Getting Old!

Fishing Report 11/4/2019

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! 

Hero, Zero, Or Somewhere Inbetween.

Fishing Report 9/23/2019

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

100 Fish Challenge

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!

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!