Good Luck Jack!

This week, I felt my age.  On Monday, I pulled a muscle in my back.  On Tuesday, I could barely get out of bed (much less go fishing).   So, I spent most of the week laying about feeling sorry for myself.  Thankfully, my back recovered enough to fish with Jack Gardner on Sunday.   Jack and I have been fishing together since he was in middle school.  He is now an alumnus of The Citadel and beginning his career in Virginia.  Sunday was the last opportunity for us to fish together before he left town.  I was not going to miss it!

Circumstances were not optimal on Sunday.  Strong winds made for rough conditions and poor water clarity.  If this was not our last fishing trip before Jack left town, I would have cancelled.  It was that awful.  Our first stop was a marsh point swept by the current of the outgoing tide.  It was exposed to the wind and the waves.  Given limited mobility due to my back, not falling out of the boat was a major accomplishment!  We cast Z-Man Finesse TRDs on 1/5-ounce NedlockZ jigs to the marsh point and let the tide sweep our lures into deeper water.  It was difficult fishing.  Thankfully, we managed to catch a few Trout and a Flounder.  So, our attention turned to completing the inshore slam with a Redfish.  As we ran from place to place in search of a Red, Jack and I recalled memories from each spot that we visited.  We shared stories.  We laughed a lot.  I marveled at the person he had become. 

Jack and I did not catch many fish, but we did take the opportunity to catch up.  Perhaps, that is the best catch of all. 

Fishing vs. Catching

Fishing and Catching Are Not Synonymous!

Fishing and catching are not synonymous.  Sometimes, I get to believing that they are.  But Mother Nature always steps in to remind me they most certainly are not.  Saturday was one of those days.  The tide was wonky.  The wind was howling.  The water clarity was abysmal.  It was a tough day for fishing.  Wait, tough is not a suitable description.  Awful, that is a better word.  Simply awful.  To tell the truth, I was not even having fun.

The search for synonymous took me from Daniel Island, throughout the harbor all the way to the end of the jetties.  After catching no fish, I ran the Pathfinder back up the Wando past the Highway 41 bridge.  Still no fish.  It was frustrating to say the least.  With literally no place else to look, I let the boat drift along the edge of the marsh and told my crew, David and Andrew, we should call it day.  They readily agreed.  As we got ourselves situated for the ride back to Daniel Island, I spotted a Redfish tailing in the marsh and it was moving toward us!  As quietly as possible, I nudged the bow of the Pathfinder into the edge of the Spartina.  To our amazement, the Redfish swam within easy casting distance of the boat.  Andrew cast a Z-Man 4-inch PaddlerZ into the path of the Red.  We held our collective breath and were elated when the fish ate the lure.  Our hoots and hollers could be heard from miles away.

After landing the fish, taking a few pictures and letting it go, we could not stop smiling and laughing.  That fish changed the day from awful to joyful.   It also served as a reminder that fishing and catching are most certainly not synonymous.

Dog Days

Brody, the amazing fish finding and stock trading dog

With Memorial Day in our rearview mirror, the dog days of Summer are just ahead.  However, when your fishing partner is Brody, the amazing fishing finding and stock trading dog, every day is a dog day.

In warm weather, the best bite is typically at first light.  So, Brody and I get out early.  Around 5:00 AM on Saturday, I was having a wonderful dream about being kissed by a Victoria’s Secret super model.  As it turns out, Brody was licking me on the face to wake me up and go fishing. 

On the way to the boat landing, we stopped at Refuel for coffee, chicken biscuits, drinks and ice.  Brody’s job was to grab the drinks while I picked up everything else.  Upon meeting at the cash register, Brody had a 12-pack of Coast Island Lager.  After explaining that beer is not adequate for warm weather hydration, he reluctantly agreed to return the beer and select something else.  In the blink of an eye, Brody came back with Truly Hard Seltzer Berry Mix.  With daylight rapidly approaching, we agreed to disagree and paid for our stuff.

