On an all to regular basis, we hear about people that get injured or even die while trying to take a picture for social media. This week, I was almost that guy. It all started when I decided to do a little Tarpon fishing. With the water beginning to cool off, Tarpon will be leaving the Lowcountry very soon. So, I set out to catch one before they left.
Step One was to locate a large school of Menhaden just off the beach and catch a few for live bait. Step Two was to stay with the menhaden school because Tarpon, Bull Redfish and Sharks often follow their favorite food source. Step Three was to pick up a 30-pound class spinning outfit and rig a live Menhaden on a 5/0 circle hook. Step Four was to use the trolling motor to stay in contact with the school and deploy the live bait behind the boat. Step Five was to listen to the stereo, enjoy the weather and wait for a bite.
After about 20 minutes, the rod bent over double and a Tarpon jumped right behind the boat. Unfortunately, the circle hook failed to set. No worries, I quickly deployed another live bait and settled back into Step Five. For the next hour or so, not much happened. I was about to call it quits when the rod bent over double again. This time the circle hook did set, and line poured off the spinning reel at a torrid pace. Whatever I had hooked was big. Really big. The fight was tough and the outcome often in doubt. Eventually, a 5-foot shark (not sure what species) came to the boat. My smart-self told me to take a picture of the shark swimming alongside the boat and release it without bringing it aboard. My not-so-smart-self told me to bring it aboard and take a really cool selfie. I pondered both options and decided to compromise, leave the shark in the water and try to get a really cool selfie. I was about to take the picture when the Shark snapped at the hand that was holding my phone (apparently way to close to its face). For a fraction of a second, its teeth caught in the sleeve of my shirt. Time slowed down. I distinctly remember thinking; this is not good. Quickly followed by; you are an idiot. Thankfully, other than a slight scratch, no physical damage was done.
So, this week, there is no picture. Should I ever have the urge to take a selfie with a shark, I will use a selfie stick. Better yet, no more shark selfies!
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!
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.