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AHQ INSIDER Hilton Head (SC) Fall Fishing Report – Updated December 2

  • by Jay

December 2

Hilton Head inshore water temperatures are all the way back up to 64 degrees, but expect the cold snap to knock them down a few degrees.  Water clarity is low for this time of year.

As is their custom in the late fall, redfishare starting to group up in tighter schools.  However, Captain Dan “Fishin’ Coach” Utley (843-368-2126) reports that the flats fish have been a bit skittish, and getting them to bite has been tricky.  Dolphin have been around and so perhaps this is spot-specific, but over the past couple of weeks Coach’s boat has had the most success for reds fishing around docks on the incoming tide.  Fish aren’t on all the docks, but by hopping from dock to dock they have found some good fish.  Letting a 1/4 ounce jighead baited with a Gulp! shrimp soak has been the best pattern.  Action has been a little slow around the grass.

The best bite recently has been for trout, and fishing has been really good with DOA or Gulp! shrimp fished under a rattling cork (for those who don’t want to catch live bait – live shrimp will certainly also work).  Casting soft plastics including both paddletail and screwtail grubs on a jighead has also been working, with electric chicken the best color.  The high incoming and outgoing tides have both been good around points and oyster shells along the main river edges as well as in the major creeks.  Trees and docks in the major creek have also been good on the same tides.

November 2

Water temperatures have dropped into the lower 70s in the Hilton Head area.  Even though tourists have not returned in full force since the storm fishing has been good.

Troutfishing has been strong in the last couple of weeks, with good numbers of fish as well as an average size in the 17-18 inch range which is better than in recent years.  Captain Dan “Fishin’ Coach” Utley (843-368-2126) reports that the key to locating trout has been finding clear water, and if you can find clear water then on the high incoming and high outgoing tides fish can be caught around currents and eddies near creeks mouths, oyster beds, etc.  In addition to live shrimp fish have been biting well on Trout Tricks in a clear with metal flake color fished on a light jighead.  Sometimes it’s necessary to go up main creeks such as Skull Creek to find clear water, and fish have also been caught in the Calibogue Sound when the water is clear.

The bite for smaller redfish has also been good, with most fish caught over 15 inches right now.  There have also been occasional fish caught just over the slot as well as some much larger fish.  The best fishing has been on either the dropping or rising tide when water is still in the edges of the grass, and anglers are fishing around points and marsh edges with oysters.  Clarity does not seem to matter much, and cut mullet have been catching fish.  There are plenty of mullet still in the creeks but frozen mullet is also working.

A nice redfish caught this week on Captain Dan "Fishin' Coach" Utley's boat
A nice redfish caught this week on Captain Dan “Fishin’ Coach” Utley’s boat

October 13

Captain Dan “Fishin’ Coach” Utley (843-368-2126) reports that the bridge to Hilton Head Island opened again Tuesday at 3:00, and there is a lot of debris in the water.  He hasn’t been out fishing yet but will report when he does.

Reports indicate that about 1 out of 3 houses on the island sustained some sort of structural damage.

September 29

The calendar says it’s fall, but with water temperatures still above 80 degrees the fishing still looks more like summer.  Clarity is improving.

Fishing for redfishhas been a little spotty recently, and Captain Dan “Fishin’ Coach” Utley (843-368-2126) reports that once the tide gets up in the grass fish have been hard to find.  On lower stages of the tide when it is moving both in and out fishing is a little easier, and on lower tides fish are in more or less a typical summertime pattern where they can be found in the creeks around oyster rakes.  A variety of baits and lures will catch them.

A young angler with a nice redfish caught recently on Coach's boat
A young angler with a nice low tide redfish caught recently on Coach’s boat

Trout fishing has been a little tough, and with big high tides Coach says getting bait shrimp has been tricky.

Luckily the bull red drum have been cooperative, and Coach says that they are really moving into the Hilton Head area.  At the mouth of the Sound they can be caught on moving water around the rock piles, and some fish are also being caught inshore off Harbour Town.   Rigging and tide information remains the same as last week.

Some tarpon are also being caught at the mouth of the Sound, and both tarpon and bull drum can be caught around the Highway 170 bridge around the shallow sandbar near the bridge as well as on the deep channel that runs on the Bluffton side.

With clarity improving this is an ideal time to gig for flounder, and a week ago Coach got some good ones up to 4 pounds.  They are holding very shallow in 3-4 inches of water.

September 21

Surface water temperatures have dropped several degrees into the upper-70s, and the water is pretty muddy after recent very high tides.

Redfish still aren’t feeding very well on the flats with the better action in the creeks, and yesterday Captain Dan “Fishin’ Coach” Utley (843-368-2126) reports that his boat tried to find tailing fish but had to settle for bites on cut mullet.  The best thing going right now is the bull red drum bite, and in the rips off Harbor Town in the Calibogue Sound some very nice fish can be caught on the bottom in about 20-25 feet of water over the large area of hard bottom.  Fishing is best just after the change of tides in both directions, when it is neither slack nor screaming.  The best set-up is to fish a very short leader between the sinker and cut mullet or menhaden on a 15/0 circle hook, which minimizes the risks of gut-hooking a fish.  Bull drum can also be caught at the Savannah River jetties, and it won’t be long until action heats up at the mouth of Port Royal.

Bull drum have arrived all along the SC coast - a nice one taken at the top of the state with Captain Patrick "Smiley" Kelly
Bull drum have arrived all along the SC coast – a nice one taken at the top of the state with Captain Patrick “Smiley” Kelly

No change with the trout.

September 9

Surface water temperatures have dropped to the low 80s, and since the storm passed last weekend the water has been very clear.

Redfish aren’t feeding very well on the flats right now, but Captain Dan “Fishin’ Coach” Utley (843-368-2126) reports that in the creeks some nice fish have been eating.  He has discovered that you have to get into the back of the creeks to find fish, and then they have been located around oyster beds and in small creeks off the main river or major creek channels.  Cut mullet and mud minnows have been the best baits, and he has found the best action around the low incoming tides.  Anglers with smaller boats may be able to experiment with different stages of the tide, but in very skinny water fishing the dropping tide can be risky.  Some bull reds have also been caught over at the Savannah River jetties.

A nice redfish caught this week on Coach's boat
A nice redfish caught this week on Coach’s boat

At this time of year and with an abundance of clear water Coach says that one might expect good trout fishing on high water around the edges of the river, but that is not where the fish have been.  Instead his boat has also been finding trout up the creeks around oysters – as with the reds.  The best fishing has come when the water has gotten too high to catch redfish, and live shrimp have been the best bait.  Pretty much all the fish have been over 14 inches recently.

On the incoming tide tarpon have been caught up the Broad River around the 170 bridge as well as further up around the Whale Branch trestle.  On the outgoing tide fish can be found around the Joiner Banks and at the mouth of the sound.