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The Ol’ Fishing Hole: Hilton Head Is More Than Just a Way to Get to the Atlantic

Bob Gillespie Bob Gillespie
Bob is a former sports writer at Columbia’s The State newspaper. He enjoys golf at South Carolina’s 350-plus courses, and after a round, sampling craft beers from the Palmetto State’s breweries.
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Adam Devine came to Hilton Head Island from Florida around 2010 for the express purpose of becoming first assistant golf professional at Sea Pines Resort. Little did he know he would also find an outlet there for his other passion: fishing, especially fresh- and brackish-water sites.

"Flats fishing (on Hilton Head's numerous lagoons throughout Sea Pines, Palmetto Dunes and other plantation resorts) is one of the best on the East Coast," he says. Press him for details, and Devine will tell you one of his favorite spots: "Right outside the 17th green" at Harbour Town Golf Links, he says.

Ask for more, though, and Devine, like many avid anglers, is loath to give up his "hot spots" around the barrier island. "I'm good friends with a guy who leads fishing charters, and he won't tell me his hot spots," he says, "because that's what he makes his living on."

So what to do if you're visiting Hilton Head and feel the urge to drown a few worms (or lures)?

First of all, you can call Devine's buddy: Capt. John Werner of Live Oac Outdoor Adventure Co. Turns out he's freer with information than Devine makes it sound.

"We've got freshwater ponds with largemouth bass," Werner says. "We've got a ton of lagoons, including the Lawton Canal, Sea Pines and Palmetto Dunes, with redfish, bull reds and even small tarpons.

"And there are a lot of marsh areas, not easily accessible to visitors, where you get eight feet of water. Pinckney Island has a county pier and you can fish there, even catch a shark in summer (there are 16 different shark breeds in these waters, he says). Off the beach, you can catch whiting, stingrays, even bull reds in the fall."

Because Hilton Head is on an estuary, "we're talking about 25-30 species of fish, depending on the time of year," Werner says. "In the sounds, you can get Spanish and King Mackerel."

Werner has lived more than two decades on Hilton Head, and - he says this is not just to drum up business - "the best way to target a type of fish is to go with a charter. You can enjoy the backcountry, go 30 miles inland on the marshes and be in the middle of nowhere."

If by now you're ready to sign up, give the folks at Live Oac a call at 843.384.1414, or call Werner at 843.683.2811. And yes, they do offshore charters, too.

For the do-it-myself fisherman, here's a list of favorite spots on and around Hilton Head. All you need is fishing gear, a SC state license (ages 16 and older) and permission from plantation management/security, where applicable.

Surrounded by tidal rivers and creeks, Beaufort is a favorite destination for fly fishing. Photo courtesy of Bay Street Outfitters.

In the Plantations:

To fish in Sea Pines, get a permit from the security office (you must be a resident or guest).

Shipyard Plantation has no restrictions for residents or guests.

In Palmetto Dunes, only owners and guests may fish from lagoon banks inside the property. For a guided charter in Palmetto Dunes' 11-mile lagoon system, call 843.301.4634 or visit.

Charles C. Haigh Jr. Fishing Pier:
Operated by Beaufort Country Public Works and located on McKay Creek and the Intracoastal Waterway (SC Highway 278 at Pinckney Island), this pier is open year-round for saltwater fishing. Parking is available; no fee to fish. Call 843.846.3910 or visit.

Daufuskie Island Dock and Float:
Daufuskie Island is only accessible by boat, and you can book a cruise from nearby Shelter Cove Marina. Operated by Beaufort County Public Works, Daufuskie Island Dock and Float and is located near New River on the Intracoastal Waterway. Parking, restrooms are available; no fee to fish.

Jarvis Creek Park:
Located off William Hilton Parkway, the park has an 11-acre freshwater lake stocked with bass and bluegill, with fishing from the bank or the floating pier (catch and release is enforced). 100 Jarvis Park Road, Hilton Head. 

May River:
Located just across the bridge to Bluffton and the May River, fishing is available from the many docks along the shore. Access permission is required. For excursions, call 843.304.2878 or visit.

Bob Gillespie
Bob is a former sports writer at Columbia’s The State newspaper. He enjoys golf at South Carolina’s 350-plus courses, and after a round, sampling craft beers from the Palmetto State’s breweries.