Preparation is Key!

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.  

A Very Happy Birthday

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. 

The Boys Are Back In Town

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.  

Yes, that super glue is some pretty strong stuff.

Plan B Proved Successful

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!

Taking It Easy

Fishing Report 7/28/2019

This week, Mother Nature gave the Lowcountry a bit of a break.  After weeks of record high temperatures, an inland high-pressure system provided a cool (for late summer) northerly breeze and more comfortable conditions.  However, the comfort came at a cost. The breeze also created rough conditions in the harbor and nearshore waters, making fishing a bit of a challenge.

What do you do when the weather is great, but fishing conditions are tough? Take the family, including Brody our fish finding dog, for a sunset cruise.  Of course, I brought a fishing rod, just in case. We launched late in the afternoon. The tide was just beginning to fall as we idled out of the Ralston Creek.  When we got to the Wando River, we found breezy and choppy conditions. No problem in my new Pathfinder 2500 Hybrid. It eats harbor chop like I eat Orlando’s Brick Oven Pizza.  After an hour or so of sightseeing, we decided to settle into a spot and watch the sunset. Naturally, I picked a spot that usually holds Trout, a marsh point swept by the falling tide.  After setting the Power Pole to hold us in place, Amy (my lovely wife), Heather (Elliott’s girlfriend), Maddie (my daughter) and I lounged around and enjoyed the great weather. Brody had other ideas.  He kept looking at me and then looking at the fishing rod. After a few minutes of his encouragement, I decided to make a few casts. Brody was right. The Trout bite was on. The fish were not large, but they were hungry.  I asked the girls if they wanted to catch a few but they were in chill mode. So, Brody and I continued catching and releasing Trout. Then, I decided to try and teach Brody to hold a fish for a picture. Turns out, this was not one of my better ideas.  

After a great sunset, we listened to some tunes and idled back to the boat landing.  Sometimes, a great fishing trip has nothing to do with fishing.

Fishing With An Expert!

During the summer, our rivers and creeks can become pretty crowded.  Especially, on weekends. With the heat index consistently above 100 degrees, the inshore waters can also be uncomfortable.  In the Lowcountry, late summer is unbearably hot. Subsequently, I have been fishing more in our nearshore waters. Less people.  Cooler temperatures. Lots of fish. What’s not to like?  

While my Pathfinder 2200 TRS 22-foot bay boat handled the nearshore waters quite well, there have been times when I felt the need for something a little larger.  So, this week, I took delivery of a Pathfinder 2500 Hybrid, which is specifically designed for nearshore fishing. Between taking delivery and rigging of the new boat, I have not been fishing much.  Thankfully, Kyle Thaxton has been fishing in the Wando River and provided a great fishing report. Kyle says the Redfish are around and biting natural baits. Look for them along shallow depth transitions and oyster bars.  Kyle loves to fish. Kudos to his Dad for taking him.  

Yes, it is heat stroke hot.  But, as Kyle reports, the fishing is still very good.  Both Kyle and I recommend getting out early. Right now, the Charleston Harbor water temperature is above 85-degrees.  The water temperature in the rivers and creeks is even higher (especially in the afternoon). High water temperatures can cause the fish to be somewhat lethargic.  So, the optimal fishing time is during an early morning incoming tide. The influx of cooler water and low light conditions will often produce the best bite of the day.  If by chance the bite does not materialize, at least you won’t get heat stroke!

Thanks again to Kyle Thaxton for the fishing report.  Kyle, keep fishing with your Dad. Then, when you grow up and your Dad grows old, take him fishing.  

Sunrise, Sunset

In the summer, inshore fishing can be hit or miss. It is my theory (I have lots of theories) that in the heat of summer the feeding window is shorter. Given the abundance of forage, it is easy for predators to find food and eat their fill. So, the amount of time that they are feeding is much less. I believe this was the case this weekend.

On Saturday, my brother Dave and I were fishing the harbor for Spanish Mackerel and Trout. We launched at dawn as the tide began to fall. Upon our arrival at a harbor tideline, the Spanish Mackerel bite was on. For about 30 minutes, a Z-Man TRD retrieved as fast a you could reel it in, produced steady action. Then, the bite just stopped. We searched around but could not locate any more actively feeding fish. A quick run to a submerged oyster bar put us on a super-hot Trout bite. Like the Spanish Mackerel, the Trout bite was short-lived. But, when it was on, we released a bunch of fish.

The next morning, I went fishing with Tristin Poole (who works with Shimano). We fished the same plan that Dave and I had success with on Saturday. The same locations and the same tide cycle, which was one hour later in the morning. Not the same results. Zero bites. I am pretty sure the fish were around, but they were not actively feeding. Tristin is a skilled angler. We fished from the harbor to the upper Wando River and only managed to release 11 fish. On Sunday, fishing was a definite miss.

Looking back, summer fishing is highly dependent on low light conditions. The primary feeding windows are early in the morning and late in the evening. One hour can make the difference between a hit or a miss. For the rest of the summer, I will be fishing at dawn or at sunset. I think I will catch more fish and have less of a chance of heat stroke!

