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AHQ INSIDER Hilton Head Island (SC) Fall 2019 Fishing Report – Updated August 30

  • by Jay

The newest Hilton Head fishing report can be found at: http://www.anglersheadquarters.com/ahq-insider-hilton-head-island-sc-fall-2019-fishing-report/

August 30

Inshore morning surface water temperatures around Hilton Head are still in the upper 80s and very warm.  Shrimp should be around but are actually a little spotty right now, while mullet are abundant in the surf and creeks.

It’s still a little tricky to find bigger redfish, but Captain Dan “Fishin’ Coach” Utley (843-368-2126) reports that there are so many small 13-14 inch fish that there is constantly action.  Mud minnows or small live shrimp will both work, and the best fishing is on the lower stages of the tide when water is out of the grass.  Fish will be along grass edges, oyster beds and at the mouths of small creeks.

It’s a similar story with the flounder, and Coach reports that they are catching very good numbers although most of them are undersized.  Again, areas with moving water along oyster beds and grass edges are working.  Finger mullet or mud minnows will both catch fish.

It has been hard to catch troutwith the big tides since they need clear water.  However, in the right areas you can catch plenty of small ones on live shrimp. Bigger fish should move in this fall.

Captain Kai Williams (843-816-7475) has still mainly been targeting tarpon, and in the last couple of days they have caughtseveral nice ones.  Fish are all over the place, and they can be caught up the rivers and in the ocean – on both the beach and inland side of the island.  Big live baits are working well.

In the surf there are plenty of whiting, sharks and rays as well as some redfish.

Nearshore Kai reports that there are plenty of small jacks, Spanish mackerel, bluefish and ladyfish.

A tarpon caught this week with Captain Kai Williams
A tarpon caught this week with Captain Kai Williams

July 31

Inshore morning surface water temperatures around Hilton Head are around 87 degrees.  With some big tides water is overall dirty.  Finger mullet and mud minnows are easy to catch, while bait shrimp are too small for a ½ inch mesh net.

Fishing for redfishnumbers is straight-forward right now, and Captain Dan “Fishin’ Coach” Utley (843-368-2126) reports that fishing mud minnows in smaller creeks where there is moving water and some oyster beds getting bit is no problem. However, most of the fish are small right now and the bigger reds seem to be pretty scattered at the moment. Fishing with mud minnows under a rattling cork they are also catching a ton of flounder, but most of these are under 15 inches.

Coach with a nice inshore redfish
Coach with a nice inshore redfish

Trout are scarce and Coach says that in this heat you have to get out very early to catch them.

Captain Kai Williams (843-816-7475) has mainly been targeting tarpon this week as the big tides have pushed the jacks further offshore.  Tarpon can be found in the rivers as well as out front off the beaches, and he is mainly fishing live menhaden under a cork.  There are also lots of sharks around.  Amazingly they have also caught some cobia in the Broad, much later than expected.

About two miles offshore they are catching bull redfish on the bottom with live menhaden.

There are still some Spanish mackerel in the Broad River, but offshore they have been scarce.

July 22

Inshore surface water temperatures around Hilton Head are in the upper 80s.  There are lots of big menhaden and mullet in the Chechessee River and off the beaches, and on the mud flats finger mullet, shrimp and even small menhaden remain prolific. Clarity is typical for summer.

Fishing for redfishhas its highs and lows right now, and Captain Dan “Fishin’ Coach” Utley (843-368-2126) reports that there are some days where the bite is really hot and other days where the fish are hesitant to eat.

Overall fish are pretty scattered, and they seem to be holding on the deeper side – perhaps because of the water temperatures. On the outer shell bars they are catching some good fish before the water gets too high floating mud minnows, as well as a few trout, and they are also catching some fish around the same bars on the dropping tide.  Fish are not really relating to the grass.

Captain Kai Williams (843-816-7475) is also catching some reds way up in the grass on high tide, either soaking cut bait in pockets and openings or looking for tails.

A nice inshore redfish caught with Captain Dan "Fishin' Coach" Utley
A nice inshore redfish caught with Captain Dan “Fishin’ Coach” Utley

Besides as a by-catch the main trout action is very early for people throwing topwater lures or shrimp under a floating cork.

