Top tips for catching lowcountry sheepshead

Darcy Hill catches plenty of fall sheepshead on oyster and clam meat around Charleston, S.C., partly because fiddler crabs get harder to find, and partly because they’re productive baits.

Piers and pilings are home base for striped bandits

September brings cooler weather to South Carolina’s Lowcountry, and even before we feel it in the air, the fish feel it as the water temperature drops. The cooling effect heats up sheepshead fishing in the Charleston area, especially around wooden cover.

Darcy Hill, a pro staffer for Kast King, said any of the piers and bridges in the area will produce, but her favorites are the Isle of Palms Pier and the Mount Pleasant Pier. She’ll use fiddler crabs for bait if she can find them, but she also begins primarily using oyster meat and clam meat.

“Fiddlers usually get tougher to find this time of year, so I think the sheepshead are a little more reluctant to bite them,” she said. “The meat from oysters and clams are good baits, and they last longer if you make sure to pass your hook through the tough membrane that connects the meat to the shell.”

Using a Carolina rig with a ¾-ounce weight and a 30-pound monofilament leader tied to her 30-pound braided main line spooled on a Kast King baitcasting reel, Hill drops her bait down alongside the pier pilings, trying to keep it as close to them as possible.

“I like a small baitcaster because it’s easy to just push the button to let line out,” she said. “It’s just less hassle when all you’re wanting to do is drop your bait straight down.”

Hill drops her bait all the way to the bottom next to a piling and lets it sit for a minute or so. If she doesn’t get a bite, she’ll reel it up 6 inches and let it sit for a minute. If she still hasn’t gotten a bite, she reels in another 6 inches — and on and on until she either gets a bite or decides to move on to a different piling.

One of Hill’s biggest recommendations for anglers fishing for these fish involves the hook.

“I have far more luck if I’m using the right hook, which is a No. 1 Owner SSW,” said Hill, who prefers to fish from two hours before low tide until the tide starts coming back in.

Whenever she first starts fishing a spot, Hill knocks some barnacles off the structure, then fishes right in the area those barnacles fall. She also said she prefers to fish when the barometric pressure is dropping, and when there is a slight east wind.

About Brian Cope 2800 Articles
Brian Cope is the editor of Carolina Sportsman. He has won numerous awards for his writing, photography, and videography. He is a retired Air Force combat communications technician, and has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina. You can reach him at

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