Bonnetheads thick along Charleston coast

In the dog days of summer, Capt. Rick Hiott knows he can always count on the sharks – bonnethead sharks, to be exact.Bonnetheads, which are smallish members of the hammerhead family, have been particularly active of late in the Charleston area, and should continue to be so until the water begins to cool.

“We have world record-size bonnetheads here in Charleston,” said Hiott, of Hiott’s Inshore Fishing Charters (843-412-6776,

Indeed, the 23-pound, 11-ounce world record was caught here, and the challenging of bonnethead records in a variety of divisions has become an annual pursuit for a growing number of anglers in the area. Fellow guide J.R. Waits of Charleston reports that six of his clients landed and released potential world records last week, including a 25-pound catch that could rank as the new all-tackle standard.

Hiott, who does the bulk of his fishing around the Charleston jetties this time of year, often catches the bonnetheads while fishing for red drum, although he makes plenty of trips that target the sharks only.

“The best thing is blue crab – half of a blue crab,” Hiott said. “But they’ll also hit cut mullet and cut menhaden.”

Although plenty of local guides catch bonnetheads in shallow water on flats boats, Hiott typically anchors up on the foot of the jetty rocks, where the water may be 12 to 30 feet deep. Twenty-pound tackle is the norm, although he’ll have 5 feet of 80-pound wire coming off the swivel on a Carolina rig. His weight will vary from 4 to 8 ounces, depending on the current.

“They’re a handful on 20-pound line,” Hiott said.

Bonnetheads, which Hiott says are often mistaken for “baby hammerheads” by novice anglers, are common sharks with a unique shovel- or bonnet-shaped rounded head with eyes at the edge of the “bonnet.” Abundant off the Florida and Gulf of Mexico coasts in fall, winter and spring, these ever-moving sharks are plentiful in summer in the Carolinas, and Charleston is a particularly productive hotspot.

Bonnetheads typically average 10 to 15 pounds, and some trips may result in anglers landing 20 or more of the fish in a single day.

“The anglers who target sharks are tickled to death by this local fishery,” Hiott said.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply