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!

Summertime Fishing is Like a Box of Chocolates

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.

Fishing Fosters a Lifetime Bond

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.

Thanksgiving Fishing

Thanksgiving week was filled with lots of family, friends, food and fishing. Unfortunately, on several days, gale-like conditions made fishing a bit of a challenge. Of course, I went fishing anyway because the best catch in fishing is time with family and friends. Thankfully, the fish were cooperative, even in the tough conditions.

On one of the really windy days, Elliott, David and I set out to catch a Redfish on the fly. The main river was blown out. So, we began our search for Redfish in a small wind sheltered creek. The tide was falling and nearing dead low. There was not much water left in the creek. This made locating Redfish much easier, as their backs and tails were often above the water line. Finding them was easy. Accurately casting a fly in gale-like conditions was another matter entirely. Our first few casts did not even land in the water. The wind would catch the fly line and blow it onto the bank. After a few adjustments, my brother David (finally) made a good presentation. The fly landed a foot or so in front of a decent size Red. We held our breath as the fish slowly swam forward and inhaled the fly. The Redfish was feisty, and the fight took longer than usual. All the while, Elliott and I were giving David a hard time. When he landed the fish, we were all happy. David unhooked the Red and was releasing it, when Elliott took a picture. It would have been a great picture, but it captured me looking stupid in the background. This gave David and Elliott cause to give me a hard time. Things change fast on family fishing trips. Standing on the poling platform, watching Elliott and David laugh (at me) reminded me of why I fish (so much). Fishing is about time, moments and memories. Catching fish, well that is just a bonus!

Redfish at First Light

As we approach Thanksgiving, Fall is giving way to Winter. Several consecutive cool days and cold nights have dropped the water temperature below 60-degrees. While I am not much of a cold weather person, the cooler water is welcome. It has the Trout and Redfish feeding like me on Thanksgiving Day. Nothing is safe. If I can fit it in my mouth, it is going to get eaten. Regardless, of how much I may have already eaten. This gluttonous behavior was on display early Saturday morning. I launched the skiff 30-minutes before sunrise. The short ride to my first fishing spot was brisk. I pulled back on the throttle and deployed the trolling motor a good distance from my fishing area. The water was slick calm and I did not want my boat wake to disturb the shallows. As I slowly and quietly approached a submerged oyster bar, the water above the bar erupted. Finger mullet were jumping and running for their lives. I picked up my favorite bait casting outfit and cast a Shimano Colt Sniper top water lure towards the feeding activity. Before I could impart any action to the lure, a Redfish ate it. If you heard hooting and hollering before sunrise on Saturday, it was me. Until the sun cleared the horizon, it was cast, catch, release and repeat. The epic top water bite stopped soon as the sun’s rays hit the surface of the water. I thought the Trout and Redfish were still in the area but unwilling to strike a surface lure. So, I put the bait casting outfit away and un-racked my fly rod. On my third cast to the oyster bar, a small Redfish ate my fly (a brown and white Whistler pattern). While fighting the fish, I noticed the light was perfect for a picture. When the small Redfish came to the skiff, it posed for a quick picture and then swam away. Rather than make another cast, I sat down, admired the view for a few minutes then went to breakfast a Honey Comb. Why should the fish be the only ones to eat a hearty breakfast? Speaking of eating, have a Happy Thanksgiving!

After the Storm

We are very fortunate that Hurricane Florence did not hit us. Sady, our friends to the north were not so lucky. Let’s all keep them in our thoughts and prayers. Given the slow-moving nature of Hurricane Florence, I missed a few days of fishing last week. On Sunday, conditions improved to the point that I could safely go fishing. So, I launched the skiff into the last of the falling tide. It was my theory that with the tide being low, the creek banks would protect me from the wind. As with most of my theories, this one was also incorrect. It was windy all over. After enduring a bumpy and wet ride to my first fishing location, a shallow marsh point, I deployed the trolling motor and began moving into casting distance. About then, a commercial crabber pulled up. He waved and yelled, I have to be out here to make a living, but you are just crazy. We both had a good laugh and went our separate ways. Once in position, I cast a Z-Man 4-inch Jerk ShadZ on a Finesse BulletZ 1/6-ounce jig to the marsh point and felt a solid thump. I set the hook but somehow missed the fish. On the next cast, my luck was much better, and a solid Redfish welcomed back to the river. While I was unable to fish due to the storm, I figured out how to take a timed photo with my phone. So, I propped my phone on the console of my skiff and posed with my first fish after the storm. Turns out my theory on taking good pictures via a timer on my phone was incorrect (again). The Redfish bite continued until the tide began to rise and the fished moved off the marsh point. With the windy and choppy conditions, I was unable to re-locate them. So, I headed back the boat ramp. On the way home, I passed the commercial crabber. He waved, and I could hear him laughing for a considerable distance.

No Picture Lots of Excuses

Fishing this past week was slow. So slow, that I do not have a picture that goes with this article! That’s pretty slow. Poor fishing is usually followed by a series of bad excuses. Here are my top 5.

Excuse Number 1. Unusually high tides made for poor water clarity. When fish cannot see the lure, it is certainly hard for them to eat it.

Excuse Number 2. I hurt my back while helping my daughter move. This reduced my fishing efficiency. When your back hurts, riding around in a skiff is a lot less fun.

Excuse Number 3. After years of fishing (nearly every day), I have come to the realization that fish are simply smarter than me. Deep down, I think I always knew this. However, this week removed all doubt.

Excuse Number 4. It is hot out there. When the water temperature is 88-degrees and the heat index is in triple digits. Fish lose their interest in biting and anglers lose their interest in fishing. Well, at least I do.

Excuse Number 5. I am a big soccer fan and the World Cup was on. Subsequently, I fished around the television schedule verses the optimal time and tide. This is a sure-fire way to catch less fish.

As I look forward to the coming week, the tides will begin to normalize. My back is on the mend. Cooler temperatures are forecast. I feel a little smarter and the World Cup is over. It is time to go catching!