The most common question I hear from my guests is “when is the best time of year to fish in South Carolina”? While fishing can be excellent all year long, Fall is without a doubt my favorite time of year to be on the water. The first cool mornings in October are the trigger for excellent fishing in the months ahead and anglers can expect to have many options for targeting various inshore species of fish. Cooling ocean temperatures begin a series of spawning events and with a vast amount of forage available, gamefish sense the need to take advantage.
Water temperatures have been hovering around the 70 degree mark which is arguably the magic number when is comes to saltwater fishing along the South Carolina coast. Ive been primarily fishing out of Georgetown, SC where Redfish and sea trout have been the primary target for the last 6 weeks. Good catches of Flounder, Sheepshead, Black Drum, King Mackerel, and Tarpon have also been very productive this Fall.
Back in the shallow water, water clarity has improved and my fly fishing clients have had a lot of action with redfish while fishing out of the 16ft skiff. Im beginning to see larger groups of reds gathered up in these shallow areas as they forage for small shrimp and crabs. My go-to fly pattern for Fall redfish is a shrimp “slider” pattern(see previous posts), as well as a shrimp “gurgler” fly which often entices a spectacular topwater bite.
We’ve had some solid trout action on various topwater plugs, particularly the Heddon Spook in bone color. I’ve also been having success throwing soft plastics like the Matrix Shad with a 1/4oz jighead, and the Vudu Shrimp under a popping cork. Often we will find trout schooled up and feeding under seagulls as they pick off shrimp flushing in with the tide and the popping corks are a great option in those situations. Look for moving water around oyster points and smaller feeder creeks for the best action. Our local trout population is very healthy at the moment, which I attribute to a series of mild Winters. Regardless of the healthy population, I always encourage anglers to release the larger female “Roe” trout which fat with eggs this time of year. The current size limit on speckled trout in South Carolina is 14in minimum and 10 per person.
Fishing for the large bull redfish has been a lot of fun for anglers wishing to catch a trophy fish, and this year has not disappointed. We’ve seen a lot of action off the beach as schools of redfish gather to spawn and this has provided some excellent sight-fishing opportunities for these large and aggressive predators. Casting soft plastics and topwater lures around these schools will entice explosive bites, however using fresh bait like menhaden or mullet can also be fished on the bottom with great results.
We’ve also had some great days Surf Fishing for red drum out of Georgetown, SC which is an enjoyable way to spend a Fall day in the South Carolina Lowcountry. Fresh mullet on a fish finder rig will do the job for these giant red drum in the surf. The current size limit on Red Drum in South Carolina is 15in-23in slot, and 3 per person however it is very important to practice good catch and release techniques on spawning red drum since their survival ensures healthy populations for generations to come.
We’ve been having a lot of fun catching King Mackerel which can be found just past the breakers from Murrells Inlet to Georgetown. Slow trolling with live bait is most productive, however I like to keep a casting spoon rigged to cast at king mackerel when they decide to show up.
Tarpon made a strong showing this year around Winyah Bay and we were blessed with some beautiful days in mid October which allowed several of my groups to experience some excellent late season tarpon fishing. Fishing for tarpon in South Carolina(or anywhere for that matter) often requires patience and persistence however the rewards are catching a fish of a lifetime that will be etched in the memory bank forever. The best late season tarpon action will be found along the beaches around the mullet schools as they continue on their southward migration. Live baiting is the most productive method however artificial lures like the Hogy Swimming Jig and the DOA Swimming Mullet are very productive when sightfishing opportunities are present.
While flounder are not as abundant as the Spring or Summer, your best chance to catch a trophy “doormat” will be in October and November. When targeting flounder, I am casting live mullet on a 1/2oz bucktail or white soft plastics around structure and sandy areas with live bottom. The current South Carolina size limit on Flounder is 15in and 10 per person or 20 per boat per day.
Fall is a wonderful time to experience the outdoors and the excellent fishing that South Carolina has to offer. If you are visiting the Myrtle Beach area this Fall or Winter and would like to schedule a fishing charter please contact me. I hope to see you on the water soon!
Capt. Jordan Pate