Are you an avid outdoorsman? In this article, we cover the best fishing locations in South Carolina. Tarpon, trout, and red drum are plentiful!
South Carolina is a southeastern state in the U.S. that’s known around the world for its beautiful subtropical coastline, sandy beaches, and sea islands. The picturesque coastal city of Charlestown with its pastel-colored houses, Old South plantations, and historic Fort Sumter is well-worth stopping by. You must also visit the north of the state where you’ll find a breathtaking 60-mile beachfront, golf courses, and the pretty vacation town of Myrtle Beach.
A Little Bit about South Carolina
No matter where you visit South Carolina, spectacular fishing awaits you. With winding back-country rivers, stunning scenic spots along the ocean shore, and freshwater lakes teeming with fish, you’re guaranteed a fun time no matter where you choose to wet your line.
And you don’t need to take a boat if you want to get into fishing the deep water. Fishing piers abound across the state, offering anglers who prefer to keep their boots on dry land a solid platform for casting and plenty of ready-made structure that attracts shoals of baitfish and their attendant predators. The coastal piers have restrooms, seating, bait shops, and lighting, and most inland piers include shaded docks overlooking tranquil lakes where you can enjoy the relaxing scenery while waiting for a bite.
So, what fish species can you expect to catch in South Carolina?
The list of freshwater species that you’ll find in South Carolina is almost endless! Here are just a few of the fish you’ll find in the Palmetto State’s inland waters:
- American shad
- Atlantic sturgeon
- Chain pickerel
- Longnose gar
- Pumpkin seed
There’s no shortage of saltwater action either! Fishing the coastal waters off South Carolina could see you landing some of these species:
- Atlantic croaker
- Atlantic spadefish
- Black seabass
- Jack Crevalle
- King mackerel
- Spotted sea trout
And you’ll undoubtedly come across South Carolina’s designated state fish, the striped bass.
To fish legally in all South Carolina’s waters, you’ll need a valid fishing license if you’re aged 16 or over.
You can obtain a license over the phone or online from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. You can also purchase a license from an official license vendor; you’ll find a list of outlets at this link.
10 Best Fishing Locations in South Carolina
With such varied and bountiful waters to fish, it’s hard to know where to start! We’ve picked out ten of the best freshwater, coastal, and pier fishing destinations that South Carolina has to offer.
So, pack your gear, get yourself a license, and get ready for the fishing vacation of a lifetime!
1. Lake Murray
This is one of the best fishing locations in South Carolina hands down. Lake Murray (here) in Columbia County is one of the most productive lakes in the southeast for striped bass and largemouth bass. This 50,000-acre reservoir has a shoreline extending for roughly 500 miles and provides hydroelectric power to South Carolina. Public access to the lake is via public boat ramps, marinas, and public parks near to the dam.
Fish species you’ll find in the lake include:
- Striped bass
- Largemouth bass
- White bass
- White crappie
This Midlands reservoir holds the current state record for white bass, white crappie, white catfish, and white perch, so you’re in prime trophy fish territory if you come fishing here.
Look out for buoys that mark the location of fish attractors. If you’re after big stripers, head to the back of the big creeks and use freelining with live bait.
You’ll find camping, lodgings, and other amenities in nearby Dreher Island State Park.
2. The Old Pitt Street Bridge, Mount Pleasant
The Old Pitt Street Bridge in Mount Pleasant offers the visitor some stunning views of South Carolina’s Intracoastal Waterway and Charleston Harbor.
This spot is also a favorite hunting ground for anglers targeting flounder, bluefish, redfish, sea trout, and whiting, all of which are abundant in the shallow waters around the bridge. If you have a cast net, you could also catch some delicious shrimp and blue crabs to go with your fish!
The most productive time to fish this spot is when the tide is beginning to come in, creeping into the grass and flats, or at high tide. You can still fish here at low tide with the creek to the left side of the road adjacent to the kayak launch point being your best bet for success.
Access to the water is excellent from any part of the bridge, but one-person-wide turrets reach out like fingers from the dock, giving crabbers and fishermen easy access to the bounty below. Admission is free here, but parking is limited.
3. Beaufort Marshes
Beaufort Marshes’ (here) vast expanse and drastic tides offer ample angling opportunities. The marshes provide the perfect habitat for juvenile sea life and play host to a long list of hunter species on the prowl for an easy meal.
