From its renowned flood tides to its epic offshore fishing opportunities, Charleston, South Carolina, is a must-add to any angler's bucket list. The region boasts diverse ecosystems — including estuaries, tidal creeks, rivers, and the vast Atlantic Ocean. These areas provide a rich habitat for some of the planet's most sought-after gamefish.
Whether you're a fly angler or a conventional fisherman, you'll quickly understand why sight-fishing in Charleston is so popular. The shallow tidal creeks and lush, spartina grass flats around Charleston present the perfect arena for hunting redfish (locally known as spottail bass) as they cruise for a lowcountry meal. You can also expect shots at black drum, flounder, and speckled sea trout.
Anglers who venture out of the marsh to the nearshore reefs and wrecks can target black sea bass, amberjack, sheepshead, cobia, king mackerel, and various snapper and grouper species. Take it one step further and jet out to the Gulf Stream for a chance at mahi mahi, wahoo, tuna, and marlin.
Fishing often takes you to some of the world's most beautiful and historically rich locations — and Charleston is no exception. Charleston is known for its deep colonial and revolutionary history, architectural heritage, and delicious lowcountry cuisine. Although you may travel for the fishing, you will undoubtedly find yourself staying for much more than just that.
In Charleston, redfish are often referred to as "spottail bass." The 'red,' aspect of the name arises from their copper-bronze body that transitions to a lighter underbelly, with distinct dark ocellated spots near the tail's base. They are also dubbed "red drum" for their unique drumming sound produced by redfish rubbing specialized muscles against their air bladder. In the lowcountry, redfish are typically around 18 inches and a little under 3 pounds, but these fish can grow up to 75 pounds. Redfish can live in diverse habitats, and often favor tidal creeks, oyster bars, and flooded spartina grass flats during flood tides. Their lifecycle is marked by seasonal migrations from estuaries to deeper river channels and bigger tidal creeks as juveniles mature.
For redfish, finesse in tackle and technique is crucial. Use circle hooks (2/0 or 3/0) with minimal weight when bottom-fishing. Redfish fight hard, so set your drag light enough to prevent break-offs. We like to throw light jigheads with soft-plastics or small weedless bucktail jigs. Fly anglers should use a variety of flies like red-white Lefty's Deceivers, weighted clousers, Dupree's Spoon flies, and other weedless shrimp imitations. For more on tactics for flood tide fishing, redfish fly tying tutorials, or other redfish tactics, check out these recent articles.
Explore Charleston's network of intercoastal inlets, sounds, bays, tidal creeks, marsh land, and with any of our world-class inshore guides. Inshore charters are great options for everyone from seasoned experts looking to hunt a trophy redfish on fly, to families and first-time anglers looking for a fun day on the water.
The southern flounder have a flattened body and distinctive left-side placement of both eyes. They usually range in measurement from 12 to 14 inches and weigh 1 to 2 pounds. They live in estuaries, rivers, and shallow coastal waters. Flounder thrive in muddy bottom tidal creeks and creek mouths. Overwintering offshore, adults venture into flooded salt marshes during high tides and. They ambush prey while blending seamlessly with their surroundings. Southern flounder forage mostly in tidal creeks and flooded salt marshes, with a diet of small fish species and crustaceans. They are also excellent table fare.
Black drum are silvery-gray to dark gray hue with distinct blackish fins. While young fish display 4 to 5 vertical black bars, these markings fade with age. In South Carolina, their average size is 14 inches and 3 pounds. Black Drums are commonly found in salt and brackish water habitats, favoring sandy and soft live bottoms. Adults orient to natural and artificial hard structures like reefs, jetties, and bridges, while juveniles thrive over muddy bottoms in tidal creeks and salt marshes, progressing to deeper waters as they age.
The sheepshead is a gray, oval-bodied fish with distinctive black bars. Around Charleston, these fish are typically 14 inches and 3 pounds. They thrive in nearshore waters, utilizing reefs, wrecks, and other hard structures. Sheepshead's varied diet includes invertebrates, algae, and small fish.
Exploring the coastal expanse 2 to 15 miles from the shore, Charleston's nearshore trips concentrate on angling at artificial reefs and live bottoms. This region's coastal vicinity is home to shipwrecks, artificial reefs, and geological formations, which can provide a haven for trophy fish.
Cobia have coloration that transitions from brown on the upper side to a whitish belly, with a pronounced dark lateral stripe from the eye to the tail. They have an average size of 30 inches and 15 pounds in South Carolina. Cobia live in nearshore and inshore waters around inlets, bays, and structures; juveniles favor inshore habitats such as estuaries, bays, and coastal waters. Adult cobia are opportunistic feeders with diets centered on blue and other swimming crabs, supplemented by shrimp, fish, and squid. South Carolina's peak season is in late spring, followed by offshore movement of larger cobia throughout the summer.
