Redfishing in the Carolinas: Best Spots and Tips

Introduction to Redfishing in the Carolinas

The Carolinas, encompassing North Carolina and South Carolina, offer some of the most pristine fishing environments in the United States, particularly for redfish, also known as red drum. This region is renowned for its abundant coastal waters and estuaries, which create ideal conditions for redfishing. For anglers looking to catch this prized fish, understanding the best spots and tips is crucial.

Prime Redfishing Locations in North Carolina

Pamlico Sound

Pamlico Sound is one of the largest lagoons along the U.S. East Coast, providing a rich habitat for redfish. The vast expanse of shallow waters and intricate network of inlets and bays make it a redfish haven.

  • Best Time to Fish: Late summer to early fall.
  • Top Techniques: Use topwater lures during dawn and dusk for the best results.
  • Insider Tip: Focus on the grassy flats and oyster beds where redfish feed.

Cape Lookout

Cape Lookout, part of the Southern Outer Banks, is famous for its clear waters and sandbars, which attract large schools of redfish.

  • Best Time to Fish: Early spring and late fall.
  • Top Techniques: Jigging near the sandbars can yield excellent catches.
  • Insider Tip: Watch for diving birds; they often indicate baitfish, and redfish won’t be far behind.

New River

The New River, with its brackish waters, is a prime spot for redfish, especially during their spawning season.

  • Best Time to Fish: Mid-summer to late fall.
  • Top Techniques: Slow-trolling with soft plastics mimicking shrimp.
  • Insider Tip: Explore the deeper channels and drop-offs where redfish hide during the day.

Prime Redfishing Locations in South Carolina

Charleston Harbor

Charleston Harbor is a well-known hotspot for redfish due to its complex estuarine system. The confluence of multiple rivers creates a fertile ground for redfish.

  • Best Time to Fish: Year-round, with peak seasons in spring and fall.
  • Top Techniques: Live bait, such as mullet and menhaden, is particularly effective.
  • Insider Tip: Fish the tide changes; redfish are more active during these periods.

Bulls Bay

Bulls Bay, located north of Charleston, offers an extensive network of marshlands and tidal creeks, perfect for redfish.

  • Best Time to Fish: Spring through early fall.
  • Top Techniques: Fly fishing with crab patterns works well in the shallow waters.
  • Insider Tip: Use a kayak to access the more remote and less pressured areas.

Hilton Head Island

Hilton Head Island is a redfish paradise, with its numerous inlets and flats providing prime redfish habitat.

  • Best Time to Fish: Late summer and fall.
  • Top Techniques: Sight fishing on the flats during low tide.
  • Insider Tip: Early mornings are best to avoid the boat traffic and to catch redfish feeding in the shallows.

Essential Gear for Redfishing

Rods and Reels

  • Rods: Medium to medium-heavy spinning rods, 7 to 8 feet in length.
  • Reels: 3000 to 4000 series spinning reels, capable of holding 200 yards of 15-20 lb braided line.

Lines and Leaders

  • Main Line: 15-20 lb braided line for sensitivity and strength.
  • Leader: 20-30 lb fluorocarbon leader to withstand abrasion from structure and the redfish’s rough mouth.

Bait and Lures

  • Live Bait: Shrimp, mullet, and menhaden are highly effective.
  • Artificial Lures: Soft plastics, topwater plugs, and spoons mimic the natural prey of redfish.

Redfishing Techniques and Tips

Understanding Tides

Redfish are heavily influenced by tides. High tides push them into the marshes and grass flats to feed, while low tides concentrate them in deeper channels.

  • Tip: Fish an hour before and after high tide for the best results.

Sight Fishing

Redfish are known for their tailing behavior when feeding in shallow waters. This makes sight fishing an exciting and productive method.

  • Tip: Polarized sunglasses are a must to reduce glare and spot redfish tails.

Using the Right Bait

Matching the hatch is crucial. Use bait that mimics the natural prey in the area.

  • Tip: In murky waters, scented baits or those that create vibrations can attract more bites.

Conservation and Regulations

Redfish populations are subject to strict regulations to ensure their sustainability. Always check the latest local regulations before fishing.

  • Size and Bag Limits: These vary by state and specific regions, so ensure compliance to avoid fines and contribute to conservation efforts.
  • Catch and Release: Practice ethical catch and release techniques to minimize stress on the fish. Use circle hooks to reduce gut hooking and handle fish with wet hands or gloves.


Redfishing in the Carolinas offers unparalleled experiences for both novice and experienced anglers. The diverse habitats, from the expansive Pamlico Sound to the intricate marshlands of Bulls Bay, provide numerous opportunities to catch this prized fish. By understanding the best spots, gearing up correctly, and mastering key techniques, you can enhance your redfishing adventures in the Carolinas.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *