Hilton Head Island is world renowned for golfing, but the fishing is often world class and largely overshadowed by the golf courses, beaches and multitude of attractions. It is worth exploring the local fisheries however because the region is loaded with freshwater and saltwater sportfishing. A large variety of species combined with great access makes the area ripe with opportunity for eager anglers.
The Fishing Calendar
Fishing opportunities are essentially broken down by season. Freshwater bass and sunfish are available throughout the year but they do prefer warmer weather. Fishing inshore or offshore in the saltwater is a different story and seasonality really determines what is available.
The spring season is popular for black drum, sea bass, sheepshead, sea trout and redfish. Offshore anglers will also cross paths with sharks, cobia and mackerel. Spring is a good time to be around for fishing.
The summer is also a good time for mackerel. King mackerel and Spanish mackerel are both present in good numbers. The bigger sharks are around along with barracuda and cobia. Summer anglers will even cross paths with Jack crevalle and migratory Tarpon. Very few anglers know that a tarpon fishery exists here, making it a great place to catch this famous sportfish.
Fall is similar to spring in many respects. Redfish remain a popular target and both King and Spanish mackerel are around. Some tarpon are still cruising, trout are plentiful inshore and barracuda are present. All three seasons are wonderful with a wide range of species and some serious trophy potential. Things slow down in the winter but most of the year is loaded with fish.
Hitting the freshwater ponds and sloughs is really convenient on Hilton Head. Take a jaunt down to Jarvis Creek Park and take a crack at the bass and panfish while enjoying the tranquility of the grounds. It’s also a great place for kids and picnics. Many of the local ponds will have opportunities for bass and varieties of sunfish. If you have access to golf courses, talk to the grounds crew and seek permission to cast a line on the ponds. Some monster bass are caught on golf course ponds each year and these waters are rarely fished. Try fishing at the sunrise or sunset hours when the courses are empty.
One of the best ways to have success is through a charter service. The fishing charters on the island are serious professionals who know how to navigate the ocean currents safely while tracking down schools of hungry fish. Local charters are experienced enough to know where the big redfish and tarpon live. You can fish for a few hours or head out for the whole day based on your personal preference. There are options for inshore and offshore fishing as well as lagoon fishing. Fishing can be a great way to spend a day between golf games.
While charters definitely offer an advantage, they are not the only game in town. Exploring on your own is a great way to find secret spots and really enjoy the pursuit of the local species. All of the beaches are public so long as your initial access point is public. This opens the door to fishing right in the surf. You can also ask golf courses for access to lagoons and backwaters where redfish and trout are abundant.
For DIY anglers looking to run boats inshore and off-shore, understanding the tides, ocean currents and being a skilled boat navigator is important. Find a mentor or hire a guide or service to learn your way around before setting out on your own. The off-shore currents are heavy and it pays to really know your way around here. After learning the ropes however, endless miles of shorelines and open ocean are waiting for your lures.
Some inshore boat rentals are available and a kayak is a great method of exploring the quiet lagoons. For more serious boating expeditions, charters or boat ownership are really the two best routes to success. Study the maps, hit the freshwater ponds and start expanding your reach as you become intimate with the landscape and waters on Hilton Head.