While the big jacks have been a little hard to locate this week, tarponhave really showed up in the Calibogue Sound, Port Royal Sound and the Broad River.  There are also lots of black tip and bonnethead sharks around as a by-catch for guys fishing live and dead menhaden for tarpon.

In the surf whitinghave been biting really well, but as we get closer to August and September bull red drum are also starting to move closer and eat at the offshore sandbars.  Spanish mackerel have really slowed.

June 26

Inshore surface water temperatures around Hilton Head are up to 86 or 87 degrees.  There are lots of big menhaden and mullet in the Port Royal and Calibogue Sound, and on the mud flats finger mullet, shrimp and even small menhaden are prolific.

With schools of bait having moved into the sounds, Captain Kai Williams (843-816-7475) reports that it is no surprise that that the big jack crevalle have arrived.  They are exclusively catching them sight-fishing, and using the same big poppers one might use for tuna is working.

A big jack caught yesterday on Kai's boat
A big jack caught yesterday on Kai’s boat

Redfish have gotten a little slow, but Captain Kai says the most popular pattern right now is “soaking meat” (cut bait) in the grass on the high outgoing tide and waiting for the fish.  This a pattern for catching big ones in the 27-28 inch range.

While Captain Dan “Fishin’ Coach” Utley (843-368-2126) isn’t catching the big troutthat were around a few weeks ago, they have been catching very good numbers of smaller fish up the small creeks around oysters beds.  The incoming tide at half-tide and above is good for so long as there is clean water.

Coach also reports that they have caught good numbers of smaller flounder on jigheads and Gulp shrimp, fishing in the same areas as the trout but closer to the bank.  Fish will be on the leeward side of the oyster bars in likely ambush points.   

Black drum fishing remains hit-or-miss, and Coach reports that fish can be caught in deep bends with structure and 7-15 feet of water.  You have to use shrimp or crabs to target the black drum.

There are still a lot of Spanish mackerel in the Broad, which Kai’s boat is catching on live baits including menhaden and mullet.  There was also a big king mackerelcaught inshore this week!

While last week it seemed that the tarpon had really arrived, it’s been a slower week for tarpon and it now appears the numbers just aren’t around yet.  The fish that have been seen are in the Port Royal Sound and around sandbars on the ocean side.

Nearshore kings and Spanish are at the close-in reefs, and there are also a bunch of sharks around. Spadefish are not close in but they can be caught 20 miles out where there are also plenty of barracuda and cobia.

June 21

Inshore surface water temperatures around Hilton Head are about 85 degrees.  Clarity seems to be improving again after some wet weather a week or two ago.  Shrimp, menhaden and mullet are all prolific in the rivers and creeks.

Even in the later part of June the cobiafishing is still good around Hilton Head, and Captain Kai Williams (843-816-7475) reports that they are still catching a good number of smaller fish in the Broad River.  It has been a good season for cobia.

There are also still a lot of Spanish mackerel in the Broad, which his boat is catching on live baits including menhaden and mullet.  But the most exciting new development is that tarpon have arrived in full force.  This week they got a big one in the river on live menhaden.

Trout fishing was very strong before the wet weather dirtied up the water, but Captain Dan “Fishin’ Coach” Utley (843-368-2126) reports that it seems to be coming back as conditions clear.  Both mud minnows and live shrimp fished under a rattling cork have been productive, particularly on the incoming tide when clean water is coming in.  They have had some strong catches of 2-3 pound fish.

A nice trout caught with Coach on the fly
A nice trout caught with Coach on the fly

Higher tides have been a little tough for catching redfish, but on the outgoing fishes areas where the grass is draining back into the river has been good with mud minnows and cut mullet.  On low tide you can fish deep bends with structure or docks in 7-15 feet of water.  The action is not fast but there are sure to be some fish in these areas.

Black drum fishing has been hit-or-miss, but fish are in the same deep bends with structure and 7-15 feet of water as the redfish. You have to use shrimp or crabs to target the black drum.

May 23

Inshore surface water temperatures around Hilton Head are around 80 degrees and the water is fairly clear.

