From The Blog

Tips for Fishing and Crabbing on Kiawah

With its multitude of lakes, ponds and waterways, and thriving natural habitat, Kiawah Island is home to some of the best fishing and crabbing locations in the Lowcountry. Catching a fish isn’t as simple as dropping a line in the water though. You have to be in the right place at the right time with the right equipment. Digest spoke with KICA Lakes Department Supervisor Matt Hill for his expert advice on fishing and crabbing around Kiawah.

Where should you go?
According to Matt, Bass Pond has been a hot spot in the past with anglers catching large quantities of flounder. Other good ponds are Canvasback, Egret, Pintail and Beachwalker. Any pond with a dock access will offer a good chance to catch fish.

Crabbing can be done on the creek side at any of these locations. This is important because crabbing in the actual pond can attract alligators. This can desensitize them to humans, and they even begin to relate humans to a potential food source (chicken as crab bait). Naturally this can be dangerous. It can also lead to the destruction of the alligator. Crabbing on the creek sides of drainage structures is recommended. These sites seem to have a higher abundance of crabs than the ponds.

What’s the best time of year?
The best time of year for fishing in Kiawah’s ponds is spring through fall. Fish are more likely to bite when the water is above 60 degrees. Flounder, trout and redfish are the most popular species on the island and in warmer months can be caught on a number of artificial baits as well as live bait like mud minnows, shrimp and mullet. Crabs are much more plentiful and easier to catch in warmer months as well.

Below 60 degrees, fish metabolisms slow rapidly and fishing becomes much more challenging. With patience and slowing down fishing methods, fish can be caught in winter months.

What’s the best time of day/tide level?
Time of day is not nearly as important as the tide because saltwater fish love moving water. A rising tide nearing high tide is best for fishing. The water is rushing into the ponds over the weir structures, flushing in all types of baitfish and shrimp. This creates a current that traps the baitfish. Gamefish line up around this current, rushing into the pond to feed. Our ponds don’t always have water rushing in, so when the conditions create this situation, the fish capitalize.

Crabs can be caught on any tide, but in Matt’s experience, three hours before, during, and three hours after low tide are best.

Tips on Techniques

According to Matt, a simple “Carolina” rig works best for live bait fishing. This type of rig consists of s a 0.5-ounce egg weight with 12-18 inches of leader followed by a hook. The weight keeps your bait on the bottom in one spot while still allowing free movement of the baitfish. Another popular rig for live bait is a float with 12-18 inches of leader. This floats your bait higher up in the water column then the Carolina rig. Sometimes the fish are near the surface, and sometimes they are on the bottom. Fish both rigs to locate where they are biting.

For artificial lures, the most common set up is a 0.25 – 0.5-ounce jig head with your choice of a 3-4 inch soft plastic lure. There are many natural colors as well as bright fluorescent colors. Flounder like a natural or white color, while trout and redfish will bite anything sometimes preferring the more brightly colored chartreuse, reds, pink and green (electric chicken color).

For crabs, a chicken neck or back tied to a 3-ounce weight on a string works well. Let the chicken sit for a few minutes then very slowly pull it in. Typically you can feel the crab pulling back against you if it’s there. When you get it close enough, quickly net the crab.


A saltwater fishing license is required to fish and/or crab on Kiawah. The license can be obtained by going onto South Caroline Department of Natural Resources website and following the links to purchase a license online (dnrlicensing.sc.gov). They might also be purchased locally from tackle shops and sporting goods stores, including those in Freshfields and Bohicket Marina.

Article contributed by Digest Member Volunteer Deb Stewart.