Did you know that Hilton Head Island offers amazing tarpon fishing? If not, you are not alone. Palmetto Dunes lagoon system provides a superb tarpon fishery. Early in the year (starting in May) we have an excellent tarpon bite due to the fact that all the fish are still together from the cooler winter months. As it slowly warms up, the fish start to spread out and are more difficult to catch. The dog days of summer (August to September) are the best time for fishing in the Palmetto Dunes. During the late summer spawn, these fish will gather together in large schools which makes them easier to catch. The Tarpon caught in Hilton Head range from 20 - 40 pounds and put up an unbelievable fight. This fish can be taken on spinning or fly gear.
Hilton Head's black drum is one of the most underrated fish we target in Palmetto Dunes. The black drum is a fish that schools year-round, which makes them easier to catch in numbers. It doesn't matter if it is the dead of winter or the hottest part of summer, you can always find a school of black drum when the conditions are right. What makes this fish so different from other species on Hilton Head is its diet. The black drum will only bite on crab or shrimp... nothing else. This fish has earned a reputation among fly fishermen as a fierce fighter. We catch black drum by sight-casting year round and see fish from 5 to 40 pounds.
Blue Fish ( Blues )
Very little is known about the blue fish population in the lagoon system. Palmetto Lagoon Charters catch these bruisers year round with the average fish weighing 5 to 10 pounds. The biggest bluefish ever caught on Hilton Head Island weighed in at 20 pounds. These fish are at the top of the food chain and no other fish is safe when more than one blue fish is in the area. Captain Trent Malphrus has seen this fish attack a 4 pound speckled trout on his line, leaving behind only the trout's head! Not even a 20 pound red drum is safe when blue fish are hunting as a group
The flounder has to be one of the coolest fish we have in the Palmetto Dunes canal system. This is the fish we try to target when taking children out fishing. Kids love the way these fish look. On Hilton Head, you can catch flounder every month of the year. Fall is the best season to fish for this species, because this is when they spawn. Most flounder will weigh between 2 to 3 pounds with the largest fish weighing in at 11 pounds or more! Most of the bigger fish we catch are taken during the summer months. Flounder can be caught on spin or fly rod.
Red Drum ( Red Fish )
The redfish, also known as red drum, is the most popular fish we catch on Hilton Head Island. The restocking program evolved around this species of fish. We have stocked over six thousand red drum into the Palmetto Dunes lagoon system. What makes the red drum such an exciting fish to catch? Size! Redfish average anywhere from 1 to 40 pounds and can be caught all year round. Early spring is an excellent time to land a trophy fish on light tackle or a fly rod. In April, the bigger fish gather together for a fake spawn. Water temperature, air temperature and the amount of daylight in April makes the fish think its Fall, which is when the real red drum spawn occurs. September and October are the peak time to catch redfish on Hilton Head. You may even land Elvis, the biggest red drum Captain Trent Malphrus has ever seen. He estimates this huge redfish will weigh in at 60 pounds or more. Most of the fishing during the red drum spawn is sight-casting, but, in the summer months, fishermen generally blind-casting to find them.
Spotted Sea Trout
This is Captain Trent Malphrus' favorite fish to catch. The trout on Hilton Head can be caught all year long, but fishing in Palmetto Dunes is fast and furious in June and July. During the peak of the season, the speckled trout gather together to spawn and it is not uncommon to catch 20 to 30 fish in a four hour trip. Most of the fish caught are male, which tend to be smaller than the female fish. The female trout are really what we are fishing for and range from 6 to 12 pounds! In Palmetto Dunes, it is not uncommon to catch multiple speckled trout this size in a four hour trip. this fish can be taken on spinning or fly gear and prefer top water lures.
Striped Bass ( Striper/ Rockfish )
The hybrid striped bass, also known as a striper or rockfish, was originally stocked in the Palmetto Dunes canal system a few years ago to see how it would fare. Over the four years it has been stocked, close to five hundred hybrid stripers have been introduced into Hilton Head's waters. The striped bass is a very difficult fish to target and generally weigh between 2 to 8 pounds. Palmetto Lagoon Charters has caught these fish on both spin and fly rods.
*All fish illustrations courtesy of Diane Rome Peebles.