Fishing Reports In South Carolina

 

 

 

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Summer Inshore Fishing

 

With the heat of the summer, inshore fishing slows somewhat compared to spring and fall. However, in summer many different fishes are available to inshore anglers. Among these are: spotted seatrout, red drum, black drum, flounders, whiting, Spanish and king mackerel, sheepshead, and crevalle jack. As a general rule, summer fishing is better at dusk and dawn. During this time of the year estuaries and coastal waters are filled with a variety of bait fishes and shrimps preyed upon by game fish. As a result, live baits will catch more fish than artificial lures at this time.

 

Spotted Seatrout

 

During the summer, spotted seatrout occur in lower parts of estuaries and prefer live baits. In early summer you can get brown shrimp for bait with a cast net at low tide in many areas. Later in the summer, white shrimp will be large enough to use for bait. Also, small menhaden and finger mullet can be obtained with a cast net and you can catch mud minnows either with a baited minnow trap or with a cast net in shallow creeks.

As in the spring and fall, the best fishing is around areas with structures, such as oyster bars, rocks and pilings during periods when the tidal currents are running. The baits may be fished either on the bottom with a slip sinker above a 20-pound test monofilament leader attached to a 1/0 or 2/0 hook or from a float rig. Generally in the summer, trout fishing is quite spotty as the fish do not form large schools typical of cooler periods of the year.

 

Red Drum

 

Summer fishing for red drum is slower than during the spring and fall. During July, small juvenile red drum, 8 to 10 inches in length, leave the shallow creeks and form schools in the main estuaries. At this time they are very easy to catch, but are smaller than the allowable minimum size in South Carolina of 15 inches and should be released. These fish will attain legal size in the fall.

During late summer, anglers are frequently successful in catching larger fish (up to 20 to 30 pounds) around jetties and at the mouths of bays and sounds. Baits used are either live menhaden, finger mullet or fresh cut mullet. These baits are presented on fish-finder rigs on the bottom. A 50-pound test monofilament leader attached to a 6/0 hook is satisfactory for cut bait. For live bait, use a slightly smaller hook (4/0) so that the bait can swim more naturally in the current. Cut baits are fished on the bottom, whereas live baits may be fished either on the bottom or floated along the jetty rocks.

Flounders

 

Flounders are quite abundant in the estuaries during the summer months. This is the time of the year when some folks drift along the shallows during calm nights on an early incoming tide to gig flounders. The boats are generally shallow draft such as jon boats and have lights set up on the bow to illuminate the bottom directly ahead of the boat. As one person poles the boat, the other stands in the bow with a four-pronged spear and strikes any flounders he can see on the bottom. When the night is calm, the water clear and the fish available, quite a few flounders can be harvested.

Many Grand Strand fishermen troll for flounders during summer around inlets. Live baits, such as mud minnows are trolled slowly along the bottom or adjacent to jetty rocks. Other areas where flounders can be caught are inlets north of Charleston, such as Dewees Inlet, Capers Inlet and Prices Inlet.

 

Sheepshead

 

During the summer, sheepshead can be caught around jetties, pilings and bridge piers. Fiddler crabs and live shrimp are the best baits and they can be fished either with float rigs (which are successful around the jetties) or with 1/4- or 3/8-ounce split shot weights crimped to the leader. The hook sizes used are no. 1, 1/0, or 2/0 and the leader should be about 20-pound test monofilament. Frequently you have to move from place to place along the rocks to find fish.

 

Black Drum

 

Black drum are bottom feeding cousins of the red drum. They feed on crabs, shrimp, clams and mussels and do not consume fish. They occur around rocks, pilings and bridge piers. Since they are mainly bottom feeders, a fish finder rig works well. When fishing for black drum you may hook a fish that weighs 5 pounds or you might grab onto one that weighs as much as 40 pounds.

