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AHQ INSIDER Hilton Head Island (SC) Spring 2021 Fishing Report - Updated March 25

  • by Jay

March 25

Morning surface water temperatures are about 62 degrees inshore around Hilton Head and the water is a medium green. 

The nearshore fishing is still very good, but Captain Kai Williams (843-816-7475) reports that the inshore fishing for trout is also picking up.  Some bigger fish are starting to be caught, and they are coming in deep creek bends near steep banks as well as along grass lines in the creeks. Mud minnows and shrimp are both working. 

At the same time the flats redfish are getting a little “squirrelly”, and Kai reports that as they break out of their winter schools it can be difficult to get them to bite. The creek redfish are more reliable around oyster beds and docks. Fresh shrimp or mud minnows will catch creek reds.   

Probably the best action continues to be found fishing over hard bottoms and artificial reefs 3-15 plus miles offshore, and in particular the sheepshead and huge black drum are biting very well.  Today they caught a 30-pound black drum on a little fiddler crab!  There are also black sea bass and weakfish around, and in the next month bluefish, Spanish mackerel and cobia should arrive.

A giant black drum caught today with Captain Kai Williams
A giant black drum caught today with Captain Kai Williams

March 11

Morning surface water temperatures are about 57 degrees inshore around Hilton Head and clarity is very good.

It’s hard not to lead off with the nearshore fishing report as good as the action has been, and Captain Kai Williams (843-816-7475) reports that 5-10 miles offshore over hard bottoms and artificial reefs the sheepshead fishing has been phenomenal with fiddler crabs. They have had some calm, warm days when conditions are really pleasant, and the fish are hungry and willing to eat!  Yesterday was especially good. 

A couple of good convict fish caught yesterday with Captain Kai Williams
A couple of good convict fish caught yesterday with Captain Kai Williams

You do have to contend with lots of small black sea bass, but there are also good black drum and weakfish for the catching. Yesterday water temperatures were about 56 degrees nearshore. 

The redfish are still on a similar pattern around Hilton Head, and Captain Kai Williams (843-816-7475) reports that fish continue to feed well at low tide on the flats that have laid down white shell oysters. In the clear water they are looking for schools in about a foot of water, and the best way to target the fish is casting artificials. Lately Zman MinnowZ in black and gold or root beer colors have been working really well. 

You can still fish the flats until mid-tide, but when the water gets high in the grass the best pattern is to look for small pockets with sparse grass. While you can throw artificial baits the pattern reverses on higher tides and soaking natural baits works better.

The trout fishing is still decent, with fish in 10-15 feet of water. They can be found around riprap in bends in the creek or other hard structure such as a rock wall. Mud minnows and Vudu Shrimp have been working the best. 

The better fishing is still usually at mid-tide, and there really needs to be some flow in either direction for the fish to feed. 

The best place to look for black drum is in the creeks around docks and fallen trees on low tide. Cut shrimp on the bottom are the best bait and you will also pick up some redfish this way.

February 23

Surface water temperatures are back to about 52 around Hilton Head, and with all the recent wind and rain clarity is only moderate.   

The redfish are still on a similar pattern around Hilton Head, and Captain Kai Williams (843-816-7475) reports that fish continue to feed well at low tide on the flats that have laid down white shell oysters. In the clear water they are looking for schools in about a foot of water, and the best way to target the fish is casting artificials. Lately Zman MinnowZ in black and gold or root beer colors have been working really well. 

You can still fish the flats until mid-tide, but when the water gets high in the grass the best pattern is to look for small pockets with sparse grass. While you can throw artificial baits the pattern reverses on higher tides and soaking natural baits works better.

A nice redfish caught in the shallows this week with Captain Kai Williams
A nice redfish caught in the shallows this week with Captain Kai Williams

The trout fishing has perked up a little bit, and fish have moved slightly shallower into 10-15 feet of water. They can be found around riprap in bends in the creek or other hard structure such as a rock wall. Mud minnows and Vudu Shrimp have been working the best. 

The better fishing is still usually at mid-tide, and there really needs to be some flow in either direction for the fish to feed. 

