2018 South Carolina Family Fishing Destinations

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Plan for variety on your vacation — switching back and forth between different activities, from fishing to hiking to camping — will make youngsters on a family fishing vacation happy. Photo Courtesy od Shutterstock

Want to do some fishing with the family? Here are some kid friendly destination ideas.

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Though your eyes are mostly fixed on rod tips, you steal a glance at your wife and children, who are lined up beside you in lawn chairs. You're happy to see that they too are focused on rod tips, eagerly waiting for the next one to dance. The catfish have cooperated thus far, and everyone has gotten in on the action. The fish on the stringer would make a nice dinner if no more chose to bite, but you're pretty sure that won't happen!

A family fishing outing can be big fun, if you plan well. Just remember that not all your favorite fishing spots are necessarily good options for trips with the whole family. To help in the planning process, we've selected four locations, all in different parts of South Carolina, that offer easy access to fishing and a high likelihood of success, making them great destinations for family fishing trips.


It is hard to talk about family outings without talking about the beach, and fortunately, South Carolina's beaches offer exceptionally rich and diverse fishing opportunities. Myrtle Beach stands out as an especially good family fishing destination in large part because of the many piers here that stretch out into the Atlantic. Of course, the Myrtle Beach area also offers every imaginable type of lodging and food, and pretty much anything else you might want to have nearby.

Piers are wonderful for family groups for several reasons. First, getting to a good fishing spot is quick and simple, and everyone can fish together. Second, you can find success without a lot of sophisticated gear or an abundance of specialized knowledge or skills. Adding to the fun is the fact that when fish do bite, you never know will be at the other end of the line. Species like whiting and croakers, which provide the most predictable action, don't grow super big. However, you never know when something much larger and more exotic will take a bait and generate serious excitement. Finally, the pier experience is simply fun, with a nice setting over the water and a community that often has little in common except for a shared desire to catch fish.

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Most piers have at least some bait and tackle available in the area where you pay for pier access, and because the folks selling bait and tackle get constant reports, they know what the fish have been biting. That's handy because you can select rigs and bait based on fresh reports. Also, if you lose anything or realize you've forgotten anything, a quick fix is nearby.

For family groups, the best strategy generally is to rig up with two-hook bottom rigs and bait hooks with whatever frozen bait (or baits) the folks in the shop recommend. The fishing itself is elementary. Cast out, let the rig sink, tighten the line and wait for fish to bite. It might take young anglers a little practice to distinguish nibbles from worthwhile bites and know when to set the hook. They'll get it down, though.

The best pier any given day really depends on where you are staying and on recent days' reports, which are readily available for most piers through a bit of online searching. Online listings also detail things like open hours and pier fees.

Along the Way: Stuff to do with the whole family around Myrtle Beach is limited only by the amount of time you want to stay. The beach itself is plenty for many. Add endless seeming attractions like mini golf, shows, go-carts, hiking in Myrtle Beach State Park, biking — the list could go on and on. From a fish standpoint, one attraction that really stands out is the Ripley's Aquarium, which is loaded with great stuff, including lots of hands-on opportunities and an underwater viewing experience, all for a reasonable coast.


Moving from the coast to the mountains, families will find that Table Rock State Park combines a spectacular setting, a couple of different family-friendly fishing options, and everything you need for a weekend outing in a single location. Overnight options within the park include Civilian Conservation Corps-era cabins that are beside one of the lakes and 100 or so campsites divided into two main campgrounds and a remote tent area. If your children are old enough to want a bit of adventure — but not too much — remote tent sites are about half a mile from the parking area.

A 3,000-acre state park that's located just off Scenic Highway 11 near the town of Pickens, the park is named for rocky-faced Table Rock Mountain, which provides a spectacular backdrop to many areas of the park. Food is available in Pickens and along Highway 11, but bringing groceries for cabin or campfire cooking might be a more practical option.

Two lakes provide similar but different fishing opportunities within the park. Both 36-acre Pinnacle Lake and 67-acre Lake Ollenoy are managed to provide good opportunities to catch largemouth bass, bluegill and channel catfish, and the small size and convenience of both make them good family fishing options. Pinnacle Lake is closed to private boats, but the park offers inexpensive fishing boat rentals ($15/day with no motor; $25/day with a trolling motor), which offer a fun and easy way to explore the whole lake. Bank access is also good in places. Private boats are allowed at Lake Oolenoy, but only with electric trolling motor or paddles, making it an ideal destination if you own canoes, kayaks or a johnboat that you can equip with only an electric motor. Lake Oolenoy also has two fishing piers, which extend foot access away from the shore.

Bluegills provide predictable action in either lake with crickets or redworms fished under floats and cast near shoreline cover. Move from time to time and experiment with float depths, and you'll most likely find them. Alternatively, rig chicken livers on small treble hooks with just enough weight for comfortable casting and to pull the bait to the bottom for channel catfish. Again, move periodically until the rod tips start doing some dancing. Bass provide a little more challenge and added interest if you have older and more experienced anglers in your crew.

