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Charleston's Fishing

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Charleston Harbor Bull Redfish

Flounder

Wando River Seatrout 
 
Fish Call Charters offers inshore light tackle and fly fishing trips in the Charleston, S.C. area. Our goal is to provide fun and productive fishing trips in the coastal waters and estuarine rivers surrounding South Carolina's Lowcountry. These waters and associated wildlife (birds, dolphins, etc.) are surrounded by oyster mounds and spartina grass which make some of the most scenic fishing areas in the world. We are located at the Isle of Palms Marina, but will fish the calm shallow waters from Edisto to McClellanville. Inshore fishing is the safest and most comfortable way to explore our waters. The Charleston area's unique landscape of freshwater to brackish rivers emptying into a saltwater marine environment is the perfect breeding ground for many different species of fish. This special estuarine environment makes inshore fishing spectacular all year long.

In the flats and rivers around Charleston, our clients can expect to encounter Red Drum (locals call them Spottails), Speckled Trout, Flounder, Bonnethead Shark, Sheepshead, Black Drum, Ladyfish, and Bluefish. The harbors and near shore waters provide our clients with a chance to tangle with Channel Bass, King Mackerel, Spanish Mackerel, Jack Crevalle, many different types of sharks, and the elusive and mighty Tarpon.

Red drum is the #1 gamefish in our area. They are very abundent, year round residents that are very catch and release friendly. The red drum goes by many different names including redfish, spottail bass, channel bass, puppy drum, copper back, etc. By any name, you'll know it when one grabs your offering and takes off for the horizon! Redfish are known to bend rods and send drags screaming! Redfishing in the Charleston area is excellent year round. For the inshore waters, fall is considered the absolute best time to fish for redfish. During the fall, the fish normally feed without regard for tide or time of day. Catching 20 or 30 redfish per day in the fall is common! The weather is perfect, and the fish are on fire! I personally enjoy fishing the winter months the most. There are far fewer boats out, and temps are usually in the 60s. The water clears up considerably in the winter, and the redfish gather into huge schools on the shallow water flats (pics near bottom). An average school might have 50 or so fish , but it is not uncommon to find schools of up to 1000 fish! This makes the conditions for sightcasting perfect (see pics near bottom of page). Winter is usually the best time for flyfishing because of the clarity of the water. There is nothing like picking out an individual fish, casting to that fish, seeing the strike, and then watching the entire fight in just a foot of water!! It really gets my blood pumping! Fishing in the spring can be awesome as well. As the baitfish start to arrive and the water warms, the redfish begin to move around more and feed more. The numbers are usually lower in the Spring but we catch some really big fish. For the last several year, the largest inshore red of the year has come in the Spring. Summer also offers some great redfishing opportunities. The fish are more spread out and mixed in with other migratory species so you never know what you are going to catch. We find them in the flats, in the holes, off the beaches, just about everywhere. We love to center in on the "tailing tides" which are the larger than normal tides during the new and full moon phases of the warm months. These are the best times for warm weather flyfishing (read more on the flyfishing page). The reds will get up into shallow high tide flats in search of crabs. When rooting for crabs in shallow water, the fish's tail will break the water's surface giving away its location. This makes for awesome sightcasting!! There is nothing like seeing a 10 pound redfish tailing in less than a foot of water. Sometimes the fish will get so shallow that we leave the boat and chase them on foot!! There are only 20 or so tailing tides per year so book early if your interested in tailing redfish.

Average Charleston redfish, 5-6 pounds

Amy Gabrys showing off an extra large 16 pound inshore redfish

Pure Fishing's Joel Townley and I with an average bull red, 26 pounds

This is a huge bull red well over 40 pounds!!

After about 6 or 8 years, a redfish is old enough to breed and leaves the inshore waters to join the spawning population offshore. They become known as bull reds at this point. We target them from May through October on top of sandbars, around inlets, around the Charleston Jetty, and in the Charleston Harbor. These fish average about 18 pounds but get up over 50 pounds. Our largest redfish ever, 53 pounds!!, was caught surf fishing north of Charleston. We typically fish for the bull reds with bait out of the bigger boat. Tarpon and big sharks live in the same areas so you'll have a chance at SILVER or JAWS when targeting the BULL. These reds are true trophy fish and beleive it or not, we will typically catch several of these trophies per trip. If you want a glory picture for your Facebook page, this is the trip for you! This is an all release fishery. We want to protect the breeders so we'll have plenty of smaller reds to catch inshore.

