Kiawah Island Fishing: The Complete Guide for 2024

Apr 15, 2024 | 9 minute read
Reading Time: 9 minutes

Just a short drive from the bustling streets of Charleston, Kiawah Island emerges as real angler’s getaway. Fishing on Kiawah Island is a serene escape that promises some of the East Coast’s most sought-after species. A world away from city life, the island offers visitors a chance to connect with nature, be it by casting a line or soaking in the beautiful surroundings.

An aerial view of a beach in Kiawah Island, with the Atlantic Ocean crashing in from the right and a sparsely-populated landscape on the left at sunset

Kiawah Island is South Carolina’s shimmering gem. Its beaches, inlets, and one of the East Coast’s most renowned golf courses make it a haven for those eager for a break from the routine. The proximity to Charleston adds to its accessibility as a quick weekend break. But for any passionate angler, Kiawah’s real charm lies in its waters, where an authentic Lowcountry experience awaits.

As we delve deeper into this guide, we’ll unravel the mysteries of Kiawah Island, highlight the top species, and talk about local tips and tricks. Let’s embark on this adventure right away!

Top Kiawah Island Fish Species

The variety of fish species on Kiawah Island isn’t just vast, it’s also diverse. We’re talking a range of both fresh and saltwater creatures. Let’s dive deeper into some of the most iconic fish species of Kiawah, each with its unique flavor, setting, and challenge.

Spotted Seatrout 

A woman in sunglasses, standing on a fishing boat in the inshore waters near Kiawah Island, SC, and holding up a Spotted Seatrout vertically with one hand while holding a fishing rod in the other
Photo courtesy of Keen Eye Charters Inshore/Offshore

In the marshy shallows of Kiawah, near oyster beds and grassy stretches, Spotted Seatrout aren’t just another fish species. Also known as Speckled Trout, these fish offer anglers an exciting game, full of equal challenges and, of course, rewards. But don’t forget to keep a keen eye on size and bag limits – more on that later!

Locals use live shrimp or mullet, delicately placed under popping corks, along with soft plastic lures mimicking small bait fish to land Spotted Seatrout. In terms of local records, the island has seen Trout exceeding a remarkable 7 pounds. However, it’s not about the size here – even though it’s a dream for many seasoned anglers to break the record. Land a bucketful and head home with some tasty fish fillets!


A man in a blue shirt and baseball cap holding a Redfish aboard an inshore fishing boat in Kiawah Island on a cloudy day, with a boy looking towards the camera and another man sitting and fishing off the deck of the boat behind him
Photo courtesy of Marlin Dog Marine

The grand Lowcountry Redfish – locally cherished as the Spottail Bass – has left countless anglers spellbound. Reds are easily recognized by their characteristic dark spot on the tail. Talk to locals, and you might hear tales of Spottail Bass weighing over 15 pounds. Sounds inspiring, right?

Redfish are prime inshore targets in the marshes, particularly around submerged structures and oyster mounds. Kiawahans claim that cut bait can be irresistible to them, but soft plastics or live shrimp are just as enticing. This is especially true if you’re sight fishing. Whichever technique you end up using, keep in mind that local regulations set slot limits that everyone needs to follow. 


A man in a blue shirt and baseball cap standing on a fishing boat in the inshore waters near Kiawah Island, SC, holding a large Flounder by his waist on a bright day
Photo courtesy of Fishing Charleston 101

Flounder fishing on Kiawah Island is a must. These predators are masters of camouflage, often going unnoticed in the sandy bottoms near structures. However, with the right strategy in choosing your bait, you can entice the bite. Live minnows and small fish are often Flounder’s downfall, as these Flatfish lie in wait to ambush their prey.

Both Southern and Winter variants call Kiawah home. Stories of catches surpassing 5 pounds have been passed down from within the angling community. Again, it’s not size that matters when targeting Flounder. It’s the thrill of finding them, getting them to take your bait, and enjoying the reward. 

Largemouth Bass

A man in a baseball cap and sunglasses among the reeds of a freshwater fishing pond near Kiawah Island on a cloudy day, holding a large Largemouth Bass towards the camera
Photo courtesy of Captain Whit Edmonds

No freshwater fishing trip on Kiawah is complete without Largemouth Bass. Freshwater lakes and ponds across the island echo with legends of Largies, their aggressive strikes, and theatrical jumps. Some say that you can even land a Bass over 10 pounds, the local record.

However, records aren’t milestones but benchmarks for the next generation of anglers. If you’re a freshwater enthusiast, pack your choice of spinnerbaits, plastic worms, and crankbaits, tailored to the water’s temperament, and enjoy the hunt. 

Black Seabass

A teenager wearing a back-to-front baseball cap holding a Black Seabass in his right hand aboard a fishing boat with the boat's motor and the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean behind him on a clear day

Venture to Kiawah Island’s offshore reefs and wrecks, and you’ll find the mesmerizing Black Seabass. Their almost magical appearance, coupled with their habitat’s challenges, makes them a highly sought-after catch. 