Fish species that are commonly found here include:
- Spot tail bass
- Spanish mackerel
- Jack Crevalle
Against the breathtaking backdrop of endless tidal rivers and marsh grass, there’s some unexpected and exhilarating fly-fishing and fly-casting to be had here. The tidal currents of this saltwater environment increase the difficulty of the sport, but the challenge only sweetens the pot when you’re successful.
At low tide, cast into schools of fish that are hunting in the mud flats around the oyster beds. High water presents the opportunity to float into the grass to sight-cast for redfish.
During April, May, and June, you’ll find big, brown cobia, coming inshore to spawn, providing the angler with a hard-fighting challenge.
To get the most from this fabulous habitat, you might want to check out one of the many guide services that operate trips from Columbia to Hilton Head Island.
4. Cherry Grove Pier
Cherry Grove Pier is (here) in Myrtle Beach. The 1950s 1,000- foot pier is one of the oldest and most iconic in the state and offers some of the very best fishing along the whole of the Golden Strand.
If you visit the pier in the spring, you find large, mature fish becoming active. Use cut shrimp and minnows to encourage a strike from drum, croaker, flounder, and whiting. May sees bluefish and Spanish mackerel migrating to the pier. Brightly colored plugs and jigs will draw fish onto your hook.
During the summer, the action at the pier hots up. You’ll find a good number of bottom feeders, including perch, croakers, whiting, red and black drum, as well as Spanish mackerel and a few bluefish. King mackerel are also abundant throughout June, and you’ll also find spadefish, sheepshead, and pompano here at this time of year. If you’re targeting bottom feeders, be sure to use enough weight to combat the current that flows around the pier’s pilings.
5. Pee Dee River
Pee Dee River (here) is a wild, scenic waterway that’s catfish heaven for lovers of the whiskered wonder.
So, why are there so many catfish here? Well, some 30 years ago, flathead catfish that stocked in impoundments in neighboring North Carolina further upstream escaped and were flushed downriver. Consequently, locals reckon that over fifty percent of the catfish in the Pee Dee are flatheads, while the other half are monster-sized blue catfish.
A good spot to start your catfish campaign is at Cheraw at the Laney boat ramp. Fish the ten mile stretch above the landing where you’ll find pools that harbor some huge cats. Fish the drop-offs and steep banks to locate cats hiding out, but beware of the rocky terrain. Even in times of low water elsewhere on the river, there are numerous sandbars to navigate. Because of the river’s topography, you’re best to use a jet-drive motor or a paddle craft.
Below Cheraw the river bottom is sandy, and there are plenty of blowdowns and log piles along the bank, providing the perfect place to set up for catfish. Look out for structure that breaks the current; that’s where you’ll find catfish. Use fresh bait from the river such as mullet and bream to tempt a trophy cat to bite.
Catfish fanatics will want to stay awhile. Check out nearby Little Pee Dee State Park for well-provisioned campsites, and while you’re there, take a break from the river and fish 54-acre Lake Norton for bass and bream.
6. Lake Jocassee
Lake Jocassee (here) is a beautiful man-made impoundment that is fed by crystal clear Appalachian Mountain streams. To get the most from a visit to this stunning location, you need to spend more than just a day here. There are some great campgrounds nearby; walk in on the day, or make a reservation in advance to be sure of securing your spot.
The upstate reservoir is the only Lake in the Palmetto State to offer both smallmouth bass and trophy trout.
The lake’s deep, clear waters provide the perfect habitat for many species of fish, including:
- Rainbow trout
- Brown trout
- White bass
- Redeye bass
- Smallmouth bass
- Spotted bass
- Brook trout
Anglers come to fish Jocassee because it offers something for everyone, regardless of your skill level. You can troll the lake for deep-water fish, cast with rod and reel, or fly-fish the streams for trout and bass.
The lake has four main fishing streams:
To access Horsepasture and Toxaway, you’ll need a boat, but these are the most scenic of the areas and are the best for trout fishing during the summer months. Thompson and Whitewater are best during the fall and the winter. Note that Whitewater is only reached by hiking, which can be a pain unless you’re traveling light.
Check out Jocassee Outdoor Center for fishing reports, bait, tackle, boat hire, and for guided fishing services.
7. Whitewater River
The Whitewater River (here) is a freestone river that originates near Cashiers in North Carolina. The river flows south through South Carolina where it empties into Lake Jocassee. This remote area has some breathtaking scenery, including two spectacular waterfalls, each over 400 feet high.
The Whitewater River crosses over into North Carolina, and anglers should buy a fishing license for both states, as the dividing line is not clear.
