Good Luck Jack!

This week, I felt my age.  On Monday, I pulled a muscle in my back.  On Tuesday, I could barely get out of bed (much less go fishing).   So, I spent most of the week laying about feeling sorry for myself.  Thankfully, my back recovered enough to fish with Jack Gardner on Sunday.   Jack and I have been fishing together since he was in middle school.  He is now an alumnus of The Citadel and beginning his career in Virginia.  Sunday was the last opportunity for us to fish together before he left town.  I was not going to miss it!

Circumstances were not optimal on Sunday.  Strong winds made for rough conditions and poor water clarity.  If this was not our last fishing trip before Jack left town, I would have cancelled.  It was that awful.  Our first stop was a marsh point swept by the current of the outgoing tide.  It was exposed to the wind and the waves.  Given limited mobility due to my back, not falling out of the boat was a major accomplishment!  We cast Z-Man Finesse TRDs on 1/5-ounce NedlockZ jigs to the marsh point and let the tide sweep our lures into deeper water.  It was difficult fishing.  Thankfully, we managed to catch a few Trout and a Flounder.  So, our attention turned to completing the inshore slam with a Redfish.  As we ran from place to place in search of a Red, Jack and I recalled memories from each spot that we visited.  We shared stories.  We laughed a lot.  I marveled at the person he had become. 

Jack and I did not catch many fish, but we did take the opportunity to catch up.  Perhaps, that is the best catch of all. 

Fishing vs. Catching

Fishing and Catching Are Not Synonymous!

Fishing and catching are not synonymous.  Sometimes, I get to believing that they are.  But Mother Nature always steps in to remind me they most certainly are not.  Saturday was one of those days.  The tide was wonky.  The wind was howling.  The water clarity was abysmal.  It was a tough day for fishing.  Wait, tough is not a suitable description.  Awful, that is a better word.  Simply awful.  To tell the truth, I was not even having fun.

The search for synonymous took me from Daniel Island, throughout the harbor all the way to the end of the jetties.  After catching no fish, I ran the Pathfinder back up the Wando past the Highway 41 bridge.  Still no fish.  It was frustrating to say the least.  With literally no place else to look, I let the boat drift along the edge of the marsh and told my crew, David and Andrew, we should call it day.  They readily agreed.  As we got ourselves situated for the ride back to Daniel Island, I spotted a Redfish tailing in the marsh and it was moving toward us!  As quietly as possible, I nudged the bow of the Pathfinder into the edge of the Spartina.  To our amazement, the Redfish swam within easy casting distance of the boat.  Andrew cast a Z-Man 4-inch PaddlerZ into the path of the Red.  We held our collective breath and were elated when the fish ate the lure.  Our hoots and hollers could be heard from miles away.

After landing the fish, taking a few pictures and letting it go, we could not stop smiling and laughing.  That fish changed the day from awful to joyful.   It also served as a reminder that fishing and catching are most certainly not synonymous.

Dog Days

Brody, the amazing fish finding and stock trading dog

With Memorial Day in our rearview mirror, the dog days of Summer are just ahead.  However, when your fishing partner is Brody, the amazing fishing finding and stock trading dog, every day is a dog day.

In warm weather, the best bite is typically at first light.  So, Brody and I get out early.  Around 5:00 AM on Saturday, I was having a wonderful dream about being kissed by a Victoria’s Secret super model.  As it turns out, Brody was licking me on the face to wake me up and go fishing. 

On the way to the boat landing, we stopped at Refuel for coffee, chicken biscuits, drinks and ice.  Brody’s job was to grab the drinks while I picked up everything else.  Upon meeting at the cash register, Brody had a 12-pack of Coast Island Lager.  After explaining that beer is not adequate for warm weather hydration, he reluctantly agreed to return the beer and select something else.  In the blink of an eye, Brody came back with Truly Hard Seltzer Berry Mix.  With daylight rapidly approaching, we agreed to disagree and paid for our stuff.

We reached the end of the jetties, just after sunrise.  The wind light and the seas were calm.  Spanish Mackerel and Bluefish were busting minnows on the surface.  I deployed the trolling motor and spot locked the Pathfinder an easy casting distance from the end of the rocks.  Brody was looking at a 15-pound spinning outfit rigged with a Shimano 21-gram Colt Sniper jig.  So, I picked it up, made a long cast and began a high-speed retrieve.  A big Bluefish crushed the jig.  The Spanish Mackerel and Bluefish were fired up and feeding aggressively.  We kept a few of the smaller Bluefish for bait to target sharks behind shrimp trawlers.  When the incoming tide slowed down, the bite turned off.

It was time for sharks.  I positioned the Pathfinder a good distance behind a trawler and cast a 30-pound class spinning outfit rigged with a small Bluefish on 6/0 circle hook.  It only took a few seconds for a large Spinner shark to eat the Bluefish.  It jumped several times before settling in for a punishing fight.  It took 30-minutes to catch and release the shark.  By then, I was hot and thirsty.  The Truly Hard Seltzer was cold, tasty and refreshing.   Sadly, I could only drink one because Brody refused to be the designated boat driver.

With shark checked off the list, we turned our attention to Bull Redfish back at the jetties.  I began casting a Z-Man 5-inch Jerk ShadZ on a 3/8-ounce jig to the rocks.  After several minutes and a couple of lost jigs, we checked Bull Redfish off the list and called it a day.

Other than the face licking episode, I love the dog days of summer.

Stock Trading Dog

Brody in his Trading Office.