The jack crevalle has a silver body, accented with dark blue-green along the back and yellow on the belly and fins. Typically in South Carolina, jack crevalle reach 25 to 30 inches in length from nose to fork, and weigh 2 to 5 pounds. They inhabit nearshore and inshore waters and also venture into tidal creeks. These fish prey on small schooling fish, mullet, shrimp, crabs, and squid.
There are many types of grouper in the Charleston area, but the gag grouper and the formidable goliath grouper are the most commonly caught. Typically residing offshore amidst reefs and wrecks in deeper waters, grouper are a fun option for anglers looking to experience Charleston's deeper water fisheries.
Black sea bass have a dark body, with a dorsal fin notched into 10 spines and 11 soft rays. On average, they are 12 inches and 1 pound. They favor structure around hard or rocky substrates and live bottoms. Adults are found in deeper waters, while juveniles prefer nearshore coastal zones, often near oyster reefs and pier pilings. These fish are opportunistic foragers during daylight, consuming a variety of prey, including crabs, shrimp, clams, small fish, and squid. Black sea bass are excellent table fare.
Amberjack have olive green or brownish backs and silver sides, highlighted by a distinct dark stripe from their nose to the front of the dorsal fin. While amberjack may reach sizes up to 60 inches and 175-plus pounds, they're more commonly caught below 40 inches in length and under 40 pounds. Thriving in offshore rocky reefs, debris, and wrecks at depths of 60 to 240 feet, they consume squid, fish, and crustaceans. These voracious predators, often found in schools, are some of the strongest fish that swim. Be prepared to really fight to land these fish. Get them away from the structure before they have a chance to swim to the bottom and break you off.
Offshore fishing trips in Charleston, South Carolina, usually range about ten miles out to the edge of the continental shelf, although much longer runs are not uncommon. The bottom structure combined with the warm waters of the Gulf Stream creates an ideal habitat for pelagic fish species. Fish the artificial reefs, shipwrecks, and the renowned "Charleston Bump," which channels warm waters from the Gulf Stream. Get ready to bring out the fighting belts, as your captain will use specialized deep-sea gear to conquer some of the strongest fish that swim.
Mahi Mahi, also called dolphin, are distinguishable by their iridescent blue and green upper bodies and bright yellow underbellies. South Carolina's coastal waters provide excellent fishing for mahi mahi.
Wahoo have streamlined bodies that enable them to have remarkable speed. Wahoos have uniform coloring with dark iridescent blue vertical bands on their sides that transition from steel or metallic blue dorsally to a silver on the underside. They are year-round residents of the Gulf Stream waters off the southeastern U.S. coast and particularly abundant off the Carolinas during spring and summer.
Thriving in South Carolina's Atlantic waters, tunas showcase a wide array of ten species, spanning both smaller and larger varieties–ranging from the little tunny to the impressive bluefin tuna. Common among all tunas is their distinct football-shaped body and robust tail, which help to make them.
A flood tide is an unusually high tide that floods short spartina grass flats, creating a temporary habitat for important forage species like fiddler crabs, finger mullet, and mud minnows. This phenomenon occurs between March and November, prompting redfish to swim these ultra-shallow feeding grounds in search of food. These flood tides, determined by moon phase and tide cycles, present a limited window for an exceptional, visual angling experience. Consult this Charleston tide chart to see the best days for booking your next flood tide fishing trip.
Charleston offers anglers a gateway to a vast network of intercoastal tidal creeks that house a vibrant marine ecosystem, and offer a haven for those in search of fish from the skiff. Late fall and early winter offers some of the best creek fishing opportunities of the year, as redfish ambush shoals of shrimp and baitfish in skinny water.
Charleston has many great fishing guides that offer unique angling experiences in the lowcountry's picturesque waterways. These skilled guides provide invaluable expertise, enhancing both beginners' and experienced anglers' chances of success. With a deep understanding of local ecosystems, fishing techniques, regulations, and licensing requirements, guides are an essential part of your trip — and we're here to connect you with the best guides in Charleston. They can coach you through everything you need to know about fly casting, gear, and planning for success on the water.
|Fish Species||Best Time of Year to Fish in Charleston Waters|
|Tarpon||Best Months: July-September|
Best Months: August-October
Best Months: November-December
|Black Seabass||Available year-round.|
Best Months: April-November
Best Months: September-November
Best Months: May-October
When planning a fishing trip to Charleston, there are important factors to consider. Start by determining the best time for you based on weather, water conditions, and fish migration to target your desired species effectively. Charter one of our licensed Charleston captains with expert knowledge of the area. Remember to pack suitable clothing for the weather, and don't forget essentials like sun protection, polarized sunglasses, and rain gear. Don't worry about tackle. Your guide will have all the gear prepared for you.
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