May 26, 2024

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Tarpon Fishing South Carolina: A Guide for Anglers

Reading Time: 8 minutes

If you’ve ever been covered in slime, smelled like fish, and had sore arms while sat on inshore ocean waters, chances are you were probably smiling ear to ear. For new anglers or freshwater fishermen, that might seem a bit confusing. But I’m talking about a slimy species that spends most of its life in the sea and can reach incredibly large sizes!

What species am I talking about? Some of you may have already guessed it by the first sentence – Tarpon!

Photo courtesy of Southern Breeze Charters

Tarpon are an angler’s dream fish. It’s a species that you fall in love with on your first catch and one that you’ll forever be chasing. There’s a variety of locations where you can catch these feisty creatures, but Tarpon fishing in South Carolina is seriously productive. Why? Well, because these fish migrate here annually and come hungry!

Are you interested in catching one of these beasts in South Carolina? Continue reading through this guide to find out how!

There are quite a few reasons for this! For one, these fish can get pretty big. In South Carolina, Tarpon, on average, weigh around 40–60 inches and can weigh up to 60 pounds. The state record in SC was caught back in 1987, with a weight of a staggering 154 pounds! You never know who may be lurking in the waters… Maybe you’ll catch the next state record!

A view from a flybridge of a fishing boat in South Carolina of an angler leaning over the side of the boat and holding a large Tarpon by its mouth in the water
Photo courtesy of Fin’iky Fishing Charters

Besides the idea of catching a fish almost as large as you, another reason Tarpon are often so sought after is because of the acrobatic show they can put on. These guys come soaring out of the water, doing all sorts of crazy flips high up in the air. It’s very entertaining to see and sure gets you excited!

But, with all their jumps and far runs, there’s a big risk of losing your fish. To strategically fight a Tarpon, be sure to “bow” when they jump and ease the tension. That way, you’ll feel even more success when you get them to the boat.

South Carolina Tarpon Fishing Rules and Regulations

Many anglers spend hours on the water in search of the “Silver King.” From heavily-experienced fishing guides down to individuals holding a pole for the first time. If you’re new to Tarpon fishing, or maybe aren’t too familiar with the regulations, these are important to know.

An infographic featuring the flag of South Carolina along with text that says "SC Tarpon Fishing Regulations What You Need to Know" against a dark blue background with a vector of a boat and the FishingBooker logo

Tarpon are highly protected, therefore certain rules are in place to ensure the safety of their population. To keep Tarpon thriving, catch-and-release is encouraged in many places. However, in South Carolina, an angler can keep one under 77 inches.

If you choose to let them go, keep in mind that all the jumps and runs tire them out and they need a good release. Make sure to get water flushing through the fish’s body by holding open their mouth boatside and have the current flow through their mouth and gills. You can also hold onto their tail, and they’ll give a big kick when they’re ready to be let go.

Any large Tarpon should stay in the water instead of being lifted out and onto any boats or land. Larger fish are more at risk of difficult revivals. Some states like Florida actually make this a regulation and you can be in trouble if seen holding any Tarpon over 40 inches out of the water.

But the most important regulation of all is the requirement of a saltwater fishing license. South Carolina actually has a variety of options when it comes to purchasing a license. You can choose from a 3-year, 1-year, 14-day, 7-day, or single-day license. Check out FishingBooker’s guide to SC fishing licenses or head to the GoOutdoors South Carolina site to get your permit!

South Carolina Tarpon Fishing Gear

While Tarpon in South Carolina may generally be on the smaller side, you still have plenty of chances at hooking a larger species. Therefore, it’s best to use a setup on the heavier side – just to be sure your gear can handle a big fish.

A view from behind of an angler casting into the water, with a Tarpon visible in the distance leaping out of the water in an attempt to free itself from the fishing line
Photo courtesy of Santee Coastal Excursions

A medium-heavy action rod is a great choice, paired with a 5000 spinning reel. You want to have a braid of at least 30 pounds and pair it with a fluorocarbon leader, starting around 50 pounds. Circle hooks sized 6/0 and up are great against the hard, large mouths of Tarpon.

If you prefer bait casting, conventional, or fly fishing gear instead, just ensure it’s reliable to go against such a large, tough-fighting fish.

South California Tarpon Fishing Bait

Tarpon are hungry critters and they’re always on the prowl for something that can satisfy their rumbling stomachs. The ocean is a huge place and there are plenty of meals for them to choose from. I’ll talk about a couple of varying favorite snacks of Tarpon, both artificial and live. Let’s get to it!

Live Bait

Mullet, threadfin, shad, pinfish, shrimp, and crab are all productive baits for Tarpon fishing in South Carolina. These can be used for free lining – with or without a sinker – and you have the option of using them alive, dead, or as cut bait. You’re guaranteed to mostly always get a bite with these guys.