Dropping jigs or cut bait near structures often leads to heart-stopping encounters, but you’re always welcome to try your own technique. When it comes to Black Seabass fishing on Kiawah, it’s all about the balance. You can find the occasional fish weighing over 5 pounds, but seasonal closures are often in place. 


Three men leaning on the deck of a fishing boat, struggling to hold a bloody Sailfish caught offshore from Kiawah Island
Photo courtesy of Keen Eye Charters Inshore/Offshore

Finally, let’s talk about the domain of Billfish, lying beneath the waves far off the island. Venture offshore, and you’ll find the elusive White Marlin, agile Swordfish, muscle-bound Blue Marlin, and graceful Sailfish

Tackling these large predators requires a balance of knowledge, precision, and the right tackle. Trolling is your weapon of choice, although some guides may offer kite fishing trips for Sailfish. Whichever technique it is, remember to always practice catch and release with Billfish. But don’t forget to snap a couple of pictures, especially if you break the 500-pound record for Blue Marlin!

How to Go Fishing on Kiawah Island

From the vast expanses of the deep ocean to the tranquil shores of inshore waters and winding rivers, fishing on Kiawah Island is pretty diverse. Now that you know which species to target in this Lowcountry heaven, it’s time to talk about the most productive types of fishing in the area.

Kiawah Island Inshore Fishing

The inshore waters of the island span around 10 miles off the coast. As you already know, they promise abundant catches, depending on the season. Bluefish, Trout, Flounder, Black Seabass, and Redfish, among others, are all on the Kiawah Island inshore fishing menu.

On your way to the chosen fishing spot, you can also come across bottlenose dolphins. That’s right. You don’t need to head to the bluewaters to enjoy these aquatic creatures! Plus, adventurous anglers can also try to reel in a couple of Sharks, including Bonnethead and Atlantic Sharpnose. 

Kiawah Island River Fishing

A shirtless man fishing from the bank of a vast river in South Carolina with the sun setting in the distance behind some clouds
Photo courtesy of Stono River Outfitters

The vast Kiawah River winds around the island, nurturing several saltwater fish species. You can spend a day navigating its channels, casting lines for Southern Flounder, Speckled Trout, Black Drum, and Redfish

The Kiawah River marshlands also present a unique challenge for fly fishing aficionados, particularly those targeting Redfish. Plus, don’t be surprised to see North American otters frolicking or diamondback terrapins paddling!

Kiawah Island Offshore Fishing

Venturing between 20–50 miles from Kiawah Island’s shores will lead you to some of the state’s prime sportfishing territories. South Carolina boasts numerous offshore artificial reefs teeming with a diverse array of fish. 

For those looking for some big game, the waters offer a treasure trove of Tuna, Sailfish, Mahi Mahi, Wahoo, Grouper, Snapper, Marlin, and many more. While the region welcomes anglers year-round, the period between April and December promises the highest chances of success for offshore anglers. As you sail these waters, you’re bound to witness more than just fish. Keep an eye out for majestic bottlenose dolphins, graceful whales, and gorgeous sea turtles.

Kiawah Island Pond and Creek Fishing

A view towards a pond on Kiawah Island with a bridge in the distance and a red sign in the foreground saying "Danger Alligators"

Kiawah Island is punctuated with serene ponds and creeks, too – each home to a delightful mix of freshwater and saltwater species. Depending on the season, you can come across Largemouth Bass, Tilapia, Grass Carp, and Bluegill. The Bass Pond Fishing Dock in the Vanderhorst community offers a perfect spot for a laid-back fishing session. 

While casting your line, be on the lookout for regal American alligators or yellow-bellied slider turtles. This represents the pinnacle of getting away into nature in the Palmetto State!

Kiawah Island Charter Fishing

A view across the water towards a fishing charter in the nearshore waters of the Atlantic Ocean near Kiawah Island on a clear day, with one person fishing and two looking on
Photo courtesy of Ceviche Charters

Booking a Kiawah Island fishing charter offers you more than just a trip. You’ll get a perfect blend of local expertise, convenience, and the promise of a tailored experience. There are a lot of seasoned captains and expert guides that cater to anglers of all ages and skill levels.

Beyond the thrill of the catch, charter fishing on Kiawah Island is convenient. Most trips come equipped with fishing gear, bait, safety equipment, and even the necessary licenses. This is especially invaluable for visitors who don’t want to carry bulky gear or navigate the intricacies of local fishing regulations. 

Kiawah Island Fishing Spots

So, where can you go fishing on Kiawah Island? Freshwater lovers will enjoy the serene Lancaster and Janesville Reservoirs, and the picturesque state lakes nestled within the Draper Wildlife Management Area. Likewise, Lake Wylie and Fishing Creek Reservoir stand as testaments to freshwater bounty. 

