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!
To keep from becoming a total fishing bum, I do some consulting now and again. This week, I did more consulting than fishing. Thankfully, the engagement was in Nashville. So, it was a pretty fun week! Before departing for the land of country music, my brother (Dave) and Brody (the amazing fish finding dog) did a little fishing. Our plan was simply to get out and run the boat for a while. If we caught any fish that would be a bonus. Things went according to plan. The weather was nice, the Pathfinder ran well, and we caught a few Trout. When we were about to go home, Brody began barking at a dock up head. Brody does not bark much on the boat, so I took it as a sign. Using the trolling motor, I positioned the boat within easy casting range. Dave cast a Z-Man Finesse TRD (The Deal) on a 1/5-ounce NedLockZ jig to the dock pilings. Boom! A bent rod and our best fish of the day. Dave insisted that we include Brody in the fish picture. Looking at the shot, I am not sure who is happier. Dave or Brody? As winter approaches, I am thinking about doing a fishing class on cold water finesse techniques. If you want to learn more about how I catch fish in cold water situations, let me know you are interested in the class. If enough people want to attend (the class is free), Brody will teach the class in January.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I did a lot of fishing with my family and friends. For the most part, the weather and the fish cooperated. On the day before Thanksgiving, conditions were optimal. So, my brother (Dave), his son-in-law (Sean) and old family friend (Donna), decided to go fishing. We launched the Pathfinder into the start of the outgoing tide and made a short run into Beresford Creek.
Along the way, the depth finder consistently showed fish holding along depth transitions in 10 to 15 feet of water. So, our first fishing location was a creek channel in 10 feet of water with a broken shell bottom. I cast a Z-Man TRD (Hot Snakes color) on a 1/5-ounce NedlockZ jig into the channel and let the current sweep the lure along the bottom. A solid thump announced that the fish were there and hungry. For the next hour or so, we enjoyed a solid Trout bite. On a regular basis, two or three of us would be fighting a Trout simultaneously. Doubles and triples were commonplace. When we had multiple hook ups, the person that did not catch a fish caught a really hard time from everyone else. The joke making was relentless and we all shared some really good laughs. When the falling tide slowed down the Trout bite did as well. However, a quick move to another part of the channel put us on a hot Redfish bite. Most of the fish were smaller in size, but they were abundant. Multiple hook ups were the norm. Once all four us had a fish on. Quads! Dave, Donna and I landed Redfish. Unfortunately for Sean, his fish was a Mullet. For some odd reason this was uproariously funny. Well, at least to Dave, Donna and me. Sean took the verbal abuse well. To commemorate the moment, we took an impromptu selfie. We were all laughing so hard, it was difficult to get a good shot.
Fishing is great right now. The water temperature is 57-degrees and I expect the hot bite to continue until the water temperature falls below 52-degrees. The optimal fishing window is beginning to close. So, get out there. Catch a few fish and make fun of your friends.
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.
Last week, I did not fish. What?! That’s right, for the first time in a very long time, I missed seven days of fishing (in a row). For the past few months, I have been battling a repetitive stress injury in my right elbow. As it turns out, I fish too much. During a quick fishing trip, I will cast several hundred times. On longer trips, my cast count often exceeds one thousand. Plus, somewhere along the line, I got old! Excessive casting and old age are a bad combination. According to my doctor, a course of steroids, powerful anti-inflammatory medication and no fishing would help my elbow to heal. After disregarding this advise for months, I realized this was something that would not simply go away. Thus, my fishing hiatus.
Hopefully, my elbow will recover soon because the next few weeks will offer some of the best fishing of the year. As the water temperature drops below the middle sixty-degree range, most of the baitfish and shrimp will leave the creeks. This leaves Redfish, Trout and Flounder with a big appetite and not much to eat. So, they will be chasing and eating everything they can fit in their mouths. Ironically, I have this in common with the fish.
Call your friends. Grab your family. Go fishing. Someone must do it. Until my arm recovers, I am depending upon you!
This week, fishing felt like a Don Henley song. In the Lowcountry, Sharks and Tarpon are the boys of summer and this week they were gone. While I have not seen a Dead Head sticker on a Cadillac, I am pretty sure the boys of summer are leaving town. In the Summer, catching Sharks behind shrimp boats is super easy and very reliable. On Saturday, I did not catch a single one. After striking out on Sharks, I ran the Pathfinder just off the beach looking for rolling Tarpon. For the past few months, finding Tarpon on the beach has been a regular thing. Saturday, there were none to be found.
After spending Saturday targeting the boys of summer (and not catching anything), on Sunday I focused on a more available species, Speckled Trout. In the Fall, Trout form large schools and feed aggressively. So, this time of year, they are usually pretty easy to catch. Thankfully, this was the case on Sunday. The Trout were stacked up in the mouth of small creeks that were draining into the main river. Casting a Z-Man TRD or Trout Trick into the creek mouths produced steady catch and release action. After releasing several Trout, the porpoise with the wonky fin that Brody (the amazing fish finding dog) scared off last week, returned. Brody was not on board. With no dog deterent, the porpoise swam right up to the boat and stared at me.
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.
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!
Recently, inshore fishing has been outstanding. Especially for Trout and Redfish. Now that summer is over, predators are feeding aggressively in advance of Winter. So, they are pretty easy to catch. While Trout and Redfish are abundant inshore, they are often on the smaller side.
This weekend, I decided to fish a “hero or zero” strategy. Exclusively targeting larger fish and significantly increasing the chance of catching nothing. When inshore fishing, I typically fish with a Shimano Expride 7-foot light action rod with a Stella 1000 frame reel. This outfit is very light, sensitive and easy to cast all day long. When hero fishing, I use an Expride 7-foot medium action rod with a Stradic 3000 frame reel. This outfit casts larger lures and handles hero-size fish extremely well. However, it weighs significantly more than my light tackle outfit.
My plan was to fish at the jetties for the first half of the incoming tide. When fishing with lures, clear water is important (so fish can easily see the lure). At the jetties, the incoming tide usually brings clear water with it. On Saturday, this was not the case. High winds and big waves stirred up the bottom sediment and poor water clarity prevailed. Undeterred, I selected a chartreuse Z-Man 4-inch Jerk ShadZ (the most visible lure in the conditions) and rigged it in a 3/8-ounce jig. Then began casting the lure to the rocks. Two hours and hundreds of casts later, I had no bites and a sore elbow from casting the heavier tackle. I made a note that hero fishing is not as much fun as I recalled, took some Advil and started casting again. Over the next 2 hours, I made hundreds of more casts, caught one small Redfish and made an appointment with my doctor to look at my elbow.
On Saturday, I was not a hero or a zero. Today, I am an orthopedic patient
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!