The best bait for black drum is a large piece of blue crab. To prepare the bait, pull the top shell from the crab and cut it into quarters. Thread a large piece of crab onto a 5/0 to 9/0 hook tied onto a swivel with 50-pound test monofilament. Above the leader, which should be from 18 inches to 2 feet long, a 2 to 3-ounce slip sinker is used to get the bait to the bottom. Smaller black drum are delicious, but the larger fish (over 15 pounds) have a coarse flesh. If you catch a large fish you do not plan to eat, it should be tagged and released.

 

Pompano

 

During late summer, the fine tasting pompano is relatively abundant in the surf zone but not heavily fished. Pompano frequent the surf zone right where the waves break in "suds" on the beach. These fish feed on mole crabs which live in this high energy area. The crabs burrow into the sand as the wave breaks, and as the water retreats from shore after breaking, the crabs strain the water for microscopic food items that are suspended by wave action. Before the next wave breaks, these small crabs (1/4 to 3/4- inch in length) burrow into the sand.

Not all mole crabs manage to bury themselves after each wave, however, and some are swept short distances from the beach by the retreating water. Pompano cruise just beyond the foam feeding on these crabs.

Pompano have small mouths and since mole crabs also are small, a no. 1 or no. 2 hook should be tied directly onto the line (8- pound test) from the reel. Flip the baited hook into this area and allow it to be carried about by the current. A very small piece of split shot (1/16 or 1/32 ounce) on your line will keep it slightly down in the water column as it drifts. A small float about 12 or 16 inches away from the hook gives a better idea of the location of the bait.

Pompano in the surf generally weigh less than a pound but are fine food fish. If the bait is too far offshore you will not catch pompano. If you fish directly in the suds, you might still miss them but you may latch onto a whiting, a small red drum, or even a flounder. Like pompano, these other fishes are letting the wave action bring them a nice mole crab dinner.

 

Whiting

 

During the summer, whiting can be caught in the surf around the groins and in the sloughs and cuts along open beaches. Whiting feed on small worms, crabs, and shrimp. They generally weigh less than a pound and have a relatively small mouth. A rig with two leaders with no.1 or 1/0 hooks baited with cut shrimp fished on the incoming tide frequently will catch whiting during the summer. Although they are not large and do not fight as hard as many of the other inshore fishes, they certainly make up for these shortcomings by being excellent table fare.

 

King and Spanish Mackerel

 

During the summer months, the numbers of both of these fishes decrease in comparison with the spring. There are a few kings and Spanish around ship channels and on occasion you can locate a school of Spanish a few miles off the beach by looking for seabirds diving on the baits scared to the surface by the fish. Best times are at dawn and dusk which seems to be the period when these predators are most active.

During summer, kings are caught with live menhaden trolled slowly or drifted under a large float. The same general techniques that worked in the spring are used to catch kings in the summer.

 

Crevalle Jack

 

When inshore waters warm in the summer, a southern visitor enters our estuaries to terrorize small menhaden and other small bait fishes. These are the 'jacks.' They do not make spectacular long runs like large king mackerel and they do not perform graceful jumps like tarpon, but they are one of the toughest fishes encountered in inshore waters.

At night or at dusk and dawn during the summer months, jacks lurk around rips during ebb tide feeding on mullets, menhaden and silversides. Experienced anglers use 20-pound test line on a large capacity reel and a moderately stout rod. Good baits for jacks are surface popping plugs like the Striper Swiper or swimming plugs like the Redfin, Rebel, or Rapala.

During the daytime you frequently can spot a school of jacks milling on the surface. This type of fishing requires two people; one casts from the bow of the boat while the other runs the boat to intercept the school of fish. Large yellow bucktails or Hopkins spoons work well during the day. During the daylight a hooked jack will attempt to run back to the school and once it gets into the school, the line will be cut by the other members of the school. Jacks are not good food fish and should be tagged and released.

 

 

 

 

Summer Offshore Fishing


Summer offers an infinite variety of offshore fishing opportunities. Everything from sea bass on the reefs to blue marlin in the Gulf Stream is biting. Many of the blue water fish that occur 50 miles offshore in the early spring may move to within 15 miles of the coast. Summer also offers the angler the best weather of the year, sometimes with four or five consecutive days of flat, calm conditions.

