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AHQ INSIDER Charleston (SC) Winter 2022 Fishing Report – Updated January 6

  • by Jay

January 6

Inshore surface water temperatures have dropped into the upper 50s around Charleston and the water is fairly clear.

The most exciting thing going on right now is at the nearshore reefs, and Captain Rob Bennett (843-367-3777) reports that right now the black sea bass fishing is on fire in about 60 feet of water. There are also sheepshead and black drum out there. The sheepshead fishing has also been surprisingly good around inshore structure, which is maybe not so surprising considering that only a few days ago water temperatures were still 61 degrees!

The redfish are in a pretty typical winter pattern, and they are now schooled up so tight on the shallow flats that you really need to locate them before fishing.  The best time to target them is around lower water and they will take mud minnows, cut mullet, scented soft plastics and more. Of course they will eat live shrimp if you put it in front of them but shrimp have gotten very precious.

The other best place to look for redfish is around structure, and deeper docks have been fishing very well. Low tide is often the best time to fish docks as well. 

The trout bite remains a little finicky, and generally the trout are a bit deeper. They are in holes in the creeks, deeper along grass lines, and particularly out at the jetties. Live shrimp are very difficult to beat but Vudu Shrimp, DOA Shrimp, and grubs on an Eye Strike Jighead will also work. The eye still seems to be really making a difference.

Any day now the shad run should start into the Tailrace Canal, the Rediversion Canal (put in at Arrowhead Landing), and on the Santee River (from Wilson’s Landing outside of St. Stephen’s).  Fish will be caught on Sabiki rigs, shad darts, and tiny twist tail grubs.

December 22

Inshore surface water temperatures are in the mid-50s around Charleston and the water is clearing. 

After an incredible fall Captain Rob Bennett (843-367-3777) reports that inshore fishing is starting to look more like normal for early winter, and the redfish are now schooled up so tight on the shallow flats that you really need to locate them before fishing.  The best time to target them is around lower water and they will take mud minnows, cut mullet scented soft plastics and more. Of course they will eat live shrimp if you put it in front of them but shrimp have gotten very precious.

The other best place to look for redfish is around structure, and deeper docks have been fishing very well. Low tide is often the best time to fish docks as well. 

The trout bite has gotten a bit more finicky as it has gotten cooler, and generally the trout have moved a bit deeper. They are in holes in the creeks, deeper along grass lines, and particularly out at the jetties. Live shrimp are very difficult to beat but Vudu Shrimp, DOA Shrimp, and grubs on an Eye Strike Jighead will also work. The eye still seems to be really making a difference. 

While a lot of the trout being caught right now are on the smaller side, Redfin Charters (843-277-5255) notes that they have caught a few really good ones. 

A better trout caught this week with Redfin Charters
A better trout caught this week with Redfin Charters

Even as inshore action has slowed a little, nearshore there is some really exciting stuff going on as the big reds that were all over the jetties in the summer and fall have formed massive schools offshore in about 50 feet of water. Sometimes they are on the bottom but at other times they will come up to the surface and hit anything that anglers throw at them. 

Out at the reefs there are also bull reds, big black drum and black sea bass, and it’s simply a matter of picking your days. In a few weeks the sheepshead will be really thick. 

December 16

Inshore surface water temperatures are still about 58 degrees around Charleston and the water is clearing again. 

It’s still a very good period for inshore fishing, and Captain Rob Bennett (843-367-3777) reports that they continue to catch excellent numbers of redfish and trout. The reds are heavily schooled up and if you catch one there are likely a lot more in the area. Generally they are shallow, but there are also some holding around docks in 6-8 feet of water. 

Overall the redfish are biting better on low water, and since the trout are biting best on higher stages of the tide around grass lines, points and water moving over oyster bars it sets up well. 

While you can buy live shrimp it’s very hard to net your own, but mud minnows are working well for both species. They are also biting well on Vudu Shrimp and twister tail grubs, but be sure to use a jighead like the Trout Eye that has a painted eye. A plain unpainted lead jig is not working as well. 

Captain Rob's first mate Tracy with a good one
Captain Rob's first mate Tracy with a good one

While they are not running as many charters right now Redfin Charters (843-277-5255) notes that they are catching some big trout on live mullet. 

December 2

Inshore surface water temperatures are still about 58 degrees around Charleston and the water is clear as a bell after very little rain.  

