Last week, I did not fish. What?! That’s right, for the first time in a very long time, I missed seven days of fishing (in a row). For the past few months, I have been battling a repetitive stress injury in my right elbow. As it turns out, I fish too much. During a quick fishing trip, I will cast several hundred times. On longer trips, my cast count often exceeds one thousand. Plus, somewhere along the line, I got old! Excessive casting and old age are a bad combination. According to my doctor, a course of steroids, powerful anti-inflammatory medication and no fishing would help my elbow to heal. After disregarding this advise for months, I realized this was something that would not simply go away. Thus, my fishing hiatus.
Hopefully, my elbow will recover soon because the next few weeks will offer some of the best fishing of the year. As the water temperature drops below the middle sixty-degree range, most of the baitfish and shrimp will leave the creeks. This leaves Redfish, Trout and Flounder with a big appetite and not much to eat. So, they will be chasing and eating everything they can fit in their mouths. Ironically, I have this in common with the fish.
Call your friends. Grab your family. Go fishing. Someone must do it. Until my arm recovers, I am depending upon you!
This week, fishing felt like a Don Henley song. In the Lowcountry, Sharks and Tarpon are the boys of summer and this week they were gone. While I have not seen a Dead Head sticker on a Cadillac, I am pretty sure the boys of summer are leaving town. In the Summer, catching Sharks behind shrimp boats is super easy and very reliable. On Saturday, I did not catch a single one. After striking out on Sharks, I ran the Pathfinder just off the beach looking for rolling Tarpon. For the past few months, finding Tarpon on the beach has been a regular thing. Saturday, there were none to be found.
After spending Saturday targeting the boys of summer (and not catching anything), on Sunday I focused on a more available species, Speckled Trout. In the Fall, Trout form large schools and feed aggressively. So, this time of year, they are usually pretty easy to catch. Thankfully, this was the case on Sunday. The Trout were stacked up in the mouth of small creeks that were draining into the main river. Casting a Z-Man TRD or Trout Trick into the creek mouths produced steady catch and release action. After releasing several Trout, the porpoise with the wonky fin that Brody (the amazing fish finding dog) scared off last week, returned. Brody was not on board. With no dog deterent, the porpoise swam right up to the boat and stared at me.
After the shark selfie episode, my fishing trips have been more sedate. Brody (the amazing fish finding dog) and I have been concentrating our efforts in the rivers and creeks. For the most part, the Trout, Flounder and Redfish have been very cooperative. All are readily striking a Z-Man Trout Trick rigged on a quarter ounce lead head jig. On Sunday, we were catching and releasing Trout at a rapid pace. After about 30 minutes, a porpoise (with a distinct notch in its dorsal fin) began following my Pathfinder around and eating the fish we were releasing. Brody did not approve and began barking each time the porpoise approached the boat. So, we left the fish biting and moved to another location. Brody and I used the trolling motor to slowly move along the creek bank and cast the Trout Trick to points and pockets in the marsh. It did not take long to find another school of hungry Trout. A few minutes later, the porpoise with the wonky dorsal fin found us again. As it approached the boat, Brody began barking and jumped into the water nearly on top of the porpoise.
Brody is not much for swimming. Thus, he wears a floatation device when we are on water. As it turns out, Brody is a good swimmer and likes being in the water. However, I was thankful that he was wearing a floatation device. The handles made it easy to lift my 52-pound dog back into the boat. After drying Brody off, I resumed fishing. The porpoise never came back. Brody is now the amazing fish finding and porpoise scaring dog.
On occasion, I discover something that is worthy of sharing. All my fishing rods are lightweight, sensitive and very expensive. Recently, I purchased a Shimano Sellus spinning rod. It is reasonably light, sensitive and costs only $49. That is 1/10th the cost of my normal fishing rods! If you are thinking about getting a new inshore fishing rod and don’t want to invest $500, check out the Sellus. I think you will like it.
On an all to regular basis, we hear about people that get injured or even die while trying to take a picture for social media. This week, I was almost that guy. It all started when I decided to do a little Tarpon fishing. With the water beginning to cool off, Tarpon will be leaving the Lowcountry very soon. So, I set out to catch one before they left.
Step One was to locate a large school of Menhaden just off the beach and catch a few for live bait. Step Two was to stay with the menhaden school because Tarpon, Bull Redfish and Sharks often follow their favorite food source. Step Three was to pick up a 30-pound class spinning outfit and rig a live Menhaden on a 5/0 circle hook. Step Four was to use the trolling motor to stay in contact with the school and deploy the live bait behind the boat. Step Five was to listen to the stereo, enjoy the weather and wait for a bite.
