It’s Almost Tarpon Time in South Carolina

By Richie Ferndon

Every year, tarpon embark on an annual migration along the eastern coast of the United States, and the Gulf of Mexico. These gamefish, offer an unmatched battle, creating unforgettable memories for anglers of all skill levels. In South Carolina, the tarpon fishing season typically begins in June, peaking in July and August. It is influenced by the winter and spring conditions in the Florida Keys, where these fish reside during the cooler months. A warmer-than-usual winter in Florida can lead to an earlier start to the season in South Carolina, while a colder-than-normal winter can delay their arrival.

The tarpon migration is mainly driven by water temperature and the pursuit of prey. Tarpons thrive in specific water temperature ranges, prompting their northward movement as they follow bait up the coast. Additionally, tarpon spawn offshore, typically from spring through summer, and the larvae follow currents to inshore estuaries, creeks, and rivers where they can mature. Throughout their migration, tarpon relentlessly chase schools of mullet and other baitfish to satisfy their ravenous appetites and maintain their energy levels.

It should also be noted that tarpon see every boat, hook, bait, lure, and fly while making their journey north. By the time they make it to South Carolina, they can be extremely wary of human presence. If tarpon can be elusive in the Florida Keys, imagine what they’re like when they finally reach South Carolina. This is one reason that catching a South Carolina tarpon is such a notable acheivment.

The coastal region of South Carolina has become a destination for tarpon over the years. The coast of South Carolina provides a habitat that can be rich with baitfish, moderate water temperatures, and protection from predators. Consequently, tarpon can be found in great numbers along the shores of South Carolina, awaiting anglers’ offerings throughout the entire season.

Based on the moderate winter experienced in Florida through 2023/2024, anglers in South Carolina can anticipate the arrival of tarpon as early as June, with the potential for an extended season lasting until October, depending on the onset of winter conditions in the region.

Capt. RC was born and raised in coastal South Carolina and is owner of Harvest Moon Fishing Charters. His grandmother taught him how to fish at the age of 2, and now he enjoys teaching others.