All photos courtesy of Fuzzy Davis
Captain Fuzzy Davis, owner and operator of Silva Dolla Fishing Charters, is a local Lowcountry legend as well as a nationally-acclaimed fishing guide. With 40+ years of experience, he’s the guy you want to know when it comes to getting the inside line—fishing line, that is—on late fall and winter fishing in our area. Interestingly enough, up until 25 years ago, Fuzzy shared that most folks in the Lowcountry put their boats up in the winter as local guides weren’t aware that there were any viable fisheries in the cooler months. That all changed on a cold January day when a friend of Fuzzy’s discovered a large school of redfish in two feet of water. Prior to that time, local guides believed that redfish moved to deeper waters during the winter months. In fact, just the opposite occurs. When temperatures drop, redfish slow down, which is why they head to shallower waters…to avoid becoming a snack for dolphins!
Lucky for the fishermen among us, clearer wintertime waters make it easy to spot (and catch) redfish. Whether you’re a Lowcountry local or a visitor, a fishing expedition is the perfect family-friendly activity to enjoy on Hilton Head Island during the off-season. Read on to discover Fuzzy’s top tips for hauling in a catch this winter!
WINTER FISHING IN THE LOWCOUNTRY
UG: Where is the best place to fish inshore? What can you find there?
FD: “In late fall through early winter, speckled trout fishing starts to slow down but fishing for redfish is good all winter. Spin and fly fishing is good in December, January, and February. Sheepshead is another fish that guides and local anglers target in the winter. Sheepshead are found around dock pilings and shallow near-shore reefs, and we fish for them with fiddler crabs. These are one of the best fish to eat. My favorite way to prepare them is blackened!”
What are the best conditions for targeting a redfish?
“It’s kind of a wind-dependent fishery, and it’s a whole different fishery in winter. Calm days are great. And we only fish at low tide—that’s different from the rest of the year. The fish are schooled up in shallow water, so we usually fish the last of the outgoing tide and the first of the incoming tide, and then it’s about over.”
What about near shore fishing?
“In December and January when you get out two to three miles, there are often big flocks of seabirds and it is common to find “Bull Reds”—reds that are from 20 to 30 pounds—feeding under the birds. These adult reds are great on light spinning rods and all reds this size are to be released. Shallow near shore reefs are also great areas to target Bull Reds and sheepshead.”
And how about offshore winter fishing in the Lowcountry?
“Wrecks that are 10-15 miles offshore are target spots, and we primarily find Black sea bass in winter time. If you go way offshore in the 30-40 mile range you can find snapper, grouper, Black sea bass, and vermillion snapper. All of these are fish you can eat that are found in 90-150 feet of water.”
What kind of conditions make for an ideal winter fishing day?
“The fishing is really good in the wintertime if you have the right conditions. Most of our fishing is wind dependent. You need to be ready to go on the light wind days! Sun is good also. The brighter the day, the easier it is to sight cast for reds in the shallows.”
How far in advance should a guided Hilton Head fishing trip be booked during the winter?
“In the winter, from December through February, if you can give us a week-and-a-half to two weeks notice, that’s fine. It’s good to call way ahead so we can look at the tides, since the inshore fishing is so tide dependent. That way, if the wind blows, at least you’re right on the tide.”
Do clients need to provide their own equipment and bait?
“All guides have all of the tackle that you will need. You need to contact the captain and ask if they accommodate fly anglers. Captains that do fly fish usually will provide rods and the proper flys. In winter we use a variety of streamers and crab pattern flys. Popular colors are brown and gold, white and chartreuse. Also, all guides have a commercial fishing license that covers all of the passengers.”
How many people can you take out on a guided trip?
“For inshore fishing, most boats fit three to five people depending on the size of boat. Offshore, boats can take up to six.”
What happens to the fish that are caught?
“There are a number of restaurants that will prepare fish that are cleaned by a local fishing guide. It is best to call the restaurant ahead just to okay everything. Some of the most popular restaurants that do this are the Skull Creek Boathouse, Skull Creek Dockside, and Hudson’s which are all located on the water on the north end of Hilton Head. All of these restaurants will prepare your fish for a modest price.”
In case you were wondering, Fuzzy says that the success rate for winter fishing is pretty high. In fact, Fuzzy and his son, Drew, who is also an experienced fishing guide, caught a fish during our phone interview! If we’ve captured your attention hook, line and sinker, be sure to contact Fuzzy or Drew to schedule an outing today. Contact Fuzzy at fuzzydavis.com and get in touch with Drew at outofthebluefishingcharters.com.
Local Tip: Fuzzy also hosts a daily fishing radio show on 107.9. Be sure to tune in as soon as you’re in the area to stay up-to-date on local conditions leading up to your expedition!
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