The best place to look for black drum is in the creeks around docks and fallen trees on low tide. Cut shrimp on the bottom are the best bait. 

It’s been really hard to find a day good enough to get offshore recently, but Captain Kai reports that when you can get out the sheepshead and black drum are feeding well 5-10 miles offshore over hard bottoms and artificial reefs.  Fiddler crabs have been hard to come by but the sunny weather predicted for the next few days may bring them out.

February 5

Surface water temperatures have dropped to about 52 around Hilton Head, and the water is very clear except when the winds are high. Even then it gets back to gin clear after a day. 

Luckily the redfish bite remains pretty good around Hilton Head, and Captain Kai Williams (843-816-7475) reports the fish continue to feed well at low tide on the flats that have laid down white shell oysters. In the clear water they are looking for schools in about a foot of water, and the best way to target the fish is casting artificials like gold spoons or weighted Zman PaddlerZ or MinnowZ on a jighead. You can also use natural baits such as mud minnows or fresh shrimp, but you really have to sit and wait for the fish to move towards the bait with natural baits.

You can still fish the flats until mid-tide, but when the water gets high in the grass the best pattern is to look for small pockets with sparse grass. While you can throw artificial baits the pattern reverses on higher tides and soaking natural baits works better.

A cold water redfish caught this week with Captain Kai Williams
A cold water redfish caught this week with Captain Kai Williams

The trout fishing has gotten pretty slow and the fish have gone deep, and while they can still be caught you need to look in holes and creek bends with 15 plus feet of water. The good news is not many people are fishing for them, so if you target trout you can have them to yourself!

The best fishing is still at mid-tide, and there really needs to be some flow in either direction for the fish to feed. While artificials like Vudu Shrimp will work mud minnows are fishing better. Live shrimp, available at Southern Drawl Outfitters and Bluffton Marine Sports and Supply, are the best bait. 

You will also catch some redfish in the same areas, but the best place to look for black drum is in the creeks around docks and fallen trees on low tide. Cut shrimp is the best bait. 

If water temperatures will warm just a degree or two then Captain Kai expects the sheepshead and black drum to start feeding really well 5-10 miles offshore over hard bottoms and artificial reefs. There are some keeper black sea bass on the deeper end of this range.   

January 21

Surface water temperatures are in the low 50s around Hilton Head, and even with recent winds and some rain the water is still clear. 

The inshore fishing remains good around Hilton Head, and Captain Kai Williams (843-816-7475) reports that redfish continue to feed well at low tide on the flats that have laid down white shell oysters. In the clear water they are looking for schools in about a foot of water, and the best way to target the fish is casting artificials like gold spoons or weighted Zman PaddlerZ or MinnowZ on a jighead. You can also use natural baits such as mud minnows or fresh shrimp, but you really have to sit and wait for the fish to move towards the bait with natural baits.

You can still fish the flats until mid-tide, but when the water gets high in the grass the best pattern is to look for small pockets with sparse grass. While you can throw artificial baits the pattern reverses on higher tides and soaking natural baits works better.

Captain Kai guided this young angler to this pretty redfish this week in the clear shallows
Captain Kai guided this young angler to this pretty redfish this week in the clear shallows

The trout have mostly gone deeper, and while they can still be caught in holes and creek bends with 15 plus feet of water not a lot of anglers are targeting them. The best fishing is still at mid-tide, and there really needs to be some flow in either direction for the fish to feed. While artificials like Vudu Shrimp will work mud minnows are fishing the best. Live shrimp, available at Southern Drawl Outfitters and Bluffton Marine Sports and Supply, are the best bait. 

You will also catch some redfish in the same areas, but the best place to look for black drum is in the creeks around docks and fallen trees on low tide. Cut shrimp is the best bait. 

When the wind is moderate then the nearshore fishing is pretty good, and 5-10 miles offshore the sheepshead and black drum should be stacking up over hard bottoms and artificial reefs. However, Captain Kai has discovered that the small black sea bass are so thick that you can hardly get a bait past them. He has found some keepers 8 or 9 miles out on structure, along with grouper that you can’t keep, but without fiddler crabs which are hard to come by (and maybe even with them) targeting sheeps is hard. 

