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AHQ INSIDER Hilton Head Island (SC) Spring 2019 Fishing Report – Updated January 2

  • by Jay

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

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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