We reached the end of the jetties, just after sunrise.  The wind light and the seas were calm.  Spanish Mackerel and Bluefish were busting minnows on the surface.  I deployed the trolling motor and spot locked the Pathfinder an easy casting distance from the end of the rocks.  Brody was looking at a 15-pound spinning outfit rigged with a Shimano 21-gram Colt Sniper jig.  So, I picked it up, made a long cast and began a high-speed retrieve.  A big Bluefish crushed the jig.  The Spanish Mackerel and Bluefish were fired up and feeding aggressively.  We kept a few of the smaller Bluefish for bait to target sharks behind shrimp trawlers.  When the incoming tide slowed down, the bite turned off.

It was time for sharks.  I positioned the Pathfinder a good distance behind a trawler and cast a 30-pound class spinning outfit rigged with a small Bluefish on 6/0 circle hook.  It only took a few seconds for a large Spinner shark to eat the Bluefish.  It jumped several times before settling in for a punishing fight.  It took 30-minutes to catch and release the shark.  By then, I was hot and thirsty.  The Truly Hard Seltzer was cold, tasty and refreshing.   Sadly, I could only drink one because Brody refused to be the designated boat driver.

With shark checked off the list, we turned our attention to Bull Redfish back at the jetties.  I began casting a Z-Man 5-inch Jerk ShadZ on a 3/8-ounce jig to the rocks.  After several minutes and a couple of lost jigs, we checked Bull Redfish off the list and called it a day.

Other than the face licking episode, I love the dog days of summer.

Take What She Gives You

When fishing, you just have to take what Mother Nature gives you.  Or, be willing to stay home.  On Sunday, Mother Nature gave us conditions that had me thinking about staying home.  A strong wind blowing against the incoming tide made for standing waves in the Wando River.   The heavy wave action made for poor water clarity.  Simply awful conditions for targeting Trout on the fly.  While preparing my skiff to launch, the thought of going home did cross my mind.  I was on the fence.  So, I asked Brody (the amazing fishing finding and stock trading dog) what we should do.  He responded by jumping into the skiff.  We were going fishing. 

It was a wet and bumpy ride up the Wando.  Brody and I quickly changed plans and tucked into the relative calm of Beresford Creek.  We pulled up to a wind sheltered shoreline with lots of oyster bars.  The water clarity was not great but is was better than everyplace else.  In these conditions, the fly rod was out of the question.  I picked up my favorite 8-pound class spinning outfit and tied on a Z-Man 1/5-ounce NedlockZ jig with a Finesse TRD lure.  After the wet ride, Brody was more interested in getting dry than finding fish.  So, I made a random cast to an irregular spot in the shoreline and a Trout ate the Finesse TRD.  Somehow or another, Brody and I stumbled upon a hot Trout bite.  Most were small, in the 12 to 14-inch range but we did not care.  Awful conditions.  Lots of Trout.  We thanked Mother Nature!

For the next few hours, we searched for areas out of the wind with oysters and better water clarity.  Almost every time we found this combination of elements, we also found Trout.  I patted Brody on the head and thanked him for making me go fishing.  A few minutes later it started to rain.  Brody said it was time to go home.  Who am I to argue with a fish finding and stock trading dog?  We called it a day.

Shark Fishing

Shark on Shark Violence

Sharks are an overlooked sportfishing species.  They are large, powerful and abundant.  However, they can be a bit of a challenge to catch and release.  Especially, if you target them with lures.  This week, I set out to do just that.

Recently, at the nearshore reefs, small sharks have been eating the Spanish Mackerel and Bluefish that I have been catching.  At first this was a frustrating experience.  Upon further reflection, it became a new fishing opportunity.  So, I put away the light tackle and began casting a Shimano Flat Fall jig on 30-pound class spinning tackle.  After a few casts, a small shark ate the jig.  The 3-foot shark was over matched by the heavier tackle and it quickly came to the boat.  While I was trying to take a boat side picture of the little shark, a big shark ate it.  Somehow, the 6-foot shark got hooked in the mouth by the Flat Fall jig and a battle of epic proportions began. 