January 14

Surface water temperatures have dropped to about 53 degrees around Hilton Head, and the water has gotten very clear.  

The same three species headline the inshore fishing this week around Hilton Head, and Captain Kai Williams (843-816-7475) reports that in particular the redfish are feeding really well at low tide on the flats. In the clear water they are looking for schools in about a foot of water, and the best way to target the fish is casting artificials like gold spoons or weighted Zman baits on a jighead. You can also use natural baits such as mud minnows or fresh shrimp, but you really have to sit and wait for the fish to move towards the bait with natural baits.

You can still fish the flats until mid-tide, but when the water gets high in the grass the best pattern is to look for small pockets with sparse grass. While you can throw artificial baits the pattern reverses on higher tides and soaking natural baits works better.

A nice redfish caught recently with Captain Kai Williams
A nice redfish caught recently with Captain Kai Williams

The trout have mostly gone deeper, and they are catching them in holes and creek bends with about 15 feet of water. The best fishing is at mid-tide, and there really needs to be some flow in either direction for the fish to feed. While artificials like Vudu Shrimp will work mud minnows are fishing the best. Live shrimp would also be very good if you can get them. 

You will also catch some redfish in the same areas, but the best place to look for black drum is in the creeks around docks and fallen trees on low tide. Cut shrimp is the best bait. 

Offshore 5-10 miles the sheepshead and black drum are starting to stack up over hard bottoms and artificial reefs.

December 20

Surface water temperatures are have dropped into the mid-50s around Hilton Head.

This week it’s a tale of three inshore species around Hilton Head, and Captain Kai Williams (843-816-7475) reports that redfish, trout and black drum are all biting well. 

With the specter of dolphins looming, and very little else for the dolphins to eat, redfish are moving shallower and at low tide they are grouping up on the shallow flats and in holes surrounded by shallow water. They are also holding tight to docks. At higher stages of the tide they are getting in sparse pockets in the grass and hanging around oyster shells. 

While a variety of artificial lures will work, mud minnows are hard to beat.

A gorgeous redfish caught last week with Captain Kai Williams  
A gorgeous redfish caught last week with Captain Kai Williams

The trout action has slowed down a bit as the trout have moved deeper, and instead of catching them in 4 feet they are more likely to be in 10 feet of water. Look for trout on the bottom in holes and drops. Mud minnows and jigheads with white Zman PaddlerZ are all working. When you do locate trout there are likely to be a lot in one area. 

While you can also pick up some reds this way, if you fish holes and rip rap banks with fresh cut shrimp you are almost certain to locate black drum. 

Nearshore, over live bottom and artificial reefs 3-10 miles offshore the black drum and sheepshead are stacking up and they will take live shrimp. 

November 25

Surface water temperatures are around 66 at Hilton Head and clarity is pretty decent.

Unless you want to count a random lizard fish, it’s a tale of two species for Captain Kai Williams (843-816-7475) right now. The trout and redfish bites have been spectacular for the past couple of weeks, and today his boat is catching a trout on every other cast.   Vudu shrimp under a popping cork have been working, and this morning they are concentrating on feeder creeks on the outgoing tide in an area with good visibility and about four feet of water. 

On the incoming tide they have been catching trout along the grass lines, and while sometimes the two species are grouped together in general right now they are catching trout in clear, moving water while reds are more likely to be found in calmer water regardless of clarity.   Yesterday they caught a lot of redfish on the incoming tide around docks. This week there has not been a stage of the tide where something is not feeding. 

Mud minnows are also working and shrimp will of course catch both species.

A good trout caught moments ago with Captain Kai Williams 
A good trout caught moments ago with Captain Kai Williams

It’s been really tough to get offshore with recent winds, but when you can get out there are bull redfish on the rocky bottoms 3-4 miles offshore.  They will take cut mullet and cut menhaden.

November 11

Surface water temperatures are down to the high 60s around Hilton Head. 