It’s cobiatime around Hilton Head, and Captain Kai Williams (843-816-7475) reports that this season has been the best fishing he has seen in at least the last five years.  Two days ago they caught fish on live menhaden, and yesterday sight-casting they saw 7 fish, were able to cast a fly at 4, and caught 2.  It appears that closing the season to harvest during May is working.

Captain Dan “Fishin’ Coach” Utley (843-368-2126) also agrees that the fishing is improved from last year, and he notes that there is a fraction of the fishing pressure at the typical anchored spots.  There are still plenty of people sight-fishing, and his boat has had some nice looks at cobia this way even when anchoring and chumming has not brought them in.

A nice cobia caught (released) this week with Captain Kai
A nice cobia caught (released) this week with Captain Kai

Coach also reports that Spanish mackerel are thick inside the Port Royal Sound, and even though they are catching a lot of smaller fish on silver spoons there are plenty of 2 – 2 ½ pound fish around as well.  Kai points out that the Calibogue Sound also has Spanish, and bluefish are mixed in with them.  The Spanish will also take live menhaden.

On high water redfish have been okay, and even though you can catch some floating mud minnows along the grass bluefishare so thick that it’s hard not to get cut off all the time.  On lower water fish have been a little skittish but generally you want to be fishing around deep bends with trees and docks.

Troutcan be caught on live shrimp fished under popping corks along grass edges, oyster bars and tide breaks and eddies.  Look for the clearest possible water.  In the morning fish can be caught shallower on topwater lures, but during the day target 3-10 feet of water.

May 8

Inshore surface water temperatures around Hilton Head are in the low to mid-70s.

The fishing for migratory species is getting better and better, and Captain Kai Williams (843-816-7475) reports that in the past week or two the tripletail have really been showing up.  Boats like his that have a tower can look in the Port Royal Sound, Calibogue Sound, and of course the Atlantic for fish at the top of the water column, as it’s pretty much all a sight-casting bite with shrimp lures.  There are some places you can blind cast but you need to know them.

There has also been some good sight-fishing for cobia in the Port Royal Sound, although anglers are reminded that fish inside state waters have to be handled carefully and released.  People are also blind fishing at the Broad River Bridge and the Turtle, and anglers anchoring and chumming are catching fish.

Redfish remain in a similar pattern around Hilton Head, and Kai’s boat is catching them on the mud flats or around shell bars at low tide.  Around high tide you need to fish the grass.  Mud minnows are not working very well at all, and as the water warms the fish want nutrient rich baitfish like cut mullet or cut menhaden that has a lot of smell.  They will eat live shrimp, too.

Captain Dan “Fishin’ Coach” Utley (843-368-2126) reports that in the creeks on low tide he is still catching fish at the bends that have structure as well as around docks, and the fish they have caught have been big.

At higher stages of the tide he is still doing some sight-fishing for reds cruising in the grass, and even though they get very scattered you can pick up a few fish this way.  You need to cover a lot of water to find fish.  Weedless rigged Gulp! shrimp are good in the grass, and cut mullet and mud minnows will work whenever you can fish them.

When tides are high enough there are fish tailing.

A big 32 inch redfish caught this week with Coach
A big 32 inch redfish caught this week with Coach

There are big troutbeing caught right now, and even though the numbers aren’t huge they are definitely moving shallower.  Early or on calm, cloudy days there has been a good topwater bite, and during the day they are killing live shrimp under a cork.  Look around shell bars, grass edges, and pot holes with 4-5 feet of water.  Areas with moderate current and clean green water usually fish best, which means that the incoming tide is usually the best time.

Captain Kai suggests releasing the big females that are full of eggs.

Nearshore there are lots of bluefish and Spanish mackerel that can be caught on live menhaden and artificial lures, and when it is calm they are easy to spot.  At the artificial reefs like Whitewater Reef, the Hilton Head Reef, and the Betsy Ross spadefish are eating jellyballs and cobia are starting to show up.  By late May and June there will be more cobia on the reefs.

April 25

Inshore surface water temperatures around Hilton Head are in the lower 70s.