Summer fishing has its drawbacks, though. The steamy hot days of July and August send many of the fish that normally inhabit the surface to deeper waters. Summer heat also polarizes much of the feeding activity into the early morning and late afternoon and evening. During the hot part of the day, the wise fisherman sets his baits deep to catch the same fish that were on the surface in the morning. Downriggers and planers are key elements to a successful offshore trip during the summer.

Blue Marlin, White Marlin, Sailfish

 

Blue and white marlin become more scattered during this time since temperature no longer restricts them to the Gulf Stream. Occasionally, a marlin will surprise a king mackerel fisherman in 80 feet of water, but the most productive area will be in 300 to 1200 feet of water.

Sailfish reach peak abundance during the summer. July and August offer anglers their best opportunity to catch sails off South Carolina. During this time, numerous small sails will be hooked within 10 miles of the beach, but these fish are usually well below the 57-inch fork length minimum set by law. Weed lines, current rips and natural reefs in 120 to 300 feet of water are the best areas for these prized game fish.

Averaging 35 to 45 pounds, sails pre-fer smaller baits than their larger cousins the marlins. Trolling with small to medium size ballyhoo and mullet with a small artificial lure or colored skirt placed ahead of the bait is effective for sailfish. Sails will readily attack small to medium-sized lures and have even been caught on spoons and plugs intended for king mackerel.

During the summer, many blue marlin in local waters are in the 125- to 200-pound range which is below the 86-inch fork length minimum. Large mullet, ballyhoo, ladyfish and Spanish mackerel rigged to skip across the surface or to swim are popular and effective baits. These are frequently dressed up with brightly colored plastic skirts and artificial lures.

Large, 10- to 16-inch long, brightly colored artificial lures are also very effective for marlin. Natural baits offer real food so that if a fish strikes short it will more than likely return to the bait. This is less likely to happen with artificial lures. Artificials on the other hand can be trolled faster allowing more area to be fished and do not require the extensive time necessary to rig natural baits.

 

Dolphin, Wahoo, Yellowfin Tuna

 

Summer offers anglers an excellent opportunity to catch these game fish closer to shore than during any other season. Good concentrations of yellowfin tuna, wahoo and dolphin occur as close in as 90 feet of water, although the area from 180 feet deep to 600 feet deep will hold the best concentrations of these species.

As summer progresses, the size of both dolphin and wahoo gradually declines. At summer's start, 10- to 20-pound dolphin and 35- to 50-pound wahoo are the norm but average weight drops to 8 pounds for dolphin and 20 pounds for wahoo by summer's end. Conversely, yellowfin tuna increase in size throughout the year, averaging 45 pounds by late summer.

Natural baits such as ballyhoo or mullet rigged with a small to medium sized artificial lure or colored skirt produce more of these game fish than any other baits. Large artificial surface lures are also effective for the big fish. While all baits are usually fished on the surface from outriggers, it is wise to run at least one line 60 to 70 feet deep via a downrigger.

 

Amberjack and Barracuda

 

Amberjack and barracuda provide some of the most action-packed fishing on artificial reefs and coastal shipwrecks during this time of year. During the summer these fish can be notoriously picky but live bait can remedy the problem. Summer offers anglers the opportunity to test not only their equipment but their angling skills as well.

Most anglers choose to approach amberjack, which run 25 to 60 pounds, with a 50-pound class outfit. However, challenging these fish on 30 or even 20-pound test line can be a thrilling experience. Barracuda usually run much smaller than the AJ's, averaging 10 to 15 pounds; however, barracuda of 30 to 40 pounds are regularly encountered. Light tackle in the 12- to 20-pound test range is ideal. Wire leader is mandatory for cudas whose teeth are razor sharp while heavy, 100- to 150-pound test, monofilament works good for the jacks.

