SC’s ICW holds plenty of February reds

Guide Rob Beglin caught this nice winter redfish in the ICW near McClellanville. (Picture by 153 Charters)

Redfish are No. 1 February target

Every month can bring fantastic fishing in some areas along the coast of the Carolinas for some species. But it will be hard to argue with redfish being the No. 1 inshore target in February.

Redfish, aka spot-tail bass or puppy drum, will hammer baits and lures this month. And the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway between Georgetown and Charleston is a winter haven for these bronzed beasts.

According to the almanac, February is the coldest month. And according to Rob Beglin of Inshore Xtreme Fishing Charters out of Pawley’s Island, S.C., it is one of the best times  to chase reds.

“In January and February, reds are schooled up, and there is no bait around to speak of,” said Beglin (843-458-1920). “When you find a school, they will be hungry.”

Beglin spends most of his time fishing in the Cape Romain/Bulls Bay area. He loves those waters because of the huge bays and creeks, a saltwater wilderness few people understand how to navigate, which protects fish from seeing too many lures and hook-impelled baits. Yet during the winter, many fish flock to the ICW, where water conditions are more favorable.

“The water gets cold this time of year, and the (ICW) water seems to be a few degrees warmer throughout the day,” he said.

ICW reds stay on the move

The ICW is basically a ditch traveling north to south, but it has shallow flats on either side with oysters, docks and grass. According to Beglin, the redfish slide up on these shallow flats to feed on any available food. And they travel in large schools.

ICW reds don’t follow a typical, stationary pattern in winter. They will migrate up and down the waterway when conditions change or when any bait becomes available.

“With the water being cold, they will move around some, and when they are thick in one spot one day, they can be gone to a different flat up or down the waterway the next day,” he said.

Beglin prefers to fish on days when the low tide is during the middle of the day because the sun heats up the mud bottom and will raise the water temperature on these flats adjacent to the ICW. Even if only by a few degrees, a rise makes a difference.

Beglin said fish are especially spooky in February because of the size of the groups and the fear of dolphins.

“Dolphins migrate into our area and will eat redfish every chance they get. When we find a school, we always go into stealth mode with our approach and with our lures,” he said.

Beglin stays away from popping corks, spinnerbaits or anything that makes a commotion. He prefers Gulp! shrimp and jerk shad.

“We don’t use anything that will spook the fish, and the smaller, scented plastics are the best lures to use and will get bit when these fish are ready to eat,” he said.

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Jeff Burleson
About Jeff Burleson 1250 Articles
Jeff Burleson is a native of Lumberton, N.C., who lives in Myrtle Beach, S.C. He graduated from N.C. State University with a degree in fisheries and wildlife sciences and is a certified biologist and professional forester for Southern Palmetto Environmental Consulting.

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