Batting leadoff this week is the inshore sheepshead fishing, and Captain Rob Bennett (843-367-3777) reports that right now the action is absolutely phenomenal. The reefs are probably dead until January because all the fish are closer in, and it’s as simple as fishing around most any type of inshore structure from docks and pilings and rocks to trees and “brush”. Today Rob has been slaying the big fish dropping live shrimp down vertically around isolated downed trees in the backs of creeks, but they are easier to hook with fiddler crabs. 

A big convict fish caught today on Captain Rob Bennett's boat
A big convict fish caught today on Captain Rob Bennett's boat

If the sheeps are batting first then the trout and redfish are batting clean-up, and 70-fish trips are the norm right now. Rob reports that he is catching fish around most any grass line, point, or oyster bed, but the real key for him has been live shrimp. They are hard to get and you really have to know where to throw a net, or you can pay $4.50 per dozen.  With the quality of the bite that very quickly adds up. 

If you don’t have shrimp fish can be caught on other baits or artificials like Vudu Shrimp or Trout Tricks, but for Rob shrimp are significantly out-fishing the alternatives. 

With the in-between tourist season Redfin Charters (843-277-5255) is running less inshore trips right now, but when the captains have a free day they are running out to 90-100 feet and slaying the bottom fish. Mutton snapper and vermillion snapper have been particularly prolific. 

In the bluewater zone they have caught a few blackfin tuna as well as wahoo. 

November 19

Inshore surface water temperatures are about 58 degrees around Charleston and the water is relatively clear.

Sometimes fishing reports need to offer a lot of detail to be sure anglers will know how to catch fish, but that’s not the case for Charleston this week. Both Captain Rob Bennett (843-367-3777) and Redfin Charters (843-277-5255) report that the fishing is absolutely phenomenal right now, and Rob reports that yesterday his boat caught 40 redfish and trout in 45 minutes with basically one on every cast. They actually had to take a break and look for new water because the clients’ arms were hurting!

For both species it is really as simple as having a live shrimp in the water under a popping cork and then being in the vicinity of some grass or oysters. But the fishing has been so good that they have switched to artificial lures at times with about the same results.  Clear, moving water in either direction is best but not essential, and the only caveat is that cloudy conditions can slow the fishing. 

Rob notes that this year the trout are abnormally large.

Some good ones caught this week with Captain Rob Bennett
Some good ones caught this week with Captain Rob Bennett

As noted there’s no argument about the state of the fishing from Redfin Charters, and Captain Erven Roper reports that on a 6-boat charter two days ago they caught 380 fish! The catch was very heavy towards reds but they did have about 40 trout. The fish are so hungry right now that bait does not seem to matter. 

While the bull red drum bite have slowed down, Redfin Charters reports that out at the jetties they are getting some really nice trout in the 22- and 23-inch range.  These fish seem to want a live shrimp floated deep under a slip cork about 8 feet or more down.  Note that this pattern is better on smaller tides and when the water is really ripping at the jetties it’s not as good.

November 11

Inshore surface water temperatures are about 60 degrees around Charleston and the water is clearing.  

The trout fishing is nothing short of outstanding right now around Charleston, and Captain Rob Bennett (843-367-3777) reports that the fish are devouring live shrimp fished under a popping cork along grass lines. It has not made a huge difference whether the tide was going in or coming out, but there has to be some current moving. Clear water is certainly better. 

Even through live shrimp are hard to beat, Redfin Charters (843-277-5255) has also been catching lots of trout on artificial lures like Zman baits. 

The action has also been really, really good for redfish right now, and Redfin Charters reports that they even saw a bunch of tailing fish yesterday on the really big flood tide! Overall they notice that the reds are starting to group up more, and it is getting rare to catch a single.  If you get one there should be more with it.

Again a variety of artificials will work, but it’s hard to beat live shrimp – especially with many of the bait stealers disappearing. Around lower stages of the tide there are a bunch of fish around docks, and oyster beds are always productive.    

There are still some bull reds in the harbor, but it seems like they are on the way out right now.  But with such good inshore action not as many people are targeting them to give an accurate census.

A good catch yesterday with Captain Rob Bennett
A good catch yesterday with Captain Rob Bennett

November 4

Inshore surface water temperatures are about 65 degrees around Charleston. 

