Fishing in Charleston, SC Guide
Whether you prowl the waters on your own or enlist a Charleston fishing charter to assist you in your angling endeavors, Charleston, SC is one red-hot fishing destination.
Between Charleston Harbor, the Ashley River, the Cooper River, the Wando River, and the countless creeks and cuts behind the barrier islands, you can almost always find protected water and a bayside bite. When it’s sunny and calm, the open Atlantic beckons.
Whichever area you intend to go on the hunt for fish, one thing is for sure: the waters of this historic town offer up some epic opportunities.
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Where to Fish: Best Fishing Spots in Charleston, SC
When discussing fishing in Charleston, SC on a broad scale, it’s necessary to break out the main options between the bays, creeks, and rivers on the one hand, and the ocean on the other. For the purposes of this Charleston, SC fishing guide, we’ll refer to anywhere inside the inlet as “bay,” and anywhere outside the inlet as “ocean.”
We should note, however, that the Gulf Stream is a very long run from this port. While it’s possible to pursue pelagic species like marlin, tuna, and mahi-mahi from here, comparatively few anglers do so. Most people heading into the ocean will instead be targeting the fish living around wrecks and reefs in waters closer to home.
Fishing in the bay
Take a peek at Charleston on Google Earth, and you’ll quickly realize that the number of spots to try fishing in the bay is literally limitless.
- The main Charleston Harbor itself does hold fish, particularly along the rocks of The Battery and around piers and pilings.
- Most anglers will work the channel edges, shorelines, flats, and marshes of one of the tributary rivers.
- There are also several bridges that provide lots of structure for the fish to congregate around, all of which are known as good places to try fishing, as well as the old broken-down coal pier stretching out towards Drum Island.
- Other popular options include heading north to Bulls Bay, or fishing the cuts and creeks behind the barrier islands.
Fishing near the Charleston jetties
The Charleston jetties will be the first stop for many anglers who are heading through the inlet and out into the ocean.
- There’s one string of rocks to the north and another to the south, and they stretch for several miles.
- These jetties are a fascinating place to fish because you have the potential to catch a wide range of both bay and ocean species—you might hook into a redfish on one cast, and a king mackerel on the next.
Fishing in the ocean
Heading farther out into the ocean, some anglers troll along the beach for species like Spanish mackerel and bluefish, while others will make a run to a wreck or reef site.
- If that sounds like your speed, you’re in luck. It’s easy to find these hotspots because the state of South Carolina has a Reef and Wreck webpage which includes links to GPS coordinates for many of the nearby options, like Caper’s Reef or Comanche Reef. Our how-to video on reef fishing teaches all the tips you need to catch reef fish.
As we said, inshore fishing in Charleston, SC is much more popular than making those long offshore runs, and many of these reef locations are just two to 20 miles from the jetties.
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What to Fish for in Charleston: Top Species List
In the bay and its related fisheries, you may encounter a huge range of species. That said, the ones most commonly pursued by anglers include:
- Black drum
- Red drum
- Sharks (multiple species)
- Speckled sea trout
Run outside the inlet, and you’ll likely encounter:
- Black sea bass
- King mackerel
- Spanish mackerel
When is the best time to go fishing in Charleston, SC?
There’s no “bad” time to go fishing in Charleston, SC. That said, what you’re likely to catch will vary by the season:
- Some species, like drum, sheepshead, and speckled sea trout, swim in these waters year-round.
- The action may heat up a bit in the spring and fall, but most years you can successfully target these fish any month of the season.
- Some others, such as cobia and the mackerels, are warmwater visitors who show up at some point in the spring and then disappear as the water cools off in the fall.
Ready to go fishing in Charleston?
The tactics you’ll want to apply when fishing in Charleston, SC, are just as varied as the potential catch. Note that it’s wise to settle on a tactic depending on the species you want to target.
- Light-tackle casting with jigs and plugs is very popular for redfish and speckled trout in the bay, but plenty of anglers also like to drop baits like shrimp or cut menhaden.
- Some fish, like sheepshead, are almost always caught on bait (they love all sorts of crustaceans and shellfish).
- But others, like the speckled trout, are more commonly pursued with lures.
The same is true in the ocean, although out here trolling also comes into play.
- Spanish mackerel are almost always caught by trolling with small spoons run behind diving planers, catching spadefish usually requires chumming with clam bits, and targeting black sea bass means bottom fishing.
So before deciding what tactics to apply choose a target fish, nail down the technique appropriate for the species and adjust your aims accordingly.
If you’re not familiar with these sorts of tactics and bay and inshore ocean fishing, hiring a Charleston, SC fishing guide or charter for the first time or two might be a good idea.
Once you feel comfortable with the tactics and techniques you can haul your own boat here or if you don’t own a boat, rent a fishing boat in Charleston. However you make it happen, just be sure to get out and try some fishing — the opportunities here are indeed epic.
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With over three decades of experience in marine journalism, Lenny Rudow has contributed to dozens of boating and fishing publications and websites ranging from BoatU.S. Magazine to BDOutdoors.com. Rudow is currently the Angler in Chief at Rudow’s FishTalk, he is a past president of Boating Writers International (BWI), a graduate of the Westlawn School of Yacht Design, and has won numerous BWI and OWAA writing awards.