The two-mile section of the river between the Upper and Lower Falls offers some excellent brown and rainbow trout fishing. There are deep pools, runs, and riffles, making it perfect fly-fishing territory. This part of the Whitewater is periodically stocked with fingerlings by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.
Further up-river, State Route 281 from North Carolina crosses the river, providing access via a small, poorly-maintained trail. This part of the Whitewater River is gentle and easily waded with small falls, pools, and gentle riffles.
Summer is the best time to fish the Whitewater River thanks to the cool mountain water and ample shade. Light Cahills and Yellow Stoneflies are excellent choices, and streamers should be effective too, thanks to the abundance of small fish in the stream.
8. Mount Pleasant Pier
There’s a reason why this is in our list of the best fishing locations in South Carolina. Mount Pleasant Pier is (here) in the Memorial Waterfront Park in Mt. Pleasant. The 1,250-foot pier stretches out into the Charleston Harbor near the mouth of the Cooper River. Here you’ll find picnic tables, bench swings, rod rentals, tackle sales, and a handy snack bar.
The fishing here is great and very popular with anglers of all ages! Fish species you’ll catch from the pier include:
- Southern flounder
- Red drum
- Black seabass
- Spotted sea trout
Although the most popular times for fishing Mount Pleasant Pier are spring and summer, you’ll find some excellent cold-weather sheepshead action here too, including plentiful numbers and lunker sizes! Also, the pier isn’t as heavily fished during the winter as it is in the summertime, so there’s more space to find your spot.
The fishing here gets going just before or just after the tide changes. Fish the two hours before low tide on the Cooper River side of the pier, and switch to the harbor side to catch the outgoing tide. The best time to snag sheepshead is close to high tide, although low tide can be profitable if you choose a spot from the middle to the end of the pier. Find the deepest water and fish in the direction of the current as it flows under the pier.
Your best choice of bait for sheepshead is fiddler crabs, clams, oysters, or mussels. There’s no need to cast because the sheepshead tend to hang around the pilings. Drop your bait down beside a pier support and wait till it touches the bottom, then reel in your rig about a foot and hold it there. You’ll definitely need a pier net to land your catch, especially if the fish you’ve hooked is a big one. Lower your net into the water, work the fish over the net, and then pull the net back up.
Mount Pleasant is a pretty place, and you might want to stay for a couple of days to enjoy the sport and the location. There are plenty of nice hotels and lodgings to choose from in the town.
9. Darwin H. Wright Park, Lake Hartwell
Darwin H. Wright Park (here) has a fishing pier that allows visiting anglers the chance to fish the bass-rich waters of 56,000-acre Lake Hartwell. As well as the pier, there are numerous bank locations, and you can fish from a boat too. The only restriction for anglers is the lake’s bridges, where fishing is prohibited.
There are a large number of fish attractors placed throughout the lake, composed of sunken trees and other structures, which attract large shoals of fish. Fishing structures have also been constructed around the piers to draw fish in. You’ll find parking areas around the lake, often designated by “Fishing Area” signs. Local bait and tackle stores have maps showing where the fish attractors sit.
Fish species you’ll find here include:
- Large Mouth Bass
- Small Mouth Bass
- Striped Bass
Lake Hartwell hosts fishing tournaments throughout the year, and some striped bass trophy fish landed that weigh up to 60 pounds!
Lake Warren is (here) within Warren State Park. Surrounded by woodlands of moss-draped oaks and pines, this fishing hole is ideal if you’re in search of a tranquil spot with pretty scenery to wet your line.
Located in Hampton County, 200-acre Lake Warren has a large fishing pier, offering anglers access to a variety of fish species, including:
There’s also a floating dock that overlooks a two-acre pond from which large bass have been landed in the past.
Access to the lake is via two boat ramps. You can rent Jon boats with trolling motors, or you can use your own craft, so long as the motor doesn’t exceed 10HP.
Lake Warren is shallow at only four to five feet deep, although its two creek beds can reach a depth of 20 feet.
When you’re done fishing, check out the local birdlife; swallow-tailed kites, ospreys, bald eagles, and several species of owls and hawks live here. There’s also an impressive range of wildlife in the park. Don’t be surprised if you see wild turkey, deer, coyote, bobcats, and even alligators!
Seasonal Tips and Other Helpful Information
The warmest months of the year are when most individuals are planning to go fishing because it’s hot and college is out. There are loads of seasonal tourists to the marsh (tarpon, flounder, ladyfish, sharks, etc.). Early summer tends to be more effective than late summer because the water weather has not reached its peak. Hot water is going to make the fish sluggish. We’re trying to fish the summer dog days in the early morning and evening hours. The flood-tide days we encounter during the full moon stages are favorite summer season times.