The initial run was fast, taking nearly all the line off the 30-pound class spinning reel.   Thankfully, the shark made a U-turn and swam right back to the boat.  This allowed me to recover most of the 30-pound PowerPro fishing line.  When the shark saw the boat, it turned and made another long run.  For the next 30 minutes, this process was repeated several times.  At one point in the fight, I thought about breaking the shark off.  But I knew without a photo, it did not really happen.  So, the battle continued.  Eventually, by some miracle, the big shark came to the boat.  After taking several pictures, I released the behemoth and watched it swim away.  For some reason, I thought this was funny and spent the next few minutes laughing. 

Yes.  Sharks are an overlooked sportfishing species!

Stock Trading Dog

Brody in his Trading Office.

Now that the Daniel Island boat landings are open, I am settling back into my regular routine.  However, Brody (the amazing fish finding dog), is struggling a bit.  When the Covid-19 shutdown began, to kill the extra time and have a little fun, I opened Brody an E-Trade account.  It all started innocently.  Every day, I would write two stock symbols on pieces of paper and set them on the floor with doggy treats.  We would buy the stock that Brody went to first.  As it turns out, Brody is a good stock picker and most days his portfolio would be up.  Then, he set up watch lists and started doing technical analysis.  This is when our problems began. 

The first indication of the forthcoming catastrophe was Brody demanding that I mount an iPad on the console of my boat.  This allowed him to stay in touch with the market and make trades throughout the fishing day.  At first, it was kind of entertaining but quickly progressed into a problem.  Brody became more interested in trading stocks than finding fish.  It was a crushing blow that I still struggle to understand.

Things got even worse, when Brody converted one of our bedrooms into his trading office.  There are so many computers and monitors in that room, I am afraid to look at my Dominion Power bill.  Now, Brody stays in there nearly all the time.  No time for fishing or me. 

Now, I fish alone.  Maybe, I pushed Brody to hard about backing up the boat trailer?  Perhaps, this is Brody’s way of social distancing?  Whatever the case may be, I miss my fish finding dog.

On a brighter note, fishing has been very good.  Even without Brody’s help. 

Dolphin Day

My Constant Companions

For me, the glass is usually half full.  During the closure of our boat landings, many friends went above and beyond to help me fish.  Their thoughtfulness and kindness make my glass and my heart full.   

With our boat landings now open, I have returned to my normal (every day) fishing schedule.  As I get back into my routine, things that I may have taken for granted are wonderments once again.  On Sunday morning, the water was 69-degrees and the Trout bite was going off.  I was catching and releasing Trout at a torrid pace.  After about an hour, a pod of dolphin began hanging around my skiff and eating the fish I was releasing.  One of them was very distinct as it was missing the top half of its dorsal fin.  Not wanting the released Trout to be eaten and for dolphin to associate food with people, I moved to another area about a mile away.  Thankfully, the Trout bite we good there as well.  After just a few minutes, the pod of dolphin showed up again.  I knew it was the same group because of “Shorty”, the one missing half its fin.  This time, I moved a further distance away, but the dolphin found me again in very short order.

It became clear, that I was not going to lose this pod of dolphin.  So, I began putting the Trout in my release well to be returned to the water away from the ravenous mammals.  Each time, I put a fish in the release well, the dolphin would surface right next to the boat and look at me.  To my surprise, this went on the rest of the day.  Even with the Trout supply cut off, the dolphin stayed with me.  It was a bit frustrating but a wonderment none the less.

Best of People in Worst of Times

The best of people comes out in the worst of times.  This is the bright side of the Covid-19 pandemic.  While my biggest challenge is the inability to fish due to closure of our boat landings, I am amazed by the number of people that have reached out to help. 

A few days into the boat landing closure, a friend ran his skiff across the harbor from Sullivan’s Island to Daniel Island and took me fishing in the Wando River.  He joked that he was compelled to help because I was literally a fish out of water.  The next week, another friend invited me to fish on his boat which was docked on Ralston Creek.  It was good to catch a few fish.  It was better to catch up with an old friend.  Then, to my surprise, another friend offered to let me keep my Pathfinder at their dock.  I am lucky to have such thoughtful and caring friends. 