Along the Way: It's tough to top hiking as a family adventure in the mountains, and Table Rock State park offers a wide range of hiking opportunities along five different trails. The namesake Table Rock Trail is the most spectacular because it climbs to Table Rock's open summit. It's rugged and strenuous, though, and might not be the best option for families with younger children. The Lakeside Trails is an easy 2-mile loop that offers a lot of variety and many spectacular views of the mountains


South Carolina's largest lake, at 110,000 acres, Marion is famous for "big game" species like blue and flathead catfish and striped bass. Lake Marion is sometimes seen strictly as a boating lake or even a destination where you need a guide. While great big-water boat-fishing opportunities do indeed exist, numerous fishing piers all around Lake Marion provide easy gateways to fishing the famed waters of the Santee Cooper lakes. In addition, creeks like Big Poplar, Jacks, Taw Caw and Wyboo and various backwaters can also be treated as little lakes to "shorten the playing field," and rentals of simple fishing boats, canoes and kayaks are available in places.

Some public areas, like Santee State Park and John C. Landing, and numerous fish camps and campgrounds all around the lake, have fishing piers. Most piers at private resorts are open to public fishing, sometimes for a modest fee. The "Lakes" button on the santeecoppercountry.org website pulls up an excellent list of public and private lakeside facilities around lakes Marion and Moultrie, listing the specific offerings of each, along with web links and contact details for more information about each.

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Catfish headline the easy-catch species from most piers around Lake Marion. While the lake is famous for its trophy cats, it also supports incredible numbers channel cats and blues up to about 10 pounds. Ask at a nearby fish camp whether channels or blues have been biting best off the pier you intend to fish. Use cut fish if blue catfish are the most likely catches and dip bait If channels are apt to be prevalent. Folks in the same shops can also tell you the current best kind of cut bait to use. At times, crappie and bluegills also provide good opportunities of many of Lake Marion's docks.

Carolina Kings Retreat & Marina, Poplar Creek Landing and J&J Marina all rent boats and are located on or adjacent to major creeks that be treated as separate waterways and that offer good fishing. The most reliable opportunities up most creeks are for bass by targeting visible cover (which there's more of than you could fish in a week in any Lake Marion creek), crappie by drifting with minnows, and catfish by anchoring atop a point and spreading out bottom lines rigged with cut bait.

Along the Way: If you want to experience more of Lake Marion than you can see from a pier, Fish Eagle Tours (fisheaglewildlifetours.com) and its sister company, Paddle Santee (paddlesantee.com), offer a couple of nice options. Fish Eagle Tours leads a two-hour Wildlife Swamp Tour out of Santee State Park aboard a 30-foot pontoon. The tour goes through tupelo and cypress forests and provides opportunities to see plentiful wildlife, including ospreys, wading birds, turtles, alligators (sometimes) and more. Paddle Santee rents kayaks out of the state park, and the park's location at the mouth of Poplar Creek makes it easy to paddle in protected family-friendly waters instead of the open main lake.


The city of Barnwell has two different offerings that together make it a fabulous destination for a family fishing trip. Lake Edgar Brown, which is located right in town is managed primarily for fishing by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, offers some of the state's finest shoreline access to quality fishing opportunities. Meanwhile, Barnwell State Park, located a handful of miles north of town, has three small lakes, along with cabins and a campground that make it well suited for a fishing vacation.

Lake Edgar Brown, which covers 100 acres, offers fabulous bank access, with good fishing for catfish, bass, shellcrackers and bluegill in easy reach of the shore. The SCDNR keeps the lake well stocked with channel cats, but also mixes in some blues, which can grow big. Setting up on the bank with your family and casting out catfish lines is likely to yield good action, and the possibility of hooking into a heavyweight cat is ever-present. A ditch dug out beside a lake-long dike offers good fish habitat, so bass and bream anglers also can do well on foot.

Of course, Lake Edgar Brown isn't only a bank-fishing destination. The lake has a boat ramp, and a boat provides access to parts of the lake where there is no shoreline access. Only electric motors or paddles may be used on part of the lake. Outboard of 10 horsepower or less may be operated north of Wellington Road.

Jumping to the state park, the park's lakes hold good populations of bass (including some big ones), bluegill, crappie and channel catfish. This is basically pond fishing, so strategies are simple. Good shoreline access is available in places, and a small pier stretches out from the bank of the largest lake. Johnboats can be rented for only $15 a day, and non-motorized private boats are permitted. There are no boat ramps, though, so boats must be carried from parking area and hand launched.

Along the Way: If your littlest anglers have short attention spans and need other forms of play, Barnwell State Park has you covered with a playground, swimming area, picnic areas and a nature trail that goes around one of the lakes. The trail is a 1 1/2-mile loop that is rated as easy and includes interpretive signs that emphasize the diverse plant life in the area. The pier near picnic shelter No. 1 is also a good spot for birdwatching, with ospreys and various waterfowl among the birds that are likely to be seen. 

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