After about 20 minutes, the rod bent over double and a Tarpon jumped right behind the boat. Unfortunately, the circle hook failed to set. No worries, I quickly deployed another live bait and settled back into Step Five. For the next hour or so, not much happened. I was about to call it quits when the rod bent over double again. This time the circle hook did set, and line poured off the spinning reel at a torrid pace. Whatever I had hooked was big. Really big. The fight was tough and the outcome often in doubt. Eventually, a 5-foot shark (not sure what species) came to the boat. My smart-self told me to take a picture of the shark swimming alongside the boat and release it without bringing it aboard. My not-so-smart-self told me to bring it aboard and take a really cool selfie. I pondered both options and decided to compromise, leave the shark in the water and try to get a really cool selfie. I was about to take the picture when the Shark snapped at the hand that was holding my phone (apparently way to close to its face). For a fraction of a second, its teeth caught in the sleeve of my shirt. Time slowed down. I distinctly remember thinking; this is not good. Quickly followed by; you are an idiot. Thankfully, other than a slight scratch, no physical damage was done.
So, this week, there is no picture. Should I ever have the urge to take a selfie with a shark, I will use a selfie stick. Better yet, no more shark selfies!
Recently, inshore fishing has been outstanding. Especially for Trout and Redfish. Now that summer is over, predators are feeding aggressively in advance of Winter. So, they are pretty easy to catch. While Trout and Redfish are abundant inshore, they are often on the smaller side.
This weekend, I decided to fish a “hero or zero” strategy. Exclusively targeting larger fish and significantly increasing the chance of catching nothing. When inshore fishing, I typically fish with a Shimano Expride 7-foot light action rod with a Stella 1000 frame reel. This outfit is very light, sensitive and easy to cast all day long. When hero fishing, I use an Expride 7-foot medium action rod with a Stradic 3000 frame reel. This outfit casts larger lures and handles hero-size fish extremely well. However, it weighs significantly more than my light tackle outfit.
My plan was to fish at the jetties for the first half of the incoming tide. When fishing with lures, clear water is important (so fish can easily see the lure). At the jetties, the incoming tide usually brings clear water with it. On Saturday, this was not the case. High winds and big waves stirred up the bottom sediment and poor water clarity prevailed. Undeterred, I selected a chartreuse Z-Man 4-inch Jerk ShadZ (the most visible lure in the conditions) and rigged it in a 3/8-ounce jig. Then began casting the lure to the rocks. Two hours and hundreds of casts later, I had no bites and a sore elbow from casting the heavier tackle. I made a note that hero fishing is not as much fun as I recalled, took some Advil and started casting again. Over the next 2 hours, I made hundreds of more casts, caught one small Redfish and made an appointment with my doctor to look at my elbow.
On Saturday, I was not a hero or a zero. Today, I am an orthopedic patient
With Labor Day now behind us, Summer is truly over. Temperatures are becoming more tolerable. The sun is setting earlier. The water is cooling off. These events mark the end of Summer and the beginning of great inshore fishing. When I told my brother-in-law, Mike Balduzzi, that fishing was getting good, we decided to do a 100 fish challenge. Mike jumped on a flight to Charleston on Friday and we fished the challenge on Saturday.
Conditions were not optimal. A strong northeasterly breeze limited our fishing options. Undeterred, we launched my Pathfinder into the start of the falling tide. Our plan was to make a quick run to the jetties and cast lures to the rocks for Bull Redfish and Trout. It was rough out there, but we did catch some Trout. However, not at the pace we needed to hit 100 fish in a day. So, ran back into the Wando and began working submerged oyster bars that were being swept by the falling tide. Mike is an accomplished angler that knows how to read the water. When we pulled up to our first oyster bar, we both cast Z-Man TRDs on 1/5-ounce NedlockZ jigs to the same spot. Boom. Doubles on Trout. The bite was on. Most of the fish were small, in the 13 to 14-inch range. They made up for their lack of size with sheer quantity.
When the bite slowed down, Mike and I moved to another oyster bar and began catching Trout again at a torrid pace. It took a few more moves and about 3-hours to hit the 100 fish mark. We even caught a few more for good measure. Fishing was pretty good on Saturday and it is going to get better. So, set the DVR to record your favorite football team and go fishing. The way the fish are biting, you may even get home before kick-off!
Preparation is instrumental to fishing success. For me, having tackle rigged and ready is a big part of my preparation process. Fishing opportunities often present themselves unexpectedly and disappear quickly. Having the right tackle (rods and lures) readily available can make the difference between fishing and catching.
