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AHQ INSIDER Charleston (SC) Spring 2020 Fishing Report – Updated March 25

  • by Jay

March 25

Inshore surface water temperatures in Charleston are around 62 degrees and visibility is very good.

The redfish bite has gotten really good around Charleston, and before the shutdown guides at Redfin Charters (843-277-5255) report that they were catching fish on live shrimp or mud minnows fished on slip popping corks fished along grass lines. Something about the popping sound has been making a huge difference right now, and as reds have broken out of schools and spread out this has been the best way to locate them. Some fish are deeper in 6-8 feet of water, while others have been caught in 3-4 feet.

Overall moving tides have been preferred, with the falling tide when creatures are coming out of the grass the best. There has also been some decent fishing on dead low tide. 

Trout have been picked up on the same pattern, particularly on the shrimp, as well as around deep bends in the creeks.  

Folly Beach Pier (843-762-9516) is closed. 

The sheepshead fishing has been phenomenal at the reefs, and there are also some really big black drum out there that will eat a blue crab.  Monday Redfin Charters caught ten sheepshead over 8 pounds with one over 10, and a 30+ pound black drum.

Redfin Charters with a stud sheepshead
Redfin Charters with a stud sheepshead

March 12

Inshore surface water temperatures in Charleston are in the upper 50s, and between freshwater inflow and strong tides inshore clarity is highly variable. In some areas at times the water is very clean, and in other areas visibility is very low.

The redfish bite has picked up a little, and the guides at Redfin Charters (843-277-5255) report that at least the falling tide has improved. At the same time the rising tide remains really tough. Fish are still skittish, and the reds that are being caught are coming in a little deeper water. The ones that you can see can also see you and usually will not bite.

Dead shrimp are actually working better than live shrimp or most artificials, and mud minnows are still doing pretty well. 

A spottail bass with no spot caught this week with Redfin Charters
A spottail bass with no spot caught this week with Redfin Charters

Trout continue to be on the same pattern, and they are being caught on a slip bobber with live shrimp or mud minnows fished around deep bends in the creeks. There are also some trout being caught floating the grass lines with a rattle cork.

Some small black drum are being caught inshore. 

While the annual shad run should be wide open right now in the Santee Cooper Tailrace and the Rediversion Canal, Captain Rob Bennett (843-367-3777) reports that water levels are so high in the rivers that fish are hard to catch.  When flooding subsides the best approach is to cast and slowly retrieve a 1/16 or 1/32 ounce chartreuse or green twister tail grub just off the bottom. Fish will also take a small “shad dart.” Bleeding the fish improves the quality of the roe. 

Folly Beach Pier (843-762-9516) reports that even though water levels are up to about 62 baitfish have not arrived yet and only sharks and rays are around. Large bluefish and small trout should be the first to appear with the bait. 

Nearshore there are still sheepshead at the reefs, and the weakfish are also starting to arrive in 40-60 feet. In the next week or so bluefish and Spanish mackerel should be around in good numbers, and already some big 15-pound blues have been caught.

February 27

Inshore surface water temperatures in Charleston are around 55 degrees, and even though the water is generally fairly clear with all the freshwater inflow salinity is very low in the rivers.

If anything the redfish bite has gotten even tougher, and the guides at Redfin Charters (843-277-5255) report that it almost seems like fish are about three weeks ahead of schedule in typically tough March patterns. While they are still schooled up on the flats, they are very skittish and finicky about eating. Although a few fish are being picked up, it is tough work.  Live bait does increase your chances of hooking up.

Probably because of the freshwater inflow, the bite up rivers like the Wando has been weaker while the action has been better closer to the ocean in the ICW. It seems that fish are seeking out areas with more normal salinity. 

Trout continue to be a relative bright spot, but the fishing is still not strong. However, there have been some decent fish picked up in deep bends in the creeks. They are suspended in 6-10 feet of water, and the best way to target them has been with live bait presented on a slip float. Fish are off the bottom.

Still perhaps the best thing going is the annual shad run, and Captain Rob Bennett (843-367-3777) reports that fish are making their annual runs up the Cooper River Tailrace and the Rediversion Canal. This run will continue well into April.

