Hilton Head Fishing Report
Cooler temperatures and clear water generally keep most of our inshore redfish in skinny water and given the right conditions the offshore wrecks will be loaded up for some super fast action. The key to fishing this time of the year is to look for calm clear days to sight fish the flats or to bottom fish the near and offshore wrecks.
With cooler water temperatures the redfish are schooled up on the shallow water mud flats. Flats are areas that have very little bottom contour (flat bottom) over a particular area, and generally offer food and shelter for redfish. During this time it is not uncommon to see schools of 500 or more fish huddled together in a tight area. The main reasons that redfish school up on shallow mud flats in the winter are for protection, warmth, and safety in numbers. During the winter much of the food that dolphins feed on (such as menhaden and mullet) are gone, therefore redfish become a large part of their diet. To keep away from the dolphins redfish will stay in shallow water where the dolphins can’t enter. During midday, mud flats also offer warmth as the sun heats up the dark mud bottom. Finally, by grouping up in a school, redfish have many eyes to look for predators; if one fish sees something out of place it will alert the rest of the school. Moreover, short days and cooler air drive the water temperature into the low 50s this time of year. Not only does the water become cooler but also crystal clear. As the water cools most fish move into deeper water with the exception of schooling redfish which will huddle together on low tide flats in large numbers. The combination of these factors create ideal conditions for shallow water sight fishing with light spin and fly fishing gear.
Nearshore Wreck Fishing
Some of the best winter fishing can be done on the wrecks which are located six to twenty miles offshore. On an average day look to catch a variety of fish to include: sheepshead, weakfish, bull redfish, flounder and sea bass. In particular the sea bass are all over the wrecks right now and there are many techniques to catch them as they generally have voracious appetites. I usually go with a a trusty diamond jig working close to the bottom with short erratic pops of the rod tip. Not only are sea bass a lot of fun to catch but also great to eat. Due to the fact that these wrecks are located in open water we generally look for light winds and calm seas to go offshore.
Captain Charlie Beadon