Fishing the ACE Basin
The ACE Basin contains a wide diversity of fish habitats from the high salinity of St. Helena Sound to the freshwater streams that feed it. Fish species range from sharks to sunfish. Shrimp, blue and stone crabs, oysters, and clams are abundant. Although public landings are available for boating access, only limited access exists for bank anglers, mainly at public landings and bridge crossings. No public piers are located in the basin although charter fishing guides work out of Edisto Beach, and licenses, live bait and lures are sold at most area convenience stores or marinas.
St. Helena Sound provides excellent saltwater angling for red drum (spottail bass), sea trout, flounder, cobia, and sharks and other inshore species. Oyster rakes, piers, and fallen trees offer excellent angling for trout or spottails on live shrimp or mud minnows floated on a rising tide. Trolling mud minnows along oyster rakes is good for flounder. Cobia are caught on eels in the early summer around markers and buoys at the mouth of the sound. Sharks can be caught on cut bait fished on the bottom most of the year in the deep holes off Otter Island.
The freshwater portions of the Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto rivers contain abundant populations of largemouth bass, striped bass, black crappie, redbreast and bluegill sunfish. The Edisto also has large numbers of flathead, blue, white, and channel catfish up to 50 pounds. In the spring shad or crappie are best bets. As the water warms, largemouth bass and redbreast sunfish prepare to spawn, and are easily harvested. In the summer try for bluegill or catfish. Fall fishing for largemouth bass is unsurpassed in the state, but receives little angling pressure. During the winter try for striped bass.
Standard lures and techniques catch largemouth bass, and sunfish will hit small spinners or crickets pitched along the bank. Shad take small spoons or jigs that are trolled and crappie readily take minnows fished around structure. Catfish bite cut bait or minnows fished in the deep holes or steep banks. Try large live bait for flathead catfish.
A tide table is essential for angling in the ACE. Avoid periods of dead high or low water. The tide also influences whether or not some of the landings are useable. Because of the many restrictions on length and creel limits for the fish species found there, a ruler and regulation book are handy to have. A fishing license is required for the freshwater areas of the basin, and anglers will need a saltwater stamp when fishing from a boat below the saltwater-freshwater dividing line, or when gathering oysters and clams. Excellent publications can be obtained from the Marine Resources Division on saltwater fishing and shellfishing in the area. Because of the remoteness of the area, anglers should file a float plan.