Speckled seatrout, flounder, sheepshead, and black drum are also year round residents. We do not see too many in December-Febuary, but they are still possible with a good warm trend. The trout fishing can really turn on in the fall and spring months. The sheepshead and black drum can be found around bridge pilings and rock jetties, and sometimes even tailing in the flats. They also can be caught in good numbers 5-10 miles offshore in the Spring. We have caught black drum up to 71 pounds! The flounder bite usually turns on in the spring months and last through November, but they can be caught any month of the year. The migratory species start to show up around early June and will hang around Charleston's waters until as late as October. Spanish mackerel, bluefish, and ladyfish make for exciting targets. Most of the time, we will find them busting schools of bait around Charleston Harbor and the many surrounding inlets. These species make for fast and furious action! We typically don't target these species unless specially requested but may catch them looking for redfish. Huge jack crevalle also prowl the Charleston Harbor in the summer months. These fish average about 20lbs with potential world record 50 and 60 pounders mixed in! These jacks are some of the hardest fighting fish that you'll ever encounter but have become scarce in the last few years. These fish are very spooky and increased commercial and recreational traffic in the harbor may be sending them elsewhere.

South Carolina "gator" trout, 4 pounds

Most SC bluefish are smaller than this beast

This is a 8-10 pound offshore sheepshead

The elusive jack crevalle, Charleston Harbor

In the late Spring through Summer, large schools of amberjack, cobia, barracudas, spanish, and king mackerel take up residence in the shipping channel just offshore Charleston. This can be some of the most exciting fishing of the year. We typically will chum them to the surface and then sightcast with light spinning or fly rods to fish busting baits on the surface. Most of these fish are 15-50 pounds and will pull as hard as anything that swims. The spanish mackerel are smaller but fun on light tackle and tasty. They are located 4-10 miles offshore so conditions have to be just right. Most of this is catch and release fishing but if we catch a cobia, you can bet it's coming home. I only kill a few per year and Cobia is my favorite eating fish, yummy!

25 pound amberjack caught 8 miles off Charleston

Chris Gabrys landed this very acrobatic barracuda 2010

This 34 pound cobia was my mom's birthday present 2009, yummy!

A very nice spanish mackerel from the Charleston Jetty

We focus alot of our Summer fishing on sharks and tarpon. With the warm water, sharks are everywhere, and they can be tons of fun on light tackle. We probably catch more bonnethead sharks than any other shark species. They provide an awesome target bacause there are lots of them around, they are easy to target, and they pull like crazy! These guys show up in May and average about 15 pounds but will get much bigger. We usually fish for the bonnetheads in same flats that we find redfish, and around the jetties and in the harbor as well. When one grabs your bait, hold on!! I have several clients like to fish for nothing but the bonnets! They are so easy to find that I offer a 3 hour trip for bonnetheads. The I.G.F.A All-Tackle World Record is currently 26 pounds, and we catch them real close and sometimes bigger than that every year. As of 2010, we still hold 4 line-class I.G.F.A World Records for bonnethead sharks. Inluding a 23.8 pounder that my then 5 year-old daughter Greta caught in 2006. She holds the Women's 16-lb line class and Female Smallfry world Records for that shark. Calvin Masaoka currently holds the Men's 2-lb Line-Class World Record with a 19 pound bonnethead, wow!! - world record pictures on the Hall of Fame page. Let me know if you want to target a WORLD RECORD bonnethead shark. Blacktip, spinner, sharpnose, and sandbar sharks can be lots of fun as well. These sharks are very fast and sometimes jump several feet out of the water. They are usually caught while targeting bull reds or tarpon around the sandbars, beaches, and jetties. The "mullet run" in September is usually the peak for these sharks. Sometimes we'll target the bigger blacktips and sandbars behind shrimp trawlers. In the early Summer, there are tons of small 12-20 inch "toy sharks" around. These can be annoying to adults but great for the youngest anglers. We target all types and sizes of shark including hammerhead, nurse, and lemon sharks. We have also caught the less abundent, but huge tiger and bull sharks. In June 2010, we had a 12-14 foot tiger shark eat a 35 pound amberjack my angler was fighting. We actually had the huge shark hooked up for several minutes before the leader parted. It was an amazing scene right out of National Geographic, pics at bottom of page.

