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AHQ INSIDER Hilton Head (SC) Winter Fishing Report – Updated February 19

  • by Jay

February 19

Hilton Head inshore water temperatures are already in the lower 60s, but conditions remain pretty clear.

It’s a strange time for redfish in the Hilton Head area, and Captain Dan “Fishin’ Coach” Utley (843-368-2126) reports that fish don’t know whether it’s winter or spring.  At the beginning of last week water temperatures were around 60 degrees, but by the end of the week he saw almost 62.  It’s anyone’s guess how fast they will move up with the upcoming warming trend.

Typically at this time of year Coach has no trouble locating the fish on low tide but finds them a little skittish and hard to catch, while on higher stages of the tide fish can still be located but are easier to find.  Perhaps because of the warm weather this pattern isn’t holding up this year, and on higher stages of the tide fish have been hard to locate.  Luckily the low tide fish haven’t been as skittish as usual, and so he having his best catches at low water.

In another departure from the norm typically fish are concentrated on the flats in February, but right now there are no cold temperatures to group them up.  Instead there have been better numbers of fish up the creeks around oyster beds than on flats around the same structure.

The best pattern has been casting Gulp! baits on a ¼ ounce jighead to the low tide fish, and color doesn’t matter “as long as it comes out of a Gulp! bag.”  About two feet has been the best depth.

If you do find yourself fishing higher stages of the tide and can locate fish try casting a free-lined mud minnow ahead of the fish.  At higher stages there have also been some fish caught on Gulp! fished along the grass.

A nice low tide redfish caught recently on Coach's boat
A nice low tide redfish caught recently on Coach’s boat

Coach hasn’t spent a lot of time targeting trout, but there have been some good reports fishing in the deeper bends of creeks that have structure and docks in 12-18 feet of water.  Live shrimp, mud minnows or DOA shrimp fished under a slip cork have been working.

At the nearshore reefs and wrecks like the Gordon sheepshead and black drum have been biting very well in 25-35 feet of water on fiddler crabs.

January 18

Hilton Head inshore water temperatures are around 59 degrees, and clarity is a little off of what might be expected.  Some of the bigger creeks are pretty clear, but the main rivers are not as clear as would usually be found in January.

Captain Dan “Fishin’ Coach” Utley (843-368-2126) reports that fishing for redfish in the Hilton Head area has been – like the weather – hot and cold recently.  Coach reports that fish seem to be there one day on the flats, and then gone the next.  If you hit them at the right time you can often catch them pretty well, but there is no guarantee they will be in the same areas the next day.

Coach has been scouring the flats for redfish, and on lower stages of the tide he has been sight-fishing.  There don’t seem to be a ton of schools of redfish around, and when he finds them at low tide they are often a little skittish.  After spooking them with the trolling motor he will cast in their direction.  The fish are less scared of fishermen/ boats on higher tides, but they are also tougher to locate.  Coach is mainly fishing for them in features around the grass where he has caught them before.  The best baits have been live mud minnows and Gulp!.

The best pattern right now has been fishing for trout as well as occasional redfish and black drum in the bends of bigger creeks that have some structure such as a dock or fallen tree.  11-20 feet of water has been ideal, and slip corks or bottom rigs with live shrimp have been the best set-up.  To get bites you have to find a decent-sized creek and there needs to be some moving water in either direction.

December 28

Hilton Head inshore water temperatures are around 60 degrees, and while clarity is good (depending on the tide) it is not as good as it will get later in the season.

On much of the coast captains report that it can be pretty tough to catch inshore fish outside of the lower stages of the tide, but around Hilton Head Captain Dan “Fishin’ Coach” Utley (843-368-2126) advises that redfish can be caught throughout the tide cycle.  In fact, while the redfish bite is good most of the time sometimes higher tides are a little easier to fish because the reds may not be as skittish.

About a month ago the fish were not yet hanging around the edges, but now they can be found pretty much everywhere around the grass edges – particularly when the water is just coming into the grass but also on the outgoing.  If they can’t actually see schools anglers can run a trolling motor and look for areas where the grass is moving, and Coach has also found that fish are generally hanging out in the same areas where he has caught them in past years.  It’s hard to beat a ¼ ounce jighead with a Gulp! grub, either worked or even dead sticked on the bottom.

Even though he has not been targeting them as much as reds, Coach advises that trout fishing is also pretty good.  His boat has caught trout in creeks that have some deeper water around oyster bars, and they can also be found in the main rivers around points and other areas that have some fast-moving water – particularly over oysters.  White Gulp! shrimp and electric chicken screwtail grubs have both been working, and the incoming tide has been most productive for trout.

Coach with a nice trout caught recently in Hilton Head
Coach with a nice trout caught recently in Hilton Head