The trout fishing is getting really good around Charleston, and Redfin Charters (843-277-5255) reports that they have been catching fish on live shrimp and mud minnows fished under a popping cork near grass lines. It has not made a huge difference whether the tide was going in or coming out, but there has to be some current moving. The fish are holding about 5-6 feet off the grass where the current is ripping along.  

It's getting to be trout time along the South Carolina coast 
It's getting to be trout time along the South Carolina coast

The creeks are also full of redfish right now, and Captain Rob Bennett (843-367-3777) reports that the action has been really fast. It’s not unusual to have boated 30 fish before 9 a.m. Live shrimp under a popping cork are hard to beat right now. 

In the last few days Redfin Charters has noticed a minor transition with the reds, and they are starting to see a lot more fish grouping up around structure. In particular there have been a lot of fish around docks. In addition to shrimp they are also catching fish on mullet. 

A couple of weeks ago Redfin Charters was taking half of their trips in the creeks but the balance was in the harbor going after bull reds. While there are still some bull reds in the harbor, it seems like they are on the way out right now. 

October 20

Inshore surface water temperatures are about 75 degrees around Charleston and shrimp, mullet and menhaden are all prolific. 

From inshore to offshore, Captain Rob Bennett (843-367-3777) reports that the fishing is absolutely phenomenal right now.  Live shrimp under a popping cork will catch redfish

almost anywhere in the creeks that you throw, and most of the fish are in the slot and over. 

The trout are also prolific, and Redfin Charters (843-277-5255) reports that they have caught several big 20 plus inch trout as well as a ton of smaller fish, and for some reason docks have been particularly good. Live shrimp are the bait of choice. 

Everything is eating shrimp and they have even caught some sheepshead under a floating cork around pilings. 

While Redfin Charters is taking about half their trips in the creeks, the other half have been out at the jetties where they are having great success with the bull reds. Right now the fish want to be out at the tips of the jetties instead of closer in, and menhaden is the key to catching them. 

About anywhere that you can find some live bottom in 50-90 feet of water the king mackerel are eating it up, and Captain Rob reports that live menhaden are working very well.  There are also tons of false albacore around.

A good one landed yesterday on Captain Rob Bennett's boat
A good one landed yesterday on Captain Rob Bennett's boat

October 7

Inshore surface water temperatures are still about 78 degrees around Charleston and the creeks are full of bait. 

There’s not too much change in the inshore bite around Charleston, and Captain Rob Bennett (843-367-3777) reports that’s a good thing! The creeks are absolutely full of shrimp right now, and as a results that redfish are gorging on them and growing very fast. By now the creeks are full of 15-17 inch fish. A live shrimp under a popping cork fished around oyster beds is still all you need to catch reds, and if you can find a spot that isn’t overrun with spottails you can pick up some trout, too. However, the redfish are so thick right now that Rob isn’t trying to do anything else. 

Spending a little more time inshore than a week ago, Redfin Charters (843-277-5255) has found the same thing. When clients do want to target trout they can usually put them on some by fishing live shrimp under a cork along grass edges at higher tides when there is a strong current pulling the bait along the grass. Reds are a bit lazier and like to avoid the swiftest water. 

They have also picked up some sheepshead on live shrimp around structure, but of course if you want to catch more sheeps then fiddler crabs are hard to beat. 

Shrimp - the reason for the season
Shrimp - the reason for the season

The action for bull redfish in the Charleston Harbor has slowed just a little but is still really good, and Redfin Charters reports that fish are still in 25-50 feet of water at areas like the Grillage, Fort Sumter and around the jetties. Mullet and menhaden are both working, and at the jetties you can catch fish with a knocker rig right off the rocks. 

Captain Rob reminds everyone that very soon – usually by the third or fourth week of October – those same giant reds will be in the surf following the massive schools of mullet which will be about 100 yards off the beach.

The king mackerel fishing has picked up this week, and you only have to go 12-15 miles offshore into about 60 feet of water to really get on them.  Trolling live bait or artificials will both work.

September 29

Inshore surface water temperatures are down to about 78 degrees around Charleston and the creeks are full of bait. 

