The nearshore reefs off Hilton Head Island are producing enough fish – and enough big ones – that fishermen looking for trophies or to stock up for a fish fry have plenty to be happy about, according to Capt. Rick Percy of Reel Chance Charters.
Percy said the Fish America Reef, the Parris Island Reef and the General Gordon Reef are the three closest to the beach – anglers can fish all there on the same trip – and they’re all offering hot fishing.
"The Fish America Reef is a huge reef; it holds bull redfish, speckled trout, weakfish and flounder," said Percy (803-535-6166), as he hooked a live shrimp onto a ¾-ounce jighead and instructed a client to drop it straight down. Three of the four anglers on his boat immediately reeled in weakfish in the 15-inch range, and the fourth hooked into a bull redfish that took a few minutes to boat.
That scene, Percy said, has been typical at the reef recently, and fishing should continue to be strong as the water cools more in the coming weeks.
Once Percy locates the reef on his depth finder, he tosses out a buoy marker to give him a point of reference. Then, he slowly cruises the area, watching his depth finder for clusters of fish, instructing clients to drop down their baits when he sees them.
Percy said anglers shouldn't be too eager to throw their first weakfish in the livewell.
"The limit is one per angler, and we've been catching some twice the size of those," he said.
Besides shrimp, Percy’s parties have been catching fish with mullet and Gulp! soft plastics threaded onto the same jigheads. He’s using 7-foot, medium-action spinning rods with fast tips, 3000 series reels spooled with 30-pound braid and shot, 20-pound monofilament leaders – the two lines being connected with a surgeon’s knot and the jighead tied on with a MirrOlure knot.
The fishing on the reef stays good throughout all tide cycles, but it is a little easier to keep lures in the structure on slacker tides.