With water temperatures finally out of the 70s, Captain Kai Williams (843-816-7475) reports that things are just where he likes them for fall fishing. The trout fishing has gotten phenomenal, and they have been catching 40 or 50 fish on recent trips.  Meanwhile the redfish action has also gotten really good with strong fall numbers.

There are some grass points where you catch one species on one cast and the other on the next, but in general the best trout fishing is at high tide around grass lines and oyster bars.  Feeder creeks that empty into bigger water are particularly good, and mud minnows and Vudu shrimp under a popping cork have been working very well. 

A healthy trout caught this week with Captain Kai Williams
A healthy trout caught this week with Captain Kai Williams

The reds are more likely to be caught on lower tides, and they are around creek bends, eroded banks, oyster beds and feeder creeks on the outgoing tide. Mud minnows are also working for the reds, but Zman scented shrimp on a jighead with a spot of Pro-Cure are also good.  

There are also plenty of small black drum around docks and fallen trees that can be caught on live or dead shrimp.

Bull red drum are slowing down in the Port Royal Sound, and it appears that they are moving more onto the beach side.  It won’t be long until the best way to catch them is chasing the diving gannets that are gorging on schools of mullet and menhaden and casting bucktails at the schools.

October 7

Surface water temperatures are down to about 74 degrees around Hilton Head. 

The most exciting action around Hilton Head Island continues to be the bull red drum fishing, and Captain Kai Williams (843-816-7475) reports that just yesterday they caught 10 bulls on a half-day charter!  Generally the fish are on the bottom in 15-40 feet of water in the rivers and sounds, and they can be caught around rips, sandbars, bridges or other structure including live bottom. Last week they were around the Broad River Bridge, but this week they haven’t been there while the Port Royal Sound and Calibogue Sound are fishing well overall. 

Cut or live mullet and menhaden will both work. 

Smaller reds in the 14-16 inch range are easy to catch in the creeks, and they will eat shrimp or cut mullet fished around docks or oyster bars. 

A nice red drum caught this week with Captain Kai Williams
A nice red drum caught this week with Captain Kai Williams

The trout fishing has been decent, but so far they have mainly been catching smaller fish on shrimp. Soon the bigger ones should show up. 

At the rips in the Port Royal Sound there have been some nice Spanish mackerel caught on live menhaden. 

A tarpon was caught Friday in Hilton Head when the water temperatures were still around 77, and so no one is saying they have left. But the season is definitely drawing to an end. 

There have not been a lot of flounder caught inside the creeksrecently, but some large fish have been caught out at the wrecks. Bluefish, weakfish, Spanish mackerel and small black sea bass can also be caught out there. 

September 17

Surface water temperatures are around 83 degrees around Hilton Head and the wind and rain today have likely dirtied the water up some. Even before today some areas that are customarily clear were dirty as well as vice versa, and so right now it’s all about the wind direction. 

No one is saying that the tarpon have left Hilton Head, and in fact Captain Kai Williams (843-816-7475) has hooked a couple this past week on big mullet and menhaden fished on a 7/0 circle hook. However, the fishing in the rivers and off the beach is a lot slower than when the water temperatures were pushing up against 90 degrees.

The new game in town, however, is the bull red drum fishing and there are a ton of 15-30 pound fish to be caught. It makes for some easy charter fishing if you know where to look. Generally the fish are on the bottom in 15-40 feet of water in all the rivers and sounds, and they can be caught around rips, sandbars, bridges or other structure including live bottom. They could also be in the surf even though Kai hasn’t been looking there. Cut or live mullet and menhaden will both work. 

 This week Captain Kai Williams guided Dee and Zoey of Fort Mill to this nice drum
This weekCaptain Kai Williams guided Dee and Zoey of Fort Mill to this nice drum

The deep holes are full of shrimp, and the best plan is to eat the big ones and then use the little ones for trout and redfish. The best action for trout is coming on the incoming tide along grass lines, and in addition to live shrimp Kai’s boat has caught some really nice ones on live finger mullet.  Live shrimp and cut mullet have also been working very well for redfish on the dropping tide when water is draining out of the grass. 

There have been some flounder caught inside the creek mouths on live shrimp on the outgoing tide.

 

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