The bite is on in the inshore waters and nearshore reefs around Hilton Head, and Capt. Rick Percy of Reel Chance Charters said getting out on even the cold days has proven fruitful. He is finding big schools of redfish on flats that have not typically held big schools in the past several years, and he’s catching them on Gulp! shrimp.

Percy said he's cruised areas that normally hold schools of hundreds of fish and been surprised at the small numbers of fish he's seen. This discouraged him at first, but he said, "I cut across to the opposite side and ran shallow down the flat, and voila! There they were, on a flat that hasn't held many fish at all the last couple of years."

Percy (803-535-6166) said reds are hanging out just above live oyster rakes at ebb tide, and that the schools are made up of fish of all sizes. He has been catching them on the Gulp! shrimp in molten color, dead-sticking the bait on a small circle hook with no weight or cork. Percy said anglers don't need to impart any action to the lure. "Put the bait in front of the fish, let it lay, and put the hook in them when they move off with it," he said.

Percy said the water is very muddy at the Fish America Reef, so he suggests fishing the General Gordon, the Beaufort 45, and the Hilton Head Reef, all of which are giving up lots of black sea bass, black drum and over-the-slot redfish. Percy said frozen shrimp and live mud minnows are working for all reef species except fiddler crabs, who are mainly interested in live fiddler crabs.

Percy said the reef fishing is a numbers game, with 50-plus fish days being common, but that anglers have to weed through their share of undersized fish, as well as oversized redfish, to find legal keepers.