Redfish are starting to get into a summer pattern around Hilton Head, and Captain Kai Williams (843-816-7475) reports that means they are fishing less along the grass edges where they had been smashing them just a couple of weeks ago.  Now the better bite is coming on low water around shell bars, white shell rakes, and creek mouths.  Cut mullet are working well.

Captain Dan “Fishin’ Coach” Utley (843-368-2126) also sees fishing moving into a more of a summer pattern, and in the creeks on low tide he is catching fish at the bends that have structure as well as around docks.

At higher stages of the tide he is still doing some sight-fishing for reds cruising in the grass, and even though they get very scattered you can pick up a few fish this way.  You need to cover a lot of water to find fish.  Weedless rigged Gulp! shrimp are good in the grass, and cut mullet and mud minnows will work whenever you can fish them.

When tides are high enough there will be fish tailing from now on.

A nice redfish caught this week with Captain Kai Williams
A nice redfish caught this week with Captain Kai Williams

Troutfishing is just starting to take off, and with the spawn just getting underway there are some big female fish full of roe starting to be caught.  Captain Kai suggest looking around shell bars, grass edges, and pot holes with 4-5 feet of water.   Areas with moderate current and clean green water usually fish best, which means that the incoming tide is usually the best time.  Live finger mullet under a cork are working well, and Trout Tricks or Swimmin’ Trout Tricks are also working well.

Early in the morning there is a good topwater bite, which can continue all day on cloudy, overcast days.

Migratory species like tripletailare showing up, and it’s worth keeping an eye out for them floating around.  Sharks have also arrived and Captain Kai’s boat sight-cast to and hooked up with a 7-foot lemon shark yesterday.  There are also lot of bluefisharound, and they will take artificials or chunked mullet. They can be found in the creeks as well as rips in the Port Royal Sound.

It’s early in the season, but cobiaare starting to show up in the Broad River and anglers who spend a lot of time sight-fishing report seeing several each day.

April 5

Inshore surface water temperatures around Hilton Head are about 64 degrees, and the water is still pretty clear.

There is starting to be some good fishing around the tide cycle for redfish, and Captain Kai Williams(843-816-7475) reports that at high tide they are able to fish in the Spartina grass with cut bait under a cork.  You can’t just throw anywhere in the grass, but along good edges, pockets and areas with sparse grass fishing can be really good.  If you aren’t in the right spot it can also be slow, and Captain Kai suggests moving after fifteen minutes without a bite.

On low tide fish are doing well in the smaller creeks that have bends or docks.  Fishing cut mullet, minnows or soft plastics is all working, and Zman PaddlerZ in black and gold or chartreuse is working well.  Putting a lot of ProCure scent on the baits is also helping.

On the flats Captain Dan “Fishin’ Coach” Utley (843-368-2126) is also doing well for redfish, and while they are still schooled up pretty well they have gotten so skittish that you basically have to have some moving water.  If you throw a Gulp! bait in front of them you can get bit, but there is usually only one shot at a school.  The outgoing tide has been the best time to fish the flats, particularly around oyster beds in places that drain a large area.

There have been some strong troutcatches recently in the creeks, and the best pattern has been fishing in deeper creeks with 5-10 feet of water around deep bends – particularly where there is a dock or some other structure.  Moving water to and after high tide has been the best time, and the lower half of the tide cycle has been slower.  The key seems to be live shrimp under a slip float, and catches on mud minnows are relatively poor.  They are catching some big trout on shrimp.

Captain Kai reports that sharkshave showed up again, and yesterday they took a break after catching redfish to catch seven bonnethead and black tip sharks.

The Parris Island Reef is mainly holding small black sea bass, toadfishand sheepshead, but the nearshore reefs about 5 miles out are loaded up with keeper-sized black sea basson up to 50+ pounds as well as sheepshead.  The drum want shrimp or crabs, while the sheepshead are mainly being caught on fiddler crabs.  Bull reds are also starting to show up.

Monster black drum live just offshore from Hilton Head
Monster black drum live just offshore from Hilton Head

March 7

Inshore surface water temperatures around Hilton Head were up to 63-64, but the last few cold nights have knocked them back to the upper 50s.  The water is still very clear.