The water is extremely high in the Rediversion Canal and so Arrowhead Landing is closed right now, but you can still fish the Tailrace even though it is muddy. The best approach is to cast and slowly retrieve a 1/16 or 1/32 ounce chartreuse or green twister tail grub just off the bottom. Fish will also take a small “shad dart.” Bleeding the fish improves the quality of the roe. 

Folly Beach Pier (843-762-9516) reports that for now the bite is pretty much just sharks and rays, but when the baitfish arrive in March the action should pick up. Large bluefish and small trout should be the first to appear with the bait. 

Nearshore there is an excellent bite for sheepshead at the reefs, and if you can catch a calm day you can load up. Captain Rob reminds anglers that in addition to fiddler crabs, sand fleas, and other well-known baits for sheepshead, crushed mussels are easily accessible and highly effective. If you hit them with a hammer without peeling the meat out then they will still have a natural look for the sheepshead, they will stay on the hook better and you will minimize catches of black sea bass.

A nice mess of fish caught nearshore this week
A nice mess of fish caught nearshore this week

February 17

Inshore surface water temperatures in Charleston are fluctuating a lot but range from about 55-58 degrees, and water clarity varies greatly.   

It remains a pretty tricky bite for redfish in the Charleston area, and Redfin Charters (843-277-5255) reports that fish just are not eating very well. Again, this is not unusual in the late winter, and the combination of dolphin predation and slowing metabolisms has the fish more skittish and less focused on feeding.

Water clarity is highly variable from one area to another, and some places that are usually crystal clear are dirty right now. Other places that are usually dirty can be clean. Regardless, when you can see schools of redfish it is not usual to have them just stare at baits and not eat.

The one trick that has been improving the odds is throwing live bait, and live shrimp in particular are the least likely fare to be turned down. 

The trout fishing continues to chug along, and fish are still in the same current rips around grass lines where they have been holding for some time.  The best depth continues to be about 4-6 feet of water on moving tides.

Again, live shrimp and mud minnows have been out-fishing artificial lures. 

While it’s not technically a saltwater fishery, Captain Rob Bennett (843-367-3777) reports that shad are starting to make their annual runs up the Tailrace Canal and the Rediversion Canal. The bite should peak in just a couple of weeks. 

Captain Rob Bennett with a big shad from the Cooper River Tailrace
Captain Rob Bennett with a big shad from the Cooper River Tailrace

Nearshore there is still a good bite for sheepshead at the reefs, and Captain Rob reminds anglers that in addition to fiddler crabs, sand fleas, and other well-known baits for sheepshead, crushed mussels are easily accessible and highly effective. If you hit them with a hammer without peeling the meat out then they will still have a natural look for the sheepshead, they will stay on the hook better and you will minimize catches of black sea bass.

Out in 60-70 feet of water you can get into some very large black sea bass right now.

January 29

Inshore surface water temperatures in Charleston are around 54 degrees, and water clarity is very high right now. 

As water temperatures have dropped Redfin Charters (843-277-5255) reports that the bite for redfish has slowed down.  This is not unusual in the late winter, and the combination of dolphin predation and slowing metabolisms has the fish more skittish and less focused on feeding. 

Fish are still schooled up in the big winter-time schools on low tide. Anglers can fish artificial lures like Zman white or pearl baits on Texas Eye jigheads, or natural baits such as shrimp, mud minnows or cut mullet.

A nice redfish caught in the clear waters recently with Redfin Charters
A nice redfish caught in the clear waters recently with Redfin Charters

Even though the action for redfish has slowed down, there is very little change in the trout fishing and they are still eating well.  Live shrimp and a variety of artificial baits fished along grass lines are working when there is moving water. Fish have been deeper and shallower, but 4-6 feet has still been the best depth range. There have also been some trout caught in deeper holes. 

They did have one random 20+ inch flounder caught recently as well as a fish that was just under the legal limit. 

Folly Beach Pier (843-762-9516) reports that a few trout and whiting are being caught off the pier.

Nearshore, Redfin Charters reports that they have been running out to the Capers Reef and catching some really nice sheepshead.

