Captain Joe has been fishing the waters of Hilton Head Island, SC for 20 years and uses his hard-earned knowledge to put anglers on fish. Whether you’re an experienced angler or a newcomer who wants to experience the waters of the Lowcountry, Captain Joe offers a fishing experience to meet your specific needs.
May River Excursions is based in Old Town Bluffton. We offer a variety of boating experiences ranging from cruises to fishing and shrimping excursions. May River Excursions offers competitive rates and knowledgeable, local born and raised captains. May River Excursions operates Carolina Skiff boats and can accommodate as many as 12 passengers per boat.
CHARTERS INSHORE OFFSHORE SPORTFISHING. Come onboard this 27-foot power catamaran: “The Stray Cat.” We’re hot and fast! Spend less time riding and more time fishing. Captain Jim Clark has been named to George Poveromo’s World of Saltwater Fishing A-Team. (843) 683-5427 or straycatcharter.com.
Whether you’re a complete beginner or an experienced paddler, come join us in the fun and adventure of the fastest growing sport in the world! We offer Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) lessons, group and family outings and tours, sunset paddles, moonlight paddles, sunrise paddles, SUP race training, and even a little SUP yoga and fitness. (843) 368-8690
1498 Fording Island Road | Bluffton | (843) 681-2628
405 Squire Pope Road | Hilton Head Island | (843) 681-2628
Teeth, Tail Fins & TouristsTest
Captain Amber, are there sharks in these waters?
You know, there is a foolproof way to tell if there are sharks in the water, and it works anywhere on the globe. Put your finger in the water and touch it to your tongue. If you taste salt, there are sharks! Every body of saltwater has sharks in it. In South Carolina alone, there are 13 families and 38 species of sharks roaming our waters.
The first thing to know about sharks is that they have evolved over millions of years and are the oldest of fishes. Their common ancestor existed before the dinosaurs, approximately 400 million years ago, and sharks haven’t changed much in 200 million years, since the end of the Cretaceous period. They are perfectly built for their environment and purpose.
Secondly, one of the major differences between sharks and other fish is a skeleton made of cartilage, instead of bone. All species of shark are in the class Chondrichthyes—cartilaginous fishes. Cartilage is much softer than bone and this adaptation gives the shark an advantage as an apex predator, allowing it more flexibility and maneuverability.
Sharks lack a swim bladder which gives other fish control over their buoyancy. Although cartilage is lighter than bone, sharks still sink, so they must move constantly to stay off the ocean floor. Some sharks, but not all, must swim their entire lives so water runs over their gills and oxygenates their blood.
An airplane mimics the shape of a shark with a fusiform body streamlined like a bullet, large pectoral fins on each side to help with lift (wings) and a tall caudal fin (tail) and dorsal fin for stability. In addition to cartilage, elastic connective tissue called collagen gives the shark ease of motion when thrusting its tail fin back and forth for propulsion. Like stretching a rubber band and letting go, this lateral motion releases equal amounts of energy in both directions, allowing sharks to move fast with minimal effort!
Little known fact: bony fish (Osteichthyes) and sharks emerged from a common ancestor before fish produced scales. Sharks have dermal denticles or “skin teeth,” which are made of dentin, the same material found inside teeth.
However, both classes of fish have teeth, which is probably the first attribute you think of when the word “shark” is mentioned. The roots of their teeth are embedded in gum tissue, instead of jaw bone like ours. Sharks shed their teeth at every meal and a large shark may lose 30,000 teeth over its lifetime.
There are approximately 500 species of sharks on earth, which sounds like a lot, but in comparison, there are 25,000 species of bony fish. Sharks live in all parts of the ocean marine environment. Some stay in the deep, others venture close to shore, some travel great distances, some visit the surface, and some can even tolerate fresh water (bull shark). The smallest shark (dwarf dogfish) tops out at six inches when fully grown while adult whale sharks can approach 40 feet in length!
