When it comes to fishing, there are few places that can compare to the Lowcountry. Along the coast fishermen can tangle with red drum, speckled trout or flounder. Venture 40 miles or so to the Gulf Stream for a shot at sailfish or blue marlin. Freshwater fishermen can head to the Santee Cooper lakes to try their luck. Check the latest rules and regulations regarding catch and size limits for saltwater or freshwater species at dnr.sc.gov.
Inshore's Big Three
Redfish, more properly known as red drum, is the most popular inshore species in South Carolina and the fish comes in all sizes. Small puppy drum can be found in the creeks and rivers, while giant bull redfish are caught from the surf or in the deeper water at the jetties. Live or cut mullet and menhaden are preferred baits. The S.C. Department of Natural Resources suggests using a short leader and circle hook on a fish-finder rig to help reduce mortality.
Saltwater trout seem to prefer relatively clean and fast-moving water, and often gather at ambush points along a riverbank. Fish live mud minnows, finger mullet or shrimp under a float or on the bottom or cast a quarter-ounce jighead rigged with a soft plastic grub.
More challenging to catch than redfish or trout, flounder are nonetheless a favorite of inshore fishermen. Use a Carolina rig consisting of a light egg sinker on the mainline followed by a swivel, about 18 inches of 20-pound leader and a hook. Mud minnows are the bait of choice.
Mackerel, both the larger kings that often reach 30 pounds as well as smaller Spanish that weigh 3 to 4 pounds, can be caught just off the beaches. Live bait, particularly menhaden, is preferred, but you also can catch mackerel trolling spoons. Amberjacks are another popular nearshore to offshore species. AJs will hit both live and cut bait as well as trolled lures. Cobia show up in late spring with the prime time being May and June. They are often found around buoys and may reach more than 60 pounds. Frisky live bait is your best choice.
Head 40 miles or so toward the Gulf Stream and anglers will find sailfish, blue marlin, mahi mahi (dolphinfish) and wahoo. Sailfish and marlin are most plentiful during the late spring into summer. The brilliantly colored mahi mahi are the most popular offshore target and begin showing up in late April or early May. Wahoo shows up earlier in the season and hangs around later. Look for temperature breaks, current upwellings or rips, weed lines and anything floating.Troll with lures or ballyhoo. Well-known offshore fishing haunts include the Georgetown Hole, Edisto Banks and 226 Hole.
Lakes Marion and Moultrie are popular destinations for largemouth bass fishermen and were recently ranked as the sixth best largemouth bass lake in the country by Bassmaster Magazine. But the lakes also are a good spot for guided trips to catch big blue catfish, striped bass and crappie.