Hello, and welcome to South Carolina Natural Resources, a blog created and maintained by the staff of the S.C. Department of Natural Resource’s Office of Media and Outreach.

Over the coming months, we hope to bring to our readers a lively daily discussion on topics related to natural resources conservation, hunting and fishing, outdoor recreation and tourism, SCDNR projects and initiatives, and other news and information that will be of value to our state’s sporting and conservation communities. It’s just one more way the SCDNR is working to fulfill its mission as the primary steward of and advocate for our state’s amazing natural resources.

Whether you are lucky enough to be a Sandlapper by birth, or are one of the many thousands of folks who have “voted with their feet” to make South Carolina their adopted home, you know without a doubt that this is one special place. With the responsibility for managing more than 1 million acres of wild public lands (and counting), the SCDNR has a huge responsibility to the present and future citizens of this state. And we know that it is the sportsmen and women, the hunters and anglers, and the other individuals who love spending time in the outdoors, who make wildlife and natural resources in this state and in the United States work. Without the funding provided through hunting and fishing licenses and permits and the excise taxes paid on outdoor sporting goods equipment, firearms and ammunition, as well as the working partnerships with landowners and sportsman’s groups, our amazing conservation efforts would be a fraction of what they are today. So for that we say, “thanks,” and please come back and visit often to find out what your state Department of Natural Resources and the larger outdoor community in South Carolina are up to.  We value your input, so if you have ideas for topics you’d like to see covered here, please contact site administrator David Lucas at lucasd@dnr.sc.gov. We look forward to hearing from you.

Step Right Up . . .

Step Right Up . . .

Offshore and nearshore fishing is a big deal in the South Carolina Lowcountry, but you don’t even have to launch a boat to enjoy a great fishing spot in this water-blessed region.


Text & photos by David Lucas

 Water world!  This tidal creek dock photographed at high tide during a misty sunrise is a lot of folks idea of heaven -- and the first thing they think of when picturing the South Carolina Lowcountry.

Water world!  This tidal creek dock photographed at high tide during a misty sunrise is a lot of folks idea of heaven -- and the first thing they think of when picturing the South Carolina Lowcountry.

The  landscape of the South Carolina Lowcountry is crisscrossed with rivers making their final push to the Atlantic Ocean. Twice daily tides cover vast acres of saltmarsh and tidal creeks in St. Helena and Port Royal sounds, an endless dance between salt and freshwater that makes this one of the world’s most productive marine ecosystems. 

As a result, from the Savannah River up through the ACE Basin and northeast to Edisto Island, fishing is second nature for the people who live here.  It’s ubiquitous, an ever-present backdrop as unremarkable to locals as the rods and reels, baits and cast nets sharing space with the canned goods at local grocery stores. No wonder, then, that it’s also one of the most popular outdoor activities – among a wide array of available options – for the people who come for a visit. 

 A small red drum landed (and released) from a Beaufort County dock.

A small red drum landed (and released) from a Beaufort County dock.

 Young people enrolled at the Port Royal Maritime Center's summer day camp learn how to fish and crab, as well as boating skills, saltmarsh ecology and other lifelong skills and lessons.

Young people enrolled at the Port Royal Maritime Center's summer day camp learn how to fish and crab, as well as boating skills, saltmarsh ecology and other lifelong skills and lessons.

“Choose Your Adventure,” urges a video that folks planning a vacation down here will find on the website of the Lowcountry and Resort Islands tourism region, and when you click play the music swells, and breathtaking scenes of beaches, sounds, creeks and saltmarsh being navigated by some seriously happy-looking folks in various boats small and large ensues.  Well heck yeah!  Who wouldn’t choose that. 

 Getting on the water is a high priority for lots of Lowcountry visitors and locals. Above: Launching a boat at Beaufort's Broad River Landing. Below: tourists on a guided paddling trip explore a shell rake near Fripp Inlet.

Getting on the water is a high priority for lots of Lowcountry visitors and locals. Above: Launching a boat at Beaufort's Broad River Landing. Below: tourists on a guided paddling trip explore a shell rake near Fripp Inlet.

Beaufort- Harbor R Kayak May 2016_DLucas_006.JPG

But not everybody with the urge to catch a fish has easy access to a boat. Fear not though, for the Lowcountry region also offers a bounty of great options for the terrestrial-bound angler seeking his or her supper from bank or pier, beginning at its easternmost corner, where the beaches of Edisto Island offer great surf fishing opportunities. The area around Jeremy Inlet on the north end of Edisto State Park is popular with surf anglers (though I have also seen lots of folks fishing off the southern tip where the Edisto (the E in ACE) meets the ocean. A quick “Youtube” search yields a number of videos offering tips for the right bait and gear to use when targeting red or black drum, flounder, whiting, or other species here.

 The best thing about hanging out on the beach is you can fish! (Or just sit in the shade, read a good book and wait for dinner to get reeled in).

The best thing about hanging out on the beach is you can fish! (Or just sit in the shade, read a good book and wait for dinner to get reeled in).