Fish typically reproduce with external fertilization meaning that eggs are fertilized after they are laid. Sharks mate with internal fertilization, the type of sexual reproduction you have to explain to your kid at some point. It is obvious when a female has mated because of the bites and clasper barb marks inflicted by the male shark. Pleasurable? Probably not. Luckily, she can store sperm for at least a year, minimizing the encounters. The bonnethead, according to an article published in the August 22, 2007 issue of Biology Letters, is one of four shark species that is capable, in rare cases, of a virgin birth (parthenogenesis).
Although they all mate, sharks have various methods of reproductive development. Some are oviparous (lay eggs after mating), others are viviparous (give live birth) and some are ovoviviparous (carry eggs which hatch inside of the female). The sand tiger shark is ovoviviparous with a 9-12 month gestation and has two uteri, producing only one offspring from each uterus. These two shark pups consume all of their siblings in the womb and continue to feed on their mother’s unfertilized eggs for sustenance. The three-foot-long sand tiger shark pup is more developed at birth than other species of sharks.
The most common sharks in South Carolina’s estuaries are Atlantic sharpnose, sandbar, bonnethead, blacktip, finetooth, scalloped hammerhead, nurse, lemon, tiger, sand tiger and dusky. Spinner, bull and blacknose sharks are also observed to a lesser degree. Sharks are usually more plentiful near shore in the spring and summer and move off shore in fall and winter.
Captain Amber, is it true there aren’t many sharks around Hilton Head Island because the dolphins scare them away?
Ummmm…no. We have plenty of sharks, but larger sharks have a greater range and move even further off shore in lean months to find fish, since larger sharks require larger food. As nurseries of the ocean, estuaries are not the best place to find large prey items. Dolphins pretty much bogart food in the winter, and there is less to share. While sharks typically don’t prey on dolphins, they may attack vulnerable pod members. However, the entire pod will defend the weaker members of their family and the shark may get more than he bargained for. Examples of sharks that would attack a dolphin would be bull sharks, tiger sharks or great white sharks, in a pelagic (open seas) environment.
Sharks feed primarily in low light or at night. Death by shark attack is rare in our area and the last fatal shark attack in South Carolina took place in 1852. It is important to realize sharks don’t seek revenge and are simply following a path leading to the most food. By the way, sea turtles are on the shark menu and sea turtles swim to shore to nest—at night! However, there have been more shark bite reports lately in the Carolinas. My theory is more sea turtles plus more tourists equals more opportunity for interaction. I do not believe that after millions of years sharks are changing their behavior, unless they are running out of food in the big blue.
Sharks live long lives and are slow to reproduce. A consistent decline in the population will not recover quickly and they are at higher risk than other fish. An essential keystone species in the marine environment, sharks maintain the health of the ocean by taking out the weak, dead or dying. There is so much we do not know about the ocean and its inhabitants, but it is undeniable that if this awe-inspiring creature is not protected, we will see adverse changes in the marine environment.
Under current South Carolina Department of Natural Resources regulations, there are only two sharks likely to be encountered under normal fishing circumstances that recreational anglers can keep:
• Atlantic sharpnose shark
• Bonnethead shark
All other species must have a minimum fork length of 54 inches. Fork length is measured from the tip of the shark’s nose to the fork in the caudal fin (tail). A shark with a 54” fork length would have an approximate total length of 5 1/2 to 6 feet.
Shark fishing from the shore is illegal. For details on shark populations in South Carolina estuaries and fishing regulations, visit dnr.sc.gov/marine/mrri/shark.
Written by Amber Hester Kuehn, Marine Biologist / Owner, Spartina Marine Education Charters. Photos courtesy of Jeff Kuehn.
Bluffton Marine Sports & SupplyTest
140 Burnt Church Road | Bluffton | (843) 757-7593.
Roseate Spoonbills: The Pink Bird Makes a Come BackTest
By Kathleen McMenamin Vicars, Master Naturalist
Roseate spoonbills are becoming a more common sight throughout our Lowcountry marshes. They can commonly be spotted around low tides in our marshes, beak down in the water, looking for food. They are a beautiful sight with their pink feathers and distinct bill.
