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!
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Brody (the amazing fish finding dog), is a pretty good fishing partner. He knows where the fish are and lets me catch all of them. That’s pretty good! However, there are a few areas that he can improve.
Improvement area number 1 is food. When he brings snacks for the boat, they are always the Milk Bone crunchy doggie biscuits. I have told him many times that I prefer the chewy ones. Yet time after time, crunchy biscuits.
Improvement area number 2 is backing down the boat trailer. Brody is a smart dog and actually a good driver. But it takes him several tries to backthe boat into the water. The next time we go fishing, I will back downtheboat trailer and let Brody dock the boat.For a good fishing partner, it is the least I can do.
Improvement area number 3 is paying for gas. Brody has an American Express card,but he never offers to pay for gas. What’s up with that?
Improvement area number 4 is licking fish before releasing them. While I am a strong proponent of catch and release, it is inappropriate to lick and release. I think he should at least ask before licking. It is the right thing to do.
Improvement area number 5 is hogging all female attention. When we are fishing together it is like I am invisible. Petty? Yes, but my ego demands acknowledgement.
If you have any recommendations on how to help Brody improve, please let me know!
Typically, January and February bring the coldest water temperatures to our local waters. However, Winter has yet to make an appearance in the Lowcountry and the water is unusually warm. So, the fishing pattern is more like Fall than Winter. This is good news for anglers. Trout and Redfish are schooled up and feeding aggressively in shallow water.
On Saturday, it was super windy and rainy. With gale force winds blowing against the tide, there were some big waves in the Wando River. On the run to my first fishing location, I was thinking I should have brought by surfboard. Some of the waves look rideable. No worries for my Pathfinder 2500. The run to Hobcaw Creek was fast and dry. On breezy days, Hobcaw Creek is a good option because it has lots of trees that provide protection from the wind. After pulling up to a wind sheltered shoreline, I deployed the trolling motor and began systematically casting a Z-Man Finesse TRD (Hot Snakes) on a 1/5-ounce jig to oyster bars and irregularities in the marsh. Trout and Redfish were both in residence. They were not particularly large specimens but on such a windy and rainy day, they were most welcome. Nearly all of the strikes were aggressive and occurred in shallow water. The long-term weather forecast is for more warm weather. If the forecast holds true, fishing should be very good in the shallows.
The Cold-Water Fishing Class is full. The response has been overwhelming. Perhaps at some point this Winter, we will actually have cold water!
On the afternoon of New Years Eve, Elliott and I invited our good friend Trey to fish with us. Conditions were not optimal. The wind was brutal, and the Wando River was like a giant washing machine. Undeterred, Elliott, Trey and I did our best to catch the last fish of the decade. With “try” being the operative work. After an hour or so of fishing, we had not caught a single fish. Things were not looking good.
Thankfully, as the tide fell, the creek banks began to provide a bit of shelter from the wind. Water clarity improved and the Trout began to feed. This improved the vibe in the Pathfinder considerably. We began catching fish, giving each other a hard time and laughing. Lots of laughing. I thought to myself, this is a great way to end the year. Then, Elliott and Trey decided we should end the decade catching Redfish. So, we left the Trout biting and made a quick run to some shallow water docks that were somewhat protected from the wind. With the sun getting low on the horizon, we began fishing in earnest. Elliott and Trey are outstanding anglers and they systematically picked each dock apart. I marveled at their casting skills. However, all the perfect lure presentations did not produce a single Redfish. Soon, we arrived at the last dock. Elliott made his last cast of the decade and hooked a Redfish. Trey fired a cast into the area and a Redfish ate his Z-Man Finesse TRD. I decided to make a cast and another Redfish pounced on my lure. The boat erupted with hooting, hollering and laughing. After landing the fish and a boisterous round of high fives, we took our last fishing selfie of the decade. A great way to end the year.
The Cold-Water Fishing Class is filling up. But there are a few seats still available at the Daniel Island Library on January 21 from 6:00PM till 8:00PM. Please confirm your seats with an email to email@example.com. If you want to learn more about locating and catching fish in cold-water conditions, this is the class for you.
It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas. However, the weather does not feel like it. Several days with temperatures in the 70-degree range has the Trout and Redfish actively feeding in the shallows. I expect that the hot bite to continue until a strong winter cold front drops the water temperature. Until that time, fishing will be great. Think of it as a Christmas present from Mother Nature.
For the next two weeks, Elliott (my son) will be home from Japan. Upon picking him up from the airport, we plan to eat an Orlando’s Brick Oven Pizza and then go fishing. Over the course of his visit, we will repeat as necessary. Food and Fishing. Food and Fishing. Food and Fishing. Well, you get the picture.
Depending on weather conditions, we will be fishing shallow inshore waters or vertical jigging bottom fish offshore. Right now, the long-term forecast looks like mostly inshore. Given the warm water and hungry fish, that is OK with me. Recently, a Z-Man Finesse TRD (Hot Snakes) has been the lure of choice for shallow water Trout and Redfish. Both species are holding in slight channels at the base of oyster bars. When the current is washing over the bar, it is a pretty good bet that predators will be feeding there. So, when your family gathers for food, don’t forget the fishing!
Thanks to all that expressed interest in the Cold-Water Fishing Class. Given the great response, the free fishing class will be held at the Daniel Island Library on January 21 from 6:00PM till 8:00PM. Seating is limited. Please confirm your seats with an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Daniel Island Inshore Fishing Club will be participating in the class. So, there will be a lot of help available during the knot tying session. If you want to learn more about locating and catching fish in cold-water conditions, this is the class for you.