Large live baits such as 8- to 14-inch mullet and menhaden either floated at the surface over the shipwrecks or free lined (no weight or float) down current to the structure are deadly techniques. Depending on the line test used, a 5/0 to 8/0 extra strength hook should be used. A stainless steel hook is recommended since most fish are released and not eaten.

Artificial lures also can be effective for both amberjack and barracuda. The surgical rubber tube lure (Cuda Killer), in dark green, chartreuse and hot pink is very effective either trolled or cast. Amberjacks prefer deep diving plugs and spoons trolled deep. Noisy surface lures however, will excite both into striking.

 

King Mackerel

 

King fishing during the summer has its up and downs. It seems to turn on and off every two to three weeks. The larger female fish (20 to 40 pounds) normally occur in the near shore waters just outside bays and sounds. Smaller males (6 to 12 pounds) are abundant in 60 to 120 feet of water. Artificial and natural reefs are focal points for these schooling fish.

During the early morning hours, baits trolled on the surface are extremely productive. By 10 a.m., however, the fish usually sound to avoid the heat. This is when the smart angler brings out the downriggers and planers. When fishing these deep running devices, remember to keep the bait or lure at least 10 feet behind the device.

Kings can be finicky at this time of year, subsequently anglers try everything from artificial lures to that offshore panacea, rigged ballyhoo. Live bait, such as 6- to 10-inch long mullet or menhaden, slow trolled or drifted can also be extremely effective. These should be fished at various depths using a live bait rig to locate the fish.

Spoons and deep running plugs also work well. Colored plastic skirts, Hawaiian eyes, and seawitches are normally used to dress up ballyhoo for trolling. Like live baits, these lures are fished at various depths to find the fish.

 

Spanish Mackerel, Little Tunny, Crevalle Jack

 

Little tunny and Spanish mackerel often are abundant in the near shore waters out to 15 miles during this period. Like little tunny (locally called bonito), crevalle jack are considered great game fish but are not highly esteemed as food. Tunny usually average around 10 pounds, crevalles about 5 pounds in size.

Schools of surface feeding fish can be spotted by the wheeling and diving terns feeding on the bait fish pushed to the surface by the hungry fish. These schools are usually either tunny, crevalles, or Spanish but occasionally will be mixed. One to 5 miles outside the mouths of bays and sounds and around artificial reefs are prime areas for schooling activity.

Small silver or gold spoons 2 to 3 inches in length such as Hopkins, Clark, Captain Action and Tony Accetta are the most productive. Most anglers prefer to fish these on a 20-inch, 60-pound test wire leader to prevent cut-offs. When fish become picky, switch to a 30-pound mono leader. A 1/2- to 1 1/2-ounce swivel lead should be placed 2 to 3 feet ahead of the spoon to allow longer casts and to keep the spoon below the surface.

These fish are extremely fast, subsequently you must retrieve a lure as fast as possible and troll at a fast pace. A small planer should be used to locate the depth of the fish. The spoon or plug should always be at least 10 feet behind the planer. Plugs, especially deep diving ones, are effective in catching the larger fish lurking below the surface feeding fish.

 

Bottom Fish

 

Bottom fishing off our coast is also affected by the heat of summer. Sea bass as well as porgies, snappers and other reef fish will scatter, taking up residence on the small parcels of reef or live bottom habitat. This creates more fishable areas but usually much smaller schools. These deepwater fishes usually slow their feeding activity during the middle part of the day. Bottom fishermen frequently make over-night trips so they can fish from late evening through the night and into the early morning hours.

Concentrations of black sea bass (blackfish), which average 1 to 2 pounds, occur in 40 to 120 feet of water. The best fishing, however, is usually on ledges and live bottom areas in 50 to 70 feet of water. Blackfish stay in close proximity to structure so it is crucial to anchor directly over the reef, or to re-start your drifts as soon as the fish quit biting.

Few fish are more aggressive feeders than sea bass. The preferred bait is cut squid because it is tough and well liked by the fish. A two-hook bottom rig with 3/0 to 5/0 hooks and a 6- to 12- ounce sinker is normally used.

