McClellanville, S.C., is a winter redfish hot spot

Redfish school during winter in the waters around McClellanville, S.C., offering anglers plenty of great fishing opportunities.

Shallow reds rule in McClellanville’s vast backwater areas

Winter has set in, and many anglers have retired their boats until spring. But along the South Carolina coastline, fishing opportunities are far from over. The shallows make the McClellanville area a redfish hot spot.  

Anglers know where the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge is and will head to this relatively desolate area to take the wide-open spaces. One is Matt Burke of Skinny Water Guide Service. He spends as much time in the area midway between Georgetown and Charleston, chasing redfish in super-shallow water.

“Redfish congregate in schools over the winter in shallow water about as skinny as they can get it,” said Burke (843-340-6705). “They choose shallow water for thermal warmth and to avoid predators.”

Cape Romain and Bulls Bay offer a wealth of habitat in the super skinny category. The scattered islands and shallow marsh is pristine and a perfect situation for harboring a wintering population of redfish. They congregate in groups in shallow flats back in the bays and along the shallow margins along the ICW.

Look for areas heated by the sun

Redfish travel in groups from 15 to 100. Burke doesn’t think the size of the school is as important as its level of activity.

“The size of the school really doesn’t matter. I prefer active fish. I like to see some fish movement of some sort. It can be the fish pushing around or even just with bait flipping,” he said. 

“I look for mid-day low tides between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. The exposed mud will heat up with the sun that warms up the water as it rises. When the water warms up, the fish are a little happier.” 

Burke approaches a school carefully and makes deliberate casts.

“I prefer to cast nearly weightless flies in the winter to have the lightest presentation as possible,” he said. He prefers No. 4 flies that could be a small shrimp, minnow or crab. It’s the gentle presentation that will get a red’s attention. He also uses spinning tackle and small scented soft plastics on a light jighead.

Apart from duck hunters and some transient traffic along the ICW, most saltwater estuaries are void of traffic due to the chilly conditions. But for anglers looking to have a little wintertime fun, McClellanville is a redfish hot spot. It can be epic and well worth the price of admission.

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Jeff Burleson
About Jeff Burleson 1410 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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