There has been some pretty rotten fishing weather recently, but Captain Kai Williams with Awesome Adventures Charters (843-816-7475) reports that when you can get out redfishare still on a low tide pattern.  With the water still clear they are still able to sight fish at low tide on 1 – 1 ½ foot deep flats.  In the creeks he is fishing around docks using mud minnows on lower stages of the tide.

At the same time, Captain Dan “Fishin’ Coach” Utley (843-368-2126) has noticed that redfish are starting to scatter out a little more and break up out of the largest winter schools, and so he points out that instead of very large groups of fish you will be finding them in smaller numbers. He has also found them in some traditional summer hangouts for the Hilton Head area, including around deep bends in the creek where there are trees in the water.  Mud minnows are working.

This redfish was caught on a recent, rare sunny day with Captain Kai Williams
This redfish was caught on a recent, rare sunny day with Captain Kai Williams

Troutfishing has been slow, and Kai reports that they have only caught a few small fish around dead low.  However, they expect good trout fishing within the next few weeks.

In addition to finding some small black drum in the creeks, inshore there has been some excellent sheepshead fishing around structure with 15-30 feet of water such as bridges.  Older docks are also holding fish and Broad Creek and Skull Creek have both been fishing well.

At the nearshore reefs in 30-50 feet of water sheepshead can also be found in good numbers, and they will bite best on moving tides in either direction.  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.

February 8

Inshore surface water temperatures around Hilton Head have risen to about 60 degrees, and the water is fairly clear.

Once again the pattern has changed for inshore fishing in Hilton Head, and even though it has gotten warmer Captain Dan “Fishin’ Coach” Utley (843-368-2126) has actually seen fish more schooled up this week than before.  Some days the fish have been pretty aggressive, while at times they have been more finicky. They have had trouble locating fish on higher stages of the tide, but fishing large live shell banks on falling tides they have been able to sight-fish when the water is getting low.

Look for large flats that have two feet of water or less, because these areas warm quickly and fish feel safer from the dolphins. Ideally the flat will be adjacent to a small feeder creek with grass and oyster beds that fish will head up to feed at higher stages of the tide.

Cast the bait ahead of the school, and then pull the bait back towards the fish.  If you cast into the fish and scare them you might as well abandon that school and then search for it later.  Gulp! shrimp on a ¼ or 3/8 ounce jighead are working well, and in cloudy or dirty conditions white is a good color.  When the water is clear and the sun is out then natural or new penny color works well.

On the rising tide the best bet remains fishing pockets in the grass or along the edges with the same baits, but with fish so schooled up there are fewer spots that hold fish.

Captain Kai Williams with Awesome Adventures Charters (843-816-7475) reports that as temperatures rise the redfish seem to be getting pickier but they are still able to sight fish at low tide on 1 – 1 ½ foot deep flats.  In the creeks he will be fishing around docks using mud minnows on lower stages of the tide.

With rising temperatures Kai has also been sight fishing on higher tides, and 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.

Captain Kai reports that they have been catching decent numbers of smaller troutaround bends or deep holes in the creek in about 10 feet of water. Paddletail grubs have been working very well.

At the nearshore reefs in 30-50 feet of water black drum and sheepshead can be found in good numbers, and they will bite best on moving tides in either direction.  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.

January 23

Inshore surface water temperatures around Hilton Head have dropped into the lower 50s and the water has gotten dirtier this week.

It’s been a really tough week for fishing in the Hilton Head area, and with cold weather and 20-30+ mile per hour winds there have not really been any days worth going out.  Extreme, full moon tides have also contributed to reduced water clarity.

With more moderate tides on the horizon Captain Dan “Fishin’ Coach” Utley (843-368-2126) reports that soon they should be able to get back into a pattern of sight-fishing on low tide.  Look for large flats that have two feet of water or less, because these areas warm quickly and fish feel safer from the dolphins.  Ideally the flat will be adjacent to a small feeder creek with grass and oyster beds that fish will head up to feed at higher stages of the tide.

Cast the bait ahead of the school, and then pull the bait back towards the fish.  If you cast into the fish and scare them you might as well abandon that school and then search for it later.  Gulp! shrimp on a ¼ or 3/8 ounce jighead are working well, and in cloudy or dirty conditions white is a good color.  When the water is clear and the sun is out then natural or new penny color works well.

