The Grand Strand area stretches from Little River, SC and terminates at Winyah Bay, SC. Summer tourists, snowbirds, college students and families take advantage of the many attractions. One lesser-known adventure is fishing for redfish. Anglers do not have to travel to Florida or Louisiana to chase this popular game fish. Some of the best fishing can occur in the cooler months of the year and right into March and April. As water begins to warm, hungry redfish are eager to chomp on artificial lures and flies. The colder than usually winter has fishing forecasts looking very good, very soon.
Redfish have many names as far as fish go but in this area, spotted bass seems to be most popular because of the distinguishing dark spot located on the tail region. Many times there may be multiple spots resembling an eye in attempts to fool predators. The inlets around the Grand Strand create creek channels leading to back country areas characterized by tidal marsh, mud flats, spartina grass and oyster bars. The spot tail bass thrives in this habitat, as does the forage it loves to eat.
Prey can be anything from grass shrimp, mud crabs, swimming crabs and smaller baitfish like menhaden and mullet. With such a large selection on the menu, redfish are opportunistic feeders. For savvy anglers it means a variety of methods will work and work 365 days a year. Still all anglers have a favorite go-to lure tied on to start any day.
Some of the more popular ones are gold spoons, lead head jigs with curly grubs, minnow plugs and my personal preference – flies. Fly choices include seaducers, shrimp patterns, crab patterns, Clousers and a few baitfish patterns. Weedless flies can reduce hang-ups.
Lure and fly selection is not all that critical. What is critical is to present lures out in front of feeding or active fish without spooky them. Many times fish are in very shallow water in the backcountry, which is where the food is and flipper is not. As a general rule to keep things simple, match the color of the lure to the bottom you are fishing over. If fish refuse it, go smaller. The rule applies for many saltwater scenarios.
New gear is not necessary, as most bass outfits will work fine. Braided or fluorocarbon lines will aid in casting distance as well as protection against the abrasive saltwater environment. Longer cast help keep fish unaware of your presence. Any moderate priced 8wt fly rod with matching reel/drag system rigged with a floating line and 15 lb tapered leaders will suffice.
Tides play an integral role in the salt and anglers need to pay attention to the cycles of moving water to achieve success. Tides constantly are draining and filling the marshes. The tide moves the food and the redfish follow. During the cooler months, redfish tend to school in groups for feeding and protection. Low tide from 10a to about 2p in the cooler months allows for good sight-fishing conditions and maximizes warmth. Warmer months find fish spread out more and moving into the grass flats on high tide. New and full moons have greater high tides and flood flats with enough water for fish to move up into areas that are not typically covered. Fish aggressively feed and dig for fiddler crabs. Many times only a tail breaking the surface in a few inches of water reveals a feeding fishes location. Hence the term tailers or tailing tides. This fishing situation is an adrenaline rush and anglers travel far and wide for it. Remember when searching for redfish, they can almost always be associated with grass flats at anytime of the year and at any tide cycle.
With a constantly changing environment from the tides, anglers are recommended to hire a guide to get the lay of the land. Hitting hazards or running aground can make for a long wait in the mud. Plus good guides can make a good day on the water a great day. Plenty of guides specialize in redfishing and are familiar with tidal conditions.
In SC, redfish are classified as a game fish and cannot be bought or sold. Be sure to consult possession and size limits if you are harvesting a fish to take home. Only take what you can sensible use. It is a right to fish and every right comes with responsibility. Redfish are vulnerable to over harvest even from recreational anglers. To ensure future generations this opportunity practice catches and release for this wonderful game fish.
Capt Paul Rose is a fly fishing guide for bass, redfish, trout and carp. His website is www.carolinabonefishing.com