Carolina coastal fishing report: spadefish are hot!

Edisto Watersports and Tackle put this angler on a nice spadefish this week.

Spadefish are thick on nearshore reefs

Anglers have been anticipating the spadefish bite for several weeks, and last week, reports finally started coming in. And the reports are that the spadefish have arrived along many of the nearshore reefs and wrecks off the Carolina coastlines. Some anglers reported coming up empty one day, then limiting out the very next day in the same spot.

Spadefish often won’t bite a bait fished on the bottom, but they will follow other hooked fish to the surface. They are curious fish, and anglers say they often simply appear in the water all around the boat while anglers are reeling in black sea bass, grouper, and other bottom fish. It’s also common to lure them to the top of the water column by lowering, then slowly raising, whole cannonball jellyfish. Once in sight, anglers can entice them into biting with small pieces of shrimp or cut pieces of jellyfish.

Proper anchoring is key

Capt. Ben Powers of Reel Time Charters out of Charleston said locating spadefish is much easier if you anchor over the most attractive piece of structure on the reef. He avoids the smaller pieces of structure, but will anchor down over the biggest continuous chunk of either live bottom or artificial structure on the reef. He said that’s where the spadefish usually are.

“Early in the season,” said Powers, “using jellyballs isn’t as critical. Later in the summer, you’ll need them to bring the spadefish up. But right now, as long as you are catching fish on the bottom, the spadefish will follow those fish to the surface. Then they’ll hang around the boat.”

Sometimes the spadefish will bite a piece of shrimp or jellyfish as soon as you cast it to them. Other times, they want to look at it for longer than it will naturally sit in their view. That’s when Powers said anglers should put a cork into play.

“Sometimes they are too far away from the boat to jig the bait in their face. So when you cast to them, they only see it for a few seconds before the bait sinks or the current moves it away from them. Using a cork with a short leader allows you to dangle the bait right in their face. They might not take it right away, but the longer they see it, the more likely they are to hit it,” he said.

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About Brian Cope 1922 Articles
Brian Cope is the editor of 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