Fishing on the South Strand

Fishing on the South Strand
By William Hewitt

The shores of South Carolina host a variety of species of fish, crustaceans, and mollusks, attracting many locals and tourists to take part in the sport of fishing. Whether you prefer trolling from the stern of a boat, angling from the planks of a pier, or casting from the shorelines of the ocean, the Carolina coast provides plenty of fun for people of all ages and skill level.

             But where can I fish?  What can I fish for?
Fear not, traveler, for I am about to provide you with information so classified that the locals may just come for me, chop me up, and use me as chum after I’m done sharing! But for the sake of the sport, here is my guide on where to fish, what to fish for, and how to catch ’em!

                               Spot #1:  Murrells Inlet

Dubbed Seafood Capitol of South Carolina, ‘the Inlet’ is a wonderful place to not only eat delicious seafood, but also catch your own!  Conjoined to the ocean by strategically placed jetties, fishing in the inlet relies solely on the tide patterns.

Low Tide:  During this period, a majority of the fish have left the cramped, shallow tide and made for swimming room in the ocean. During low tide, there is nothing but marsh grass, a few inches of water, and stinky ‘pluff mud’.  This makes for a perfect time to collect small bait fish, as well as clams and oysters from the mud.

Rising/Falling Tide:  These periods are the prime times to catch a Red Fish, Spot, or that meaty ocean fish you’ve been looking for.  During the rising tide, fish are sucked in from the ocean to the inlet through the jetties, due to the always flowing current. Fishing out by the jetties on a boat is the best spot to catch these fish.

High Tide:  During this period, the inlet is completely full of water, and there is a one hour “lull” period where the tide neither rises nor drops.  This leaves perfect conditions for catching Murrells Inlet’s most popular fish; the flounder.  Flounder nestle into the mud of the inlet during the rising and falling tides so they can rest and feed during this “lull” period when the current has died.  High tide is also a great time to drop in a crab trap to try and catch some blue crab or stone crab.

                         Spot #2:   Garden City Pier  

The Garden City Pier is located in the heart of Garden City beach.  Built at the foot of Atlantic Ave, the 668-foot wooden structure holds host to live music, an interactive arcade, cafe, and plenty of benches and rod-racks to support the common angler. In order to have a successful day of fishing off the pier, certain equipment is required, as well as considering the time and place where you’re casting off at.


  • The most important item when going fishing is…? That’s right, the fishing pole! For pier fishing, a conventional spinning rod should do the trick. Also, don’t forget to equip that fishing pole with a hook and weight! A standard “J-hook” and 2-ounce weight will work fine.

  • Some other equipment I recommend you bring include scissors to cut line, pliers to pry out hooks from the mouths of your catch, a tackle box to hold these and back up hooks, and a bucket to keep your fish in.  

  • But wait, don’t forget the bait! For pier fishing, popular types of bait include anchovies, sardines, shrimp, and squid.  Personally, I highly recommend taking live bait, such as blood-worms or mud-minnows.

Time and Place:

  • Okay, so you have all the right gear, now when should you go?  In my opinion, the best two times to go are early morning and sunset.  My reason being because they are the two least-popular timeframes.  Less bait in the water means less competition for a bite.
  • Another factor to consider is the tide.  Any seasoned fisherman would agree that the best time to go pier fishing is the transition from high tide to low tide.  This reason being because on a rising tide, the bait is always moving, thus attracting fish.
  • Choosing a spot to fish on the pier can be tricky. There are few things that you should keep in mind when deciding.  First off, you always want to cast into the wind. Casting against the wind could result in the line getting tangled in the pier, or even it coming back and hitting you. 
  • The best spot to cast out on the pier is right where the waves break.  That is where you will find the biggest fish.

Spot #3:   Surf Fishing

Whats better than the breeze of the sea meeting with the heat of the sun on the back of your neck while your toes nestle into the soft sand with a fishing pole tugging in your hands?  Nothin’, thats what.  There is nothing quite like fishing from the shoreline of the beach.  You can catch just about anything; from flounder and sea bass, to sharks and stingrays.  The best part about “surf fishing” is that you can do it just about anywhere where the sand meets the ocean.  Since surf fishing is a very specialized type of fishing, it requires specialized equipment:

Rods and Reels:
A fishing rod of about 6 to 10 feet long is recommended, and be sure that it is capable of slinging 6 ounces of lead weight plus bait up to 100 yards.  You must also have the ability to launch the fishing line out past the wave break, or else it will get washed back up to shore, so a few practice casts wouldn’t hurt.

Weights and Sinkers:
As for the weight you should use on the line, I recommend using a multi-ounce pyramid sinker. When setting up the line, place the sinker at the end of the it, and a hook or two place a few inches above it.  The pyramid-shaped design of the sinker helps dig the weight into the sand and hold the line tight.

Baits and Lures:
Bait for surf fishing can range from live bait in and beyond the surf, such as minnows, blood-worms, and sand fleas. Seasoned anglers prefer live eel as bait, but can be substituted for rubber eel-lures. The size of the bait is dependent on the size of the schooling fish, so make sure not to bait up something too big for the tide.

The Catch:
If you don’t have a boat, but you still want to catch some really large fish, then surf fishing is for you.  Rather its out in front of your beach house or on the rocks of a jetty, surf fishing is just as convenient as you make.  Startup costs are relatively cheap and the thrill of reeling in the big one is priceless.

Wherever you decide to cast out, I wish you good luck.  
Have fun, and be patient! 
Remember: Its called fishing, not catching!

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