Now that the Daniel Island boat landings are open, I am settling back into my regular routine.  However, Brody (the amazing fish finding dog), is struggling a bit.  When the Covid-19 shutdown began, to kill the extra time and have a little fun, I opened Brody an E-Trade account.  It all started innocently.  Every day, I would write two stock symbols on pieces of paper and set them on the floor with doggy treats.  We would buy the stock that Brody went to first.  As it turns out, Brody is a good stock picker and most days his portfolio would be up.  Then, he set up watch lists and started doing technical analysis.  This is when our problems began. 

The first indication of the forthcoming catastrophe was Brody demanding that I mount an iPad on the console of my boat.  This allowed him to stay in touch with the market and make trades throughout the fishing day.  At first, it was kind of entertaining but quickly progressed into a problem.  Brody became more interested in trading stocks than finding fish.  It was a crushing blow that I still struggle to understand.

Things got even worse, when Brody converted one of our bedrooms into his trading office.  There are so many computers and monitors in that room, I am afraid to look at my Dominion Power bill.  Now, Brody stays in there nearly all the time.  No time for fishing or me. 

Now, I fish alone.  Maybe, I pushed Brody to hard about backing up the boat trailer?  Perhaps, this is Brody’s way of social distancing?  Whatever the case may be, I miss my fish finding dog.

On a brighter note, fishing has been very good.  Even without Brody’s help. 

Dolphin Day

My Constant Companions

For me, the glass is usually half full.  During the closure of our boat landings, many friends went above and beyond to help me fish.  Their thoughtfulness and kindness make my glass and my heart full.   

With our boat landings now open, I have returned to my normal (every day) fishing schedule.  As I get back into my routine, things that I may have taken for granted are wonderments once again.  On Sunday morning, the water was 69-degrees and the Trout bite was going off.  I was catching and releasing Trout at a torrid pace.  After about an hour, a pod of dolphin began hanging around my skiff and eating the fish I was releasing.  One of them was very distinct as it was missing the top half of its dorsal fin.  Not wanting the released Trout to be eaten and for dolphin to associate food with people, I moved to another area about a mile away.  Thankfully, the Trout bite we good there as well.  After just a few minutes, the pod of dolphin showed up again.  I knew it was the same group because of “Shorty”, the one missing half its fin.  This time, I moved a further distance away, but the dolphin found me again in very short order.

It became clear, that I was not going to lose this pod of dolphin.  So, I began putting the Trout in my release well to be returned to the water away from the ravenous mammals.  Each time, I put a fish in the release well, the dolphin would surface right next to the boat and look at me.  To my surprise, this went on the rest of the day.  Even with the Trout supply cut off, the dolphin stayed with me.  It was a bit frustrating but a wonderment none the less.

Best of People in Worst of Times

The best of people comes out in the worst of times.  This is the bright side of the Covid-19 pandemic.  While my biggest challenge is the inability to fish due to closure of our boat landings, I am amazed by the number of people that have reached out to help. 

A few days into the boat landing closure, a friend ran his skiff across the harbor from Sullivan’s Island to Daniel Island and took me fishing in the Wando River.  He joked that he was compelled to help because I was literally a fish out of water.  The next week, another friend invited me to fish on his boat which was docked on Ralston Creek.  It was good to catch a few fish.  It was better to catch up with an old friend.  Then, to my surprise, another friend offered to let me keep my Pathfinder at their dock.  I am lucky to have such thoughtful and caring friends. 

With my Pathfinder back in the game, I am making up for lost time and fishing nearly every day.  The water temperature is approaching 70-degrees. Baitfish have returned to the rivers and creeks.  Redfish, Trout and Flounder are feeding aggressively.  It is great to be fishing again!

More good news.  Brody, the amazing fish finding dog, has stopped trading stocks and returned to finding fish.  While I am happy to have him back on the boat, I do have mixed feelings. Turns out, Brody is fantastic at picking stocks.  Well, at least, better than me.  So, after intensive negotiations, Brody has agreed to trade stocks during the day and then fish after the market closes at 4:00.  Brody is also the new owner of my Pathfinder 2500 Hybrid.  A small price to pay for an amazing fish finding dog that can pick stocks too!

Yes, the best of people (and fish finding dogs) comes out in the worst of times. 

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.  

Sunrise, Sunset

In the summer, inshore fishing can be hit or miss. It is my theory (I have lots of theories) that in the heat of summer the feeding window is shorter. Given the abundance of forage, it is easy for predators to find food and eat their fill. So, the amount of time that they are feeding is much less. I believe this was the case this weekend.

On Saturday, my brother Dave and I were fishing the harbor for Spanish Mackerel and Trout. We launched at dawn as the tide began to fall. Upon our arrival at a harbor tideline, the Spanish Mackerel bite was on. For about 30 minutes, a Z-Man TRD retrieved as fast a you could reel it in, produced steady action. Then, the bite just stopped. We searched around but could not locate any more actively feeding fish. A quick run to a submerged oyster bar put us on a super-hot Trout bite. Like the Spanish Mackerel, the Trout bite was short-lived. But, when it was on, we released a bunch of fish.

The next morning, I went fishing with Tristin Poole (who works with Shimano). We fished the same plan that Dave and I had success with on Saturday. The same locations and the same tide cycle, which was one hour later in the morning. Not the same results. Zero bites. I am pretty sure the fish were around, but they were not actively feeding. Tristin is a skilled angler. We fished from the harbor to the upper Wando River and only managed to release 11 fish. On Sunday, fishing was a definite miss.

Looking back, summer fishing is highly dependent on low light conditions. The primary feeding windows are early in the morning and late in the evening. One hour can make the difference between a hit or a miss. For the rest of the summer, I will be fishing at dawn or at sunset. I think I will catch more fish and have less of a chance of heat stroke!

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!