Fishing in South Carolina

From the deep waters of its lakes to the rich estuarine systems and the vast Atlantic Ocean, there's something for every angler to enjoy in the Palmetto State.
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About South Carolina

South Carolina offers diverse fishing opportunities, ranging from its coastal waters and ocean to its numerous rivers and lakes. South Carolina's coast along the Atlantic Ocean is a great place to target both nearshore species such as red drum, and deep sea monsters up to and including billfish. The great Savannah River and the impressive Santee Cooper Lakes system, as well as the state’s mountain stream, are home to prime freshwater species from bass to catfish and trout. South Carolina has a well-developed industry of fishing guides and charters, catering to both freshwater and saltwater anglers, particularly in popular fishing destinations such as Charleston, Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head Island, and around major lakes like Lake Marion, Lake Moultrie, and Lake Murray. Inshore and nearshore charters target species like red drum and spotted seatrout in areas around Charleston Harbor, Murrells Inlet, and Georgetown. Offshore and deep-sea charters will take you off to Hilton Head Island, and Myrtle Beach after the biggest trophy fish. Those who love freshwater fishing won’t feel abandoned either: numerous guides will take you out fishing for bass and other species in South Carolina rivers and lakes, or fly-fishing for trout. Most charters provide all necessary fishing equipment, including rods, reels, bait, and tackles, as well as safety equipment, such as life jackets, is also provided. However, some charters may offer the option to bring your own gear. Visitors from outside the US should remember that tipping the guide is customary, with 15-20% of the trip cost being a standard gratuity for good service (learn more about what fishing guides in different parts of the world think about tips). A valid South Carolina fishing license is required for both residents and non-residents. Licenses can be purchased online through the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) website, at authorized retailers, or at SCDNR offices. Adhere to the state’s regulations regarding bag limits, size limits, and specific seasonal restrictions for different fish species, and be aware of protected species and areas where fishing might be restricted or prohibited.

Fishing Types

South Carolina's coast along the Atlantic Ocean provides abundant opportunities for inshore and nearshore fishing, especially in estuarine environments where rivers meet the ocean and create rich habitats for various fish species. Reef and wreck fishing is also effective off the coast of South Carolina due to the presence of reefs and shipwrecks. The rivers of South Carolina offer great fishing; especially popular with anglers are the Savannah River below Lake Hartwell and around the Savannah River Site, Lower Santee River near the Santee Cooper lakes, and the Great Pee Dee River near Georgetown and Florence. Lake fishing is also outstanding, with the Santee Cooper Lakes system, to which belong such popular destinations as Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie, abounding in fish from catfish to crappie, not to forget the bass, and in the clear waters of Lake Jocassee you can also catch trout. Reservous, such as Lake Murray near Columbia and Lake Hartwell on the border with Georgia, leave nothing to natural lakes.

Targeted Fish Species

Red drum and spotted seatrout are the fish that are mentioned most when the talk’s about fishing in South Carolina. This is not without reason: both are beautifully colored, make delicious eating, and defy stereotypes - the red drum, for instance, is by no means “mute like a fish”, on the contrary, males produce a drumming sound in the spawning period to attract males. While both species are widespread around the Atlantic US coast, South Carolina is one of the best destinations for them. Flounder and sheepshead enthusiasts might argue that fishing for their favorite species is even better. Tarpon, the craze of saltwater fly-fishing enthusiasts, also visits these shores, and in the offshore waters off South Carolina coast you can catch, when in season, such iconic fish species as blue marlin, yellowfin tuna, wahoo, mahi-mahi, and various species of shark. Rivers and lakes of South Carolina are full of catfish, largemouth bass, crappie, bream, as well as rainbow and brook trout.

Fishing Techniques

While fishing methods and techniques don’t usually vary too much from area to area, there are some that can be said to be South Carolina’s specialty. Flounder gigging, a nighttime activity where anglers use a multi-pronged spear, or gig, to catch flatfish in shallow waters, is highly popular along South Carolina’s coast, particularly in estuaries and tidal creeks. The anglers of South Carolina developed tide fishing to the state of art, targeting incoming and outgoing tides to take advantage of fish feeding patterns. Fishing from the shore in the surf zone, casting bait into the waves where fish feed, is also widespread. While trolling is usually the way to go for deep-sea fishing, South Carolina charters also practice bottom fishing, using heavy tackle and weighted rigs to reach the seabed. Of course, trolling itself, as well as fly-fishing, light tackle fishing, spinning and jigging are as popular and effective as anywhere else.