Snapper, porgies, triggerfish and grouper will inhabit water as shallow as 50 feet, but the largest concentrations occur in 90 to 180 feet of water, out to 300 feet of water. Like sea bass, these fish
stray little from the protection of the reefs. Other than grouper, most reef fish run 1 to 4 pounds in size but will range up to 8 to 15 pounds. Groupers average 5 to 10 pounds, ranging up to 40 pounds. Warsaw grouper may exceed 300 pounds. Cut squid is the best bait. Cigar minnows and sardines are preferred for red snapper and are also effective on grouper. Live or cut vermilion snapper are excellent for grouper. Cigar minnows and live bait should be fished from just off the bottom to 10 feet above the bottom.

 

 

 

 

Shrimp Baiting

Permits/Licenses:
Shrimp Baiting License and pole marker tags required. A license is not required for residents assisting license holders. Licenses available Monday of second full week in June.

The Shrimp Baiting License is in the Adobe® Acrobat® (PDF) format. Adobe® Reader® is required to open the files and is available as a free download from the Adobe® Web site.

Seasons:
60-day period set by SCDNR beginning at 12:00 noon on the last Friday on or before Sept. 15. Call 843-953-9312 for season dates.

Limits:
Daily catch 48 quarts whole or 29 quarts headed per boat, per person if no boat is used, or per seining party.

Restrictions:

  • Shrimp caught over bait cannot be sold.
  • No more than 10 poles can be used per license per day. Poles may not exceed 1-inch in diameter, and must have a numbered tag attached which corresponds with the shrimp baiting license. Each pole must also be marked with reflective tape.
  • No more than 10 poles can be used per boat.
  • All poles of a licensed set must be within 100 linear yards, of each other and sets of poles must be at least 25 yards apart. Poles may not be set within 50 yards of any dock, public landing or boat ramp. Unattended poles will be confiscated.
  • Owners of private docks or persons with written permission may bait from those docks once properly licensed and with numbered tag displayed.
  • Shrimp pots or traps are prohibited.
  • Individuals who are:
    1. owners or officers of a corporation which owns a vessel specified on a trawl license;
    2. masters of a vessel specified on a trawl license application;
    3. licensed to use a channel net;
    4. licensed to use a cast net for a commercial purpose; or
    5. licensed as a wholesale seafood dealer may not obtain a shrimp baiting license.
  • Cast nets used for taking shrimp over bait must have a minimum mesh size of � inch square (1 inch stretch).


Shellfish - Oysters and Clams

 

Provided by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Office of Fisheries Management, Shellfish Management Program.

License Requirements:

A South Carolina Resident Saltwater Fishing License is required for individuals catching, attempting to catch, or landing shellfish (oysters or clams). This license is not required for individuals less than 16 years of age or residents holding a valid Gratis Over 65 or Gratis Disability License. Annual license cost $10.00 or residents and $35.00 for nonresidents. South Carolina residents commercially harvesting on State Shellfish Grounds require a commercial saltwater license ($25.00), a commercial shellfish harvester license ($75.00) and a permit for the specific State Shellfish Ground obtained from the Marine Resources Division's permit coordinator.

Season:

September 16 through May 15, unless conditions warrant shortening or extending the season. Check your local newspaper or call the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources at (843) 953-9300.

It is illegal to harvest shellfish between 1/2 hour after official sunset and 1/2 hour before official sunrise.

Limit on Catch:

Two U.S. Bushels of oysters and/or one-half U.S. Bushel of clams may be harvested per person, per day. Clams must be at least one inch thick. No person may gather more than one personal limit of shellfish on more than two calendar days per any seven day period. There is a maximum possession limit of three personal limits per boat or vehicle or boat and vehicle combination.

Gear Restrictions:

It is unlawful to use scoops, scrapes tongs, or dredges to take shellfish without a permit.

