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.
Fishing after a cold front passes can be pretty challenging. Today, was one of those days. When I launched the skiff, the sky was bright blue. A strong breeze was blowing out of the northeast. Given the conditions, I planned to target Trout with small finesse lures in deeper water. My lure combination of choice was a Z-Man TRD TubeZ (Real Deal) on a 1/8th ounce Trout Eye Finesse Jig prototype. Using the depth sounder, I located a school of fish in 15 feet of water. After positioning the skiff down current of the school, I cast the TubeZ back up current and let it sink to the bottom. After a few iterations of a short hop and stop retrieve, I felt the subtle tick that is indicative of a post cold front bite. The Trout were on the smaller side but I was happy to catch anything in the post cold front conditions. The next time you fish after a cold front, try using small lures in deeper water.
No matter where you stand on climate change, it is hard to argue that this winter feels a lot like Spring. In February, we are typically dealing with the coldest water temperatures of the year. However, this weekend, the water temperature was 57 degrees. While the water is unusually warm for February, it does have the Trout and Redfish actively feeding. Especially, a few days after the passing of a cold front, when the barometer stabilizes.
This was the case on Sunday when Elliott and I fished together. Our plan was to fish the incoming tide from 9:00 till Noon. But I got restless and launched the skiff an hour early. With time to spare, I slowly and randomly idled around in creeks looking for fish on the depth finder. Being February, I concentrated my search on deeper water (10-20 feet deep). This depth range had very few fish in it. So I began looking in 5 to 10 feet of water. To my surprise, the fish were stacked up in shallow water. Given this information, I picked up Elliott and we immediately began working the shallows. Elliott was casting a StreakZ Curly Tail (Bad Shad) on a quarter ounce Trout Eye Jig and I was using a TRD (PB&J) on a Z-Man Mushroom Head Jig. The Trout liked both offering equally well. The strike was not the subtle tick which is indicative on a winter time bite. They were crushing our lures. After a while, we got tired of catching Trout and switched our attention to Redfish on the fly. After a quick run to a nearby flat, we began looking for schools of Redfish. After a few minutes of looking, Elliott spotted a small school of Reds and cast a Clouser Minnow (tan with gold flash) to the lead fish. The entire school rushed forward in a race to eat the fly. On Sunday, fishing was easy.
This week, the weather is forecast to be in the 70-degree range. So I expect the shallow water feeding frenzy to continue. Don’t miss it!