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Hilton Head Island, South Carolina is a popular vacation destination known for its pristine beaches, lush forests, and abundant wildlife. But did you know that it's also one of the best places to go fishing in the Southeast? Whether you're a seasoned angler or just looking to try your hand at fishing, Hilton Head has something to offer everyone. This ultimate fishing guide to Hilton Head Island will provide you with all the information you need to make the most of your next fishing trip. From the best fishing spots, techniques, and local regulations, to tips for a successful day on the water, this guide covers everything you need to know to catch the big one in Hilton Head. So pack your gear, grab a fishing buddy, and get ready for a fishing adventure like no other.

Hilton Head Charter Fishing

Local Charter Boats

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The Hilton Head, SC area offers a variety of charter fishing options for anglers, including inshore fishing, nearshore fishing, and offshore fishing.

Inshore fishing typically takes place in the shallow waters near the coast and is ideal for catching species such as red drum, spotted seatrout, flounder, and more. Trips usually last 4-6 hours and are available year-round, with peak seasons in the spring and fall.

Nearshore fishing involves venturing a few miles off the coast to fish in deeper waters. This type of fishing is best for catching species like king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, barracuda, and more. Trips usually last 6-8 hours and are available year-round, with peak seasons during the summer.

Offshore fishing is for those looking for a more intense fishing experience. This type of fishing involves heading 20-50 miles off the coast to fish in the deeper waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Offshore trips are typically longer, lasting 8-12 hours, and are available year-round, with the best seasons for certain species such as tuna, wahoo, and marlin being spring through fall.

Each type of charter fishing in the Hilton Head area offers its own unique experiences and fishing opportunities. With its abundant waters and diverse range of fish species, Hilton Head is a great destination for anglers of all levels of experience.

  1. When to Book: Booking a fishing charter in Hilton Head can be done several weeks to months in advance. It is best to book in advance, especially during peak season from May to September, to ensure availability.

  2. Popular Times of Year: The best time to book a fishing charter in Hilton Head is from May to September, when the water is warm and the fishing is at its best. During this time, you can expect to catch a variety of species such as Redfish, Trout, and Tarpon.

  3. Maximum Party Size: Most fishing charters in Hilton Head have a maximum party size of six people, although some boats may accommodate more. Be sure to confirm the maximum number of guests allowed on your chosen charter boat before making your reservation.

  4. Adverse Weather Conditions: Fishing in the ocean can be unpredictable, and adverse weather conditions can sometimes arise. To avoid disappointment, it's important to check the forecast and keep an eye out for warnings of high winds, heavy rain, and rough seas. If conditions are not suitable for fishing, the charter captain may choose to cancel the trip for your safety.

  5. Keeping Your Catch: On most fishing charters in Hilton Head, you will be able to keep your catch. However, be sure to check with your charter company for any regulations or restrictions that may apply.

  6. Cleaning Your Catch: Some fishing charters in Hilton Head may provide a captain or first mate to clean your catch, while others may not. It's best to check with your charter company beforehand and to bring a cooler to store your catch if necessary.

  7. Sea Sickness: If you are prone to sea sickness, it's important to bring along any medication or remedies that may help. Some fishing charters may also provide motion sickness medication, so be sure to ask before your trip.

  8. Essential Items: Be sure to bring sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, and appropriate clothing for the weather. It's also a good idea to bring along snacks, drinks, and any necessary personal items, such as a camera or cell phone.

  9. Tipping Etiquette: Tipping the captain and first mate is common in the fishing charter industry, and it's a great way to show your appreciation for their service. A gratuity of 15-20% of the cost of the charter is considered standard.

By considering these factors, you can ensure that your fishing trip is enjoyable, safe, and successful.

Myrtle Beach Fishing Licenses

Who Issues Licenses and Permits

In South Carolina, fishing licenses and permits are issued by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The DNR is responsible for managing and conserving the state’s natural resources, including fish populations and aquatic habitats.

Where to Get Them

Fishing licenses and permits can be obtained online through the DNR website or in person at authorized licensing agents, such as sporting goods stores, bait and tackle shops, and county offices.

Types of Licenses and Permits

Recreational fishing licenses are required for all individuals over the age of 16 who plan to fish in fresh or saltwater. A variety of licenses are available, including resident and non-resident annual and short-term licenses. There are also special licenses for seniors and disabled individuals.

In addition to a recreational fishing license, some bodies of water in and around Hilton Head may require additional permits or stamps. For example, saltwater fishing requires a saltwater fishing license and a red drum tag. Commercial fishing operations may also require special permits and licenses.

Enforcement of Fishing Licenses and Permits

The enforcement of fishing licenses and permits is the responsibility of the DNR’s Law Enforcement Division. Officers regularly patrol the waters to ensure that all individuals fishing are in compliance with state fishing regulations. Penalties for fishing without a license or without the proper permits can range from fines to imprisonment.

Obtaining the proper fishing license and permits is an important step for those wishing to fish in and around Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. The DNR is responsible for issuing licenses and permits, and enforcement is handled by the DNR’s Law Enforcement Division. Before heading out on the water, make sure to check the specific requirements for the body of water you plan to fish in.

Surf Fishing

Surf fishing in and around Myrtle Beach, South Carolina is a popular pastime for anglers of all skill levels. With its long stretches of sandy beaches and warm Atlantic waters, Myrtle Beach offers a prime location for surf fishing.

Popular Surf Fishing Locations:

  1. Garden City Beach: This location is known for its strong current, which attracts a variety of fish species.
  2. Cherry Grove Beach: This location is popular for its calmer waters, making it a great spot for beginner surf fishers.
  3. North Myrtle Beach: This location is well-known for its big waves, making it a great spot for experienced surf fishers.
  4. Murrells Inlet: This location is famous for its jetties, which attract a large number of fish.

Types of Fish Caught During Each Season:

  • Spring: During this season, anglers can expect to catch species such as bluefish, flounder, and drum.
  • Summer: During this season, anglers can expect to catch species such as king mackerel, shark, and tarpon.
  • Fall: During this season, anglers can expect to catch species such as red drum, sea trout, and whiting.
  • Winter: During this season, anglers can expect to catch species such as black drum, puppy drum, and spotted seatrout.

Recommended Types of Bait:

  • Bloodworms: These are a popular bait for fishing species such as whiting, sea trout, and drum.
  • Shrimp: These are a popular bait for fishing species such as flounder, red drum, and king mackerel.
  • Sand crabs: These are a popular bait for fishing species such as bluefish, shark, and tarpon.

Other Considerations Before Casting a Line into the Surf:

  • Tide: Pay attention to the tide and make sure to fish during high tide, as this is when most fish are feeding.
  • Weather: Check the weather forecast before heading out and avoid fishing during inclement weather.
  • Equipment: Make sure to bring appropriate fishing gear, including a surf rod, reel, and bait. See more below:

Fishing Gear

No recommendations were influenced by manufacturers. We did, however, heavily consider customer reviews at retail websites when deciding which products to feature. We like these products, but we took care to make sure other customers agree. Some of the product links include affiliate codes. If a purchase is made, is paid a commission for the referral.

See our full surf fishing gear guide including rods, reels, line, rigs, carts, waders and more.

Surf Fishing Rod and Reel Combos

Rods can be purchased separately, or as a rod and reel combo. Though the length can vary by beach and surf conditions, local anglers traditionally recommend using an 8 to 16 light to medium surf type rod, which can adapt to most conditions and most species. Keep in mind that the rod you choose has a lot to do with your physical size – some rods are heavy, and can tire out an angler quickly after multiple casts.

Surf Fishing Line

Your line will literally make or break your ability to reel in a catch. Look for 20-25 test line for the best results in all conditions, and go for Nylon Monofilament, Fluorocarbon, or Braided Line varieties in terms of materials. Monofilament nylon is a great choice for new anglers, as it is fairly cheap, knots well, and has an inherent stretch, which is a great attribute for surf fishermen who are developing their skills.

Rigs for Surf Fishing

Like all gear designed for surf fishing, when it comes to rigs and rig set-ups, there are a lot of options, which generally depend on the fish you are targeting, the season, and other conditions and factors that change depending on where along the North Carolina coastline you land. In fact, there is likely a unique and distinct type of rig available for every species of fish, and every type of body of saltwater.

Some experienced anglers attest that the best set-up for beginners is likely a basic two-hook leader with 3-4 ounce pyramid sinker and Khale hooks, which are adaptable for virtually all water conditions and types of fish. In addition, you can opt for the three following popular surf fishing rigs:

  • The Fish-Finder Rig: The fish finder rig utilizes a pyramid sinker with snap / ball-bearing swivel, and a leader that connects with the hook. This set-up provides as little resistance as possible as your fish is attracted to the bait. You can make the leader as long as you’d like, but on average, 24” inches is a good baseline.
  • The Fireball Rig: The fireball rig utilizes a pyramid sinker connected to foam balls, which keeps the bait slightly off the ocean bottom, The bright colors makes the rig a solid choice when the waters are rough and cloudy, and the rig also works great with live bait. This rig can be set up manually, but can also be purchased already set-up, which is likely the best option for beginners.
  • The High-Low Rig: The high-low rig uses two hooks, which increases an angler’s chances of attracting their target fish. It works well with large predatory fish and natural bait, and can be manually created, or purchased as a complete rig at most bait and tackle stores.

Rod holders

Sand spike and other varieties of rod holders will hold your rod in place when you need a break, or just want to enjoy a little downtime relaxing on the beach. This piece of equipment comes in a variety of different materials – such as PVC or aluminum – as well as different lengths, and different price ranges. Rod holders that are made of PVC or ABS plastic are traditionally the least expensive, but if you’re in rough ocean conditions and do a lot of surf fishing, upgrading to a more durable metal rod holder may be your best rouet.

Pyramid weights

A pyramid weight is often the preferred weight for surf fishermen, as it can stand up to currents and hold at the bottom. A roughly 2 oz. to 4 oz. pyramid weight should hold strong in most ocean conditions, when used in conjunction with a surf rod. If it’s a rough day, or you are fishing on a beach with large breakers close to the shore, up the weight a bit to hold strong in the surf.