This is a great time to catch a fly or artificial bait summer redfish. Check with your captain or tide chart to find out when the flood tide has a chance to fish. Summer’s best thing–there’s always something ready to put a tug in your line.
Autumn is another great time to go fishing in the marshes of Carolina. The shrimps are fully cultivated. Together with cooler temperatures, this triggers the fish to put on their “feed bags” and give the wind warning. September, October, and November offer great possibilities for sight-casting and fly fishing. If you want action, this is the fishing time of the year!
While many people count winter out, it’s the time to stalk big redfish schools. Redfish will be the main target between November and March. This year alone, you will fish with artificial baits and fly tackle. Winter is a very interesting time of year for fishing because on any given journey you can expect to set your eyes on hundreds of redfish. In the hotter months, the water becomes very evident, and the fish tend to collect in big schools (10-100 +), making it a prime time for sight fishing. It is not unusual to have a day catching more than 20 redfish per individual because of the concentration of fish in a tiny region.
Come March, the marsh is a transitional period. This year’s fishing is weather-dependent. We have a secret bait, however, which makes fishing in the spring months almost too simple. To find out, you’ll have to fish with us. In the spring, we will continue targeting redfish, but the flounder and trout will also start making an appearance. The action begins to construct as the water warms up. You’ll never have a bad time fishing in the marshes of South Carolina. We love spending on the water every day and offer a fresh adventure and challenge every season.
Redfish are the number one species we target in the marshes of Georgetown. This is mainly because of their abundance and readiness to consume twelve months a year. Not to mention growing up to 20 pounds in the shallows (up to 100 pounds offshore) and putting up a fight you won’t forget quickly. Redfish will be eating live bait, cut bait, plastics, lures, and flies.
These fish can also be captured throughout the year in the marshes of Georgetown. Spring and fall are usually the best time to follow trout, but during the summer and winter months, they can be captured. Trout will bring plugs from the topwater and other artificial baits easily.
In the early spring, Flounder Flounder invades the creeks and stays through the fall. They’ll eat artificial baits like grubs easily, but they’re suckers for tiny minnows of mullet and mud. We catch lots of flounder while chasing redfish, but specifically at the request of the customer, we can target flounder. Flounder are heralded for their outstanding flavor, making great meals at the table. Here in the low-country marshes, catching a Redfish, Speckled Trout, and Flounder in one day is regarded an “inshore slam.” Spring, summer, and fall are fantastic times for a slam.
These fish are abundant in the marshes and inshore waters of Georgetown as well. They are near to redfish and sprinkled trout and prefer to consume shellfish and crustaceans. Black Drum can expand to 100 pounds, but usually, the drum discovered in our inshore waters is in the range of 2-10 pounds.
Sharks like the Bonnethead usually travel in groups of 5-15 and late spring they migrate back to the inshore waters. They’re not dangerous to people, and they’re putting up a big battle. Typically, they feed on crabs, shrimp, and tiny fish and can be an excellent species to target on hot summer days.
Every year, Tarpon appears as the water warms in the summer and stays here through the winter. South Carolina tarpon’s first thing is they’re BIG. Many of the tarpons captured weigh over 100 pounds in these waters. South Carolina is not Florida’s renowned tarpon destination, but it can be successfully pursued here in our waters.
Best Fishing Locations in South Carolina: Wrapping it Up
We hope you enjoyed reading our article on the best fishing locations in South Carolina. This beautiful state has a wonderfully diverse range of opportunities for the leisure angler who chooses to take a fishing vacation in the Palmetto State. Take on colossal gar and monster catfish in the state’s inland waterways or head out to the endless coastal marshes to sight-fish redfish. If you’re up to a challenge, make for a scenic coastal pier in search of rod-bending sheepshead and bluefish, or while away an afternoon filling your creel with crappie and sunfish on a peaceful lake.
Whatever your angling preference, you’ll be delighted with what South Carolina has to offer!
Daniel C. Warren gradually morphed from a weekend warrior into a full-time outdoorsman and outdoor blogger. From picking up trash in the woods or sleeping under an open sky to hiking until his plantar fasciitis says no more or having a field day fishing with like minded fellow countrymen, there’s little he doesn’t wholeheartedly enjoy while out in the wild. While some might call him a true-born nature freak, he likes to see himself as a “born-again” outdoor enthusiast. Daniel just can’t get enough of nature, and we’re grateful whenever he decides to share his latest experiences with us.