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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
Summertime fishing is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to catch. This was the case when fishing last week with my good friend, Todd. We launched early in the morning wanting to target Redfish with top water lures. We found the Redfish, but they were not interested in our topwater offerings. Jilted by the Reds, we decided to run to the harbor and try for Spanish Mackerel and Bluefish. Along the way, we stopped and caught a couple of dozen Menhaden with a cast net. Bull Redfish and Sharks love Menhaden. With a bunch of menhaden in the Pathfinder’s livewell, we had more target species options available to us.
Once in the harbor, Todd began casting a shiny jig named “Deadly Dick”. While the manufacturer’s name is somewhat dubious, the lure is a proven Spanish Mackerel and Bluefish catcher. Todd caught a few of both. He also has a new nickname.
When the falling tide began to slow, the bite did as well. We decided to run out past the jetties and target sharks behind the shrimp boats. There were only two shrimp boats still working when we arrived. So, we picked the closest one and set up behind it. While I positioned the boat, Todd picked up a 20-pound class spinning rod and nose-hooked a Menhaden on a 5/0 circle hook. We were about 50 yards behind the Shrimper when I took the boat out of gear and Todd cast his line. Almost immediately, a good-sized Black Tip Shark ate the Menhaden and began jumping and trashing about. The fight was spectacular but short lived as the Black Tip bit through the 50-pound fluorocarbon leader. In my experience, that happens about half the time. That was just fine with Todd and me. For us, most of the fun is right after hook-up on the initial jumps and runs. After that, on 20-pound class spinning tackle, the fight becomes hard work.
On the ride back to the boat landing, we stopped and caught a few Trout. Todd and I covered a lot of water and targeted a lot of species, all before lunch. A typical summertime fishing trip. Out early. Catch whatever is biting. Return home before it gets too hot. In the summer, don’t worry about having a solid fishing plan. Just enjoy whatever comes out of the box.
The best catch in fishing is the bond that it creates between children and their parents. For me, fishing is the very definition of “quality time”. If you want to learn more about fishing on and around Daniel Island, I recommend the Daniel Island Inshore Fishing Club. If you want to begin creating a lifetime bond with your children, do not miss the 9th Annual Kids Fishing Tournament at Smythe Park Lake on June 15 from 8:30 to 10:30.
Speaking of bonds between children and their parents, I recently had the pleasure of fishing with Trent and Grant Gustafson. They are good friends, fellow members of the Daniel Island Inshore Fishing Club and a great example of the best catch in fishing. Our plan was to fish the harbor and nearshore waters, targeting Bull Redfish and Sharks. Typically, these species are pretty easy to catch. However, after fishing multiple sections of the jetties, the Bull Redfish eluded us. No worries, shrimp boats were clearly in sight just outside the jetties. Shrimp boats are Shark magnets. So, we netted up a couple of dozen Menhaden and headed towards the nearest shrimp boat. While I positioned the Pathfinder a respectable distance behind the trawler, Trent rigged a lively Menhaden on an unweighted 5/0 circle hook. Once in position, I let the bay boat drift and Grant cast the Menhaden into the wake of the trawler. This process usually results in an immediate bite from a Shark. Not so, on that day. We moved from shrimp boat to shrimp boat until we finally got a bite.
Grant held the rod as the Shark rapidly peeled 150 yards of 30-pound braid from the 6000 frame Shimano Saragosa spinning reel. The fight was on. For about 30-minutes the outcome was in doubt. Throughout the battle, Trent stood next to Grant and provided encouragement. I thought to myself, this is what fishing is really about. Eventually, Grant wore the Shark down and brought it boat side. Where it thankfully released itself.
By all accounts, we had a very slow day of fishing. Yet, Trent and Grant made the best catch of all, quality time together.
Yesterday, I fished with my old friend and longtime fishing buddy Ben. Back in the day, when I used to guide, Ben was one of my favorite fishing clients. Now, we are good friends that like to fish together.
Ben got this one on a Z-Man StreakZ 3.75 (Blue Back Herring) on a Finesse jig. When I get to be Ben’s age, I hope I can fish like he does!
Over the past few weeks, I have fished the Heron in a variety of conditions. From super shallow on calm days to submerged ledges in a nasty chop, in all situations, the skiff performed flawlessly. Thus, I declare the new skiff Rigged and Ready to Roll!
Finesse Techniques Producing Fishing
Yesterday, was windy and cold. Post cold front conditions made producing fish a bit of a challenge. However, by using my fish finder to locate Trout holding on a ledge in 10 feet of water and vertical jigging a Z-Man TubeZ on a NedlockZ jig, I put together a pretty good day. The bite was very light and it took a good bit of concentration to feel it. On days like yesterday, a light and sensitive tackle system made a big difference.
As winter approaches, post cold front conditions will become the norm. If you want to consistently catch fish in the winter, I recommend finesse!
This week, one of the first cold fronts of the season passed through the Lowcountry. Leaving behind, strong northeasterly winds and lower water temperatures. These conditions are a mixed blessing for anglers. When the wind is blowing against the tide, the Wando River can be downright nasty. However, anglers willing to brave the rough conditions will often find ravenous schools of Trout and Redfish.
On Friday and Saturday, the nasty conditions kept me off the water. On Sunday, conditions were not much better but Elliott and I decided to go fishing anyway. The Wando River was rough but my new skiff handled the chop extremely well. After a short run up river, Elliott and I began fishing on a shallow flat with a slight channel running through it. I cast a Z-Man TRD TubeZ on a 1/5 ounce NedlockZ jig into the channel and erratically hopped the lure back to the boat. Halfway through my retrieve, a Redfish crushed the lure. While I was fighting the fish, Elliott staked the skiff with the Power Pole Micro and fired a cast into the channel. He hooked a Redfish as well. We released our fish and then immediately caught two more. After releasing the second set of fish, we decided to put away the spinning tackle and switch to flyrods. Given the strong breeze, casting was a bit of a challenge. It took me a few tries but I eventually made a long cast into the channel. The fly, a chartreuse Clouser Minnow, was eaten immediately. Elliott and I figured it was another Redfish but when it came to the skiff it was a nice size Trout.
We continued to work the channel with our flyrods and enjoyed steady action with Trout and Redfish. The fish were still biting when a strong gust of wind caught my front cast and the fly hit me in the arm. Good thing the fly was tied on a barbless hook. It came right out and only hurt a little bit. Just enough to convince me it was time to stop fly-fishing.
Conditions on Sunday were not optimal but Elliott and I managed to catch a good number of fish. I even caught myself!