With my Pathfinder back in the game, I am making up for lost time and fishing nearly every day.  The water temperature is approaching 70-degrees. Baitfish have returned to the rivers and creeks.  Redfish, Trout and Flounder are feeding aggressively.  It is great to be fishing again!

More good news.  Brody, the amazing fish finding dog, has stopped trading stocks and returned to finding fish.  While I am happy to have him back on the boat, I do have mixed feelings. Turns out, Brody is fantastic at picking stocks.  Well, at least, better than me.  So, after intensive negotiations, Brody has agreed to trade stocks during the day and then fish after the market closes at 4:00.  Brody is also the new owner of my Pathfinder 2500 Hybrid.  A small price to pay for an amazing fish finding dog that can pick stocks too!

Yes, the best of people (and fish finding dogs) comes out in the worst of times. 

Closed Boat Landing

Daniel Island Boat Landings are Closed

The boat landings on Daniel Island are closed.  So, I have not been fishing.  However, I have it on good authority that boat landings in Mount Pleasant and Berkeley County are still operating.  If they remain open this week, I will endeavor to leave Daniel Island (say is isn’t so) to go fishing.  In the interim, I am thinking ideas to entertain myself.

Number 1 – Write a fishing article that no one ever reads.  On the bright side, given the lack of things to do, my readership may go up out of sheer boredom!

Number 2 – Teach Brody, the amazing fish finding dog, to back up a boat trailer.  In order to do this, does Brody need a driver’s license?  By the way, he has already passed the written portion of the driver’s test.  However, Brody is not good at parallel parking.  So, backing up a boat trailer may be asking too much.

Number 3 – Eat my emergency food stash.  I have a 6-month supply of Cheez Its. Some people hoard toilet paper.  I hoard Cheez Its.  If things get really bad, you can’t eat toilet paper.  Actually, I guess you can.  But, you would have to be pretty hungry. 

Number 4 – Put together a nearshore fishing class for when this Covid-19 thing ends.  Perhaps, for some time in May (let’s be optimistic).  Thinking about designing the class around our summertime species.  Bull Redfish, King Mackerel, Spanish Mackerel and Spadefish come immediately to mind.  If you would be interested in attending, please send me a note at captgregp@gmail.com.

Be safe.  Be well.  Then go fishing!

March Fishing

My relationship with the month of March is complicated.  Sometimes, March is warm and loving.  Other times, March is cold and harsh.  The wild variation of conditions is confusion to fish and completely dumbfounding to anglers.  Well, at least to me.  In March, fish begin to transition out of their Winter habitat and spread throughout our estuaries.  This can make fish hard to find and even more difficult to catch.  Yes, my relationship with the month of March is complicated. 

On Saturday, March and I were heading towards legal separation.  It was cold.  It was super windy.  Clearly, March did not want me to go fishing.  Frankly, I was over March’s harsh demeanor.  March and I were on the rocks.  So, I did what I always do when faced with turmoil, I went fishing. 

After launching my new Salt Marsh Skiff, that March did not want me to buy, I assessed the situation.  It was unsafe to fish in the Wando River.  If anything, bad happened, March would never let me hear the end of it.  So, I tucked behind a leeward shoreline and began fishing.  Out of the wind, things did not seem so bad.  My feeling about March began to warm.  But, after an hour of fishing without a bite, March and I were on the outs again!  I decided enough was enough and pulled out my phone to call my lawyer.  Of course, I made one last cast with my Z-Man Finesse TRD to a dock in 10 feet of water.  Before the lure hit bottom, a Trout ate it.  I dropped the phone and fought the fish.  It was not particularly large, but it lifted my spirits. 

On the ride back to the boat landing, it did not seem as cold and the wind appeared to have moderated.  Perhaps, March and I still had a chance together.  Like I said, it is complicated.