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.
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 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!
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!
In the Lowcountry, the Dog Days of Summer begin in July and the average heat index exceeds 100-degrees. There are some days, in the afternoon, when it really is too hot to fish. So, I adjust my fishing schedule accordingly. In the Dog Days, my favorite and most productive fishing time is early in the morning on an incoming tide. By early, I mean Dawn Patrol (before sunrise). Overnight, the water temperatures will have cooled by a degree or two. This, combined with an incoming tide lowers the water temperature even more. Cooler water and the low light period before sunrise, triggers predators to eat.
This week, I began Dawn Patrol fishing and I was usually on the water by 5:30 AM. Early in the morning, the marsh and creeks are quiet and you can hear fish feeding. So, picking a fishing spot is easy. At dawn, predators advertise their presence. Before making the first cast, try to determine the size and color of what the fish are eating. Typically, shrimp or finger mullet are on the menu. Select are lure that generally matches the menu’s daily special and it is a pretty sure bet that you will catch fish.
Before heading out for Dawn Patrol, make sure your fishing license is not expired. Traditionally, most licenses expire on June 30. This is a layover, from the days when a South Carolina fishing license had a fixed time frame from July 1 to June 30. Recently, the law was changed to one year from the date of purchase. However, since most existing licenses expired in June, the trend of July expiration remains. Nothing ruins a good day of fishing faster than a ticket from the Department of Natural Resources.
As we prepare to celebrate the 4th of July, I reflect on my youth (which was a long time ago) and my travels. Having seen the world, I know we live in the best country on earth. On July 4th, Dorothy from the wizard of OZ usually comes to mind. There is no place like home!
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.
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!
Rough seas and tough fish combined to put a hurting on me this weekend. On Monday, I was feeling so beat up that I actually skipped fishing! Fighting Amberjack on 30 pound class Shimano jigging tackle is a pretty good work out. Note to self. Go to the gym more often.
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!
After a cold and windy March, it seems Spring has finally arrived in the Lowcountry. The water temperature is now in the middle 60-degree range. Baitfish have returned to the creeks. Redfish, Trout and Flounder are actively feeding. Fishing is very good now and getting better with each passing day.
Last week, it was still a bit cool and breezy. However, the fish did not seem to mind. After a long and lean Winter, predators were making up for lost time and missed meals. Throughout the cold months, one of the most productive lures has been a Z-Man TRD Ned Rig. As an experiment, I plan to continue using the Ned Rig in the Spring. So far, results are promising. Redfish, Trout and Flounder have been crushing it. Bouncing the lure slowly along shallow depth transitions has been highly effective. In clear water, The Deal has been a good color. For areas with poor water clarity, the Bubble Gum color works best.
For the next few weeks, I will alternate back and forth between the TRD Ned Rig and my favorite lure the StreakZ 3.75. It will be interesting to see which lure produces best in a variety of conditions. If you would like to learn more about rigging and using both of these lures, please plan to attend my fishing class on April 21st. 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 email@example.com.