Fish can be harder to locate outside of low tide, but on the rising tide Coach finds some success fishing pockets in the grass or along the edges with the same baits.

Captain Kai Williams with Awesome Adventures Charters (843-816-7475) reports that when they get back on the water he expects to be able to sight fish at low tide on 1 – 1 ½ foot deep flats.  In the creeks he will be fishing around docks using mud minnows on lower stages of the tide.

High tide necessitates a different pattern, and in general Kai finds better winter 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 visbility 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.

Captain Kai expects that troutcan still be found at bends or deep holes in the creek with 12-20 feet of water. They will be caught with live shrimp or mud minnows fished under a slip cork.

Black drum should still be off docks with 3-9 feet of water at low tide, and clams, shrimp and fiddler crabs should all work.

At the nearshore reefs in 30-50 feet of water black drum and sheepshead are stacking 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.

January 17

Inshore surface water temperatures around Hilton Head range from about 52-58 degrees, and clarity ranges from gin clear to cloudy depending on rain, wind and location.

The redfishbite has been pretty good this week, and Captain Dan “Fishin’ Coach” Utley (843-368-2126) reports that when there is good visibility on low tide he is having success sight-fishing.  Look for large flats that have two feet of water or less, because these areas warm quickly and fish feel safer from the dolphins.  Ideally the flat will be adjacent to a small feeder creek with grass and oyster beds that fish will head up to feed at higher stages of the tide.

Cast the bait ahead of the school, and then pull the bait back towards the fish.  If you cast into the fish and scare them you might as well abandon that school and then search for it later.  Gulp! shrimp on a ¼ or 3/8 ounce jighead are working well, and in cloudy or dirty conditions white is a good color.  When the water is clear and the sun is out then natural or new penny color works well.

Fish can be harder to locate outside of low tide, but on the rising tide yesterday Coach had success fishing pockets in the grass or along the edges with the same baits.

A nice redfish caught yesterday with Coach
A nice redfish caught yesterday with Coach

Captain Kai Williams with Awesome Adventures Charters (843-816-7475) reports a similar level of aggression with the redfish from last week to this week, and sometimes he finds that a drop in temperatures actually improves the bites.  A warming trend can make them lethargic.

When he is able to sight fish low tide he is also still concentrating on 1 – 1 ½ foot deep flats.  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 visbility 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.

Troutreports 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 still 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 stacking 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.

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.

A nice redfish caught this week with Fishin' Coach
A nice redfish caught this week with Fishin’ Coach

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 – 1 ½ 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 visbility 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.

Troutreports 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.

January 2

Inshore surface water temperatures around Hilton Head are around 58 degrees, and after the big tides of last week the water is clearing again.  It’s not super clear but better, despite the rain, with calm conditions helping.

Fishing was a little tough last week with the extreme tides, but Captain Dan “Fishin’ Coach” Utley (843-368-2126) reports that this week the redfish bite has improved again.  It helps that conditions aren’t super cold, which means that the fish are pretty aggressive.

On low tide fish are so grouped up that you need to be in the right spot, but when the water is a little higher Coach reports that he has found them on the edge of the marsh grass and in little pockets in the grass.  Dead-sticking Gulp on a ¼ ounce jighead has been very productive.

A nice Hilton Head redfish caught Monday with Fishin' Coach
A nice Hilton Head redfish caught Monday with Fishin’ Coach

Captain Kai Williams with Awesome Adventures Charters (843-816-7475) has been concentrating more on sight-fishing, and he has been spending most of his time in 1 – 1 ½ foot deep water and even less at times.  For two hours either side of low tide he has found fish schooled up and hungry.   Flies, minnows and shrimp have all worked.

In the right conditions he has found been able to spot some fish running the trolling motor through the grass on higher tides.  Fishing very lightly rigged artificials such as natural-colored Gulp, Zman PaddlerZ, and Swimming Trout Tricks, or free-lined mud minnows, is working in the grass.

When conditions force blind casting on higher tides Captain Kai suggests fishing minnows under a cork and moving deliberately down the banks if you don’t get a bite after a few minutes.