Roseate Spoonbills, Platalea ajaja, almost disappeared from the United States by the 1860s. They were over hunted for their beautiful plumes. Desecration of their natural wading and nesting environments contributed to their declining numbers in the early 1900s. Once preservation efforts were set forth, the species was able to successfully recolonize the Florida and Texas coasts. By the early 20th century, their population bounced back and has slowly spread back across the coastal Southeast.
The state of South Carolina has happily seen an increase in roseate populations over the years. They come into our coastal area in the spring and stay through the summer, foraging and nesting in our Lowcountry marshes. Keep an eye out for them in our marshes at low tide and nesting on Pinckney Island in the late spring months.
Roseates are easy to identify. They have a white head and neck, with light pink wings that have bright pink borders. They also have long pink legs. From a distance, you may think you are looking at a flamingo. Their bill is long and flat with a round spoon shape at the end. They can grow to be two and a half feet tall with a wingspan of up to five feet.
They prefer to live in lagoons, marshes, mudflats and mangrove habitats. In South Carolina, they are most commonly found in our marshes and may be mixed with other large groups of wading birds. They will forage for food in shallow waters of both fresh and saltwater habitats. Their large spoon-shaped bill offers them a great advantage while feeding. Roseates will sweep their slightly open bills side to side in the water, detecting small fish, invertebrates, shrimp and crabs by touch.
These birds will nest in large colonies, with individuals of their own species, as well as other wading birds. They have been known to nest in the Wood Ibis Pond area of Pinckney Island. Courtship between a pair begins when they are at least three years old. The preliminary wooing appears to be an aggressive interaction. They then begin to perch closely to each other once a connection has been made. The final courting ends with nesting sticks being presented to one another. Once the bond has been made, the male will gather nest materials, while the female builds the nest.
Their nests can be made in willows, mangroves, low scrub or cedars, but are generally all over water. The nest is a large bulky platform with a hollow in the center for the eggs. Once the nest is complete, the female will lay two to three eggs. The pair will take turns incubating the nest for up to 24 days. Both mother and father will take turns bringing food to the young, who may begin straying slightly from the nest within six weeks. They will start to fly strongly at about eight weeks.
H2O Sports on Hilton Head Island is a great place to spark curiosity and inspire learning in all ages. Learn more about the birds of our area with eco-adventure tours and live alligator exhibits. To make reservations for the Alligator and Wildlife Tour, please call (877) 290-4386. For information, visit H2OSports.com.
A handful of local fishermen have been fly fishing in Lowcountry waters since the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, but the sport has been growing in popularity in the past five years. More than just a “yuppie sport,” saltwater fly fishing offers a unique challenge and an opportunity to experience the natural beauty of the area.
A year-round sport in the Lowcountry, saltwater fly fishing is especially popular in the winter months, when Redfish and speckled trout are abundant. In the summer, Spanish mackerel, Jack Crevelle, Lady fish and Bluefish can be caught in the Lowcountry’s nutrient-rich inshore waters. Offshore fish like dolphin (mahi mahi) cobia (in the Spring only), amberjack and barracuda can also be hooked on a fly rod. The average fish caught on a fly rod ranges between 18 and 40 inches.
Fly fishing, as a rule, requires generous doses of patience and skill. A sporting method of catching fish, fly fishing tends to be more active than conventional bait and tackle fishing because it requires frequent casting and constant involvement with the fish. Enticing fish to eat the fly is more challenging than using a lure or live bait.
With live bait, the fisherman usually throws the baited hook in the water and waits for the fish to take the bait. With fly tackle, the opposite principle applies: you literally take the fly to the fish.
As a result, sight is of primary importance when fly fishing. First, you literally have to see the fish in the shallow water. Then, you have to try not to spook the fish when you cast the fly. Redfish in particular can be easily spooked. If you slap the water too hard with the fly, the fish will swim away.
