Whether your piscatorial pursuit involves rainbow trout, largemouth bass, flathead catfish or bull redfish, South Carolina’s state parks have you covered.
Fishing opportunities exist in 41 of South Carolina’s state parks, ranging from old mill ponds to major reservoirs to the surf and inlets at the coast, but five of them in particular are worth a much closer look.
Devils Fork State Park
On the shores of Lake Jocassee, this Upstate park offers anglers a unique fishing experience. Several boat landings in the park offer access to the lake, which produced the state- record smallmouth bass, spotted bass, redeye bass, rainbow trout and brown trout.
Keith Courtney of Blue Ridge Guide Service has been guiding on Jocassee out of the Devils Fork State Park landing since 1990, and he said June is one of the better months for catching quality rainbow trout.
“The average size rainbow trout in June is usually between three and four pounds, but anglers fishing at night this month have a great chance of catching rainbows in the 7- to 8-pound range,” said Courtney, who concentrates his efforts on the main lake rather than in small, tributary creeks.
Courtney (864-710-1376) said these fish feed nocturnally, and he uses flood lights to attract baitfish, which in turn attract rainbows. He then jigs for the fish with nightcrawlers, minnows or herring on light to medium-light tackle, using his depth finder to estimate the proper fishing depth.
Good spots to fish are within easy access of the boat landing at the park office; they include deep holes on the main lake near the dam, near the water intakes and in the deep water near the mouths of tributary rivers.
Poinsett State Park
This Midlands park, in Wedgefield southwest of Sumter, stands in stark contrast to Devils Fork. The fishing feature is a 10-acre mill pond that is home to bream, catfish and largemouth bass, allow of which readily bite live or artificial baits. Like a great majority of the state’s parks, it provides easy fishing for families with or without a boat.
Brooke Knotts of Manning fishes at Poinsett here with her daughter.
“It’s easy to drive right up to the pond, fish for a little while, then picnic right beside the pond,” Knotts said. “My daughter is five, so she’s old enough to enjoy fishing, but she doesn’t want to fish for hours. The banks are cleared of trees and brush, so the convenience of fishing here makes it easy to keep her interested without having to invest a whole day or overload her.”
Knotts and her daughter catch mostly bream close to the banks and around structure like fallen logs. They use nightcrawlers and crickets under corks and adjust the depth until they find the hot bite. They occasionally forego using a cork and fish on the bottom near the middle of the pond, which Knotts said produces catfish and bigger bream. They also cast small spinning lures for catch bream and bass and sometimes rent a john boat from the park office.
Myrtle Beach State Park
One of a handful of state parks along the coast, Myrtle Beach State Park offers access to saltwater fishing in one of the state’s most popular locations. Surf fishing is popular, and anglers catch numerous species, ranging from whiting to sharks and everything in between. A pier also affords anglers a chance at the big one. Anglers catch sheepshead while jigging the pilings with clams and fiddler crabs.
Darren Walters of Conway regularly fishes at the park, both from the surf and the pier.
“The fishing is good in the surf, and the beaches are less crowded here than other spots along the Grand Strand,” said Walters, who suggests catching bluefish, then using them for bait off the end of the pier for king mackerel.
“The kings bite good in June, and redfish and flounder are also active this month,” he said, “and the state park has the pier set up good for fishing, with benches, sinks, bait sales and bathrooms for anglers.”
Colleton State Park
This Lowcountry inland park is nestled on the banks of the Edisto River, offering anglers opportunities at catching catfish, striped and largemouth bass and a variety of bream.
With a small-boat landing on-site, anglers have access to one of the longest free-flowing blackwater rivers in the United States. The big draw for anglers here is the redbreast sunfish, a brightly-colored panfish that thrives in blackwater rivers and swamps.
Jesse Koch of Ridgeville said the redbreast fishing is outstanding in June.
“You can catch them on crickets and worms with bream poles. We just dip the bait in and let it sink to the cork along the edges of bushes and downed logs. We don’t sit in one spot too long. If the fish are there, they will bite right quick,” said Koch, who also likes to cast small artificials, including Mepps Black Fury spinners, Blakemore Road Runners and Johnson Beetle Spins on an ultralight outfit.
“It’s like bass fishing with light tackle. You’ll get hung up sometimes, but you have to fish tight to downed trees and any other brush laying in the water. The redbreasts hide all around that stuff and ambush insects and small fish, so they can’t pass up these small lures,” said Koch, who pays special attention to several small streams that feed the main river near the park.
“Dropping a cricket into this moving water, and letting the current move the cork along will result in some good bites, and tossing those small spinners in there gets plenty of action too,” he said.
Hunting Island State Park
This Lowcountry coastal park is one of the top state parks for anglers. Aside from surf fishing and pier fishing, thepark features a calm, saltwater lagoon that gives anglers opportunities to fish from shore or from small boats.
Sumter’s Dalton Reames fishes Hunting Island several times every June. He’s surf fished and fished from the pier, but his favorite fishing here is in the lagoon.
Reames uses the tide cycle to his advantage, launching his small boat in at the parking area on the banks of the lagoon, riding the tide out to midway through the lagoon, then fishing around the walking bridge, grass and downed trees. When he’s done, he can ride the tide back to the parking area. In between, he catches redfish, speckled trout, flounder and sheepshead.
Reames trolls for trout with pearl-colored paddletail grubs on 1/4-ounce lead head jigs. He casts live shrimp and mud minnows near downed trees and grass lines for redfish, spending extra time on deep bends in the lagoon, and he often gets out of his boat and walks the sandbars at low tide and drags mud minnows along the bottom for flounder. For sheepshead, he jigs fiddler crabs along the pilings of the walking bridge that spans the lagoon. He also spends a lot of time fishing at a big, half-submerged oak tree that is encrusted with barnacles. He catches a little of everything in this area.
While Reames prefers fishing on the rising tide, he said dead low tide creates some very narrow passageways in the lagoon, and these are hot spots because it concentrates fish in such small areas. If they’re hungry, they’ll bite live or cut bait readily.
Reames fishes several other state parks throughout South Carolina and feels they are one of the most-overlooked and under-utilized of fishing resources in the state. Some have their own stocked ponds, while other state parks are located on major reservoirs, rivers and beaches. Find a state park in the comprehensive list that follows, and plan a fishing trip today.