Closed - SCDHEC:

Some State Shellfish Grounds and Public Shellfish Grounds have been closed by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control because of elevated fecal coliforms bacteria. These areas should be posted with yellow warning signs.

Conditional - SCDHEC:

Some State Shellfish Grounds may be closed temporarily by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control because of elevated coliform bacteria caused by heavy rainfall. Conditional areas are not always posted with white warning signs. Check with SCDHEC at (843)953-0150 before harvesting.

Laws on Harvesting:

Shellfish (oysters and clams) may be harvested recreationally from State shellfish grounds and Public shellfish grounds with a Saltwater Recreational Fishing License. Most Public and State shellfish grounds are marked with signs. Recreational harvesting is allowed on Culture permit grounds (formerly leases), but only when the harvester has in possession, written permission from the Culture permit holder. License must be in possession while harvesting.

Shell Recycling:

Oyster shells are collected throughout the coastal area and reused for shellfish culture. For further information about oyster shell recycling, please call Andy Jennings, Oyster Shell Recycling Program Coordinator; (843) 953-9396 or you may contact the Program by e-mail at jenningsa@dnr.sc.gov.



 

 

Hit the Skinny Water for our Coastal Flounder
Trolling isn't the only technique for landing doormat-sized flounder. This expert uses a freshwater bass approach for pulling them from coastal rivers.


By Walt Rhodes

The endless parade of small boats in the inlet was monotonous. Each vessel was turned perpendicular to the flooding current, and aboard anglers held rods pointed toward the ocean. The classic yellow and white minnow bucket was attached with a short rope to the rear cleat of nearly every boat.

I watched from my sandy post, having taken a break from the floating traffic jam to do some beachcombing. The anglers sat like statues. The only thing moving was an occasional landing net poking out of an unused rod holder like a pirate flag blowing in the breeze. No one seemed to be catching any fish, which was why I was walking on the beach.

The taste of flounder, however, is addictive. Nobody was giving up. At the end of each drift, the motor was cranked up and each boat was run back to the starting point of the drift at the inlet's mouth. Again and again, the process was repeated. The only interruption was a very rare "whoop" of someone landing a flounder.
On another day, I was one of a small bunch of boats trolling for flounder in a tidal creek behind Pawleys Island. The scene was strikingly familiar.

Around and around we all went. Up the creek against the tide, then turn around, and head downtide to the bend in the creek to begin again. We trolled mud minnows up the creek in hopes that a flounder lying amongst the scattered oyster shells littering the sand bottom would grab our bait. One or two did for everyone before the tide went slack.

Russell Bennett holds up two very nice doormats taken in Charleston waters. Photo courtesy of Walt Rhodes

Drifting or trolling baits for South Carolina flounder is the most popular method, along with gigging, to land these tasty fish. On any given summer day at anytime you can find someone dragging a bait for flounder in South Carolina.

However, despite the tactic's popularity and, at times its success, it's not the only way to score on flatfish. If you're drifting the same old way for flounder on a day that's just not working, it helps to have a couple of new tactics up your sleeve.

"I take a freshwater approach to fishing for flounder," said 38-year-old Chuck Bennett, who along with his brother, Russell, own LEHI Bait Company in Charleston. "It's a flipping technique that someone would use for catching largemouth bass around structure."

Flounder, of course, are one of the few fishes in the world that are flat and have both eyes on one side of their bodies. While this oddity seemingly makes flounder weird, it is an amazing adaptation, and along with the ability to change color for camouflage, flounder are efficient ambush predatory fish.

"Flounder are very structure-oriented fish," Bennett explained. "Baitfish are attracted to structure for cover. Flounder know this, so they use their camouflage and eyesight to lie in wait for baitfish to drift too close. The main thing an angler has to remember when fishing for flounder is structure," he emphasized.

According to Bennett, structure comes in many shapes and sizes. He thinks most anglers tend to think about only certain kinds of structure for flounder and that mindset causes the average angler to overlook lots of other forms that will also hold fish.

