Fish by Season
The fishing in the Beaufort, SC area is year round. We have the opportunity to catch game fish 365 days a year, weather permitting. The following is an overview of available species by season.
Redfish: These are our "go to" fish, available year round. In the spring our fish are starting to break up from the large schools (up to 500 fish) they have wintered in, into smaller pods, normally by year class. We fish them with light spinning or bait caster tackle, close to the oysters and grass lines in the creeks and rivers. They will take a variety of live baits, and are always great targets for artificials, including grubs, top waters, and spoons. Our inshore size typically runs from 2 to 12 lbs. Skinny water flats fishing is super to sight cast with a variety of baits.
Speckled Trout: our Trout fishing begins to pick up dramatically as the water warms above 60 degrees. From April through June we have an excellent opportunity to catch Roe Trout, which are normally larger than our school fish in the fall season. We are fishing for these fish in the larger rivers and sounds close to oyster shell points with moving water. Live mullet, shrimp or Menhaden are preferred live baits fished under popping corks. But my personal favorite is to throw top water plugs at them, and watch an explosive strike. These fish will average 1 to 4 pounds, and are great table fare!
Cobia: Want to catch a big fish on light tackle? This is your chance. We have a unique opportunity to catch Cobia in the Broad River each spring, where they come to spawn. When our water temps hit 68 degrees, it’s game on! These fish are super fighters, excellent on the grill, and have some shoulders. A legal fish (33 in. at the fork) will weigh close to 20 pounds. Two methods to fish them are employed. If we have a chop on the river, then anchoring down and putting out baits behind the boat is the norm. But if the wind lays down and the river slicks off, we cruise and sight fish them on the surface. Either way it can be very exciting! May 1 to June 15 is prime time.
Pelagics: As the bait runs up the coast from Florida with the warming water, so do the predators. We have an abundant supply of these fish available, and usually very cooperative. They include Spanish Mackerel, Bluefish, Jack Crevalle, and the poor man’s Tarpon, the Ladyfish. Trolling light jigs is very effective, with at times non stop action. Most of this fishing occurs 1 to 2 miles off the beach.
Tarpon: Tarpon generally show in our sounds no later than July 1st. Our fishing for them is done by anchoring down and chumming them in to the baits. Once they are here in force the fishing can be fairly decent for them, with 2 or 3 jumps a trip not uncommon. These are big fish, with our average running 90 to 180 pounds. Bring a strong back with you.
Summertime gives us an opportunity to catch all the species available in our waters. Redfish are very willing to bite shrimp or mullet. Flounder and Speckled Sea Trout are also willing to cooperate. The Tarpon bite just gets better as the summer wears on, and the sharks are here in force. We have Black Tips, Bonnetheads, Atlantic Sharpnose and a few Hammerheads now and then. The Black tip seem to be the favorite for catching a great fighting big Shark, but the Bonnetheads are great fun inshore on light tackle. Kids are nuts for them.
One of our choice trips in summer is to run out the Port Royal Sound shipping channel to what we call the “Outer Marker”. This is a channel marker that marks the end of the sandbar that runs out from Bay Point for several miles. The water on this bar can get very shallow on low tide and is typically seven to eight feet deep on high tide. Baitfish love to hang out on this bar, and that draw s in schools of Spanish Mackerel, Bluefish, Ladyfish, and Jack Crevalle. Most of these fish are in the 2 to 3 pound class.
Given the right conditions, one has the chance to see school after school of these fish slashing baits on the surface. They are easy to find as the terns and gulls will be working them hard to pick off the crippled baits. Catching these fish can be done easily by trolling small bucktails, spoons or casting into the schools, and it is a flycasters dream come true. The Spanish Mackerel love small flies that imitate silversides, and a day to remember can be made on this bar. I also like to run to several nearshore wrecks during the summer. Most all of the species mentioned above are available, and in addition Weakfish and Black sea bass are also normally in the bag mix.
Fall is our "no brainer" season, if there is such a thing in fishing. The estuary is packed with mullet and shrimp and the fish are feeding up for the cold weather. Redfish, Trout and Flounder are our main targets, with our biggest number days coming in Oct, Nov, and early December.
In the Fall, we are "drop" fishing. Drops are specific sites, like current moving around a particular shell bed point. We have numerous drops for all tide situations, and as we have fairly extreme tides, moving 7 to 8 feet of water in 6 to 7 hours, we are constantly on the move as the depth changes.
We are generally fishing live bait, like shrimp, under popping corks. Popping corks when fished properly simulate the sound of fish feeding, and tend to draw fish to the bait. They are especially deadly on Sea Trout and Redfish.
This also a great time of the year to cast artificials, and my favorites are soft plastic imitations. I really like the Norton Sand Eel Jrs., in pearl, glow or clear. The cleaner the water, the clearer the baits you should throw. Dirtier water calls for brighter baits like chartreuse. Mirrolures also work well this time of year, especially for Trout.
If lots of bites is your thing, then book with me during the Fall. Another opportunity given good weather and winds is our near shore wrecks and Artificial Reefs. They are loaded this time of year with Black Sea Bass, Weakfish, Black Drum, Redfish, and Sheepshead. Four hours of non stop bites on top of a wreck will make you sleep good at night.
Redfish on the flats is the name of the game. We have the opportunity to catch these fish all winter and into the Spring, as our estuary system is loaded with large mud flats that hold 1 to 2 foot of water at dead low tide. Perfect habitat for Redfish.
As the water cools down in late Fall Redfish tend to school. This is simply a survival technique. Redfish are the number one food source for our resident Bottlenose Dolphin (Flipper). They push the edges of these flats in small groups and try to corral a school of fish. It is something to see them feeding on 8 pound Redfish. They also help us locate fish with their feeding activity.
Given calm winds and clear water, these Redfish schools are not hard to find, by either seeing them "push a wake" as they move down the flat, or simply seeing the dark color of the mass of fish.
Once we find the fish, we normally try to get into casting range as quietly as possible, and stake the boat down. Stealth is important in catching these fish, and the more noise one makes in the boat, the fewer opportunities you will have to put a Redfish in the boat.
Baits vary at this time of year. Cut mullet, shrimp, mud minnows, and spoons and soft plastics all work, but my choice is free lining a Gulp, hands down the best bet for a hookup I have seen. And for fly fisherman, this is the ultimate challenge. Sight casting to Redfish is big time business all along the Southeast and Gulf coasts. And the lowcountry coast of South Carolina is as good as you can find. We have numerous days of putting ten to twenty Redfish in the the 5 to 10 pound class in the boat on a four hour trip.
Most of our trips in the winter are four hour trips, built around the last 2 hours of the outgoing tide and the first two hours of the incoming. This gives us maximum exposure to that window of opportunity in finding the fish. And what a great way to spend a January afternoon. Beats shoveling snow all to pieces!