Fishing With No Regrets

Recently, one of my fishing buddies past away.  While I try to live a regret free life, I do wish we had fished together more often.  This got me to thinking about all the friends I have been wanting to fish with but have not.  So, I began calling my friends. Surprisingly, I do actually have a few. Donna Crocker was the first person to call me back and we planned to fish the next morning. 

The tide was falling when we launched the boat.  As we idled out of the creek, schools of finger mullet were swimming along the surface.  I do not usually fish with bait, but Donna enjoys it. After one throw of the cast net, we had enough live bait for our trip.   We made a quick run to a small creek that was draining into the main river. I set the spot-lock on the trolling motor within easy casting distance of the creek mouth.  Donna cast a finger mullet on a quarter ounce lead head jig into the creek and let the tide sweep it along the bottom. A Trout inhaled the bait and Donna began teasing me about not yet catching a fish.  Donna continued to catch Trout and the teasing intensified. We both enjoyed a good laugh. Well, at least one of us did!

When the falling tide slowed, the Trout bite did as well.   It was getting hot. So, we decided to make a long run. More time to cool off than to find fish.  This was good because for the next two hours, I struggled to find fish. Slow fishing and uncomfortably hot temperatures kept us on the move.  Eventually, we located a small school of big Redfish. Donna cast a finger mullet ahead of the school and waited. To our surprise, the Redfish ignored the easy meal.  We stayed with the school (because they were the only fish, I could find that day) and our persistence paid off. Donna released a couple of nice ones.  

On the ride back to the boat landing, Donna and I joked about the tough fishing.  More accurately, Donna reminded me that she had caught more and larger fish. I laughed and told her that I had no regrets.  

Killer Day With Shelly

Fishing with friends can be surprising.  Some surprises are pleasant. Others, not so much.  On a recent fishing trip with my friend, Shelly Bostwick, all the surprises were pleasant.  We launched my Pathfinder bay boat into the last of the outgoing tide. Our plan was to target Bluefish that we could use for Shark bait a little later (on the incoming tide).  

My first surprise was that Shelly is an excellent caster.  I positioned the boat down tide from a marsh point and cast my lure to “the spot” to catch a Bluefish.  Shelly cast her lure, a Z-Man StreakZ 3.75 on a 3/16-ounce jig to the exact same spot. Most impressive casting ability.

The second surprise was that Trout had taken over the Bluefish spot.  We released several quality-size Trout and kept a few Bluefish for bait.  When the tide stopped, the Trout and Bluefish bite did as well. So, we made a run out past the jetties and took up position about 100 yards behind a shrimp boat.  I picked up a 30-pound class spinning outfit, a Shimano 6000 frame Saragosa reel on a medium heavy Teramar rod, and nose-hooked a live Bluefish on a 5/0 circle hook.  Shelly cast the Bluefish into the shrimp boat’s wake. Almost immediately, she was hooked up to a Blacktip Shark. The Shark jumped a few times and then made a long drag sizzling run.  Sharks are an overlooked sport fish. They are abundant and really fun to catch.

Surprise number three was how good of an angler Shelly is.  She kept maximum pressure on the Blacktip. This can be difficult to do with 30-pound class tackle.  Her great angling technique brought the Shark to the boat in record time. It was sufficiently large, that I did not want to hold it for a picture, and you know how much I love to hold fish for pictures.  After releasing the Blacktip, we moved back behind the shrimper and caught a few more. The Shark bite was still on when we decided to target Redfish at the jetties. After a quick run, I spot-locked the boat a safe distance from the rocks.  Shelly cast a Z-Man 4” Jerk ShadZ on a 3/8-ounce jig into the waves washing over the rocks. Surprise! Redfish got checked off our list.

Fishing with your friends can be surprising.  When fishing with Shelly, all the surprises were pleasant.  I do not tournament fish anymore. But, if I did, I would be lucky for Shelly to be my partner.  

Quality Time

The number of fish you catch is not as important as who you catch them with. On a recent fishing trip with Mark Friedfertig and his sons Chase and Cole, this was particularly evident. Families fishing together is important to me. So, I really wanted to share a great trip with Mark, Chase and Cole. Unfortunately, Mother Nature and the fish had other plans. Our first fishing location was a small creek that was draining over an oyster bar. It is typically a highly dependable Trout spot. Not so on this day. No worries, there are a lot of highly dependable Trout spots in the Wando River. Or, so I thought. After hitting several prime locations with only a few small Trout to show for it, I began to worry. However, Mark, Chase and Cole did not seem to mind. They were enjoying their time together even if they were not catching fish.

The day ground on. We fished the entirety of the Wando River. No matter how much we tried, the fish simply would not cooperate. After hours of fishing in earnest, we had only released 15 or so fish. For me, it was a very humbling experience. For Mark, Chase and Cole, it was a wonderful day together. On the ride back to the boat landing, I was struck by the fact that my new friends understood the true essence of fishing more than I did.

Did we catch a bunch of fish? No. Did we spend quality time with family and friends? Yes. Many thanks to Mark, Chase and Cole for reminding me what matters most in fishing. You guys rock!