Inshore options on the Coosaw, which separates Ladys Island, Morgan Island, Judge Island and Coosaw Island from the mainland and empties into the St. Helena Sound, are much the same as other coastal rivers in the Low Country. Redfish, trout and flounder are all possibilities, and the chance for a grand slam is better than average.
Of course, redfish take center stage, and bull reds are not uncommon catches.
Tyler Gault of Ladys Island's Abco Fishing Charters, primarily fishes the Coosaw, and redfish are his No. 1 target.
"There are fish all over the Coosaw," Gault said. "You're fishing for local groups of fish that are there all the time. You can go to places and catch fish there on the same tide every day.
"The Coosaw has got a lot of flats, tailing flats. The Coosaw is part of the (Intracoastal Waterway), and it's a wide river, relatively flat and relatively slow-moving. It's got mud flats and grass flats."
Gault uses live bait, artificials and flies, depending on the conditions.
"You have to give them what they want to eat, not what you want them to eat," said Gault, who uses medium-action, 7-foot Ugly Stik spinning rods and 2500 Series Shimano reels loaded with 20-pound Power Pro braid.
He fishes three different rigs: a Cajun Thunder rattling cork with a 20-pound mono leader, small splitshot and a 3/0 circle hook; a Carolina rig with a 1/2-ounce barrel weight; or a lure tied directly to the line.
When fly-fishing, Gault uses a 9-foot, 8-weight rod with a weight-forward floating line and a 6-foot, 20-pound leader.
Gault fishes all stages of tide, and has a preferred area for each.
On the low end, he generally searches out shallow mud flats for small schools of reds chasing bait. There is little to no structure for the reds to relate to, so sight-fishing is the most-productive method.
The low end of the tide is a great time to throw artificial lures like DOA shrimp, Gulp! soft plastics and flies, which allow anglers to present baits quickly and accurately when fish are spotted and are much less likely to spook wary reds in shallow water.
Often, darker colors are a better choice because big-boat traffic from the ICW will have the water stained.
Gault rarely anchors on the low end; instead he searches by poling his flats boat or using its trolling motor.
Once the tide starts to come back in and gets up a little, Gault changes tactics and targets oyster beds, especially those that are out from the banks.
"Shrimp, minnows and other critters will flock to the beds for safety, and the reds and other fish will stay near these structure looking for something to wash out with the current," he said.
When fishing oyster beds, Gault uses a live shrimp or mud minnow under a cork and will drift his baits as close to the beds as possible. Reds will often stay as close to these structures as they can, so baits right on the shells are much more productive.
Reds aren't the only fish moving up on the beds and banks when the tide starts flowing in; flounder also push up to these structures in hopes of ambushing a meal. Gault targets them with a Carolina-rigged mud minnow. Caroling rigs and oysters do not mix well, so he casts to the clean bottom near the oyster beds or small ditches coming out of the marsh. A longer leader under a cork will also work on flounder, as long as the bait stays on or near the bottom.
Once the tide gets up over the oyster beds, trout become an easier target. The mouths of small creeks entering the Coosaw are particularly productive, especially against a steeper bank with current break.
Trout like to hang out in the calmer water just on the other side of the current break, feeding on anything that passes, but their food of choice is often shrimp.
Also, trout respond well to noise, and aggressively working rattling corks like the Cajun Thunder will draw in more fish than a dead drift. If using shrimp imitations like DOA or Gulp!, rattling corks are a must.
When the tide starts to flood the grass, redfish action can get hot because these fish will search the grass line for anything they can get their mouths on; refusals are much less likely.
Sherry Hightower, another veteran fisherman from Ladys Island, prefers to be in position as soon as the water touches the grass. She looks for secondary grass lines where there are spaces between grass clumps for reds to cruise through, usually on the other side of the oyster beds.
"I like to look for openings in the grass away from the oysters," she said. "But there is not much time for this kind of fishing, because as soon as the water is deep enough in the grass, reds like what's on the other side of it."
When fishing the grass, mud minnows under corks are a good choice. They stay on the hook better than most baits, and when used in combination with a cork, anglers can get into the thick stuff and put their bait in the feeding zone without fear of ripping it off in the grass.
As Hightower mentioned, redfish like what's on the other side of the grass, and this is especially true in the Coosaw. On tailing tides - higher-than-average tides around the new and full moons - reds search out the sparser grass on hard flats.
Most of these flats are hard enough that anglers can get out of their boats and stalk reds on foot, allowing these fishermen to easily cover more ground.
Often, reds search for crabs on the bottom of these flooded flats and are easily recognized by their tails sticking out of the water, hence "tailing reds.
The only downside to this is they are easily spooked. Corks and heavy weights are nearly impossible to use on tailing reds, but weedless lures and flies properly presented are deadly.
When targeting tailing reds Hightower prefers a fly rod, and uses a blue Dupree's Spoonfly that mimics a small blue crab crawling through the grass.
"I like to land my fly right I front of them, let it sink a little and then give it short slow strips to get the red's attention," she said. "When they hit, it is so hard that they usually set the hook themselves."
When fishing an outgoing tide going out, all of these same techniques will work equally as well, just in reverse.
WHEN/WHERE TO GO: The entire month of June offers excellent fishing on the Coosaw River. Pay attention to tide charts, as moving water dictates where and when the best fishing is at any particular time of day. Look for flood tides over 7.0 feet for tailing reds. The Coosaw is easily accessed from Beaufort or Port Royal. The Sams Point Landing on Ladys Island is the best public option. Take US 21 from Beaufort to Ladys Island; at its intersection with Sea Island Parkway, go straight across to Sams Point Road. At the Lucy Creek Bridge, turn left onto Alston Road and follow it to the landing.
TACKLE/TECHNIQUES: Medium-action spinning rods in 7-foot lengths can handle almost anything the Coosaw has to offer. Braided line in 20- to 30-pound range is ideal. For fishing on the bottom, a Carolina Rig with a half-ounce sinker, 24 inches of 30-pound mono leader, and 2/0 circle hook works best. A good option for floating baits is a weighted rattling cork with a 20-pound leader and a small split shot near a 2/0 circle hook. For fly-fishing, 9-foot, 7- to 9-weight rods with weight-forward floating fly lines and six to nine feet of 18- to 20-pound leaders work well. Productive baits are live mud minnows and shrimp. Artificials that work well with rattling corks are DOA Shrimp and Gulp! soft plastics. On tailing flats, weedless spoons like the Red Ripper are local favorites, as are soft-plastic baits rigged weedless and tied directly to the running line. Almost any fly that imitates minnows, crabs, and shrimp and is weedless is a good choice. The Dupree Spoonfly and Crafty Shrimp are perhaps the two most popular flies in the Beaufort area.
FISHING INFO/GUIDES: Capt. Tyler Gault, ABCO Fishing Charters, Ladys Island, 843-525-0243, www.capttyler.com; Bay Street Outfitters, Beaufort, 843-524-5250; Beaufort Boat & Dock Supply, 843-986-0552. See also GUIDES & CHARTERS in Classifieds.
ACCOMMODATIONS: Beaufort Visitor Bureau, 800-638-3525, www.beaufortsc.org.
MAPS: Capt. Segull's Nautical Charts, 888-473-4855, www.captainsegullcharts.com; Top Spot Map No. N233, available at most local tackle shops.