On Hilton Head Island you can fish in fresh and brackish water lagoons, tidal lagoons, estuaries (tidal creeks), inshore on the Calibogue Sound and offshore in the Atlantic Ocean.
The State regulates fishing up to three mile offshore. Beyond that, Federal regulations apply.
For salt water fishing you need a State license if over 16 years old to fish from a boat. Commercial fishing boats already have a license that covers all fisher people, and you can get a State license to fish from a private boat for $11.00 for a three day non-resident
(SC) license (see below for locations that offer licenses).
To fish from the beach or the banks of estuaries (tidal creeks) you need no license, but you cannot fish in designated swimming areas (DUH!); you are not supposed to fish for sharks. The sharks break this rule all the time, so you might hook a Sting Ray or
Atlantic Sharp Nosed or Black Tipped shark. You are expected to release them - if you get a Sting Ray or a good size shark, just cut the line and let it go rather than take a chance of getting hurt.
Inshore and offshore charter fishing boats are readily available. You can go fishing on a party boat with a dozen or (many) more people, which will drift fish (fishing with the boat not moving). Usually these operate inshore or not far offshore, though some
will go to the reefs. Some specialize in shark fishing, usually late in the day and into evening.
You can also charter an offshore (or inshore) boat that carries up to six passengers and will fish by trolling the bait (dragging it behind a moving boat). This is usually called deep sea fishing. The trips offered are typically either half-day or full-day
For serious deep sea fishing, anglers will go to the Gulf Stream, which is about 70 miles from shore. The fishing is great, but so is the round trip. Obviously a very full day of fishing. The best time to go to the Gulf Stream is June through September.
Tuna has been caught during the Winter, so if you are into Sport Fishing there are charters out of Harbour Town that will pursue them. A state record was caught here last year. You will need a Tuna License.
There are a number of artificial reefs and natural banks offshore that offer fine fishing. The charter captains know where to go at various times of year and can predict the types of fish that may be caught.
My recommendation for charter fishing is to go to the docks or call and talk to the charter boat captains to see what is a good fit for you. Charters are available from almost all 7 commercial marinas.
Fresh Water Fishing
While it might seem that the creeks on Hilton Head are fresh water, they are not. They are actually estuaries with no significant source of fresh water. Estuaries are tidal and the water in them is ocean water. There are some lakes and lagoons that
hold fresh water - or brackish water. Most of these are part of the storm water drainage system and therefore hold rain water runoff. Some lagoons are likewise fresh water, but some are tidal and so contain salt water. Observe a lagoon you would like to fish
- if the water level changes significantly over a period of a few hours, it's tidal.
To go fresh water fishing outside of the plantations or other private property any one over 16 years old needs a State fishing license. A seven day non-resident (SC) license can be purchased for $11.00 (see below for locations that offer licenses). There are
not many fresh water places on Hilton Head - Jarvis Creek Park is the only one that comes to mind.
In the plantations, which the State classifies as private property, you need no State license but are subject to the rules of the plantation.
Sea Pines: You must be a resident or guest and you need a permit from CSA, available at the security office. They will ask you to prove you are a resident or guest. If you are staying with Hilton Head Hideaways,
we can get you a permit as one of our guests.
In Sea Pines Forest Preserve, a 605-acre protected wildlife habitat, Hilton Head visitors can follow walking trails or cast a line into the stocked fishing ponds. Sea Pines does require Freshwater fishing permits; they can be obtained for guests of property
owners (we can get you a pass if you are staying with Hilton Head Hideaways) at no charge from Community Services Associates (CSA), 175 Greenwood Drive, (843) 671-7170. However, in the 11 years I have been fishing here, I have never seen anyone ever asked
for one or checked; so my advice is just go fishing and in the unlikelihood you are asked for a permit, go and get one.
The Sea Pines Forest Preserve has approx. 8 miles of trails that follow ante-bellum rice dikes from the 1840s and old logging trails from the 1950s. Bridle paths, wetland boardwalks, observation decks, bridges, and fishing docks have been added to improve visitor
access. The trails are open from sunrise to sunset.
There is a fishing pond and an Indian Shell Ring --early native Indians left their history in large rings of shells. There is a self-guided tour brochure, and guided nature walks are available on a limited schedule.
The Sea Pines Recreation Center, #843-842-1979, offers kayak rentals and a kayak fishing expedition. I highly recommend the kayak fishing guided tour with Captain Todd Crawford.
Shipyard: For residents or guests there is no license requirement and there are no restrictions.
Palmetto Dunes: Fishing is restricted to owners and guests and to the banks of the lagoon crossed by the Queen's Folly Bridge (the first bridge you come to, before the security gate).
Oysters, Clams Shrimp and Crabs
The rules for licenses to harvest oysters and clams are the same as for ocean fishing from a boat. There are designated areas for harvesting oysters and areas that are off limits from time to time. Oyster beds may be closed after a heavy rain due
to the possibility of contamination (oysters filter the water and are the first to pick up any contaminant).
Shrimp may be taken with a cast net for personal use without a license, but traps are prohibited. You might hear about "shrimp baiting", but this is not an activity appropriate for tourists due to the expense and specialized knowledge required.
Likewise, crabs may be taken by various methods, but crab pots are limited to two without a license. Crabs must be 5 inches across and females must not be pregnant to be kept. To see if a crab is carrying eggs, flip it over and if you see a spongy
mass on its underside, put it back.
Crabbing is something many visitors, especially the younger ones, have fun with. Several boats offer crabbing trips, but frankly you can go crabbing anywhere there is salt or even brackish water. You need a bucket, a piece of string and a net you can get at
Wal-Mart or hardware stores. For bait almost anything will do, but a chicken neck is best (leave it out for awhile till it gets stinky). Go to any dock or even the beach, tie the string around the chicken neck and throw it in the water. Wait a couple of minutes
and pull up the chicken neck, slipping the net under the crab attached to it. Put the crab in the bucket with a little water but don't submerge it. Some ice is OK; keep it out of the sun. If you want to make a meal out of crabs, you will need at least ten
per person (good luck). You are not allowed to keep any crab under five inches across, or any female '' in sponge", which means a female carrying eggs (they look like a spongy mass on its underside). You can identify females because the ''girls paint their
fingernails red". Never cook and eat a dead crab! If you catch a Stone Crab (two large claws similar to Lobster Claws), be very careful - their claws are strong enough to crush shellfish shells! You may remove the larger of the two claws and return the crab
to the water, where it will grow another claw. Do not remove a claw from a female carrying an egg mass and don't get caught with the body of a stone crab, even if you found it on the beach.
Licenses, Bait and Tackle
Commercial fishing boats will provide everything you need except food and drink. Many marinas have bait available. Fishing tackle can be rented and bait purchased from True Value Hardware, 843-785-2429, in Coligny Plaza and from Shelter Cove Marina
Ships Store at Shelter Cove marina. Blue Water Bait and Tackle, 843-671-3060, at the South Beach Marina offers frozen bait.
South Carolina fishing licenses can be purchased at True Value Hardware in Coligny Plaza and from Wall Mart at Festival Center, where you can also buy rods, reels, etc. They sell frozen bait also.
My 5 Favorite Fishing Holes and Advice are…….
…..this info is only for Guests staying with us! I will forward this info to you after your reservation has been confirmed! I hope that you understand.