How to Fish for Redfish in South Carolina: The Complete Guide
Redfish are among the most abundant and popular species targeted in the inshore waters of South Carolina. The Lowcountry region running along the state’s southern coastline is especially productive. This makes the “Palmetto State” a prime destination for anglers seeking to catch these beautiful game fish.
In this article, I’ll explore the ins and outs of Redfish fishing in South Carolina. I’ll highlight the best times to target them, the most productive locations and techniques to catch this sought-after fish. So let’s get started.
Redfish: A South Carolina Favorite
Redfish are officially known as Red Drum, with “Spottail Bass” and “Puppy Drum” also being common names for them. They live along the entire Carolina coast, where they can be found in a variety of habitats. Estuaries, mud flats, mangroves, oyster bars, tidal creeks, and grass banks are all common hiding grounds for Reds.
They’re known for their striking copper color as well as a distinctive tail spot, which makes them a very attractive fish. They can grow to huge sizes, with “Bull” Redfish growing to over 50 inches and 70 pounds. All this makes them a favorite target for inshore anglers!
However, most of the fish in South Carolina fall within the 20–30 inch range. These are the abovementioned “Puppy” Drums. Fish of this size are lots of fun to catch, and are much more tasty if you decide to keep one for supper.
Since Redfish are present in the coastal waters of South Carolina year-round, they’re an attractive species for anybody visiting the state. Whenever you come, you’ll always have the chance of hooking into a Spottail or two!
Where to Find Redfish in South Carolina
One of the challenges of targeting Redfish comes from the fact that they can be found in a wide variety of habitats, as they tolerate saltwater, freshwater, and brackish environments. This means you can potentially find them anywhere in the inshore areas of South Carolina. While that sounds great, it also means you’ll have to do some searching before you find a school of Reds.
The best way to locate an actively feeding school of Redfish is to look for signs of “tailing.” This happens when Redfish feed with their mouths in the mud, while their tail fin sticks out above the water surface.
Redfish spend most of their time in large schools, feeding in shallow waters less than 2 feet deep. Therefore, experienced redfish anglers make use of this behavior to spot a feeding school from a long distance away.
Some of the most productive spots for catching Redfish in South Carolina include the following:
- Charleston. Known for its scenic beauty and historic charm, Charleston is also a premier destination for Redfish anglers. The shallow water flats around Charleston Harbor and the surrounding tidal creeks are teeming with Redfish, particularly during high tide when they move closer to the shore to feed.
- Beaufort. The Lowcountry town of Beaufort offers fantastic Redfish fishing opportunities. Beaufort’s Bay Street Outfitters is a popular starting point for anglers looking to explore the nearby marshes, inlets, and creeks. The marsh grass banks and flats around the town provide ideal habitat for Redfish, making them prime locations for sight fishing and fly fishing.
- Hilton Head Island. Surrounded by pristine saltwater marshes and creeks, Hilton Head Island is another top spot for Red Drum fishing in South Carolina. Anglers can find large schools of tailing Redfish near the island’s many oyster beds, mud flats, and grass flats.
How to Catch Redfish in South Carolina
While there are many good fishing tactics you can use to catch Redfish. I suggest trying the following techniques for your best shot at landing a trophy:
This technique involves using a boat to visually locate your target. You’ll then cast your lure to individual fish or schools of fish. Sight fishing is most effective during high tide when Redfish feed in shallow waters and grass flats. It requires a stealthy approach, as Redfish can be easily spooked by noise or sudden movements.
Fly fishing is a popular method for catching Redfish, particularly in the marshes and shallow flats around Charleston and Beaufort. You can use a variety of flies, including crab, shrimp, and bait fish patterns, to entice Redfish to strike. Fly fishing for Redfish is an art form that requires patience, skill, and finesse, making it an exciting challenge for dedicated anglers.
