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!

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.

Father’s Week

In my mind, Fathers deserve more than a day. So, the bulk of last week was dedicated to me! Thankfully, my children Elliott and Maddie were willing participants. Probably, because they declare “Birthday Week”.

Of course, “Fathers Week” includes lots of fishing. On Saturday, there was a negative (extremely low) tide. Elliott and I decided to fish in small creeks, targeting Redfish that were concentrated into small areas due to the very low tide. This can be a dicey plan. Fishing in small creeks on negative tides usually equals getting stuck. However, my new Salt Marsh skiff was able to navigate through water less than six inches deep. We slowly and quietly moved into a tiny creek and spotted a couple of big Redfish milling around an oyster bar. Elliott said since it was Fathers Week, I could take the first cast. Once cast was all it took. I presented the Z-Man TRD (Geko rigged) and hooked up immediately. Fighting a big Redfish in a shallow creek can be a messy affair. With no place to run, the fish frantically sloshes about the shallows and splashes mud into the skiff. This one was particularly adept at splashing mud. For some reason, Elliott and I found this to be very funny. Eventually, the Redfish got tired of splashing us with mud and came to the skiff.

After a quick picture, we took several minutes to revive the fish. As it swam away, Elliott wished me a Happy Fathers Week. Upon returning to the boat landing, Maddie greeted us and took me to lunch (while Elliott cleaned up the skiff). Fathers Week was pretty good. I highly recommend it!

Tough Fishing Beats Sitting in Traffic

 

Wind and rain made fishing this week a bit of a challenge. The combined weather elements made for extremely poor water clarity. This shut down the Trout bite and made casting lures or flies to Redfish in the shallows nearly impossible. Fishing was tough but not nearly as tough as the drive from Mount Pleasant to Daniel Island!

On Sunday, my son Elliott and I set out to catch a Redfish on the fly. Conditions were not optimal. Shoot, they were downright awful. Light rain, strong wind and poor water clarity had us considering a change of plans. However, we decided to stick with the original plan. Regardless of how difficult it would be. Turns out, difficult was an understatement.

The water clarity was like chocolate milk. We could not see Redfish swimming in water that was less than a foot deep. Sight fishing was a total bust. Rather than give up the quest for a Redfish on the fly, we decided to slowly pole the shallows and cast to feeding activity (shrimp and baitfish jumping). This time of year, shrimp and baitfish are jumping everywhere. So, we ended up casting the fly literally everywhere. Back in the days when Elliott and I were tournament fishing, we called endless casting with no bites “grinding”. That is exactly what we did. Move and cast. Move and cast. Move and cast.

After a few hours of grinding, our spirits were low. I recommended that we quit and go eat a late lunch. Elliott was not ready to throw in the towel. We kept on. Move and cast. Move and cast. Move and cast. Then unexpectedly, a Redfish managed to see and eat the fly. Elation!

Fish was slow. But, it sure beat sitting in traffic!

Glad March is Almost Over!

March is always a challenging month. The transition from winter to spring makes it difficult to consistently locate and catch fish. For me, this March has been particularly difficult. Between high winds and a calf injury, I have not been fishing very much. When I did fish, it was a hit or miss proposition.

On Sunday, it was cold, rainy and windy. The boat landing was empty. As I surveyed the vacant parking lot, I thought all these people are much smarter than me. Idling away from the ramp, I envisioned people drinking coffee and reading the Sunday paper in the warmth of their homes. It confirmed my initial thought, everyone is smarter than me.

After a short run, I deployed the trolling motor and began casting a Z-Man StreakZ 3.75 on a 3/16-ounce Finesse Jig to a wind sheltered bank. On the second cast, I caught a keeper size Flounder and began to feel a little bit smarter. A few minutes later, I released a 27-inch Redfish and determined it was a smart idea to go fishing. Shortly thereafter, a Trout completed an inshore slam and I was a total genius. About then, it started raining heavily and my delusion of grandeur was shattered on the rocks of reality. Turns out, I am not very smart after all.

Given this realization, I am surprised that over 35 people have already confirmed attendance for my April 21st class on Four Things You Can Do to Catch More Fish. The event is being held at the Pierce Park Pavilion from 10:00 till noon. After the class, lunch will be provided. Additionally, there will be breakout sessions on casting, rigging soft plastic lures and tying fishing knots. The class is free. However, I am asking attendees to consider a donation to the Lucy Boyle Memorial Fund or the Respeck Initiative (that is working to restore our Trout stocks after the die-off caused by the snowstorm). If you would like to attend, please confirm your seat with an email to captgregp@gmail.com.

Daylight Saving Time

Now that we have set our clocks forward, there is an extra hour in the afternoon to go fishing.  Recently, Elliott and I took advantage of the additional daylight and released a few Redfish On The Fly.  It was a little breezy but my Shimano Asquith 8 weight made presenting the fly effortless.  The Reds were hungry.  The sunset was beautiful.  Another great fishing trip with my son.

It Pays to Explore

The Ralston Creek boat landing is closed for renovations until the end of March. Thankfully, the Beresford Creek boat landing is still open. While it only takes a few minutes to launch in Beresford Creek and then run around Daniel Island to the Wando River (where I fish most of the time), I have decided to take the month of March and learn more about fishing in the Cooper River area. My first trips have been very promising.

