’s a good transition. They can still be caught out at the tips of the jetties, but as shrimp start to disappear from the surf a lot of the big 17-22+ inch fish are moving inside the inlet chasing new food sources (chiefly fish). But they are just coming off a shrimp bite, and so if they can get it that is still their first choice. The store has been able to keep live shrimp in stock, and floating live shrimp under a cork has been phenomenal for trout inside the inlet as well as at the tips of the jetties. Mirrolures, grubs, and Trout Tricks will also work. 

Inside the inlet J. looks 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 is 4-10 feet, and trout can be caught across the tide cycle right now.  

Catches of black drum have also been excellent. Black drum are frequently an indicator species for trout, and they are often found in the same areas. With pinfish gone Captain J is 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 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. 
Amazingly, they are still catching keeper-sized flounder floating shrimp in Murrells Inlet. In the Pawley’s Island area fishermen are still buying mud minnows to drift, although this cold snap may signal the end of the flounder season. 

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. If anglers go 10 miles offshore and reach 50 or 60 feet there are good black sea bass available. 

Charleston (Updated January 9)

Inshore water temperatures in Charleston have continued to rise to around 59 degrees, and there is a lot of freshwater coming into the rivers around Charleston.

It’s hard to believe, but it has gotten so warm inshore around the Charleston area that the first three trout that David Fladd with Eye Strike Fishing caught in 2019 were on topwater lures – in January! While fishing topwaters is not the predominant pattern, it is a sign of just how warm it is and how aggressive and shallow the fish are right now. 

Overall trout have been mixed in with redfish, and even though they are definitely in a winter pattern fish around hard cover like concrete, rocks, riprap, or private boat landings they are super aggressive. They are finding groups of 20-30 reds, and generally they are pretty shallow. They are feeding around the tide cycle. 

David does note that there is a ton of freshwater coming into the rivers, and so in some of the same places where he was catching redfish a week or two ago he is now picking up largemouth bass! In general fishing closer to the Harbor is likely to be more productive now for saltwater species. 

To the south of Charleston Captain Rob Bennett (843-367-3777) reports a very different trout bite, with the fish almost nonexistent this fall. Considering that last year temperatures were in the 40s, and now they are almost 60, Rob is optimistic for a recovery in the population this year. 

Rob has still been finding a good redfish bite for a couple of hours either side of low tide. Fish are hanging around docks in 2-3 feet of water where they will take mud minnows on a popping cork or sections of crab. In shallow draft boats you can also get up on the mud flats and look for schools of fish.

Higher stages of the tide have been tougher but fishing around oyster beds has been working. 

The close-in reefs continue to hold more and more keeper-sized black sea bass.

Edisto Island (Updated January 10)

Inshore surface water temperatures around Edisto Island are about 54-55 degrees but dropping. The water is clearing but still pretty dirty in the South Edisto, while the North Edisto is looking better. If rain remains limited both rivers should clear soon.

On the redfish front, Captain Ron Davis Jr. (843-513-0143) reports that fishing remains good on both the flats and in the creeks. Low tide is the best time for fishing the flats and it is getting easier to actually see the schools instead of just wakes. With visibility improving both artificial lures and natural bait such as cut mullet or fresh dead shrimp will work – or artificials tipped with natural bait. 
In the creeks, reds are in the usual places such as around docks, deep holes, rock, and creeks bends with structure, and the best time to fish is on lower stages of the tide.

Sheepshead fishing remains good on lower stages of the tide around deeper docks with 10-12 feet of water, but catching keepers is getting more and more difficult. Once temperatures drop and hold below 55 degrees most of the better fish will move and stay offshore since there is very little deep inshore structure in the 20- to 30-foot range to hold fish around Edisto. Fiddler crabs are harder to get but clams and oysters are both working. There are also a lot of small black drum mixed in with the sheepshead, but three out of four fish are undersized.

The trout bite around Edisto remains tough, and overall Ron continues to rate this one of the worst winters for deep hole trout fishing that he can remember. The dirty water still seems to have pushed Edisto fish away. Trout can still be caught here and there in the creeks in 8-15 feet of water around trees, deep holes, rock walls and other structure. Instead of the natural colored baits which usually work this time of year bright white, chartreuse, pink or fluorescent baits have been working better. 

Whiting fishing on the beaches and sandbars is still slow, and generally they have moved to deeper nearshore reefs.

Offshore in the 90-foot range there are tons of vermillion snapper, porgies, black sea bass, and bonito. Ron even found a bunch of bull drum in 90 feet on a recent trip. To get keeper-sized sea bass you have to be in at least 60 feet right now. 

Beaufort (Updated January 11)

Inshore water temperatures have dropped into the upper 50s around Beaufort, while the visibility remains very good. 

Overall the redfish bite remains good in Beaufort, although Captain Tuck Scott of Bay Street Outfitters (843-524-5250) reports that fish have been behaving a little differently with dropping temperatures. Add to the equation that dropping temperatures also mean that there are far less mullet around, and so fish are even more wary of dolphins and hence skittish. A more-stealthy presentation is necessary than a week or two ago.

Because of the cooler conditions fish are in even tighter schools on low tide, and so there are even more areas without fish and you need to spend a lot of time moving. 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 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 while some fish will break up and forage in the grass others will still be fairly schooled up. 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. A lot of fish have been hanging around medium-length grass and grass points right now. 

Live shrimp and mud minnows have been working better than cut mullet right now, and Gulp! on jigheads or under a cork has also been producing.

There has not been a lot of trout activity around Beaufort but the best bet is to look in deeper holes right now.

Hilton Head (Updated January 10)

Inshore surface water temperatures around Hilton Head have risen to 64 degrees, and with strong winds visibility is off for this time of year. 

After a better week last week, Captain Dan “Fishin’ Coach” Utley (843-368-2126) reports that this week the flats redfish bite he has been on has gotten a little tougher again. Windy conditions have made it harder to sight fish, and the fish he has found have also been pretty finicky. It seems that the presence of dolphins is making the fish gun shy, and if you want to find the more aggressive fish you need to find schools that the dolphins aren’t working. 

Captain Kai Williams with Awesome Adventures Charters (843-816-7475) reports that when he is able to sight fish low tide he is still concentrating on 1- to 1½-foot deep water, and yesterday he found a pretty good bite – in areas the dolphins were not working. Flies, minnows and shrimp have all worked.

He is also having success fishing the creeks around docks using mud minnows on lower stages of the tide.

High tide necessitates a different pattern, and in general Kai finds better fishing on high tide when it is very cold. In those conditions fish are easier to target because they are more likely to stay grouped up and less likely to spread out. 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.

When the water is warmer, or sight-fishing is impossible on high tide because of visibility issues, then blind casting is the only option. Instead of fishing a free-lined mud minnow Kai suggests fishing it under a cork either in fishable holes in the grass or in areas with sparse grass. Alternatively, anglers can move deliberately down the banks and work obvious targets.

Trout reports remain fairly limited, but Captain Kai reports that they are catching them at bends or deep holes in the creek with 12-20 feet of water. They can be caught with live shrimp or mud minnows fished under a slip cork.

There are some black drum being caught off docks with 3-9 feet of water at low tide, and clams, shrimp and fiddler crabs are all working. 

At the nearshore reefs in 30-50 feet of water black drum and sheepshead are also starting to stack up, and 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.