Live Bait Fishing
Using live bait, such as finger mullet, minnows, or fiddler crabs, can be very effective for catching Redfish. Live bait can be fished on a Carolina rig or under a popping cork, with the bait suspended just above the bottom to attract the attention of hungry Redfish. When using live bait, it’s essential to “hop the bait” along the bottom to mimic the movement of natural prey.
Fishing with Artificial Lures
Soft plastic lures, spoons, and topwater plugs are all popular choices for targeting Redfish, too. These lures can be cast and retrieved or jigged along the bottom to entice Redfish to strike. Choosing the right color and size of lure can be crucial, as Reds can be particular about their prey, especially in clear water conditions.
Pole fishing is a variation of sight fishing that allows you to use more stealth when approaching the fish. In shallow water – particularly in grass flats and marshes – you can use a push pole to propel your boat quietly while looking for tailing fish that you can cast to. This stealthy approach allows you to get close to the Reds without spooking them, resulting in more fish in the boat.
Surf fishing is a fantastic way to catch Redfish along the South Carolina coast, which boasts a variety of prime locations. Some of the best spots for surf fishing for Redfish include Folly Beach, Breach Inlet, and the scenic South Carolina barrier islands. You can also try surf fishing around jetties and docks.
Early mornings are particularly advantageous for surf fishing as water temperatures are cooler, which causes Redfish to feed more actively – especially in the summer. However, nighttime surf fishing is another great option during the warm season, as the fish feed most actively during the dark hours.
South Carolina Redfish Charter Fishing
For those unfamiliar with the South Carolina coast, fishing charters offer an exciting and efficient way to fish for Redfish. Several companies offer specialized Redfish fishing charters all along the coast, with experienced captains guiding anglers on unforgettable fishing adventures.
These charters allow both novice and experienced fishermen to learn from experts while maximizing their Redfish fishing success and enjoying South Carolina’s beautiful coastline.
Tip: Understand the Tides
Tides play a crucial role in Redfish fishing, as they dictate the movement and feeding habits of the fish. During high tide, Redfish move inshore into shallow water, often foraging over mud flats, shallow creeks, or marshes.
Also, as the tide rises, Redfish tend to move into the marshes and grass banks, making them more accessible to anglers. High tide is therefore an ideal time for sight fishing. This is when Redfish are more likely to feed on crustaceans and bait fish in the shallows.
Redfish Fishing Regulations in South Carolina
Since the Redfish populations have been declining across large parts of the eastern seaboard of the US, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) closely monitors the local population and enforces strict regulations to ensure its long-term health. Because of this, anglers need to follow specific size and bag limits when fishing for Redfish in South Carolina waters.
The current daily bag limit is three fish per person, with a minimum size limit of 15 inches as well as a maximum size limit of 23 inches. These regulations may change, so check the SCDNR website before heading out.
In addition to staying compliant with the SC Redfish limits, you’ll also need to buy a fishing license. These come in the form of 1-day, 7-day, or annual permits, and vary in cost depending on your residency status. For more information on licenses, check out our comprehensive guide.
Redfish Fishing in South Carolina: A Thrill Not to Be Missed
Lowcountry Redfish fishing offers a thrilling and rewarding experience for anglers of all skill levels. With its beautiful coastline, diverse Red Drum habitats, and abundant Redfish populations, South Carolina is a top destination for all fishing enthusiasts. Whether you’re an experienced angler, or a beginner looking to try something new, South Carolina’s Lowcountry is sure to provide an unforgettable experience. Come and see for yourself!
Have you ever been Redfish fishing in South Carolina? What’s your favorite spot to visit? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
Robert Ceran is a fishing addict who loves to write. He’s also the founder of SportfishingBuddy.com, an online resource for anglers of all backgrounds. As a young boy, he grew up fishing for Panfish in small farm ponds and later graduated to the pursuit of bigger game. When he’s not writing about fishing, he’s out on the water throwing lures and testing new gear.
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