Travel inland from Edisto Beach and head south on Highway 17 towards Beaufort, Hilton Head and the Savannah River, and you’ll again cross Edisto River at Jacksonboro a drive that will take you through the heart of the ACE Basin. The suggested route for the east side of the ACE will take you by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources-managed Bear Island WMA.  Bear Island is made up primarily of old ricefield impoundments and is a favorite of both waterfowl hunters and bird watchers/photographers. But between April 1 and September 30, designated impoundments on the property are also open to fishing.  Most people who fish Bear Island tend to stick to the spots that are easy to access via car.  The most commonly-caught species are mullet and blue crabs. 

 Handlining for crabs (no traps allowed)  is a popular activity at Bear Island WMA.  In addition to lines and bait, you'll want a cooler and a way to measure your catch to make sure its of legal size.  A pair of kitchen tongs makes a handy, pinch-proof grabber, too1

Handlining for crabs (no traps allowed)  is a popular activity at Bear Island WMA.  In addition to lines and bait, you'll want a cooler and a way to measure your catch to make sure its of legal size.  A pair of kitchen tongs makes a handy, pinch-proof grabber, too1

Anglers at Bear Island should also keep these guidelines in mind:

Pack in what you pack out. Littering on one of S.C.’s WMAs can net you an expensive ticket!

Bring plenty of bug spray.  Especially as the weather warms, the mosquitos and no-see-ums can be intense.

Be aware of alligators, which are common on the property, and enjoy viewing or photographing them, and other wildlife, AT A DISTANCE.

NEVER climb or stand on water control structures (trunks) while fishing in the impoundments at Bear Island, or tie lines to a structure.

All anglers must fill out a hang tag at the front gate, keep it visible in their vehicle while on the property and return portion B when they exit.

 When fishing the impoundments at Bear Island WMA, you will be sharing space with the many American alligators that live there.  Gators generally shy away from people, but stay vigilant if you have a fish on the line.

When fishing the impoundments at Bear Island WMA, you will be sharing space with the many American alligators that live there.  Gators generally shy away from people, but stay vigilant if you have a fish on the line.

The ACE Basin region and surrounding area offers plenty of other opportunities for shore-based angling. One of my favorites to visit is the Wimbee Creek Fishing Pier (adjacent to the boat ramp that shares its name) in Beaufort County. It’s a great “off-the-beaten-path” spot, and if you’re interested in expanding your fishing horizons, Briar’s Creek, which enters the Wimbee adjacent to the pier and boat ramp, is a great place to try getting your kayaking feet wet.

  Above : A kayak-level view of the Wimbee Fishing Pier as seen from the entrance to Briar's Creek.  Below (clockwise from upper left):  The Wimbee saltmarsh seen from the pier; Briar's Creek viewed from the pier; Close-up shot of the pier and pilings; The Wimbee Creek Landing boat ramp and dock.

Above: A kayak-level view of the Wimbee Fishing Pier as seen from the entrance to Briar's Creek. Below (clockwise from upper left): The Wimbee saltmarsh seen from the pier; Briar's Creek viewed from the pier; Close-up shot of the pier and pilings; The Wimbee Creek Landing boat ramp and dock.

Another great pier-fishing spot is the Knowles Island Pier in nearby Jasper County, on the upper reaches of the Broad River. These old railroad trestle spots provide great structure to fish around, are very accessible, and generally allow shore-based anglers to get further out into the river than they would otherwise be able to. 

  Above:  All set for a day of pier fishing at the Knowles Island Pier in Jasper County.  Below:  Baiting up with cut finger mullet -- a heavy sinker on a double rig helps keep your bait in place, as does fishing the slack time around low and high tides; Awesome pier casting form displayed by a longtime local angler!

Above: All set for a day of pier fishing at the Knowles Island Pier in Jasper County. Below: Baiting up with cut finger mullet -- a heavy sinker on a double rig helps keep your bait in place, as does fishing the slack time around low and high tides; Awesome pier casting form displayed by a longtime local angler!

There’s also the massive (1,800 feet long) Broad River Fishing Pier where Highway 170 crosses the very top of Port Royal Sound.  Locals and visitors from Beaufort, Port Royal and the surrounding communities flock to this beautiful spot, especially in the summertime, to soak live or cut bait around the pilings of the “old” two-lane highway bridge that was converted to a pier when a larger bridge carrying traffic to Hilton Head and Point west was constructed.  Fishing here, you are in deep water, and the structure provided by the pier makes it a productive spot.

  Above:  The Broad River Fishing Pier was once the northernmost half of the old Highway 170 bridge and now stands in the shadow of the new one.  Below (clockwise from upper left):   The bridge and pier as seen from the parking lot make a neat photo subject; Even a day with rough weather finds plenty of  anglers at this favored local spot; All manner of carts and conveyances are used to haul gear and (hopefully) dinner to and from the parking lot; a couple packs it in after a morning of fishing, while another man checks his crab line; Sunset at the pier can be beautiful; Local shrimp on a circle hook is a popular bait here, as are fiddler crabs (when the sheepshead show up).