Captain Rob Bennett (843-367-3777) advises that in addition to fiddler crabs, sand fleas, and other well-known baits for sheepshead, crushed mussels are easily accessible and highly effective.  If you hit them with a hammer without peeling the meat out then they will still have a natural look for the sheepshead, they will stay on the hook better and you will minimize catches of black sea bass.

January 15

Inshore surface water temperatures in Charleston are around 57 degrees, and water clarity is overall very good.

While fishing on some parts of the coast has dropped off due to the unseasonably warm weather, Redfin Charters (843-277-5255) reports that they have still found an excellent bite for redfish. It is unclear what effect the coming cold front will have, but right now the fish are loving the heat. Fish are still schooled up in the big winter-time schools on low tide, which is generally the best time to catch them, but in the last few days they have actually seen some tailing activity on high tide (in January!). Artificial lures like Zman white or pearl baits on Texas Eye jigheads have been working, but shrimp, mud minnows and even cut blue crabs have also been really effective.

While the incoming rains have produced some clarity issues in the Wando or Cooper, the ICW is less affected and stays relatively clear. By a couple of days after major inflows most areas are clearing and the fishing improves again. 

Redfin Charters reports that they are still doing very well for trout fishing live shrimp and a variety of artificial baits along grass lines when there is moving water. Fish have been deeper and shallower, but 4-6 feet has been the best depth range. There have also been some trout caught in deeper holes. 

Folly Beach Pier (843-762-9516) reports that a few trout and whiting are being caught off the pier.

Nearshore, Captain Rob Bennett (843-367-3777) reports that with the sheepshead spawn in full swing the action should stay good at the nearshore reefs into March. Redfin Charters confirms that when you can get offshore you can find excellent action for sheepshead, and they will eat easily available dock crabs just as well as harder to find fiddler crabs. They also landed a huge 60-pound black drum at one of the reefs.

A monster black drum caught recently with Redfin Charters
A monster black drum caught recently with Redfin Charters
December 24

 

Inshore surface water temperatures in Charleston are in the low to mid-50s, and water clarity has been good but is declining after the recent rains.   

The trout fishing continues to be strong in Charleston, and Redfin Charters (843-277-5255) reports that they are having the most success fishing live shrimp and a variety of artificial baits along grass lines when there is moving water. Fish have been deeper and shallower, but 4-6 feet has been a good depth range. There have also been some trout caught in holes. 

While visibility is declining there have also been conditions for sight fishing for redfish, although there have been days when fish will eat and then days where they refuse any offering.  While a number of baits will work, live shrimp probably give you the best chance of convincing a red to bite.

Overall fish are in fairly tight schools of 30-100 fish, and as temperatures drop they will get even more grouped up. 

A nice redfish caught recently sight-fishing with Redfin Charters
A nice redfish caught recently sight-fishing with Redfin Charters

 

On days when his boat can get offshore Captain Rob Bennett (843-367-3777) has been concentrating on the reefs, and there are big black sea bass as shallow as 40 or 50 feet of water. Large redfish and black drum can also be found nearshore, and the sheepshead migration is in full swing. If you are unable to get fiddler crabs they will chomp frozen sand fleas just as well.

December 11

Inshore surface water temperatures in Charleston have dropped into the low to mid-50s, and water clarity is very good. 

The troutfishing continues to be outstanding in Charleston, and Redfin Charters (843-277-5255) reports that they are catching a lot of big fish. Trout are being caught off structure such as docks, and they are also coming around points where there is moving water. Artificial lures have been working really well, and Eye Strike jigheads paired with Zman baits have been all you need. 

While live bait will certainly catch trout, Captain Rob Bennett (843-367-3777) also reports that artificial lures are getting the job done. Most any paddletail or twister grub on a ¼ ounce jighead will catch fish, and you can also work imitation shrimp a couple of feet under a popping cork. Fishing corks along the grass in areas with 3-6 feet of water when there is current is working well, and spots where a creek drains out are also very good. Do not stay in one area long if there are not fish biting.

With the water clearing it is also an excellent time for sight fishing for redfish, and Redfin Charters has been fishing with live shrimp on low tide for schooled-up fish.  Rob points out that for the next few months fish will be on the mud flats, but there is another group of redfish that will stay a little deeper around docks.  Mud minnow are hard to beat for these fish.

