One of South Carolina’s hottest-biting February fish is typically referred to as “bait” the rest of the year. It’s time for the shad run, which gives anglers tired of waiting for warm weather an excuse to get on the water for the first time of the year.
These fish are making their run upriver to spawn, and they’re easy pickings for anglers with light tackle, a handful of jigs, and anything from a jacket to a snowsuit, depending on the weather.
Guide Rob Bennett of Lowcountry Inshore Charters (843-367-3777) spends most of the year fishing the inshore and offshore waters around Bohicket Creek off the North Edisto River below Charleston, but in February, he spends some time on the water in two Lowcountry rivers that are brimming with shad for a short period of time.
“It doesn’t last long, but it can be some of the hottest fishing you’ll ever experience, and on light tackle; these fish feel as strong as any fish you’ll encounter anywhere,” Bennett said.
The beginning of February usually sees the first big influx of shad into the tailrace below Lake Moultrie’s Pinopolis Dam on the Cooper River, and in the Rediversion Canal. While 90 percent of these early fish are males, Bennett said the female roe shad aren’t far behind — and they’re all plenty of fun to catch.
“Arrowhead Landing on the Rediversion Canal is one spot to go, and the landing across from Gilligan’s Restaurant in Moncks Corner on the Tailrace Canal is the other,” he said.
Bennett said anglers should expect to see a lot of boats, so many boats, in fact, that some anglers might shy away from launching their own. But he said that, by and large, anglers here are courteous and welcoming, and as long as you’re not casting over someone else’s lines or boat, you’re in for a nice day of fishing.
Inch-long chartreuse jigs on 1/8-ounce jigheads are deadly lures; Bennett said it’s important to let your lure get close to the bottom, then slowly work it back to the boat. And if you’re not getting bit, it’s probably because you’re not reeling slowly enough. These fish, he said, are usually within a foot of the bottom.
“You don’t need to get on the water at the crack of dawn for shad fishing. Many people call these 9-to-5 fish, because they like to bite when the sun is up,” he said.