Fish by Species
Redfish: Redfish are likely the most popular target species in the area. These fish are typically caught inshore on the flats, and range in size from 1 to 12 pounds, with 3 to 5 pounds being the norm. They are terrific fighters and will usually take a variety of baits presented. Flies, grubs, spoons, topwaters, and assorted live baits all work their magic. They are found in schools on the flats, and typically stay in the estuary system until they are 4 to 5 years old, and then move out into the ocean and join the spawning schools. We are able to target these bigger fish in September and October in deep holes in the sound, using live bait. These fish will average 20 to 40 pounds. Redfish are available year around in the Beaufort area, and are our main targets in Jan, Feb, Mar. and early April.
Spotted Seatrout: Seatrout, referred to locally as “winter trout”, are a local favorite of many anglers. Although they don’t compete size wise with Redfish, they are great table fare and lots of fun to catch. We catch the bigger fish in the Spring, up to 5 pounds, using live baits and topwaters and soft baits. As these fish also school, multiple bites are the norm when we locate them. The very best time to catch numbers of trout is November through December, when they are fattening up on mullet and shrimp in the estuaries, getting ready for winter. They typically go to deep holes in the sounds and rivers when the water temp dips below 48 degrees, and are very sluggish and difficult to catch.
Tarpon: Our Tarpon fishery can be excellent. These fish are big, and normally arrive in SC in June. By then our bait supply is abundant. Common size for our area is 70 to 140 pounds. Our fishing methods are pretty much limited to fishing live Menhaden, either in the Sounds in deep holes, or at several bridges where they tend to congregate. We fish a couple of baits down and couple on the surface. Tarpon are legendary fighters, the real acrobats of the fish world. Landing one is a real reward.
Cobia: Cobia are a pelagic fish that spend their winters in the balmy Florida area, and move north with the rising water temperatures. This also coincides with the menhaden, greenback herring and mullet migration. They typically begin to show up in our area around April 15, and are usually here in force by May 1. The key is water temperature, as I have found that 68 degrees is our magical number for Cobia. These fish average 20 to 80 pounds in Beaufort, with 25 to 40 pounders very common. We have a unique inshore fishery for them in Port Royal Sound and the Broad River. It is thought that these fish are in the river for breeding purposes. The SCDNR has done a lot of work tagging, capturing mature females, and breeding cobia at the Waddell Marine Center. We fish for them two ways in the river: sight casting on calm days to fish on the surface, or setting up and chumming on sandbars using live bait on choppy days. However you hook him, you are in for a great fight.
Flounder: Flounder are found in inshore waters year round, although they are most abundant from May through Nov. They are 1 to 3 pounds average weight, and are masters of camouflage, being able to change their colors to adapt to whatever type bottom they are utilizing. They like to lie in ambush, especially around oyster banks, and pick off mullet, mud minnows, or shrimp as they come by on the tide. Gigging flounder is a very popular pastime at night in the Beaufort area. They are prized for their mild flesh and are a favorite in many of the local restaurants.
Black Drum: Black Drum are a very close cousin to the Redfish, both being in the Drum family. Although we do see them on the flats in shallow water occasionally, we normally find them around structure in water deeper than 6 feet. If one were to target Black Drum, the near shore wrecks and artificial reefs are ideal locations. They are mainly crustacean feeders, and shrimp and fiddler crabs are preferred baits. These fish grow to exceptional size, 60 pounds or more. The average we catch would be in the 2 to 8 pound range.
Sheepshead: Sheepshead are a fish that are often confused with Black Drum. They do look very similar with the dark coloring and vertical striping, but if you can get a sheepshead to smile, you’ll see the difference immediately. He has a mouthful of teeth that resemble the teeth of sheep. Black Drum are more smooth mouthed. Sheepshead are structure fish. They eat barnacles and other crustaceans around structure, and fiddler crabs are the best choice of bait, which they can steal off a hook totally undetected. We do have success fishing live shrimp on the reefs which they seem to take better, and are easier to catch. A 10 pounder is a bragger here in SC. They are available year around.
Spanish Mackerel: Spanish Mackerel are a close cousin to the King Mackerel, but in a more compact package. They are school fish, and ferocious feeders, usually weighing 1 to 3 pounds in our area. From May till September it is fun to run the beaches and look for the schools working bait. Diving birds are a dead give away to finding them. They will take spoons, bucktails, and flies, but sizing them to the bait they are feeding on is critical. Often they are mixed in withBluefish, and catchingthem with Jack Crevalle and Lady fish is common. Casting or trolling are both effective methods to fish them.
Sharks: Sharks are numerous in our sounds and rivers, and of course in the ocean. We have a large variety of species, of which Bonnetheads are the most prominent inshore. These fish are often caught while fishing Redfish on the flats, as they love shrimp and mullet. Fish up to 20 pounds are not unusual. Springtime finds the Blacktips, Sand, and Hammerheads coming in to feed on the huge amount of bait in our sounds. They can be targeted off of several sandbars in the sound. Atlantic Sharpnose are also prevalent. And the biggest in our sound area are the Tigers. They will run up a chum slick line while Tarpon fishing in the summer, and generally create a lot of excitement! Fun to see in the water, but not in the boat!