Saltwater Fishing Trends - February 11, 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 January 24)

Inshore water temperatures in the Charleston area range from 55-58 degrees, and water clarity is very good.

It’s winter in the Charleston area, and Captain Rob Bennett of Lowcountry Inshore Charters (843-367-3777) reports that one common target this time of year is the shallow water redfish fishery on the flats. If you have a flat-bottomed boat that draws very little water then on warm, sunny days where low tide falls during the middle part of the day you can get up on the flats and search for schools of redfish. Calm conditions are a must, and a quiet approach – particularly with someone polling – is important. Bait fishermen can do well to put out a half-crab, and Zman grubs will also work. You want to cast in front of the schools and try not to spook the fish.

If you have a calm day but a regular boat then it’s hard to beat the nearshore reef sheepshead fishing. 4KI, Capers and the Edisto 40 all hold tons of sheepshead, and fiddler crabs found at local stores are the best bait. Use a heavy weight to get it down, and then keep the bait about a foot off the bottom. You will catch a lot of black sea bass and so wreck-jumping is sometimes a must.

If you’re looking for something a little different, then for the next couple of months the American shad run should be up your alley. In the next few weeks a wave of these saltwater fish should move into the Cooper River tailrace as well as the Rediversion Canal. Casting small chartreuse jigs on 1/8 ounce jigheads is a good bet, and it’s important to work the lure very slowly. You’ll know you’re in the right place when you see a ton of other boats.

Trout fishing is very slow.

Folly Beach Pier (843-762-9516) reports that weather has kept anglers off the pier this week, but it is hoped that some whiting and black drum will be around when conditions improve.

Little River/North Myrtle Beach (Updated January 17)

Water temperatures are holding fairly steady in the Little River area, and inshore water temperatures still range from the upper 40s to lower 50s. The surf is about 54 degrees. Inshore conditions are very clear.

Perhaps due to the fact that water temperatures are essentially unchanged from a few weeks ago, fishing conditions in Little River are very similar to the end of December. Captain Patrick "Smiley" Kelly (843-361-7445) reports that the bite for trout, red drum and black drum is still pretty good. Plenty of trout can be caught on Mirrolures or Vudu Shrimp fished under a popping cork along ledges in 6-8 feet of water, with moving, higher tides most productive.

Redfish have been biting well for a couple of hours before and after low tide, and they are eating Gulp! as well as fresh cut shrimp or cut mullet. Live shrimp are almost impossible to get. They are catching these fish around docks, holes and oyster beds. Black drum are also being caught on shrimp in the same areas on the same tides.

Cherry Grove Pier (843-249-1625) reports that the bite is pretty slow, and the main catch is little whiting and croaker.

Beaufort (Updated February 11)

Inshore water temperatures in the Beaufort area are around 55 degrees, which is warm for this time of year because after each cold snap this winter temperatures have quickly rebounded. Clarity is very good.

Conditions for catching redfish in the Beaufort area continue to be pretty good, according to Captain Tuck Scott of Bay Street Outfitters (843-524-5250). During and after cold snaps the reds usually get a little fussy, and don’t show a lot of interest in eating, but as soon as the warming trends start they have been eating pretty well.

The best pattern has been sight-casting on lower stages of the tide and throwing smaller flies and lures in the super clear water. Small bright colored flies like size 4 electric chicken and bonefish flies in 4s and 6s are both working. On conventional tackle go to 1/8 ounce jigheads and smaller grub bodies, again in bright colors. In super clear water some anglers think they should go to baits in black or brown colors, but these actually silhouette so much that they spook the fish and super bright colors like white, pink and chartreuse are actually better.

Overall it’s very much a low tide, sight casting game. Some fish can be caught on higher stages of the tide around shell bars, grass, points, etc., but catching fish on the flood is much more difficult.

At this stage of the winter trout fishing has slowed down somewhat, but fish can still be caught on mud minnows fished on a popping cork. Live shrimp are even better, but very hard to get. Fish will also eat a ¼ ounce jighead and grub. The best pattern is fishing in faster moving water around shell bars and outside creek mouths. At this stage of the year fish are most likely to be found in 3-4 feet of water.

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 in the mid to upper-50s, and the water is very clear.

With all the warm weather fishing continues to be very strong in the Murrells Inlet area, and Captain J of Fishful Thinking Guide Service (843-902-0356) reports that his boat continues to catch a bunch of redfish, trout, and black drum in the Inlet. Black drum and red drum are biting best on cut shrimp, while trout are feeding well on grubs and Mirrolures. Some anglers are casting, while others are trolling. The fishing for all three species has been better around low tide, on both the rising and falling tide, and with the warm winter conditions Captain J says fishing are being found in the same depths and areas that he catches them in the summer!

Perry’s Bait and Tackle in Murrells Inlet (843-651-2895) reports that fishing pressure is pretty low, but they concur about the quality of the inshore bite. Some particularly big trout including an 8- and a 4-pound fish were weighed in three days ago. Trout have been found in a lot of different areas, from Charlie’s Cut to the creeks below that out to the jetties. Live shrimp (available in the store) as well as a mix of artificials have been catching fish.

Small flounder have also been caught back in the creeks on warmer days.

Nearshore, Captain J reports that lots of sheepshead are being caught at the reefs. There are black sea bass around, but if you find the right areas you can target the sheepshead with live fiddler crabs.

Perry’s reports that there have been good wahoo catches offshore.

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 1/4 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.