Preparation is Key!

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.  

Fishing With An Expert!

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.  

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.  

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!

July Fishing

 

In the Lowcountry, the Dog Days of Summer begin in July and the average heat index exceeds 100-degrees. There are some days, in the afternoon, when it really is too hot to fish. So, I adjust my fishing schedule accordingly. In the Dog Days, my favorite and most productive fishing time is early in the morning on an incoming tide. By early, I mean Dawn Patrol (before sunrise). Overnight, the water temperatures will have cooled by a degree or two. This, combined with an incoming tide lowers the water temperature even more. Cooler water and the low light period before sunrise, triggers predators to eat.

This week, I began Dawn Patrol fishing and I was usually on the water by 5:30 AM. Early in the morning, the marsh and creeks are quiet and you can hear fish feeding. So, picking a fishing spot is easy. At dawn, predators advertise their presence. Before making the first cast, try to determine the size and color of what the fish are eating. Typically, shrimp or finger mullet are on the menu. Select are lure that generally matches the menu’s daily special and it is a pretty sure bet that you will catch fish.

Before heading out for Dawn Patrol, make sure your fishing license is not expired. Traditionally, most licenses expire on June 30. This is a layover, from the days when a South Carolina fishing license had a fixed time frame from July 1 to June 30. Recently, the law was changed to one year from the date of purchase. However, since most existing licenses expired in June, the trend of July expiration remains. Nothing ruins a good day of fishing faster than a ticket from the Department of Natural Resources.

As we prepare to celebrate the 4th of July, I reflect on my youth (which was a long time ago) and my travels. Having seen the world, I know we live in the best country on earth. On July 4th, Dorothy from the wizard of OZ usually comes to mind. There is no place like home!

Everyone have a safe and happy July 4th holiday.

Summer in the Lowcountry

How do you know when it is Summer in the Lowcountry? Easy, you have a heat index over 100 degrees and severe thunderstorms pretty much every afternoon. Last week, I experienced both conditions, much more closely than I would have preferred.  My brother-in-law, Mike Balduzzi, was visiting from Annapolis, Maryland. Mike loves to fish and is a very accomplished angler. So, we planned to fish as much as possible during his visit. On Wednesday afternoon, a heat advisory was posted and severe thunderstorms were predicted. However, the weather radar was completely clear. No thunderstorms were in the area. Given a clear radar loop, Mike and I decided to go fishing. Bad idea. Very bad idea.

After launching the skiff, we double checked the radar and it was all clear. It was however incredibly hot. Underway, the breeze made it feel much more comfortable. So, we ran a long way (well past the Highway 41 bridge). Bad idea. Very bad idea.

Upon our arrival at the designated fishing location, a very small and shallow creek, we spotted a few Redfish in a narrow channel. The water temperature was 91 degrees. The air temperature was much higher. In such hot conditions, it is difficult to get a Redfish to eat a lure. After several minutes in the creek, we were both drenched with sweat. I stopped fishing to get a cold drink. Mike kept on and to his credit got a fish to bite. While he was fighting the fish, we heard thunder off in the distance. After a quick picture, we released the fish and checked the Radar on our phones. A giant thunderstorm was forming right over Daniel Island. We decided to try and beat it back to the boat landing. Bad idea. Very bad idea.

The storm hit us about half way back. The rain was blinding and lightning was striking all around us. To make matters worse, a cold 30-knot wind began blowing against the tide and kicking up big and steep waves. Operating a small skiff in big steep waves is a bad idea. Very bad idea.

Thankfully, we survived the storm (just barely). Mike and I both agree that we were very lucky. So, take it from us. When the forecast predicts severe thunderstorms, fishing is a bad idea. Very bad idea.