October holds plenty of promise for anglers in the Carolinas

fall fishing
Catch sheepshead by fishing vertically around inshore structure like piers and bridge pilings, or along jetty rocks at the mouth of inlets. (Photo by Brian Cope)

Fall fishing really arrives in the Carolinas this month

Saltwater fishing in the Carolinas takes a turn for the better this month. As good as it was this past summer, it will get even better throughout this month, and that is true for a variety of species. This is one of the best months — if not the very best — to catch multiple species on the same outing. It’s the fall fishing month that many anglers look forward to all year.

The topwater bite for speckled trout gets many inshore anglers on the water at first light. It’s a magical time for casting Whopper Ploppers and Super Spook Jr.’s around oyster mounds, grass lines and creek mouths. Artificial shrimp under popping corks will work wonders in the same kinds of areas.

Redfish are available in huge numbers, and that goes for puppy drum and bull reds. The slot fish are feeding heavily inshore. The cooling water signals to them that it’s time to fatten up and puts them in a feeding mood that can fill a limit quickly. Bull reds are staged up around jetties and nearshore reefs where they are gorging, getting ready to head offshore for several months. These aren’t solo stragglers. They’re packed into big schools, and chunks of cut mullet, whole blue crabs, and live baitfish can catch one after the other.

Flounder, though keeper season in North Carolina is over, can still be kept in South Carolina waters. Whether you’re catching and releasing them or putting a limit on ice, these fish are as willing to bite as ever. Live baits like finger mullet slowing dragged across the bottom is about as good as it gets. 

Tarpon and panfish

Tarpon are still here for the taking; this will probably be the last month to find them in our waters for a while. They’ll bite anything from small D.O.A shrimp to big topwater plugs. Live mullet, pinfish and menhaden are also excellent baits. Drifting live bait is a productive method; some anglers fish with whole blue crabs on one side of the boat and live mullet or menhaden on the other.

Sheepshead are biting inshore and around nearshore and offshore reefs. Fiddler crabs, shrimp and clam meat dangled around inshore pier pilings and rock walls can catch big numbers this month. Those same baits dropped beside vertical structures on artificial reefs and live bottom are just as productive for anglers venturing away from shore.

October is a big time for a relatively small fish for pier and boat anglers alike. The fall spot run attracts many anglers. Spots make a run to the south this time of year, swinging past all the Carolinas’ piers, where anglers catch them in waves, often two at a time. Cut shrimp, clams and squid are all good baits, but bloodworms are the most popular. Spots will also frequent estuaries like Murrells Inlet, one of the top destinations in the Carolinas for boaters targeting them.

Mack attack

Piers also offer excellent king mackerel fall fishing. These fish require some specialized tackle and tactics, but a diehard king fisherman won’t miss a chance to target them in the fall. Live bluefish are the preferred baits, but anglers will use a variety of live baitfish including pinfish, mullet and menhaden.

Anglers on the planks also catch plenty of sheepshead, redfish, flounder, and whiting this time of year.

King mackerel aren’t just reserved for pier fishermen this month. Trolling offshore, anglers in boats also catch their share of these water rockets. Spanish mackerel are also on the menu, for pier and boat anglers alike.

Sharks also offer some big angling opportunities. The Carolinas have numerous species of sharks, in a variety of sizes that can keep fishermen entertained for a full day. Following shrimp boats at a distance and casting baits into their travel routes can get you hooked up quickly. Anchoring down in waters with 3 miles of the beaches can be just as productive, especially for anglers who cast out multiple rods and chum the waters

October also offers anglers a nice reprieve from the dog days of summer. The weather is much more tolerable, and the fishing is as good as it gets. Before long, many Carolina anglers will be spending the bulk of their time between hunting the woods and keeping warm by the fireplace. Right now, it’s time to fish.

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 brianc@carolinasportsman.com.

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