A cart will make a surf fisherman’s life infinitely easier when heading to and from the beach. Built to be pulled across the sand with ease, and large enough to hold all the essential equipment and then some, a beach cart is a great way to pack and tote along all the equipment you’ll need for a full day on the sand.

Look for carts that can hold a lot of weight – you may be bringing back plenty of big catches, after all – as well as carts that have larger than normal, sturdy wheels. Larger wheels will essentially transform a standard cart into a 4WD mode of transportation that can easily haul your supplies across soft sand.


If you want a longer cast, and you prefer to fish in colder or cooler weather, waders will be your best friend. Waders are effectively worn like overalls, protecting the lower 3/4th of your body from water inundation when you wade out to the surf to cast.

Don’t skimp on quality when it comes to waders! Inexpensive varieties can leak, which can turn a great fishing day into a bad one fairly quickly.

Bait and Lures

One of the hardest decisions for surf fishermen is what type of bait, or artificial lure, to use for the best results. Many local tackle shops can direct new anglers in the right direction when it comes to what’s biting, and what bait or lures to use, but here’s a closer look at some of the most popular varieties for fishing along coastal North Carolina.


  • Shrimp: Shrimp is a popular bait for many types of saltwater fish such as redfish, sea trout, and flounder.

  • Sand Fleas: Sand Fleas, also known as mole crabs, are a great bait for surf fishing and are often used to catch species like whiting, croaker, and pompano.

  • Mullet: Mullet is a type of baitfish that is often used to target larger species such as jack crevalle, tarpon, and snook.

  • Squid: Squid is a versatile bait that can be used to catch a variety of species such as flounder, sea trout, and red drum.

  • Oysters: Oysters are a popular bait for catching species like drum, croaker, and spot.

  • Bloodworms: Bloodworms are a type of worm that is often used as bait for species such as striper, sea trout, and flounder.


When it comes to lures, there are plenty of options, and what an angler uses is all dependent on where they are headed, and what they are targeting.  Bait and tackle store will provide the best recommendations for lures to use for specific species, weather conditions, and seasons, but there are a few popular varieties to try that can work in most any coastal fishing environment.

Here are some of the most popular types of lures for saltwater fishing.

  • Gold Spoon – Known as one of the most common lures there is, the spoon is available in all types of colors and sizes, but it’s the gold variety that tends to provide the most flash, and attract the most fish – especially in cloudy waters.
  • Berkley Gulp Alive Shrimp – If you don’t have fresh or frozen shrimp handy, artificial shrimp can certainly work in a pinch and yield great results. Try the Berkley Gulp Alive Shrimp, which most resemble their live counterparts to a wide array of saltwater species.
  • Bucktail Jigs – Bucktail jigs are also varied when it comes to colors and flairs, and the White Bucktail features a steady and sturdy “tail” that easily attracts fish from the end of the hook.
  • Topwater Lure – Topwater lures are another popular option for anglers that can vary from store to store. Red and white varieties are especially popular due to their visibility, and a 4.5” - 5” lure will catch most all saltwater species along the North Carolina coastline.
  • Soft Plastic Flukes – The good thing about a soft plastic fluke is that it can be used just about anywhere – in the ocean, in the sound, or even inland. Completely versatile, flukes come in a wide range of colors and sizers, but bright green or white varieties will work well when the ocean conditions aren’t terribly clear.

Other Gear You’ll Need for Surf Fishing

In addition to all of the above essentials, there are some other tools you’ll need to bring along to ensure you have everything you need for a full day (or night) of surf fishing along the North Carolina coastline. Available at bait and tackle stores, sporting goods stores, and even traditional beach shops or grocery stores, look for these items that will make it easier to spend long hours on the beach.

Quick Beach Fishing Tip

If you find yourself stranded on the beach without any bait left, a quick fix is to find a lumpy pile of sand right in the ocean wash and start digging. Small mole crabs, affectionately known as "sand fleas" or "sand diggers" seasonally gather and nest in the low tide line right where the waves are coming ashore, and a larger sand flea (about 2 inches) can work remarkably well as surf fishing bait.

Kayak Fishing

Kayak fishing in Hilton Head is a popular pastime for both residents and visitors alike. With its abundant waterways, diverse marine life, and year-round temperate climate, Hilton Head offers a perfect setting for kayak fishing. Whether you are a seasoned pro or a beginner, the area provides plenty of opportunities for a fun and productive day on the water.

Guided Tours: For those who are new to kayak fishing or who want to improve their skills, guided tours are a great option. There are several local guides and outfitters who offer guided kayak fishing tours in the Hilton Head area. These tours typically include a knowledgeable guide who will show you the best fishing spots, as well as provide tips and advice on how to catch the local fish species.

Kayak Hilton Head

Saltmarsh Paddle Tours

Whether you are a seasoned pro or a beginner, kayak fishing in Hilton Head offers something for everyone. With its abundant waterways, diverse marine life, and year-round temperate climate, this area is a perfect destination for a day of fishing on the water. So, grab your kayak and head out to the water for a fun and productive day of kayak fishing.