On Monday afternoon, I decided to fish in Clouter Creek. The tide was falling and about an hour away from dead low. This provided me the opportunity to see oyster bars that are normally covered during higher stages of the tide. Most of the oyster bars were dry or in very shallow water. A few were in water between 1 and 5 feet deep. These were the bars that I spent a little time fishing around. Redfish were feeding near the shallow bars. I could easily seem them sloshing around. A quick cast of a StreakZ 3.75 on a 3/16-ounce Finesse Jig produced a solid strike. The Reds were not particularly large but they were hungry and plentiful. After releasing a few, I went in search of Trout.

The Trout were a bit more spread out. Most were congregating at the base of oyster bars in deeper water. Each deeper bar seemed to hold a fish or two. By hitting a few bars, I managed to release a decent number of Trout. The size of the fish was larger than what I have been seeing in the Wando. Most were 16 to 18 inches long and I released a few approaching the 20-inch mark.

I love fishing in the Wando River. However, the Cooper River area is growing on me!

Redfish on Top

 

First Top Water Redfish of 2018

It has been an interesting winter. In January, we had a snow storm and record low temperatures. Then, the month of February was unusually warm. For the past few weeks, I have been fishing in shorts and flip flops. The water temperature is a surprisingly warm 64 degrees. Baitfish have returned to the shallows and Redfish are feeding on them.

Given the unusually warm conditions, my son Elliott and I decided to target Redfish with top water lures. Early Sunday morning, we launched the skiff into the last of the falling tide. The sun had yet to clear the horizon when we pulled up to our fishing spot (a shallow flat with lots of oyster bars). A strong breeze kept the gnats at bay and made the water on the flat a little choppy. Conditions called for a larger top water lure with a loud rattle. About the time I decided to use a Mirrolure Top Pup, Elliott picked up the rod with the only Top Pup we had on the skiff. We laughed about only having one of the “right” lures. As the sun rose, we spotted a small school of Redfish milling around next to a submerged oyster bar. Elliott cast the Top Pup well beyond the school (so the splash of the lure landing would not spook the fish) and slowly reeled the lure into position. When the lure was directly above the fish, he began a twitch and pause retrieve. Two fish broke away from the school and began tracking the lure. They followed the Top Pup for 10 feet and then returned to the school. Elliott made another presentation and used a more aggressive retrieve cadence. The water exploded as a Redfish crushed the lure. As Elliott fought the fish, I said a silent prayer (it was Sunday after all) thanking God for such a beautiful morning and another great experience shared with my son.

We took a few pictures before releasing the fish. Then, sat down and savored the moment. Historically, we do not catch the first Redfish of the year on a top water lure until late March. Getting the first one in February was a moment to remember.

Fishing with The Charleston Angler Crew

Paul & Dave from The Charleston Angler

 Wind and rain dominated the fishing scene this week. However, when I did manage to get out, the Trout and Redfish were biting. Earlier in the week, while at The Charleston Angler, my brother Dave, Paul Speranza and I were wondering how the bite was in the upper Wando. None of us had ventured up that way since the snow storm. Rather than continue to wonder, we decided to go find out. On Saturday, we launched into the last of the falling tide. A thick fog made navigating up river an interesting endeavor. Thankfully, my new skiff is equipped with a Garmin 54CV GPS/depth finder. The Garmin allowed us to make the trip in near zero visibility.

Upon arrival up river, we began casting Z-Man TRD Ned Rigs and TubeZ lures around docks and drop offs. The water temperature was 54 degrees (which is close to normal for this time of year) but the fishing was slow. We tried shallow and deep-water locations but we could not locate a large concentration of feeding fish. A few Trout is all we could manage in the first hour or two of fishing. Rather than continue scouting, we decided to head back down river and catch some fish. The fog had lifted by then so the run back down river was a quick one.

We stopped at a submerged oyster bar outside of Horlebeck Creek. On the first cast to the bar, I hooked an over-slot Redfish. Paul and Dave followed suit. At last, we had located a school of hungry fish. After releasing several Reds, we switched our attention to Trout in deeper water. It took a bit of looking, but we found a few schools holding along depth transitions in 10 to 15 feet of water. They were hungry too!

On the ride back to the boat landing, we laughed about wearing T-shirts and flip flops to fish in February. A far cry from fishing in the snow a few weeks ago. Hopefully, the warming trend holds and fishing continues to improve. Especially in the upper Wando.

Time for the Slim SwimZ

With the water temperature nearing 60 degrees, Trout and Redfish are feeding more aggressively.  So yesterday, I switched from my favorite cold water lure (Z-Man TRD Ned Rig) and began fishing a Z-Man Slim SwimZ on a 1/6 ounce NedlockZ jig.  Trout and Redfish have been crushing it.  While I am still learning to use the Slim SwimZ, a couple of things have become apparent.

A Slim SwimZ on a 1/6 ounce  NedLockZ jig is a light weight lure that requires a light tackle system to fish effectively.  I am using a 6’8″ Shimano Zodias light rod matched with a 1000 frame Ci4 reel that is spooled with 10 pound PowerPro.  A 12 pound fluorocarbon leader about 2 feet long completes the tackle system.  This outfit casts the 1/6 ounce NedlockZ jig really well and the light Zodias rod telegraphs even the most subtle strike.

Retrieving the Slim SwimZ is something I am still working on.  However, a slow retrieve with a pause (letting the lure hit the bottom) and short snap of the rod has been producing a lot of strikes.  Still experimenting but this is the retrieve cadence that I always begin with.

Slim SwimZ colors that I have been using are Opening Night and Bad Shad.

Time will tell but I think the Slim SwimZ is going to be a great year-round lure.  I will keep you posted on how it does.  So far, Trout and Redfish like it.  I do too!