Saltwater Fishing Trends - March 14, 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 March 14)

Inshore water temperatures in the Charleston area have dropped back down into the mid-50s, while clarity is still good.

Before the cold snap Captain Rob Bennett of Lowcountry Inshore Charters (843-367-3777) advises that trout fishing was starting to turn on. But the cold weather this week will knock that bite for a loop. Inshore redfish have also been feeding pretty well around docks, particularly for an hour or two each side of low tide. Fishing with cut shrimp or mud minnows is a good bet for reds.

However, if anglers want to find a red hot bite they should head out to the nearshore reefs. Out at the reefs there is excellent fishing for red drum, black sea bass and summer trout. Both of these species will devour mud minnows, and Rob doesn’t even bother with squid and likes to take 300 or 400 hundred mud minnows out. He fishes them with a 2-ounce weight and a 50 pound, 18-inch leader–and then tells people to hold on! The action is fast.

Bluefish are also showing up at the reefs, and lots of nice 2-5 pound fish as well as some bigger ones are around. Before long the Spanish mackerel will also arrive. Trolling 00 Clarks Spoons, deep-running 5-6 inch Yozuri baits and 4-5 inch Rapalas is a good way to hook up.

The nearshore reefs are also home to tons of sheepshead right now that will take fiddler crabs and barnacle/mussel-type baits, but there are also some monster sheeps inshore. Recently the Mt. Pleasant pier record 13-pound, 11-ounce fish was caught under the Cooper River Bridge.

Folly Beach Pier (843-762-9516) reports that the catch has been limited to skates recently.

Little River/North Myrtle Beach (Updated February 20)

Inshore water temperatures are in the low to mid-50s in the Little River area, and the water is gin clear.

The big three winter inshore species are all biting well in the ICW, creeks and tributaries around Little River, with Captain Patrick "Smiley" Kelly (843-361-7445) reporting good catches of black drum, redfish and speckled sea trout.

Redfish are eating both shrimp and Gulp! baits, and they are being caught on the low to rising tide around docks and oyster beds in shallow areas with about 5 feet of water or less. Most of the fish are in the 15-20 inch slot-size range, and they are doing a lot of "dock-hopping" from one good looking dock to another.

Black drum are being caught in the same areas and on the same tides as the redfish, but they are pretty much being caught on shrimp.

On the other end of the tide spectrum, on the end of the rising tide and when the water is just starting to fall trout are biting well on Mirrolures. Anglers can either cast or troll the lures, and fishing moving water around creek mouths and ledges is the best bet. 6-8 feet has been the most productive depth.

Beaufort (Updated March 12)

Inshore water temperatures in the Beaufort area have come up quickly to around 63-64 degrees, while clarity is still very good.

Spring has started very early in the Beaufort area, and Captain Tuck Scott of Bay Street Outfitters (843-524-5250). reports that he is already seeing blacktip sharks and loggerhead sea turtles – way ahead of schedule. Despite this redfish are still fairly schooled up for the most part, although some fish are starting to break out of their big winter schools. Closer to the ocean schools seem to be a little more split up, probably because of the abundance of bait in these areas that is worth prowling for. Sight-casting for redfish has been pretty good on low tide, and on the rising or falling tide reds are in their traditional spots in the slower moving water near creek mouths and shell points. The higher outgoing tide has been a little better than the rise.

On the fly crab patterns in root beer brown have been working, as well as toad patterns in electric chicken. On spinning tackle mud minnows under a cork will of course catch fish, and Gulp! baits in New Penny color have been working as well as most any soft plastics in electric chicken. Both should be rigged on a 1/4 ounce jighead. For sight-casting Mirrolure suspending twitchbaits have also been effective.

There hasn’t been a good tailing tide yet, but when high flood tides come at the right time of the day Tuck won’t be surprised if they see some early fish tailing. Trout fishing is off to an early start, and with the warm water temperatures there is even some sight-fishing activity at light changes. Daybreak has been a little better than nightfall. On the higher outgoing tide fish have been feeding in the swift water around shell points and creek mouths. Mud minnows as well as a variety of grubs will catch fish.

Edisto Island (Updated February 1)

Captain Ron Davis Jr. (843-513-0143) reports that Edisto Island-area water temperatures remain above normal in the mid-50s, and clarity is still excellent.

The redfish bite remains strong in the creeks around downed trees, rock walls, and older docks. The bottom six hours of the tide are still much better than higher stages, and mud minnows, cut mullet, and cut shrimp fished on a Carolina rig will all catch fish. On the flats when you can locate reds without spooking them they will take Gulp!, scented Zman soft plastics as well as mud minnows fished on a very light 1/16th ounce jighead.

