September is a month of transition in Charleston. Although the very hot, humid days of summer will continue, cooler mornings and shorter days will start to replace the 90-plus degree days by the end of the month. As a result, fishing will undergo several changes.
This will be the last month to target all the summer migrating species of fish that come north in the summer and move south for the winter. As the first cool fronts of the year occur, the water will begin to cool. Warm-water fish, such as Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, jacks, tarpon and sharks, will be preparing to head south for the winter. This may seem early, but anglers must remember that these fish don’t like water temperatures much below 80 degrees. One thing is for sure, they need to eat plenty to store up energy for the long journey down the coast. These fish may be found near the inlets and right off the beaches up and down our coastline. When we get an approaching front, the fish will be very aggressive in feeding, often on the surface. You might see birds working above a school of Spanish mackerel as they move out of the harbor or down the beach. If the larger mullet are moving south, you could see tarpon or sharks skyrocketing out of the water chasing after them. This will be the last – and often the best – chance of the summer to catch one of these migrating species.
For inshore species, the best fishing of the year will begin in September. Resident fish, such as redfish, sea trout and flounder, are also responding to this seasonal transition. The inshore water temperature will begin dropping with the shorter days and cooler mornings. The summer months will have provided mature shrimp and mullet, which are the perfect size for a hardy meal. Because some of the bait will not be around much longer, local fish will be feeding more often and for longer stretches of the day. The early morning top-water bite will be in full swing. Working with favorite bait, along the grassy edges or current rips early in the morning, will provide some explosive strikes. Because there are so many shrimp in the water, both fish and anglers will be able to take advantage of their cravings for shrimp. A DOA shrimp under a cork is hard to beat this time of year. By allowing the cork to drift along the grass or over oyster bars, anglers will be able to catch almost any of the inshore species. Redfish will still be feeding on crabs in the grass this month, providing an opportunity to catch them. A DOA shrimp, crab imitation or fly may be used in order to take advantage of these tailing tides to catch trophy reds in the grass. The middle and end of the month should offer some excellent tailing tides in the morning hours. These are some of the best tailing tides of the year.
A great way to spend the day on the water is to book one of the area’s great guides. Having fished in Charleston for almost 21 years, I am extremely knowledgeable and experienced in this area. As owner and operator of Shore Thang Charters, I would love to share my expertise with you on the water.
Capt. Mark Phelps
Shore Thang Charters