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.
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.
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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Summer is a time of plenty. Our local waters are now filled with a multitude of fish species to choose from. Currently, the biggest angling challenge is deciding which fish to target. Now is a great time to break your routine and catch something different.
For me, it has been a long time since I set out to catch a Sheephead. So, on Friday, I picked up a pint of fiddler crabs at The Charleston Angler (West Ashley location). Rather than re-rig my rods specifically for Sheephead fishing, I simply removed the Z-Man StreakZ 3.75 (Blue Back Herring) from my finesse jig and replaced it with a fiddler crab. Turns out, simplicity works. Sheephead readily ate fiddler crabs on the finesse jig.
While fishing for Sheephead, a school of Spanish Mackerel began busting Glass Minnows nearby. I quickly put the StreakZ 3.75 back on the jig and cast to the feeding school. For the next 30 minutes, it was non-stop Spanish Mackerel action.
Summer is a time of plenty. Plenty of fish and plenty of opportunities to break your routine.
A few years ago, there was a county music song with the lyrics “too hot to fish”. On Saturday, with the optimal tide occurring during the middle of the day, the lyrics to that song kept popping into my head. With the heat index hovering around 110 degrees, fishing was not very much fun. Despite my best efforts to stay hydrated, after a few hours in the intensely hot sun, I started to feel the symptoms of heat exhaustion. It is not fun (or safe) to fish with a pounding headache and being light headed. So, I quit fishing early on Saturday and did not fish at all on Sunday. It was literally, too hot to fish!
Thankfully, an early morning start (on Saturday) got us on to a solid Spanish Mackerel bite in the harbor. The Mackerel were chasing schools of glass minnows. Since a Z-Man StreakZ 3.75 (Blue Back Herring) on a 1/8-ounce Trout Eye Finesse jig looks just like a glass minnow, the Spanish Mackerel readily ate our lures. On our first casts into the feeding school, David (my brother) and I each hooked a fish. Doubles! My son, Elliott, volunteered to take a picture. As he took the shot, my fish started vigorously flipping its tail and slapping David in the face. We all found this to be uproariously funny. Well, at least Elliott and I did.
Fishing in the late summer can be tough. Take it from me. Get out early and get back early (before it gets too hot). Unless of course, you like country music.
The storm that rolled through the Lowcountry yesterday afternoon snarled traffic, dropped hail and put on an awesome (and dangerous) electrical show. Delayed launching the skiff (I am scared of lightning) until after the storm subsided. Caught a bunch of Trout and Ladyfish on a Z-Man StreakZ 3.75 (Blue Back Herring) on a 1/8th ounce Eye Strike finesse jig. Also, got this shot of my son (Captain Elliott) casting to a tailing Redfish.
The storm was bad. The traffic was awful. The fishing was pretty darn good!
Sometimes, a change is good. Typically, I prefer to fish with flies and lures. However, my friend Donna Crocker, likes to fish with live shrimp. So, when we fish together, a coin flip determines which method we will use. On this fishing trip, I lost the coin toss.
We launched the skiff late in the afternoon near the end of the falling tide. It only took a few casts of the net to catch enough shrimp for a few of hours of fishing. Our plan was to look for feeding predators in shallow water (by observing shrimp jumping on the surface). Once located, casting a live shrimp on a lead head jig into the area often produces a Redfish, Trout or Flounder. In the summertime, this is a very reliable fishing pattern. Especially, during lower stages of the tide.
For the first hour or so of this trip, smaller fish were prevalent (at last for Donna). I managed to complete an inshore slam and release a couple of 25-inch Reds. As always, when we fish together, there is a lively banter about who is fishing the best. For most of the trip, I got the best of this exchange. As the sun began to set, we made one last stop on the way back to the boat landing. Donna spotted several shrimps jumping and fired a cast right on top of them. The water exploded as a big Redfish attacked her jig and shrimp combination. Immediately, I knew I was in trouble. Donna was giving me a hard time before she even landed the fish. When the fish came to the skiff, I had to admit to defeat. Heading back to the boat landing, I pretended to be unable to hear Donna because of the sound of the outboard engine. This got us to laughing. It was a fitting end to a great fishing trip with a good friend.
The other day, I was working a school of Redfish in ultra shallow water. The Reds were very spooky so I was casting my lure (a Z-Man StreakZ on a Trout Eye Jig) onto the bank then pulling it into the water. This stealthy presentation was working well. After releasing a couple of decent size Redfish, I made another cast onto the bank. As I pulled the lure back into the water, I foul hooked this Flounder. As if that was not bad enough, the unlucky flat fish was keeper size. Typically, I release most of the fish I catch. However, this one was invited home for dinner.