A view across the calm waters of a river on Kiawah Island on a clear day, with watergrass visible on either side and some trees in the distance

Pier and surf fishing on Kiawah Island are also pretty popular. For those with saltwater in their veins, casting a line from the state’s numerous beaches and iconic piers, including the Broad River, Breach Inlet, and Surfside Piers, can be deeply rewarding. But here’s a list of spots that local anglers recommend: 

  • Kiawah River. A venture into the serene shallows of the Kiawah River is like opening a treasure chest. The chief catches here are Spotted Seatrout and Redfish. But dive a bit deeper and you’ll encounter Southern and Winter Flounder, Black Drum, Whiting, Tarpon, and a couple of Shark species. 
  • Kiawah Reef. While the shallows are indeed mesmerizing, the deeper marine realms are where the real magic unfolds. Kiawah Reef is the crown jewel. The depth you choose determines your potential catches, ranging from Black Seabass and Spadefish to Cobia, Snapper, Grouper, and Amberjack. Venture farther, and you might cross paths with pelagic travelers, such as King Mackerel and Mahi Mahi.
  • Gulf Stream. To describe deep sea fishing from Kiawah Island as “enticing” would be an understatement. Majestic Billfish, including Blue Marlin, White Marlin, Sailfish, and the nocturnal Swordfish await. Plus, you can always explore the waters 40–70 miles off the coast and add Tuna and big Sharks to the mix.
  • Beaches. For those who prefer solid ground beneath their feet, Kiawah’s beaches provide great opportunities. You can always squeeze a quick surf fishing session for Redfish and Bluefish while the family enjoys the beach. 
  • Ponds. Kiawah’s golf courses offer solace with their interspersed ponds. They house healthy populations of Largemouth Bass and Bluegill. However, many ponds are also home to alligators. Make sure to fish only from designated areas with proper docks.

While much of Kiawah Island remains privately held, Folly Beach, merely a nautical mile up the coast, is a good launch pad for many Kiawah Island fishing charters. The marina at Kiawah primarily serves resort members. However, Folly Beach, with its strategic location, grants anglers easy passage to Kiawah’s fishing grounds. 

Kiawah Island Fishing Seasons

A view across a boat landing towards a river on Kiawah Island at sunset, with the sun setting in the distance creating a silhouette of the trees and signs in the foreground

As the months flow, so do the myriad of species that call these waters home. The Kiawah River bursts with life when winter melts into spring. Around the same time, Spottail Bass usually increase in numbers, while the beaches hum with Bluefish and Flounder activity. The Gulf Stream is usually chilly in spring, although you may catch a hint of the White Marlin migration. 

Summer transforms the island into an angler’s paradise. The Gulf Stream, now in its prime, becomes the playground of Blue Marlin, Sailfish, and even Swordfish. Closer to shore, the reefs and wrecks become active with Black Seabass, Spadefish, and Amberjack waiting for attention. Surf fishing hits its peak during these warm months, with Redfish and big Trout making regular appearances.

Fall signals a transition in Kiawah’s waters. While Billfish start their southward journey, inshore anglers are busy with Tarpon and Black Drum. The Kiawah Reef becomes especially lively, as King Mackerel and Mahi Mahi gather round. As temperatures drop, the waters usually quieten. 

Kiawah Island Fishing Rules and Regulations

An infographic featuring the flag of South Carolina along with text that says "Kiawah Island Fishing Regulations What You Need to Know" against a dark blue background with a vector of a boat and the FishingBooker logo

Navigating the targets, techniques, and spots on Kiawah Island is only one part of the equation. You also need to get to know South Carolina’s fishing rules and regulations. The starting point of your Kiawah adventure is getting a valid South Carolina license if you’re 16 or older. 

The good news? The process is seamless. Simply visit the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources Online Customer Service Portal, and with a few clicks, you can obtain all the necessary permits and licenses.

Your choice of location also dictates which license you should get. If you’re considering an adventure aboard a registered South Carolina charter, the open waves welcome you license-free. However, surf and freshwater anglers still need to get their permits. Plus, many of the island’s ponds are located within the Vanderhorst Plantation, open mainly to those renting there.

Fishing on Kiawah Island: Reels, Ripples, and Reverie

A view from the water across a beach towards three beachfront houses on Kiawah Island on a clear day with blue skies

The beauty of Kiawah is in its diversity. It’s the excitement of the unknown and the peace that only nature can offer. That’s what fishing on Kiawah Island is all about. This is the perfect place to enjoy powerful Redfish, leaping Sailfish, and the tranquility of local ponds. It’s an experience that you need to see yourself to truly understand. Tight lines!

Have you ever been fishing on Kiawah Island? What’s your favorite fish species to target in saltwater and in freshwater? Let’s talk in the comments below!

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Lisa traded the lecture hall for the vast expanse of the world's waters, transforming her love of teaching into an insatiable passion for angling and storytelling. She would sail through oceans, lakes, and rivers, reeling in the world’s fish stories one catch at a time.

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