While troutreports have been limited, Captain Kai reports that anglers are catching them in the same areas where they were fishing for them in 4-5 feet of water at Thanksgiving – but deeper.  At bends or deep holes in the creek with 12-20 feet of water, fish have moved down the sides of the drop-offs into the deepest areas, and 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.

December 19

Inshore surface water temperatures around Hilton Head are in the mid-50s at 54-55 degrees, and even though there was a lot of rain that briefly made the water dingy it has again cleared up nicely.

Back on the water Captain Dan “Fishin’ Coach” Utley (843-368-2126) reports that the best inshore bite is for redfish, and it is that time of the year when you can rely on scented soft plastics instead of needing to mess with live bait if you don’t want to.  Fish are in wintertime mode and when the water is up in the grass they will be along the edge of the grass as well as in it.  You can fish for them by dead-sticking Gulp Shrimp! on a ¼ ounce jighead in little open pockets, or you can fish cut bait or mud minnows under a rattling cork in the same areas.

Captain Kai Williams with Awesome Adventures Charters (843-816-7475) also reports that on higher stages of the tide, when there are sunny, calm conditions, you can still sight fish for reds if you move slowly.  He is also having luck fishing very lightly rigged artificials such as natural-colored Gulp, Zman PaddlerZ, and Swimming Trout Tricks in the grass.  Free-lined mud minnows are also working well.

On lower stages of the tide Coach reports that sight-fishing is good and fish are pretty active right now, better than they will be later in the winter.  Searching and then casting Gulp! on a ¼ ounce jighead at visible schools is a good pattern. Even though fish may be easiest to see at dead low they are often a bit spookier than with there is a little more water.

A nice 30-inch red caught this week with Coach
A nice 30-inch red caught this week with Coach

Trouthave generally gone deep, and Captain Kai reports that they will be found in deeper creek mouths, bends and troughs with 10 or more feet of water.  The presence of downed trees, docks or other cover is a bonus.  They can be caught on Zman PaddlerZ in white or opening night color fished on a heavy jighead.

Captain Kai reports that a few black drum can be caught around docks with clams or shrimp on the lower half of the tide.

November 29

Inshore surface water temperatures around Hilton Head have dropped into the upper-50s, and the water has gotten gin clear.

Water temperatures have dropped again in the Hilton Head area, and Captain Kai Williams with Awesome Adventures Charters (843-816-7475) reports that as a result redfish are starting to get into their big winter schools. Already they have gotten into schools of up to 50 fish, and those groups will only get bigger.  Some schools have mainly 15-18 inch fish, while others have larger classes up to 33 inches.

At low tide there has been good sight casting, although fish have been fairly spooky.  On the outgoing tide Captain Kai is fishing around oysters beds and under docks, and on the incoming he is working grass edges where he is chasing fish that are moving from the flats back into the grass.

Mud minnows will catch fish, but artificials are getting better and better.  Under a popping cork or just fished on the bottom Zman EZ ShrimpZ and Trout Tricks in “fried chicken” and “iguana daquiri” colors are working.

A nice redfish caught sight-casting with Captain Kai Williams this week
A nice redfish caught sight-casting with Captain Kai Williams this week

Trout are also still doing well in the colder water, and they are still biting in 3-10 feet of water over oyster beds, white shell rakes and at the mouths of creeks.  “Seams” where water is coming out of the creeks are also really good, and overall higher stages of the tide are still better for trout.   Jigs and live mud minnows are both working.

Black drum can still be caught under docks, fallen trees or other structure with fresh dead shrimp.  Low tide has been best.

Bull reds can still be caught about 1-5 miles off the beaches around sandbars and structure.  On calm days they continue to bite very well.

November 15

Inshore surface water temperatures around Hilton Head have dropped into the mid-60s, and clarity is making a seasonal improvement.

With water temperatures having dropped about 15 degrees in the last few weeks things are changing fast inshore around Hilton Head, and Captain Kai Williams with Awesome Adventures Charters (843-816-7475) reports that he is pretty much concentrating on redfishand troutright now.  Luckily there is a good bite for both species.