The trout bite has died almost to nothing, and whereas a couple of weeks ago there was a decent bite in the creeks it is now pretty much only small trout biting with very few keepers finding their way into boats. In a good day of fishing in the creek anglers would do very well to catch five or more trout, and the bite on the main river is almost nonexistent.

Sheepshead fishing remains good around deeper pilings that have more than 10 feet of water at low tide. While the fish will eat fiddler crabs, they will inhale dime-sized pieces of clam and oysters which are much easier to catch them on. Since bait-stealers aren't really around there's nothing to stop anglers from fishing this way.

At the nearshore reefs sheepshead fishing is also good, and there are also big schools of 1-3 pound bluefish along with false albacore. Oversized red drum in the 25-35 inch range are also around on calm days when you can get offshore, and black drum are mixed in with the reds. For sheepshead and black drum fiddler crabs and shrimp will work, reds will take cut mullet, and bluefish and false albacore will chase 1/4 - 1/2 ounce jigging spoons.

Greater Murrells Inlet (Updated January 24)

Murrells Inlet water temperatures remain around 56 degrees, and the water is very clear.

Warm weather has a lot of people fishing in the Murrells Inlet area, and amazingly for February Perry's Bait and Tackle in Murrells Inlet (843-651-2895) reports that a bunch of flounder – including some very early keepers – are being caught in the area. Both Pawley's Island and Murrells Inlet itself have been hot spots.

Trout have also been biting pretty well at the jetties and in the creeks, and with the warm weather they really never slowed down this winter. Captain J of Fishful Thinking Guide Service (843-902-0356) says that the best baits are generally grubs and Mirrolures, and with the bait (mainly glass minnows, as well as some finger mullet and shrimp) moving slowly right now you have to fish them very slowly. With the Mirrolures sometimes he will just cast and let them drift in the current. There are basically two places that produce well this time of year for trout – you can either fish in shallow water at higher stages of the tide where there is good sunlight that has warmed the water, or you can fish over dark bottoms in 5 or 6 feet (which hold heat better).

Perry's also reports that redfish and black drum are biting pretty well, both at the jetties and inshore around shell bottoms. Captain J says that at this time of year he likes to put out several rods with cut shrimp and let the drum “bird dog” the bait. Fish especially want to be around live shells that have orange sponge growing on them.

Finally, Perry's reports a good bite for sheepshead and black drum at the nearshore reefs. Captain J only expects this bite to last for a couple more weeks before the sheepshead return inshore after a couple of months of spawning. Fiddler crabs on a Carolina rig are the best way to catch fish, and with a lot of competition they bite better and are easier to catch than is typical inshore.

Hilton Head (Updated February 28)

Hilton Head inshore water temperatures are already in the lower 60s, but conditions remain pretty clear.

It’s a strange time for redfish in the Hilton Head area, and Captain Dan "Fishin’ Coach" Utley (843-368-2126) reports that fish don’t know whether it’s winter or spring. At the beginning of last week water temperatures were around 60 degrees, but by the end of the week he saw almost 62. It’s anyone’s guess how fast they will move up with the upcoming warming trend.

Typically at this time of year Coach has no trouble locating the fish on low tide but finds them a little skittish and hard to catch, while on higher stages of the tide fish can still be located but are easier to find. Perhaps because of the warm weather this pattern isn’t holding up this year, and on higher stages of the tide fish have been hard to locate. Luckily the low tide fish haven’t been as skittish as usual, and so he having his best catches at low water.

In another departure from the norm typically fish are concentrated on the flats in February, but right now there are no cold temperatures to group them up. Instead there have been better numbers of fish up the creeks around oyster beds than on flats around the same structure. The best pattern has been casting Gulp! baits on a 1/4 ounce jighead to the low tide fish, and color doesn’t matter “as long as it comes out of a Gulp! bag.” About two feet has been the best depth. If you do find yourself fishing higher stages of the tide and can locate fish try casting a free-lined mud minnow ahead of the fish. At higher stages there have also been some fish caught on Gulp! fished along the grass. Coach hasn’t spent a lot of time targeting trout, but there have been some good reports fishing in the deeper bends of creeks that have structure and docks in 12-18 feet of water. Live shrimp, mud minnows or DOA shrimp fished under a slip cork have been working.

At the nearshore reefs and wrecks like the Gordon sheepshead and black drum have been biting very well in 25-35 feet of water on fiddler crabs.