The docile nurse shark, Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge

This is an average bonnethead shark, 18 pounds

Fiesty blacktip shark caught at Charleston Jetty

The kids had just finished swimming, 7 foot lemon shark

Tarpon fishing in our area is getting better and better, or should I say that we are becoming better tarpon fishermen. These fish average about 100 pounds, but we have caught them up to 200 pounds!!!! Most of fishing centers around outer sandbars and cuts in the larger bays. These are a true "Fish of a Lifetime," and aren't caught every day. Tarpon fight harder and longer than any fish in the sea. They make scorching runs, jump 10 feet in the air, and have a mouth of steel making them the ultimate gamefish. I have experienced nothing in fishing like the excitement I get chasing tarpon. We had a phenomenal run in the summer of 2002 where eight local guides landed 17 out of 41 tarpon in three days. At one time, we were one of five boats hooked up to tarpon at the same time! We had another incredible tarpon year in 2010. The bait was plentiful and the tarpon eating. My clients landed 21 of 37 tarpon bites in 2010. This has been our best year yet! It;s not Florida numbers but had several clients this year who had been traveling to Florida to catch their first tarpon unsuccessfully. Maybe it was luck, but they fished with me once and got their first silver king. We have won the Charleston Harbor Tarpon Release Tournament twice in a row, 2002 and 2003. In 2002, Steven Micheals and I won the tournament with an estimated 120 pounder caught about 40 miles north of Charleston. In the next year's tournament, we were fishing on the other end 30 miles south of Charleston. We heard another boat landed a tarpon at 8am, so we knew we would need at least two fish to win. Steven caught our first fish at 10am, and then from 11 to 12 o'clock we jumped and lost three tarpon in a row! At 3pm, Steven hooked up again, but this time we landed the 120 pound fish and won the tournament!! The tarpon season lasts from June through October. There is a fall mullet run in Sept/Oct that can really concentrate the tarpon, sharks, and bull reds in small areas making for some incredible fishing! Please check out my Tarpon Gallery for some cool pics. We are still learning everytime we fish for tarpon so if you want to help us pioneer this new Charleston fishery, give us a call and set up a trip. Be careful, you might catch the TARPON FEVER!!

This tarpon jumped 15 feet in the air!

We decided to land this tarpon from the beach

Average Charleston tarpon, 80-100 pounds

Back breaking work, but somebody's gotta do it!

Any day of the year can be the best fishing day of that year. That's what is so great about fishing the Lowcountry. I personally like the fall and winter months best. In the fall as the water temps cool, the migatory and resident fish know that their food supply is getting ready to leave for the winter so they will eat whenever they get the chance. This makes for big numbers! I also love the winter months of Dec., Jan., and Feb. The colder water causes the redfish and sea trout to form big schools. It is not uncommon to find schools of 200-300 redfish in a foot of water (see below). There is nothing like hunting for big schools of redfish in very skinny water. The spring and summer months are just as exciting because there is such a variety of species to target plus a chance at the Silver King. So come get hooked up anytime of the year!

PLEASE RELEASE ONE TODAY, FOR GOOD FISHING TOMORROW!!


Bulls Bay Tarpon

10lb Sheepshead!

Bonnethead Shark

Spanish Mackeral

  Excellent Winter Redfishing>

My boy Guerin with a frigid redfish, 2009

A hundred or more schooled reds, Dec 2010

David and Jonathon with a couple fish from that school

Catch & Release for the Future

  Our tiger shark experience>

12-14 foot tiger shark, 8 miles off of Charleston

That white thing is the head of a 35-lb amberjack!

We had her hooked up for a little while until, pop!

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email Capt. Waits:    jrwaits@fishcall.com
 
 

 
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