Redfish can be found in 1-8 feet of water on the flats, around docks and over oyster bars.  They are biting best on the bottom half of the tide cycle, which works really well for a guide because the trout are biting best on the top half of the tide cycle!  Trout can be found over oyster beds, white shell rakes and at the mouths of creeks in 3-10 feet of water.  They are catching a lot of small trout, the size everyone feared had died last winter, and overall numbers are higher than expected.  It’s a pleasant surprise.

For both species shrimp and mud minnows will catch fish, but artificials are also starting to work really well.  Under a popping cork or just fished on the bottom Zman EZ ShrimpZ and Trout Tricks in “fried chicken” and “iguana daquiri” colors are working.

A nice trout caught recently with Captain Kai
A healthy trout caught recently with Captain Kai

A few black drum have been caught under docks with live or fresh dead shrimp.

Bull reds have moved further offshore and they can be caught about 1-5 miles off the beaches around sandbars and structure. On calm days they are biting very well.

October 19

Inshore surface water temperatures around Hilton Head are still around 80 degrees.

As a result of the water temperature there’s not a lot of change with the fishing patterns, and Captain Kai Williams with Awesome Adventures Charters (843-816-7475) reports that until water temperatures drop into the 70s trout will likely stay a bit deeper.  There are some reports of good catches but with limited numbers anglers are being tight-lipped.

Redfishand black drum can be caught around docks, rock walls, and rip rap on the lower half of the tide cycle in both directions as long as there is some current flow.  Shrimp are the best bait.  The big schools have not started to show up on the flats yet, likely as a result of the temperatures.

The biggest recent development is that bull reds up to about 30 pounds have arrived, and they are all over rips in sounds, sandbars, live bottoms, rock piles and around most area bridges.  Live or cut mullet will both work.

Big jacks are also still around off the beaches and in Calibogue and Port Royal Sounds. Large poppers or plugs in menhaden patterns will work, and you can also catch them on bucktails.  Captain Kai prefers a bait that will stay up in the water column, however, while he waits for the fish.

Spanish mackerel are still around in the Port Royal Sound.

September 21

Inshore surface water temperatures around Hilton Head have not dropped much and are holding about 86 degrees, while the water is clearing (although this could be the result of weaker tides.)   Shrimp are starting to move their way down through the sounds and into the ocean.

With water temperatures still “summery” it’s no surprise that Captain Kai Williams with Awesome Adventures Charters (843-816-7475) reports that redfish are still in a summer pattern.  Inshore they are still catching fish on live or cut finger mullet fished under a cork alongside grass and white shell oyster rakes.  When the water is really high they are just throwing cut bait in the grass and waiting.

You can certainly catch fish tailing, especially if high tides falls later in the evening.  The water is very hot on the flats and if high tide is in the middle of the day temperatures can reach the 90s.

It will probably take either a change of food source or a significant temperature decrease to change the redfish pattern.

There is some improvement in the troutfishing, which appears to be the results of shrimp becoming more accessible.  Trout are still eating some finger mullet, but they are moving to big shrimp.  The deep hole guys are catching plenty.

It looks like in the Hilton Head area the trout population may not have been hit as hard as previously suspected, perhaps because of the deep water, but it will be October or November before they can get an accurate assessment.  Fishermen are reminded that the SCDNR is strongly encouraging anglers to practice catch and release of all spotted seatrout through the end of September.  To read the full news release click here.

Tarponcan still be found in both the sounds and the rivers because the bait is there, including around areas like the Broad River Bridge.

A big tarpon pulled in with Captain Kai Williams
A big tarpon pulled in with Captain Kai Williams

There are plenty of big jacks in the Calibogue and Port Royal Sounds, and bull red drum are moving closer in.  They can be caught on the ocean sides of sounds are bars and rips on live or cut bait.

There are still lots of sharks, both large and small, in the area.

At the nearshore reefs, as well as inshore at rips in Calibogue and Port Royal Sounds when there is clean water, Spanish mackerel can also still be caught.  Captain Kai’s boat is anchoring up, chumming, and fishing live menhaden with one on a cork and one free-lined.  Once fish show their preference they switch everything to that.

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