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!
About this time of year, weather becomes the determining factor when planning a fishing trip. For the past few days, this has been particularly true. A strong coastal low-pressure system brought cold temperatures, gale force winds and extremely high tides to the Lowcountry. All of which made for really tough fishing conditions. However, for anglers willing to brave the elements, fishing has been quite good.
On Friday and Saturday, I was unwilling to brave the elements. It was just to nasty to fish. Even for me! Conditions improved a little on Sunday. The rain stopped, leaving only cool temperatures and gale force winds. That was enough improvement for me. So, I launched the Pathfinder into the falling tide and ran to a wind sheltered shoreline. When it is blowing a gale, wind sheltered is a relative term. Even while tucked behind a treelined marsh bank, it was windy. To my surprise, the water was relatively clear. A quick glance at the depth finder showed a few fish holding along a ledge in eight to ten feet of water. When it comes to locating fish, side scan sonar is a total game changer. With a bit of confidence that fish were in the area, I slowed down and systematically worked the ledge with a Z-Man TRD on a 1/5-ounce jig. Turns out, the side scan sonar was right. Trout and Redfish were in the area and they were eating. The fish were not large, but they made up for their lack of size with sheer numbers. On cold and windy days, cooperative fish make tough conditions more tolerable.
With Winter fast approaching, cold temperatures and strong winds will soon become the norm. Until the water temperature dips into the low 50-degree range, fishing should continue to be very good. So, gather your friends, dress warmly and go fishing.
After the shark selfie episode, my fishing trips have been more sedate. Brody (the amazing fish finding dog) and I have been concentrating our efforts in the rivers and creeks. For the most part, the Trout, Flounder and Redfish have been very cooperative. All are readily striking a Z-Man Trout Trick rigged on a quarter ounce lead head jig. On Sunday, we were catching and releasing Trout at a rapid pace. After about 30 minutes, a porpoise (with a distinct notch in its dorsal fin) began following my Pathfinder around and eating the fish we were releasing. Brody did not approve and began barking each time the porpoise approached the boat. So, we left the fish biting and moved to another location. Brody and I used the trolling motor to slowly move along the creek bank and cast the Trout Trick to points and pockets in the marsh. It did not take long to find another school of hungry Trout. A few minutes later, the porpoise with the wonky dorsal fin found us again. As it approached the boat, Brody began barking and jumped into the water nearly on top of the porpoise.
Brody is not much for swimming. Thus, he wears a floatation device when we are on water. As it turns out, Brody is a good swimmer and likes being in the water. However, I was thankful that he was wearing a floatation device. The handles made it easy to lift my 52-pound dog back into the boat. After drying Brody off, I resumed fishing. The porpoise never came back. Brody is now the amazing fish finding and porpoise scaring dog.
On occasion, I discover something that is worthy of sharing. All my fishing rods are lightweight, sensitive and very expensive. Recently, I purchased a Shimano Sellus spinning rod. It is reasonably light, sensitive and costs only $49. That is 1/10th the cost of my normal fishing rods! If you are thinking about getting a new inshore fishing rod and don’t want to invest $500, check out the Sellus. I think you will like it.
With Labor Day now behind us, Summer is truly over. Temperatures are becoming more tolerable. The sun is setting earlier. The water is cooling off. These events mark the end of Summer and the beginning of great inshore fishing. When I told my brother-in-law, Mike Balduzzi, that fishing was getting good, we decided to do a 100 fish challenge. Mike jumped on a flight to Charleston on Friday and we fished the challenge on Saturday.
Conditions were not optimal. A strong northeasterly breeze limited our fishing options. Undeterred, we launched my Pathfinder into the start of the falling tide. Our plan was to make a quick run to the jetties and cast lures to the rocks for Bull Redfish and Trout. It was rough out there, but we did catch some Trout. However, not at the pace we needed to hit 100 fish in a day. So, ran back into the Wando and began working submerged oyster bars that were being swept by the falling tide. Mike is an accomplished angler that knows how to read the water. When we pulled up to our first oyster bar, we both cast Z-Man TRDs on 1/5-ounce NedlockZ jigs to the same spot. Boom. Doubles on Trout. The bite was on. Most of the fish were small, in the 13 to 14-inch range. They made up for their lack of size with sheer quantity.
When the bite slowed down, Mike and I moved to another oyster bar and began catching Trout again at a torrid pace. It took a few more moves and about 3-hours to hit the 100 fish mark. We even caught a few more for good measure. Fishing was pretty good on Saturday and it is going to get better. So, set the DVR to record your favorite football team and go fishing. The way the fish are biting, you may even get home before kick-off!
Preparation is instrumental to fishing success. For me, having tackle rigged and ready is a big part of my preparation process. Fishing opportunities often present themselves unexpectedly and disappear quickly. Having the right tackle (rods and lures) readily available can make the difference between fishing and catching.
This was the certainly the case when fishing with Luke Bishop this weekend. Our plan was to head offshore and vertical jig for Vermillion Snapper and Black Sea Bass. However, we loaded the Pathfinder with offshore and nearshore spinning tackle. On the ride out, we saw a bunch of birds hovering over feeding fish. I vectored the boat towards the feeding fish and Luke picked up a nearshore rod rigged with a 3/8-ouce jig with a Pearl Z-Man 4” StreakZ. Before I could deploy the trolling motor, Luke was fighting a Spanish Mackerel. I picked up a nearshore spinning rod rigged with a Shimano Orca popper and cast it underneath the birds. A big Bluefish crashed the lure, knocking it out of the water. Soon as the Orca popper landed, another Bluefish inhaled it. Luke and I were catching a Spanish Mackerel or Bluefish on nearly every cast. The bite was so hot, I decided to use my fly rod. For the next few minutes, I looked in every compartment in my boat. Then, I remembered taking the fly rod out of the boat for the hurricane. While Luke and I caught a bunch of fish, my lack of preparation cost us an epic fly-fishing opportunity.
Preparation really can be the difference between fishing and catching.
During the summer, our rivers and creeks can become pretty crowded. Especially, on weekends. With the heat index consistently above 100 degrees, the inshore waters can also be uncomfortable. In the Lowcountry, late summer is unbearably hot. Subsequently, I have been fishing more in our nearshore waters. Less people. Cooler temperatures. Lots of fish. What’s not to like?
While my Pathfinder 2200 TRS 22-foot bay boat handled the nearshore waters quite well, there have been times when I felt the need for something a little larger. So, this week, I took delivery of a Pathfinder 2500 Hybrid, which is specifically designed for nearshore fishing. Between taking delivery and rigging of the new boat, I have not been fishing much. Thankfully, Kyle Thaxton has been fishing in the Wando River and provided a great fishing report. Kyle says the Redfish are around and biting natural baits. Look for them along shallow depth transitions and oyster bars. Kyle loves to fish. Kudos to his Dad for taking him.
Yes, it is heat stroke hot. But, as Kyle reports, the fishing is still very good. Both Kyle and I recommend getting out early. Right now, the Charleston Harbor water temperature is above 85-degrees. The water temperature in the rivers and creeks is even higher (especially in the afternoon). High water temperatures can cause the fish to be somewhat lethargic. So, the optimal fishing time is during an early morning incoming tide. The influx of cooler water and low light conditions will often produce the best bite of the day. If by chance the bite does not materialize, at least you won’t get heat stroke!
Thanks again to Kyle Thaxton for the fishing report. Kyle, keep fishing with your Dad. Then, when you grow up and your Dad grows old, take him fishing.
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.
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 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!
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!