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AHQ INSIDER Hilton Head (SC) Summer Fishing Report – Updated August 18

  • by Jay

Surface water temperatures are hot at around 88 degrees and clarity is medium.  Not all areas have clear water, perhaps due to offshore dredging, and with tides picking up in the next few days the water should get muddier.

It wouldn’t be true to say that they are killing the redfish in the Hilton Head area, but Captain Dan “Fishin’ Coach” Utley (843-368-2126) reports that the bite has been pretty good.  It has probably improved somewhat since the creeks have filled up with shrimp, and on most trips they are catching 5 or 6 slot-sized and over redfish to go with 8 or 9 juvenile reds.

Catching small redfish under 15 inches has been pretty easy on mud minnows and cut mullet, and on high tides these fish have been around grass edges and over oyster beds.  On low tides they have been in the middle of creeks out from oyster beds.

The bigger fish can be found up in the grass on high water, and they are also travelling in small creeks (where smaller fish can also be found).  Fish continue to be more abundant in smaller creeks than larger ones, and many of the creeks they are travelling in can be hard to get a boat back in.  If you find some fish near the mouth of a creek then they will likely be spread throughout the creek, and one successful pattern can be to follow the curves of the creek back as the tide rises and fish areas that become available as they flood.  Fish are really hungry to get back into the smaller creeks and if anglers follow them they should catch fish.

The trout bite has not been particularly good, perhaps owing to water clarity issues.  When you can find high, clear water fish can be picked up, but most of them are small in the 13-inch range.  Shrimp in the creeks are now big enough to use for bait, and fish can also be caught on mud minnows and Trout Tricks.  Some people have also found a good topwater bite early in the morning.

Coach reports that tarponfishing has been fairly good, especially in the mouths of sounds on high water.  On the last of the incoming tide fish have also been caught up near the 170 bridge, and on the high incoming tide tarpon are also being caught at the river trestle.  On the outgoing tide fish can be found near the Joiner Banks and they can be caught off sandbars if anglers get in the path where menhaden are swimming.  Out there menhaden are the best bet, while up the river mullet or menhaden will catch fish.  The surface bite has been better than the bottom bite and the best rig is to fish a 5-6 foot 100-pound mono leader under a Cajun Thunder rattling float.

Bull reds should show up at the end of September.

June 22

Surface water temperatures are in the low to mid-80s and with recent storms there is a lot of dirty water.

Fishing for redfish is basically day-to-day right now and Captain Dan “Fishin’ Coach” Utley (843-368-2126) reports that the best fishing seems to be up the smaller creeks and not out on the main ICW.  If you find the right creek you can catch a bunch, and last Thursday and Friday his boat wore the fish out in a couple of small creeks.  However, a day or two later the fish had moved onto other creeks.  When you do locate the fish in smaller creeks mud minnows fished under a rattling cork where a rising tide is carrying water over oyster beds will catch fish.  On higher stages of the tide fishing cut mullet along a grass edge under a cork is the best bet.

On dead low tide the same fish that are in the creeks will be grouped up around structure and cover.  Look around docks, in deeper holes in the creeks, and at bends of the creek where trees have fallen in.

On the right tides fish will tail, and today Coach’s boat saw fish tailing along the edge of the marsh in short grass.  There aren’t a ton of fish up there but on high tides along the edge of rivers like the Chechesse tailing fish can be found.

A nice redfish caught Friday on Coach's boat
A nice redfish caught Friday on Coach’s boat

While the storms last weekend muddied up the water and made the trout bite a little tougher, trout can still be caught including some good ones.  Coach says the key to getting them is to find clear water, and he has done a lot of good bouncing Zman Trout Tricks on the bottom.  He likes a grayish silver bait with metal flakes and fishes it slowly, picking it up and letting it fall.  In addition to clean water he is having the best luck with this bait on the high incoming and outgoing tide in 5-6 foot deep water.  They are also picking up a few flounderthe same way, with the fish being caught on the same tide around the edges of oyster beds as well as dead shell rakes near grass that have some current flowing over them.

The best natural bait for trout is live shrimp if you can get them, but the fish will also take mud minnows fished under a popping cork.  Coach says anglers need to find the right rhythm to the popping cork to get the fish feeding, but again clear water is absolutely key.  All the trout he has been catching have been along the IntraCoastal Waterway.

A pretty trout taken in the clear water
A pretty trout taken in the clear water

While Coach hasn’t tangled with any tarpon water temperatures have gotten right for catching them, and menhaden can be found along the beaches.  Look for diving pelicans.  Blacktip sharks are thick around these menhaden schools.