A young angler shows off a beautiful redfish caught recently with Redfin Charters

November 20

Inshore surface water temperatures in Charleston have dropped to around 60 degrees, and the shrimp are in the process of evacuating. 

The troutfishing is pretty phenomenal in Charleston, and Redfin Charters (843-277-5255) reports that even as temperatures drop they are still catching fish on topwater lures. But the best way to catch fish has been floating live shrimp along grass edges, and as shrimp become scarce mud minnows and finger mullet fished the same way will produce. 

It’s also getting to be a great time to fish with artificial lures, and Captain Rob Bennett (843-367-3777) advises that about the next three weeks will be some of the best fishing of the year for trout on grubs, Mirrolures, Trout Tricks and more. Fish will be over oysters and off currents and eddies around points. 

Redfishare grouping up in their big winter schools, and by now the best action is sight-fishing on low tide. Finding fish on the flood has gotten pretty difficult. Both live baits and artificials are working, but there are times when the fish just will not eat. And then there are times when the schools are pretty aggressive. 

Like the trout they have also been taking topwaters at times. 

Some niceblack drum have been caught on live shrimp in the creeks. 

Folly Beach Pier (843-762-9516) reports that redfish and whiting are being caught off the pier, and there are always some sheepshead around.

Out in 40-60 feet of water there are some megaschools of huge redfish being caught over live bottom.  They will eat anything you drop down, from cut squid to menhaden and more.

A big black drum caught with Redfin Charters

 

October 25

Inshore surface water temperatures in Charleston have dropped to around 72, and shrimp and mullet are still abundant. While recent winds have muddied the water, in protected areas there is already some seasonal clearing. 

The redfishbite remains really good in Charleston, and Redfin Charters (843-277-5255) reports that fish are eating anything and everything. However, the best bite continues to be on shrimp, and if you see shrimp popping in the creeks there are probably redfish there.

Moving tides have been the most productive, in either direction, and as soon as it gets calm the bite really slows down. The only exception is that on good high tides tailing has still been good. Generally, fishing early has also been best. 

Troutfishing has also been strong, and around oysters, current rips and steep banks there have been a lot of good ones caught.  The topwater trout bite has also been good.

Captain Rob Bennett (843-367-3777) also continues to have excellent results with trout, and fishing the same rig of live shrimp under a popping cork with 2 feet of fluorocarbon, a split shot and a 1/0 kahle hook he has also been catching tons of redfish. With temperatures so warm he expects the strong inshore bite to last through the beginning of December. 

Flounder and tripletail have started to disappear inshore, but bull red drum are stacking up off all of the area beaches. Captain Rob reports that you don’t need to fish more than 2-3 feet of water around the inlets and sand bars to catch them. Cut mullet are hard to beat.

Folly Beach Pier (843-762-9516) reports that it is definitely bull red drum time in the surf, and there are also lots of pompano being caught as they migrate south. 

With persistent, strong winds out of the north and northeast it has been a challenge to get offshore, but there are undoubtedly stillsheepshead at the jetties. 

The nearshore reefs should be covered up inweakfish.

 

 

October 17

Inshore surface water temperatures in Charleston have dropped into the mid-70s, and shrimp and mullet are abundant. There are nice eating-sized shrimp being caught by the deep-holers in the Charleston Harbor.  

Inshore fishing in Charleston has been nothing short of phenomenal, and

Captain Rob Bennett (843-367-3777) reports that in a 3-4 hour trip catching less than 50 redfish and trout is a bad day right now! Almost all of both species have been legal size, and he is fishing almost exclusively around oyster beds with a popping cork, 2 feet of fluorocarbon, a split shot and a 1/0 kahle hook baited with live shrimp. While he is mainly fishing the low to rising tide most of the tide cycle is producing. 

Redfin Charters (843-277-5255) reports similar results, and in average 4-hour charter they are seeing about 40-50 slot-sized redfish! The fish are going crazy for shrimp, and trouthave also been taking topwater lures. With almost a month of good tailing tides the high tide redfish bite has been really good in the grass, and the past week in particular has been amazing for tailing reds.

The tides have been so good that there have even been sheepshead up in the grass tailing, and there has also been good sheepshead fishing at the jetties. 