Artificial Bait

Can’t find any live bait or don’t have access to get any? Not a problem! Tarpon will hunt after attractive artificial lures when you catch their attention. Swimbaits, jigs, plugs, and topwater lures are all very effective for Tarpon fishing. Depending on the conditions, you can use varying baits. For example, topwater lures are best for calm early mornings in shallower regions, while swimbaits and jigs are effective the day in deeper depths.

When to Go Tarpon Fishing in South Carolina

Tarpon fishing in South Carolina can be productive throughout the year, but the peak time is late summer. During this time these fish will have migrated into the area to escape the heat of the south. They like warm temperatures but they don’t like it too hot for comfort. That’s why they head up to areas like South Carolina where they can feel the warmth in a cooler sense.

A man and child lean over the side of a fishing charter in South Carolina, holding a Tarpon by its mouth in the water, while a girl looks down from above on a sunny day
Photo courtesy of Still Playin Charters

It’s best to go Tarpon fishing in South Carolina on a calm day, in the early mornings or evenings. Bait will be popping off around these times, and hungry Tarpon will be chasing them along the surface. You may also find that night fishing produces Tarpon action as well.

Tarpon are fans of high, outgoing tides, as they flush out all the little critters from the inshore regions and push them towards hungry Tarpon. You can locate them around lower tides if there is a strong current going on, but they might be in deeper waters. Tarpon can surprise you though, so if you aren’t able to plan your trips around specific tides, just get out there and see what you can find!

Best Tarpon Fishing Techniques in South Carolina

While Tarpon fishing in South Carolina, there are a couple of methods you can use to entice Tarpon to eat your bait. You can drop your bait below by free lining and await for the thump. You can also troll your bait behind the boat to get a Tarpon to follow along.

In addition, you can drift live or dead bait, as well as certain lures in a current. Sight casting is another option, if you see them rolling or can see the outline of one in shallow water. Whatever you decide, you should also know that chumming bait is a great idea to gather the attention of nearby Tarpon.

Top Tarpon Fishing Spots in South Carolina

In South Carolina, most of the Tarpon hang around the inshore and nearshore regions, so you don’t have to go too far out. This is great for anglers who don’t have access to boats or want to fish on land.

A view from a small hill towards a wooden fishing pier in the inshore waters of South Carolina at sunset, with one person walking along it and calm waters surrounding it

You can locate a lot of Tarpon on the smaller side in estuaries, salt marshes, bays, canals, creeks, and rivers. Larger Tarpon do come into these areas but they tend to hang around regions where the water reaches deeper points and is closer to the open ocean. So, the mouths of rivers, passes, jetties, piers, bays, beaches, and coastal waters, are more suitable for them.

One thing to note about Tarpon is they’re able to tolerate varying salinity levels, so you can find them in just about any area of water in coastal South Carolina. You may even spot them in some onshore ponds or canals!

A couple of South Carolina hotspots bring in larger quantities of Tarpon, as well as other species which make the area diverse, thus boosting the chances at hooking up to some Tarpon. Here are some of the best spots:

A view across a Beach in Winyah Bay, SC, with calm waters on the left of the image on a clear day
  • Winyah Bay. This is a great location to find an abundance of Tarpon, including some on the bigger side. This big area of warm and shallow waters brings in plenty of species, which attract nearby Tarpon.
  • Santee River. This river provides shelter and food sources for plenty of Tarpon. During the outgoing tide, this area is a good location to fish because the bait will be flushed through the river, with Tarpon following close by. You can fish here by boat or on land, so it’s beneficial for all anglers.
  • Myrtle Beach. Home to a long stretch of sandy, shallow regions where plenty of bait fish and crabs hang around, “MB” is always good for fishing. Tarpon often stroll along the coast, looking for anything appetizing. This is a great spot for anglers fishing on land. For those fishing on a boat, be sure to stay a bit away from the shore, watching out for any swimmers.
  • Wrecks and Reefs. If you aren’t getting any action inshore, try the offshore wrecks and reefs! These locations are booming with marine life and Tarpon tend to hang around with the other critters. Plenty of bait fish surround these areas, attracting schools of Tarpon.

Tarpon Fishing in South Carolina: Luck on Your Side

A man in full fishing gear, standing up to his chest in the inshore waters of South Carolina with a fly fishing rod between his teeth and holding a large Tarpon partially submerged in the water
Photo courtesy of Southern Style Charters – 17′ Beavertail

When you take into factor all the topics mentioned in this article, you should have no problem Tarpon fishing in South Carolina. If you’re planning a trip there soon, I wish you the best of luck. And remember, Fishing Booker is always here for your charter booking needs. Get out there and start making memories!

Have you ever been Tarpon fishing in SC? Where did you go and which technique did you find most successful? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

The post How to Go Tarpon Fishing in South Carolina: An Angler’s Guide  appeared first on FishingBooker Blog.

By: Caitlyn Gatrell
Title: How to Go Tarpon Fishing in South Carolina: An Angler’s Guide 
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Published Date: Fri, 06 Oct 2023 13:58:19 +0000

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