A Very Happy Birthday

For years, it has been a tradition for my son, Elliott, and I to fish together on my birthday.  However, now that Elliott lives in Japan, my brother, David, has picked up the tradition.   So, on my birthday we launched the Pathfinder and set off in search of fish.  Idling away from the boat landing, I asked David what fish he felt like targeting.  He said it was my birthday so I should decide.  Without much thought, Bull Redfish became my birthday target species. 

After a quick run to the jetties, I spot locked the Pathfinder within casting distance of the rocks.  The out going tide was creating current seams as it passed between gaps in the rocks.  We cast Z-Man 4-inch Jerk ShadZ on 3/8-ounce jigs into the current seams.  Our most productive casts were literally right on top of the rocks.  The current was strong enough to sweep the lures off the rocks and into deeper water.  Speckled Trout, Weakfish, Bluefish and Ladyfish were crushing our lures as they bounced down the rocks.  This technique caught a lot of fish, but we also caught a lot of rocks.  If you give this technique a try, bring lots of jigs and lures!

The bite hot with a wide variety of specifies, except Bull Reds.  So, I set the trolling motor on a track parallel to the rocks and we began casting our lures to fishy looking places that we passed.  We continued to catch Weakfish and Bluefish.  The Bulls Reds were elusive.  Then, we passed over an area that was slightly deeper and I could see big fish on the side scan sonar.  On my first cast into the deeper area, an upper slot Redfish ate my lure.  The Redfish bite was steady.  However, none of the Reds were Bulls.  After releasing several, we left them biting to seek out my birthday Bull Redfish.  As it turned out, I never caught one, but David released a couple of nice ones.

On the ride back to the boat landing, Elliott called to wish me a happy birthday.  I stopped the boat and put him on speaker.  David told him to come back soon because he was getting tired of carrying me.  We all had a good laugh.  It was a very happy birthday. 

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.  

Killer Day With Shelly

Fishing with friends can be surprising.  Some surprises are pleasant. Others, not so much.  On a recent fishing trip with my friend, Shelly Bostwick, all the surprises were pleasant.  We launched my Pathfinder bay boat into the last of the outgoing tide. Our plan was to target Bluefish that we could use for Shark bait a little later (on the incoming tide).  

My first surprise was that Shelly is an excellent caster.  I positioned the boat down tide from a marsh point and cast my lure to “the spot” to catch a Bluefish.  Shelly cast her lure, a Z-Man StreakZ 3.75 on a 3/16-ounce jig to the exact same spot. Most impressive casting ability.

The second surprise was that Trout had taken over the Bluefish spot.  We released several quality-size Trout and kept a few Bluefish for bait.  When the tide stopped, the Trout and Bluefish bite did as well. So, we made a run out past the jetties and took up position about 100 yards behind a shrimp boat.  I picked up a 30-pound class spinning outfit, a Shimano 6000 frame Saragosa reel on a medium heavy Teramar rod, and nose-hooked a live Bluefish on a 5/0 circle hook.  Shelly cast the Bluefish into the shrimp boat’s wake. Almost immediately, she was hooked up to a Blacktip Shark. The Shark jumped a few times and then made a long drag sizzling run.  Sharks are an overlooked sport fish. They are abundant and really fun to catch.

Surprise number three was how good of an angler Shelly is.  She kept maximum pressure on the Blacktip. This can be difficult to do with 30-pound class tackle.  Her great angling technique brought the Shark to the boat in record time. It was sufficiently large, that I did not want to hold it for a picture, and you know how much I love to hold fish for pictures.  After releasing the Blacktip, we moved back behind the shrimper and caught a few more. The Shark bite was still on when we decided to target Redfish at the jetties. After a quick run, I spot-locked the boat a safe distance from the rocks.  Shelly cast a Z-Man 4” Jerk ShadZ on a 3/8-ounce jig into the waves washing over the rocks. Surprise! Redfish got checked off our list.

Fishing with your friends can be surprising.  When fishing with Shelly, all the surprises were pleasant.  I do not tournament fish anymore. But, if I did, I would be lucky for Shelly to be my partner.  

Summertime Fishing is Like a Box of Chocolates

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.

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.

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!