"If you ask someone about catching flounder, many people will tell you to look around oyster bars. Oyster bars are great places to find flounder, but they are certainly not the only places to find fish," Bennett noted.

Bennett suggests that the first good alternative structure to look for is usually manmade. Rock walls of riprap, bulkheads, piers and poles associated with floating docks - even a single pole in the water - are all capable of holding flounder, according to Bennett.

"A lot of people don't think that flounder will hang around poles, thinking there is not enough structure there, but they do," Bennett said. "Once my brother and nephew and I were fishing near some poles. The first cast I made I caught a flounder. My brother cast to the exact same spot next and he caught a fish. My nephew then said, 'I want to catch a fish.' We cast his line to the same spot again, and he also got a flounder.

"Three straight casts, and we got three flounder from one spot. The point is something as plain as a pole or series of poles attract flounder, and sometimes more than one," he said. "Even if you catch one fish from a spot, don't stop casting until you are sure there are no other fish."

To find flounder holding on structure, Bennett does not take a "run-and-gun" approach, but he is willing to move around if he is not locating fish. This strategy helped him win the 26th Annual Alison Oswald Sr. Memorial Tournament last year at the James Island Yacht Club.

"During the tournament last year, I decided I was only going to fish one area. I was just going to concentrate on all of the structure in this one general area.

"It seems that if you stay with a spot long enough, the flounder will eventually turn on," he said. "I don't know what happens, but you can be fishing a spot for a long time without catching a fish, and then all of sudden you catch several."

He's not sure whether the flounder are there all the time and suddenly turn on in the presence of bait, or whether flounder will eventually move into "empty" structure if the angler waits long enough. Either way, the tactic works - if you pick the right structure.

One of the things Bennett looks for to help him decide which structure to begin fishing is the presence of baitfish scurrying across the water near potential structure.

Live bait is used exclusively when trolling or drifting for flounder, but Bennett prefers an artificial bait.

"One of the baits we make is a soft-plastic, paddle-type bait called a Super Shad. My favorite color is chartreuse with a silver flake. I have used it successfully by itself to catch flounder, but it really performs well when live bait is added," he said.

Bennett usually piggybacks a live finger mullet about 3 inches long onto the bait. Instead of hooking the mullet through both lips, he only hooks it through the top lip so the fish can still breath, and he uses the lightest lead possible.

"Most of the baits I use will weigh about 1/8 of an ounce. When you are fishing around structure, you tend to lose a lot of baits. However, if your mullet remains alive and you are patient, many times it will swim your bait free from any obstructions," Bennett stated.
His favorite live bait for tipping the lure is mullet, but you can use others.

"Finger mullet are typically plentiful during the summer. You can use mud minnows as well," he said. "I have tried menhaden, but they don't hold up nearly as well as the other baits."

Bennett takes a very thorough approach when he fishes any structure. "First thing is I don't use an anchor when fishing structure," he said. "I use a bow-mounted trolling motor to keep the boat in position. I think the trolling motor is a huge advantage because it does not scare fish like an anchor can when it's tossed overboard, and it lets you be very mobile so you can cover all possible spots around structure."

For example, most people would probably fish a dock from only one side. Typically, the angler anchors offshore of the pier and casts toward it. If he doesn't catch anything after awhile, he moves on to another spot, convinced there were no fish at the pier. Bennett works a pier considerably harder than that.

"When I approach a pier, I fish all sides of it, parallel to it and perpendicular. I hit all the angles. The reason is that if you only fish from one direction, there is a good chance you are going to miss the flounder," He said. "Think about it for a second. A flounder usually sits on the down-current side of structure with his head facing into the current. That way when something to eat comes drifting over in the current, all he has to do is rise up and snatch it.

"Now, if the tide is flowing from right to left and you cast perpendicular to it toward the pier, your retrieve might bring your bait behind a stationed flounder where he can't see it," Bennett said. "Once you switch positions and cast parallel to the pier and retrieve your bait into the current, it might come right alongside the fish or directly over it. He is much more likely to see it and eat it that way."