This was the certainly the case when fishing with Luke Bishop this weekend. Our plan was to head offshore and vertical jig for Vermillion Snapper and Black Sea Bass. However, we loaded the Pathfinder with offshore and nearshore spinning tackle. On the ride out, we saw a bunch of birds hovering over feeding fish. I vectored the boat towards the feeding fish and Luke picked up a nearshore rod rigged with a 3/8-ouce jig with a Pearl Z-Man 4” StreakZ. Before I could deploy the trolling motor, Luke was fighting a Spanish Mackerel. I picked up a nearshore spinning rod rigged with a Shimano Orca popper and cast it underneath the birds. A big Bluefish crashed the lure, knocking it out of the water. Soon as the Orca popper landed, another Bluefish inhaled it. Luke and I were catching a Spanish Mackerel or Bluefish on nearly every cast. The bite was so hot, I decided to use my fly rod. For the next few minutes, I looked in every compartment in my boat. Then, I remembered taking the fly rod out of the boat for the hurricane. While Luke and I caught a bunch of fish, my lack of preparation cost us an epic fly-fishing opportunity.
Preparation really can be the difference between fishing and catching.
For years, it has been a
tradition for my son, Elliott, and I to fish together on my birthday. However, now that Elliott lives in Japan, my
brother, David, has picked up the tradition.
So, on my birthday we launched the Pathfinder and set off in search of
fish. Idling away from the boat landing,
I asked David what fish he felt like targeting.
He said it was my birthday so I should decide. Without much thought, Bull Redfish became my
birthday target species.
After a quick run to the jetties, I spot locked the Pathfinder within casting distance of the rocks. The out going tide was creating current seams as it passed between gaps in the rocks. We cast Z-Man 4-inch Jerk ShadZ on 3/8-ounce jigs into the current seams. Our most productive casts were literally right on top of the rocks. The current was strong enough to sweep the lures off the rocks and into deeper water. Speckled Trout, Weakfish, Bluefish and Ladyfish were crushing our lures as they bounced down the rocks. This technique caught a lot of fish, but we also caught a lot of rocks. If you give this technique a try, bring lots of jigs and lures!
The bite hot with a wide
variety of specifies, except Bull Reds. So,
I set the trolling motor on a track parallel to the rocks and we began casting
our lures to fishy looking places that we passed. We continued to catch Weakfish and
Bluefish. The Bulls Reds were
elusive. Then, we passed over an area
that was slightly deeper and I could see big fish on the side scan sonar. On my first cast into the deeper area, an
upper slot Redfish ate my lure. The
Redfish bite was steady. However, none
of the Reds were Bulls. After releasing
several, we left them biting to seek out my birthday Bull Redfish. As it turned out, I never caught one, but
David released a couple of nice ones.
On the ride back to the boat
landing, Elliott called to wish me a happy birthday. I stopped the boat and put him on
speaker. David told him to come back
soon because he was getting tired of carrying me. We all had a good laugh. It was a very happy birthday.
Fishing is like super glue. It creates strong and lasting bonds with your friends and family. For me, this is particularly true. From the time my son (Elliott) could walk until he moved away to Japan, we fished together several times a week. So, when he came home for a visit, we literally went from the airport to the boat. Extreme? Perhaps, but that super glue is some pretty strong stuff.
Our plan was to vertical jig on some nearshore reefs and live bottom areas. The seas were calm, and my Pathfinder 2500 is fast. We were fishing 15 miles offshore two hours after Elliott’s plane touched down. The first spot we tried produced zero bites. However, we did not really care. We were just happy to be fishing together. A quick run to the Charleston 60 reef put us on a steady Amberjack bite. Amberjack are powerful fish. Even the small ones put up a strong fight on 30-pound class jigging tackle. After catching and releasing a few, I was tired, and Elliott began to feel the effects of jet lag. So, we turned on the tunes and made a leisurely run back to Daniel Island.
Having a plan is an important of fishing success. However, being flexible is just as (if not more) important. This was the case on a recent fly-fishing trip in Tennessee. Our plan was to target Small Mouth Bass in the Holston River. Unfortunately, heavy rains before my arrival made the Holston River unfishable. My guide recommended Plan B, Rainbow Trout on the Clinch River. Rainbows were not what I came to Tennessee to catch. But, when travelling to fish, I always listen to my guide. So, Plan B sounded good to me!
It took about an hour to get to the Clinch River. We put in just below the dam. The water was clear and cold. Perfect conditions for Rainbow Trout. Plan B was beginning to look pretty good. Over the next few hours, we caught and released several Rainbow Trout. While I went to Tennessee to target Small Mouth Bass, being flexible when conditions changed made for a great day with Rainbow Trout.
Here in the Lowcountry, we are blessed with an abundance of fish species. If Trout are not biting, Redfish are an excellent Plan B. Spanish Mackerel, Jacks or Sheepshead are all good Plan C, D and E options. Flounder, Black Drum, Bluefish, Ladyfish, Sharks and even Tarpon are available in August. So, if Plan A is not working. Be flexible, try Plan B. Chances are, before you progress to far into the alphabet, you will catch fish!