Kiawah River Field Guide: Know Your Fish

In the creeks and in the Kiawah River, a bay boat, flats boat or jon boat are just right for getting around, and the inshore environment is brimming with wildlife and game fish. Fishing here is often for redfish, flounder and spotted seatrout, and the best bet is to use light-medium spinning or fly tackle.

Go a little further to near-shore reefs and you may hook sheepshead, black drum and spadefish. Springtime brings migrating cobia from Florida, and tarpon by summer. Then by fall and winter, many fishing trips are back inshore, when some say it’s the finest seasons of all for catching mature fish, especially on mild weather days.

If you prefer to stay near and in-shore, here are some of the more common marine life you’ll likely encounter.

Blue Crab
Sparkling blue, gray, and brown-green, too, and up to about 10 inches from claw to claw. Its scientific name—Callinectes sapidus—means ‘beautiful savory swimmer’ in Latin. Identify female crabs by their “nail polish”— red tips on the ends of their claws.

Famed for “tailing” in shallow marsh flats (tail above the waterline) when feeding. Also called Red Drum, the redfish makes a loud drumming sound by vibrating their swim bladder using special muscles. Look for them up in the grasses during high tide.

Summer Flounder/Southern Flounder
Camouflage-brown and pancake-flat, the fish with both eyes on the left side. Nicknamed “chameleons of the sea,” flounder change their coloring to blend in with the texture and color of the bottom of the estuaries they inhabit. Quite abundant in the summer, and quite tasty as well!

Spotted Seatrout
Speckled, often near oyster beds at the edge of the salt marsh. Despite its name, these fish are actually part of the drum family, not a species of trout.

White Shrimp
Light gray to whitish bodies with long antennae, good swimmers in the creek. Distinguishable from brown or pink shrimp by their lighter color and tail flippers that are black near the base with green and yellow edges. A favorite seafood choice in the sea islands!