Winter is officially over! The days are getting longer (and warmer). As we transition into Spring, it can make fishing a bit challenging. The large schools of Redfish that spend the Winter in the shallows are breaking up. Depending on the day and barometer, Trout can be shallow or deep. For the next few weeks, all of this moving around can make locating fish difficult. During this time, being flexible is the key to success. Moving around can tip the odds in your favor.
On bright sunny days, shallow water will be a few degrees warmer than water in main river or harbor. Baitfish will congregate in the warmer water. Especially around structure like oyster bars. Small schools of Redfish will be hanging around the oyster bars enjoying the warmer water and seeking an easy meal. These fish should be relatively easy to catch. A well-presented lure or bait will most often lead to a solid bite. I recommend moving around until you find feeding fish. The water is still quite clear. If you are stealthy, it is easy to spot the small schools of Redfish.
Trout tend to move with the barometer. When it is steady or moving slowly, look for Trout to be actively feeding in the shallows. A rapidly moving barometer usually drives Trout into deeper water. That was the case this weekend. A cold front passed through the area. Leaving behind it windy conditions and a rapidly rising barometer. It took a lot of moving around until I located fish holding in 10 to 15 feet of water. Once located, bouncing a StreakZ 3.75 (Blue Back Herring) on a Trout Eye finesse jig along the transition from 10 to 15 feet produced good numbers of quality fish.
Winter is over. Get out and go fishing. I figure even if I do not catch any fish, at least I will be getting a jump on my tan!
Here is a link to my weekly article in the Daniel Island News.
DI News March 17
The recent cold spell put a big chill on the water temperature. It is now 55 degrees. A drop of 7 degrees over the course of a few days. This has pushed the Trout a bit deeper. Today they were bunched up in 10 to 12 feet of water. They were hungry too! A Z-Man StreakZ 3.75 or Slim SwimZ on a Trout Eye Finesse jig bounced along the bottom put up big catch and release numbers. The strike was a bit light but the fish were definitely feeding. Warmer temperatures are forecast for the next day or so. I believe the bite will get even better.
Winter returned to the Lowcountry today. After weeks of unusually warm weather, Mother Nature brought the cold weather hammer down. Strong winds and a light rain made for bone chilling conditions. It was cold (and wet) but I had the fish all to myself. While the air was cold, the water temperature was 61 degrees. So the fish were still feeding aggressively. A Z-Man StreakZ 3.75 (Blue Back Herring) on a 3/16 ounce Trout Eye Finesse jig was the most productive lure. Most of the fish were on a depth transition from 2 to 10 feet. Redfish were shallow and Trout were deep. A snap and pause retrieve triggered the most strikes. The weather is cold (again) but right now the fishing is pretty hot.
Late winter feels more like spring. This week, the water temperature hit 63 degrees, which is unusually warm for early March. Like the water, the fishing is heating up. Baitfish (glass minnows, mud minnows and finger mullet) have returned to the shallows. Trout are moving out of their winter deep water haunts and into the shallows to feed. Look for concentrations of baitfish around marsh points and oyster bars. If you see bait, there is a pretty good chance Trout and Redfish are nearby.
I recommend using a lure that is similar in size and color to the baitfish that you see. When glass minnows are present, a Z-Man Slim SwimZ (Opening Night) on a 1/8-ounce Trout Eye Finesse Jig is a good choice. Recently, this has been a highly productive lure combination. If Mud minnows are the primary forage, try using a Z-Man TubeZ (The Deal) on a mushroom head jig. Mud minnows are usually handing around oyster bars for protection. The TubeZ and mushroom head jig help to fish around oysters with getting hung up (as much). When finger mullet are abundant, a Z-Man StreakZ 3.75 (Ralph Shad) or MinnowZ (Bad Shad) on a 3/16-ounce Trout Eye Jig are hard to beat. Retrieve the lures with an erratic jerk and pause retrieve. It is important to keep the lures on or near the bottom. The strike most often occurs after the jerk and during the pause (as the lure descends to the bottom).
Fishing is very good right now and it will get even better as the water temperature rises. So round up the kids and go fishing!
Finesse fishing can be highly effective in the Lowcountry. Especially in post cold front conditions. When the sky is blue and the barometer is rapidly rising, downsizing your tackle system and lures can tilt the odds in your favor. My favorite post cold front lure is a Z-Man StreakZ 3.75 on a Trout Eye Finesse Jig. This combination is a proven Trout producer (pretty much any time). However, it really shines after a cold front passes through. Smaller profile and lighter lures need a matching tackle system. My go to outfit is a 7′ St. Croix Legend Elite Light (fast action) paired with a 1000 frame Shimano CI4 reel. It is a joy to cast and can detect even the most subtle post cold front bite.
Next time the skies are blue, the wind is out of the northeast and the fish are not cooperating. Try a little finesse.
Fishing is an interesting past time. It can be very challenging, highly complex and extremely technical. But, it can also be relaxed, simple and fun. On Saturday, I fished with Alex Graudin and we opted for the latter. Alex is 6 years old and was hoping to catch his first ever Redfish. Our plan was simple. Stake out the skiff in shallow water and then soak mud minnows on lead head jigs. No run and gun. No fly rod. No lures.
Upon our arrival in the shallows, I spotted a small school of Redfish. Unfortunately, they spotted us as well (and promptly left the area). Knowing there were Redfish in the area, we staked the skiff, cast out our mud minnows then sat down and waited for a Redfish to bite. This routine is a far cry from how I typically fish but it was very relaxing. While we were waiting, Alex filled me in on his school and sports activities. As he was talking, I thought I should really do this more often. After about 15 minutes, Alex’s rod bounced and then bowed deeply as a big Redfish tried to escape. He fought the fish well but the hook pulled. Alex was disappointed but undeterred. We put a new mud minnow on his jig and cast it out again. We did not have to wait very long. When the minnow hit the water, it was inhaled by another Redfish. This one did not get away. Alex caught his first Redfish. I am not sure who was happier, Alex or me.
It has been unseasonably warm here in the Lowcountry. The water temperature is approaching the 60-degree range. While unusual, it does have the Redfish on the flats feeding aggressively. Over the weekend, they could not resist a well presented chartreuse Clouser Minnow. Heck, they could not resist a poorly presented fly! The forecast is for near record high temperatures all week. So I expect the shallow water feeding frenzy to continue. Call in sick and go fishing!
Recently, I have been experimenting with the drop shot technique. It has become one of my favorite post cold front presentations. Especially when it is windy. When the wind is blowing and the tide is running, it can be challenging to cast and stay in contact with a lightweight finesse lure. This is when a drop shot shines. Using a heavier drop shot weight (that weighs more than a finesse-type jig), I can present small lures like the Z-Man GrubZ or TRD in the worst wind and tide conditions. So far, it has been a highly productive technique.
Weather conditions today were breezy with a cloudless and clear blue sky. Conditions that typically make for tough fishing. That was certainly the case today. However, persistence does pay. After a couple of hours without a fish, I switched to 3/16th ounce Trout Eye Finesse Jig with a Z-Man StreakZ 3.75 and began working a depth transition from 5 to 10 feet. Managed to release several keeper-size Trout and a couple of small Redfish. Decent results on a very tough day.