Above: The Broad River Fishing Pier was once the northernmost half of the old Highway 170 bridge and now stands in the shadow of the new one. Below (clockwise from upper left):  The bridge and pier as seen from the parking lot make a neat photo subject; Even a day with rough weather finds plenty of  anglers at this favored local spot; All manner of carts and conveyances are used to haul gear and (hopefully) dinner to and from the parking lot; a couple packs it in after a morning of fishing, while another man checks his crab line; Sunset at the pier can be beautiful; Local shrimp on a circle hook is a popular bait here, as are fiddler crabs (when the sheepshead show up).

Any list of shore-based angling opportunities in this region would surely have to include Hunting Island State Park.  Campers and day visitors to the park have been enjoying the fishing opportunities there for generations.  Surf fishing is popular on the beach, as is fishing in the lagoon and Johnson’s Creek.  There’s also a pier at the park that extends into Fripp Inlet, but unfortunately, it was damaged during Hurricane Matthew and has not yet been repaired/reopened.

 Above: A teenager pulls his well-stocked surf-fishing cart towards the northern tip of Hunting Island State Park, where the Harbor River meets the ocean.  Below (clockwise from upper left):  A vacationing teen tries his luck at Hunting Island;  You can't see it, but this angler is point out a dolphin swimming offshore, a good sign that baitfish (and the larger fish that follow them) are in the area; Anglers share the beach at Hunting Island with bicyclers, sunbathers and joggers -- it's a fun place to be in the summer in Beaufort, but the fall fishing is great also!

Above: A teenager pulls his well-stocked surf-fishing cart towards the northern tip of Hunting Island State Park, where the Harbor River meets the ocean. Below (clockwise from upper left): A vacationing teen tries his luck at Hunting Island;  You can't see it, but this angler is point out a dolphin swimming offshore, a good sign that baitfish (and the larger fish that follow them) are in the area; Anglers share the beach at Hunting Island with bicyclers, sunbathers and joggers -- it's a fun place to be in the summer in Beaufort, but the fall fishing is great also!

There’s plenty of other saltwater options to choose from in the coastal parts of the Lowcountry region, especially in Beaufort County.  With all that access to salt water, freshwater fishing in this region can sometimes get overlooked, but upriver from the salt/freshwater dividing line on the Ashepoo, Combahee or Edisto rivers, the bass and bream are plentiful.  And over on the region’s western edge, you’ll find the SCDNR’s Webb Wildlife Center. A center for wildlife conservation and research for more than 75 years, “the Webb” as it is affectionately called is well-known (and beloved) by South Carolina sportsmen for its deer and turkey hunting.  But tucked away at the far end of Bluff Road at the edge of the Savannah River swamp, you’ll find one of the prettiest fishing spots you’ll ever see – at the pier next to the Bluff Lake boat landing, which is shrouded by large, Spanish-moss draped cypress and tupelo.  It’s also a great place to launch a canoe for a blackwater paddle, and a two-mile hike down the nearby nature trail will take you through the swamp to the banks of the Savannah River. 

 Above:  Have you ever seen a more picturesque fishing spot than Bluff lake at the SCDNR's Webb Wildlife Center in Hampton County?  Below (clockwise from upper left): The author wets a line in Bluff Lake; light tackle and a simple jighead/grub combination is all you really need here; Seriously, I could stay here all day; Everything you need to fish the Webb (including a S.C. Freshwater Fishing License and plenty of bug spray) can easily be carried in a small backpack; And that's very handy if you decide to strike off down the nearby nature trail that leads to the banks of the Savannah River; Even the rustic picnic shelter at Bluff Lake is picture-perfect;  Bluff lake is also the beginning of a two-mile canoe trail through the swamp; the trail will take you past some amazing large cypress and tupelo trees; Did I mention I could stay here all day?  Maybe a nap against this tree?; 

Above:  Have you ever seen a more picturesque fishing spot than Bluff lake at the SCDNR's Webb Wildlife Center in Hampton County?  Below (clockwise from upper left): The author wets a line in Bluff Lake; light tackle and a simple jighead/grub combination is all you really need here; Seriously, I could stay here all day; Everything you need to fish the Webb (including a S.C. Freshwater Fishing License and plenty of bug spray) can easily be carried in a small backpack; And that's very handy if you decide to strike off down the nearby nature trail that leads to the banks of the Savannah River; Even the rustic picnic shelter at Bluff Lake is picture-perfect;  Bluff lake is also the beginning of a two-mile canoe trail through the swamp; the trail will take you past some amazing large cypress and tupelo trees; Did I mention I could stay here all day?  Maybe a nap against this tree?; 

Bank fishing is also allowed in the property’s upper and lower lakes, and all three areas provide opportunities to harvest largemouth bass, bluegill, shellcracker, and catfish. Small fishing lakes at the adjacent Hamilton Ridge WMA are also open to the public, according to property managers.  All of these properties are open to the public year-round during daylight hours, but each may be closed at various times during hunting seasons for special hunts, so be sure and visit the web site or call before planning your trip. The number is (803) 625-3569.

Nature meets history along the banks of the Catawba River in the Olde English District

Nature meets history along the banks of the Catawba River in the Olde English District

Take a slow boat . . .

Take a slow boat . . .