Presentation of the fly itself is crucial. Unlike flies, bait has a scent which naturally attracts fish. Accordingly, flies must simulate food in their appearance and motion. Flies with names like the Weber Rattleshrimp, the Clouser Minnow and Lefty’s Deceiver simulate the movement patterns of fish’s natural food sources. Shrimp, crab, mullet and minnows are among the most popular prey. With Redfish, where you put the fly in relation to the fish matters.
If you put the fly too close to the fish, it will likely flee the scene; if you put the fly too far away from a Redfish, it may not respond. Usually you’ll have two or three shots at a school of fish before you either hook up or spook them.
Redfish fly fishing is most successful in shallow water, on flats at, or near, low tide, with a water depth ranging from six inches to two feet. Because the water is so shallow, you can actually see the fish you’re trying to catch.
In the summertime, Redfish travel further inland into the flooded marsh grass. When the tide is 7 ½ feet or greater, the redfish swim up on fiddler flats to dig fiddler crabs out of the marsh mud. The fish’s tails stick out of the water as they burrow, making them easy to spot.
Saltwater fly fishing is not quite as popular in the summertime however, mainly because it competes with tarpon season. Saltwater fly fishing differs from freshwater fly fishing in that the equipment tends to be larger and heavier. The flies themselves are bigger as well. Also, a boat is usually required for saltwater fishing to access the places where schools of Redfish and other species congregate.
Best of all, fly fishing offers an opportunity to observe spectacular wildlife and to witness breathtaking sunsets. After taking a fly rod out on the water, many people discover that sight casting the flats is so much fun that fishing itself can sometimes feel secondary.
Fishin’ Coach ChartersTest
16 Rainbow Road | Bluffton | (843) 757-2126
50 Bush’s Branch Road | Bluffton | (843) 342-8687
If your vision of R&R includes leaving landlubbers behind to kayak, swing a sailboat toward the horizon, head out on a dolphin tour, ride a waverunner, parasail for an eagle’s eye view of the area, or assume the alias “Captain” in a power boat or pontoon rental you’re in luck for all of this and many more things to do! Bluffton’s aquatic surroundings aren’t merely playgrounds for wildlife. In fact, there are enough water activities offered here to keep your skin wrinkled like a prune year-round.
When: July 19 – 20. 5-9 p.m. Where: Oyster Factory Park, 63 Wharf St. What It’s About: May River Shrimp Festival will return to the Oyster Factory Park from 5-9 p.m. on Thursday and 4-9 p.m. on Friday with live music, an arts and crafts village and a food court full of our delicious seafood… Read More…
The Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge, located near the bridge to Hilton Head Island, offers an ideal place to enjoy the natural beauty of the Lowcountry. Once part of the plantation of Major General Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, a prominent South Carolina attorney, from 1801 to 1815, this wildlife refuge features 14 miles of trails and… Read More…
1. Old Town is a great destination for visitors. Situated along a natural bluff overlooking the May River, Old Town Bluffton features historic homes converted into chic boutiques, treasure-filled antique shops, caffeine-rich cafés and colorful art galleries. Wander through Bluffton’s shady streets, play cornhole, sample happy hour specials and discover beautiful works of art by… Read More…
By Kathleen McMenamin Vicars, Master Naturalist Roseate spoonbills are becoming a more common sight throughout our Lowcountry marshes. They can commonly be spotted around low tides in our marshes, beak down in the water, looking for food. They are a beautiful sight with their pink feathers and distinct bill. Roseate Spoonbills, Platalea ajaja, almost disappeared from… Read More…
The summer-long celebration HarbourFest is back, taking over Shelter Cove Harbour on Hilton Head Island with carnival games, temporary tattoos, fireworks and 30-year veterans Shannon Tanner and Cappy the Clown. The festival spans the whole summer (through Labor Day) with live, dance-along performances by Shannon Tanner, as well as entertainment and face painting by Cappy the Clown every weekday… Read More…