Bennett suggested to keep casting to structure even if you catch a flounder. He said very often there is more than one flounder staging on the structure.

The tide and depth that Bennett has the best luck might surprise you: three hours before the low tide and the first three hours into the rising tide.

"Most of the places I fish will be in less than 15 feet of water, and sometimes it is only inches deep. Fishermen are surprised when I tell them I catch flounder in water only inches deep. If you see bait busting around in water that shallow, it is a good chance there is a flounder," he said.

He points out that anyone who has ever been gigging knows how shallow you can find flounder; flounder don't change their habits simply because you have a fishing pole in your hand.

"It helps to keep that in the back of your mind when fishing. If you see a pole or the edge of bulkhead that has frightened bait around it and the water is shallow, I wouldn't hesitate to cast up there," he said.

Bennett recommended using a medium-action spinning rod with a sensitive tip. His favorite line weight is 8-pound-test. The light setup helps with detecting strikes and hooking a flounder, a trick that is usually difficult for novices to master right away.

"You will feel a flounder take the bait. It is like a thud. A flounder will hold a bait in its mouth until it quits wiggling, which takes 15 to 30 seconds sometimes. However, the fish rarely has the entire bait in its mouth. If you set the hook right when you feel the fish hit, you will pull the bait right out of the flounder's mouth," Bennett said. "Thinking I have securely hooked a fish, I have started reeling one to the boat only to have it let go of the bait right at the boat. You have to give them time to take the bait entirely."

Bennett does have a trick, however, if he's missing several flounder. He will attach a stinger hook, not unlike what you would do when live-baiting for king mackerel.

"You need to use a light, single hook," he stressed. "It can't inhibit the bait. Something around a No. 2/0 should work fine."

To attach the hook, he ties a short piece of monofilament at the bend of the bait's main hook. Then he ties on the stinger hook, taking care to be certain there is enough slack in the line so the bait can move. He hooks the hook into the underside of the bait, usually one of the fins.

The theory is that the flounder will get at least one hook in its mouth when it grabs the bait. This modification also helps if you have a beginner on board who insists on setting the hook immediately or a veteran angler who is becoming overly anxious.

Once a flounder is hooked, your reel's drag becomes the next critical step in getting that fish into the boat.

"The most important thing with your equipment is to have a good drag that is kept fairly loose. Flounder are not fighting fish, like spottail bass that make multiple runs in an attempt to get away," Bennett said. "A real big flounder feels like a boat when you are reeling him in. It's real deadlike, but once he sees the boat, he often makes a very powerful run. If your drag is not adjusted properly, he will pop your line every time."

There is also one other essential piece of equipment needed if you are going to be a successful flounder fisherman. Bennett stressed that you must have a landing net.

It is nearly impossible to land a flounder by swinging him over the gunnel. And you can't lip them because of their teeth. Although they have big mouths, Bennett said trying to land one with a Boga-grip or other similar device is next to impossible as well.

There are numerous places in the greater Charleston area to begin your search for river flounder. Nearly all of the industrial-type structure will be associated with Charleston Harbor. Range markers and other navigation aids, bridge pilings, old wrecks and partially sunken barges, abandoned and active piers and current walls are all types of structure that will hold flounder.

Once you move away from the harbor area, most of your structure will be residential piers, bulkheads and more natural structures, such as oyster bars and fallen-over trees. Heavily concentrated piers are located along the Intracoastal Waterway and up both the Ashley and Wando rivers. You will also find a good smattering of piers along the Kiawah and Stono rivers and down toward Edisto Island.

The limit on flounder is 20 fish per person per day with a 12-inch minimum size. Most flounder landed are in the neighborhood of the 12-inch limit; however, using bigger baits will allow you to catch flounder weighing several pounds.

Flounder are the third most popular inshore saltwater fish in South Carolina behind spottail bass and spotted seatrout. Once you learn to successfully fish for them around structure, they might move up on your priority list.







 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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