Pier fishing tournament season opens on Saturday

The Folly Beach Pier offers plenty of room for anglers.

A news release about the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission’s series of summer pier fishing tournaments sparked a nostalgic moment. When I moved to Charleston in 1979, I was dismayed to learn that the nearest fishing piers were all located on the Grand Strand.

Charleston pier anglers had a couple of choices — a pier on a creek at Crosby’s Seafood near Folly Beach and a catwalk alongside the Breach Inlet Bridge connecting Sullivan’s Island with the Isle of Palms. I spent many afternoons at the latter, whiling away my time and catching very little.

Today, pier fishing enthusiasts in Charleston have two excellent and very different places to wet a line.

The Folly Beach Pier is a more traditional fishing pier, jutting out 1,045 feet into the Atlantic Ocean. It is constructed of wood, and anglers have an opportunity to catch any number of species, ranging from spots and whitings to king mackerel.

Folly Beach Pier general manager Mark Patrick said there will be lots of whiting, bluefish, pompano, spadefish, black drum and trout caught during the coming weeks. King mackerel will begin showing up at the end of the pier as the water temperature rises.

“For bait, most people use fresh or frozen shrimp,” Patrick said. “The best tide is generally two hours either side of high tide, but there’s really not a bad time. Most fishermen use the two-drop bottom rig with the weight on the bottom or a Carolina rig (a sliding sinker and single hook). You want to fish just beyond the breakers, not all the way at the end of the pier.”

One of the bonuses from the construction of the Ravenel Bridge was a successful inshore fishing pier, a concrete structure that juts 1,250-foot into the Cooper River. Rubble left behind from the demolition of the old Silas Pearman Bridge serves as an inshore artificial reef and attracts redfish, trout sheepshead and a variety of other species.

“Trout fishing is starting to pick up. You should target the incoming tide, the first two to three hours after dead low tide, and use live shrimp or artificial shrimp like the DOA, Billy Baits and Bass Assassins,” said Mount Pleasant Pier Manager Chris Pounder.

“As the water warms, you will see more and more redfish along the grass lines. You can catch reds on cut mullet, live mud minnows and live shrimp.”

Sheepshead are year-round residents and can be caught fishing fiddler crabs straight down near the pilings. Pounder said flounder can be caught fishing mud minnows or live shrimp along the bottom on the incoming to mid tide.

“If you have little kids and just want to bend a rod, use small hooks and small pieces of shrimp,” Pounder suggested. “Pinfish, croaker, whiting and spots practically jump over the rail.”

The tournament season for pier fishermen begins Saturday at the Mount Pleasant Pier with the first of four Cast Off Fishing Tournaments. Other Mount Pleasant Pier tournament dates are June 27, Sept. 5 and Oct. 3. The Folly Beach tournament dates are May 23, June 20, July 18 and Aug. 15. The “Take a Kid Fishing Day” is June 6.

Tournament registration fees are $13 for ages 13 and up (discount for Charleston County residents), $8 for ages 3-12 and seniors, or $5 for fishing pass holders. The May tournaments include awards for the largest gamefish catch in each of the following categories: adult, lady, youth (12-under), senior and total weight of five fish.

Online registration at CharlestonCountyParks.com/fishing ends the Thursday prior to each tournament with onsite registration beginning at 6 a.m. the day of the tournament. Tournament hours are 6 a.m.-2 p.m. (7 a.m.-3 p.m. for September and October tournaments).

Call (843) 762-9946 for Mount Pleasant Pier information or (843) 588-3474 for Folly Beach Pier information.