Bull drum are also on their way inshore, and they are moving closer in on the jetties as well as into the Charleston Harbor at areas like Fort Sumter and the Grillage. 

Folly Beach Pier (843-762-9516) reports that when there are not strong winds whiting and bluefish are prolific, and plenty of red drum and trout should be caught now that temperatures are dropping. 

Nearshore there are plenty of summer trout on the reefs.

Offshore, in about 100 feet of water bottom fishing fortriggerfish,vermillion snapper,grunts, etc. has been good.

 

September 30

Inshore surface water temperatures in Charleston are around 80 degrees, and the water is dirty after plenty of wind. Shrimp and mullet are abundant. 

While the overall outlook for the next month or two is excellent, Redfin Charters (843-277-5255) reports there have been some challenging conditions this week. First, the extreme heat seems to have made fish a little finicky, and then a massive hatch of Chinese worms about five days ago has made things even tougher. From fish they have cleaned it is clear that popular inshore species are gorging on the tiny worms.

 

Still, overall there are good numbersredfish on the upper end of the slot and over the slot around, as well as plenty of small puppy drum.  On the dropping to low tide fish can be caught around oysters where water is coming out of the grass or around docks.  Fish are eating shrimp but especially following the large schools of mullet, and so mullet have been working really well as bait. 

There have also been some good tailing tides lately, and they have been catching lots of fish on crab pattern flies.  With a fairly steady east wind recently tides have been a little bigger than usual.

Troutare also biting around points when there is moving water.  The water has been pretty muddy all the time and tide has not really mattered as long as there is moving water.  You can locate fish by looking for trout busting on shrimp, and they will eat live shrimp, live mullet, and even cut mullet.  Scent is important right now. 

A fewweakfishare being caught further out, and around docks or structureblack drumare being caught on shrimp. 

Overall thesheepshead bite has been pretty sporadic, while bull reds are just starting to move closer inshore.  For right now they are being caught at the tips of jetties, but they have not moved into Charleston Harbor to the extent they will in the coming weeks.

Folly Beach Pier (843-762-9516) reports that they are still catching nice black drum in the 2-3 pound range, and some big bull reds have already made their way in. There have also seen bluefish, whiting and more.

Offshore, in about 100 feet of water bottom fishing fortriggerfish,vermillion snapper,grunts, etc. has been good.  

 

September 19

Inshore water temperatures in Charleston are in the low -80s. Shrimp are easy to net at low tide and mullet are thick off the beaches.

Northeast winds due to the storm offshore have limited fishing activity recently, but Captain Rob Bennett (843-367-3777) reports that redfish, trout and flounder are all still biting well on popping corks with shrimp, mullet or mud minnows. All three species can be found around docks, oyster beds and creek mouths with shell bars. The fishing activity should stay hot until mid-November, and the next several months are the peak of the inshore saltwater fishing calendar.  

The mullet run is well underway, and 100-200 yards off the beach tarpon and tons of blacktip sharks are feeding on the big baitfish. There are already lots of slot-sized redfish in the surf, and around the first of October the bull reds will show up too. 

Folly Beach Pier (843-762-9516) reports that when there are not strong winds whiting and bluefish are prolific, and plenty of red drum and trout should be caught now that temperatures are dropping. 

September 12

Inshore water temperatures in Charleston are in the low to mid-80s. Shrimp are easy to net at low tide and since the storm mullet are thick off the beaches.

With Dorian behind Charleston it’s time to think about fishing again, and Captain Rob Bennett (843-367-3777) advises that for the next 90 days the fishing will be the best that it is all year. By late August Rob reported that it was already easy to catch redfish, and the trout and flounder bite is now picking up, too.  All three species can be found around docks, oyster beds and creek mouths with shell bars. Live shrimp or mullet under a popping cork will work, although fishing a Carolina rig on the bottom with mullet or mud minnows will increase your chances of catching flounder. 

With mullet coming down the beaches there are lots of tarpon and blacktip sharks about 100 yards off the beach.

Folly Beach Pier (843-762-9516) reports that they have been catching nice black drum in the 3-pound range as well as in-slot redfish. 

King mackerel fishing is very good in 60-90 feet of water on live bait or ballyhoo.

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