The inshore bite has gotten really, really good around Charleston, and Captain Rob Bennett (843-367-3777) reports that may be because the creeks are so full of shrimp that you can practically walk on them!  A live shrimp under a popping cork fished around oyster beds is still all you need to catch a ton of redfish and trout, and by now the inshore redfish are a mixed bag of little, medium and big fish. The trout are mainly on the smaller end but will get bigger. 

You will also pick up some flounder on shrimp, but if you really want to concentrate on them finger mullet on a Carolina rig or jighead are hard to beat.  Fish are in main river areas where there is a small shallow bluff, drop-off, or hump and current running across it. The fish seem to prefer a bottom that is somewhere between muddy and sandy that has some oyster shells. 

The action for bull redfish in the Charleston Harbor has been so good that Redfin Charters (843-277-5255) has barely had time to fish the backwaters, and on one recent half-day trip they caught 37 bulls in four hours!  It was impossible to fish more than two rods at a time. The fish are still in 25-50 feet of water at areas like the Grillage, Fort Sumter and around the jetties. Mullet and menhaden are both working, and at the jetties you can catch fish with a knocker rig right off the rocks. 

While the big reds are in the harbor or nearshore right now, Rob reminds everyone that by the third or fourth week of October those same giant reds will be in the surf following the massive schools of mullet which will be about 100 yards off the beach.

At the reefs there are Spanish mackerel, and in 40-90 feet of water king mackerel are abundant. 

A nice catch this week with Redfin Charters
A nice catch this week with Redfin Charters

September 17

Inshore surface water temperatures are down to about 79 degrees around Charleston and the creeks are full of bait. The water has normal color but rain and some big tides should get it dirtier. 

Water temperatures dropping into the 70s has turned the fish on around Charleston, and Captain Rob Bennett (843-367-3777) reports that yesterday his boat caught about 80 redfish. Most of them were below the slot, but in just a few weeks they will almost all be more than 15 inches.  Shrimp are incredibly prolific in the creeks right now and the fish are devouring them, so a live shrimp under a popping cork is all you need. Most of the fish seem to be relating to oyster beds right now. They are also picking up some trout and big ladyfish on the same bait, but the trout have not really turned on yet. 

While Rob hasn’t targeted flounder inshore recently, there should be some fish in main river areas where there is a small shallow bluff, drop-off, or hump and current running across it. The fish seem to prefer a bottom that is somewhere between muddy and sandy that has some oyster shells. 

In the Charleston Harbor Redfin Charters (843-277-5255) reports that they have been having a lot of success with the bull redfish in 30-50 feet of water at areas like the Grillage, Fort Sumter and around the jetties.  Mullet and menhaden are both working, and at the jetties you can catch fish with a knocker rig right off the rocks. 

There are also some Spanish mackerel being caught at the end of the jetties. 

A nice redfish caught recently with Redfin Charters
A nice redfish caught recently with Redfin Charters

September 2

Inshore surface water temperatures remain about 85 degrees around Charleston and the creeks are still full of bait, especially shrimp.

Inshore fishing continues to be good in the Charleston area, and Captain Rob Bennett (843-367-3777) reports that shrimp is the bait of choice for pretty much everything right now. And with the rivers and creeks so full of shrimp there is no need for anyone to have to buy bait!

For now they are catching an absolute ton of small redfish as well as some bigger fish at the upper end of the slot and just above it. However, these small reds are eating so voraciously that they will be over 15 inches in no time. They are also catching a mixed bag of trout, croaker, pinfish, stingrays and even mangrove snapper since the water is so hot. 

The morning is still fishing better than the heat of the day, and as long as there are moving tides you should be able to catch fish around grass lines, oysters bars and docks.  

The flounder catch has been spotty, and the fish they have caught are small. Perhaps flounder are still on more of a finger mullet bite.   

Note that effective July 1 flounder regulations changed, with a new limit of 5 fish per person (from 10) and 10 per boat(from 20). The minimum size moved to 16 inches (from 15). 

The sheepshead fishing is still good around walls in the creeks or docks on lower stages of the tide. Fiddler crabs are key and sizes are getting bigger.   

In addition to good inshore action, Redfin Charters (843-277-5255) reports that the most exciting new thing they have done is chasing schooling bull reds off the beaches and at the jetties. When conditions are calm you can see them feeding on the surface, and in addition to conventional baits they have been able to target them on the fly!

A nice red caught nearshore with Redfin Charters
A nice red caught nearshore with Redfin Charters

 

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