The shallow, grassy flats of South Carolina are revered for their redfish, and winter is the peak time here for this species. If the air and water temperatures stay cool through March, you can still get in on this action with opportunities to sight-fish to reds averaging 8 pounds.
Normally you’ll target them on the low tide with anything from a 6- to a 9-weight, depending on the wind and water conditions. Like the beginning of spring anywhere, the weather can vary greatly from year to year. Bring a variety of darkly colored shrimp and crab patterns, or seek out a local favorite, such as the Redfish Express.
Once it starts warming up, the action shifts. You can stalk reds in 2 feet of water or less on the numerous sawgrass flats surrounding Hilton Head. Since you fish right in the grass beds as they flood, you’ll definitely need a floating line so you don’t get hung up. When the water temperatures climb to about 65 degrees consistently, algal blooms begin to make the water murky. Then you’ll want to switch to crab patterns to mimic the primary food source. Flies tied in darker colors increase the fly’s contrast in the stained and muddy water.
Once spring is in full swing, it’s time for cobia – which forms the backbone of the local fishery at this time of year. Around mid-April they move into the Broad River for about four to six weeks to spawn, and anglers can take advantage of this inshore migration to do some top-notch sight-fishing. These fish range from 25 to 70 pounds, so you’ll want 10- to 12- weight rods and either an intermediate or a floating line, depending on your preference. Sometimes the fish hold deep under the bridges along William Hilton Parkway, so you may want an outfit rigged with a fast sinking line as well. The top cobia patterns here are big, bright attractor patterns like orange-and-yellow Whistlers, along with heavily dressed green-and-white Deceivers with some flash. Colorful eel patterns and large chartreuse Mad Toms should also prove effective.
For more information about fishing in Hilton Head, contact Marty Pinkston, also known locally as the Fly Boy (843.842.5957; www.fishtheflyboy.com), or Mike Upchurch (843-538-8870; www.osprey-charters.com).