After the shark selfie episode, my fishing trips have been more sedate. Brody (the amazing fish finding dog) and I have been concentrating our efforts in the rivers and creeks. For the most part, the Trout, Flounder and Redfish have been very cooperative. All are readily striking a Z-Man Trout Trick rigged on a quarter ounce lead head jig. On Sunday, we were catching and releasing Trout at a rapid pace. After about 30 minutes, a porpoise (with a distinct notch in its dorsal fin) began following my Pathfinder around and eating the fish we were releasing. Brody did not approve and began barking each time the porpoise approached the boat. So, we left the fish biting and moved to another location. Brody and I used the trolling motor to slowly move along the creek bank and cast the Trout Trick to points and pockets in the marsh. It did not take long to find another school of hungry Trout. A few minutes later, the porpoise with the wonky dorsal fin found us again. As it approached the boat, Brody began barking and jumped into the water nearly on top of the porpoise.
Brody is not much for swimming. Thus, he wears a floatation device when we are on water. As it turns out, Brody is a good swimmer and likes being in the water. However, I was thankful that he was wearing a floatation device. The handles made it easy to lift my 52-pound dog back into the boat. After drying Brody off, I resumed fishing. The porpoise never came back. Brody is now the amazing fish finding and porpoise scaring dog.
On occasion, I discover something that is worthy of sharing. All my fishing rods are lightweight, sensitive and very expensive. Recently, I purchased a Shimano Sellus spinning rod. It is reasonably light, sensitive and costs only $49. That is 1/10th the cost of my normal fishing rods! If you are thinking about getting a new inshore fishing rod and don’t want to invest $500, check out the Sellus. I think you will like it.
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!
Having a plan is an important of fishing success. However, being flexible is just as (if not more) important. This was the case on a recent fly-fishing trip in Tennessee. Our plan was to target Small Mouth Bass in the Holston River. Unfortunately, heavy rains before my arrival made the Holston River unfishable. My guide recommended Plan B, Rainbow Trout on the Clinch River. Rainbows were not what I came to Tennessee to catch. But, when travelling to fish, I always listen to my guide. So, Plan B sounded good to me!
It took about an hour to get to the Clinch River. We put in just below the dam. The water was clear and cold. Perfect conditions for Rainbow Trout. Plan B was beginning to look pretty good. Over the next few hours, we caught and released several Rainbow Trout. While I went to Tennessee to target Small Mouth Bass, being flexible when conditions changed made for a great day with Rainbow Trout.
Here in the Lowcountry, we are blessed with an abundance of fish species. If Trout are not biting, Redfish are an excellent Plan B. Spanish Mackerel, Jacks or Sheepshead are all good Plan C, D and E options. Flounder, Black Drum, Bluefish, Ladyfish, Sharks and even Tarpon are available in August. So, if Plan A is not working. Be flexible, try Plan B. Chances are, before you progress to far into the alphabet, you will catch fish!
This week, Mother Nature gave the Lowcountry a bit of a break. After weeks of record high temperatures, an inland high-pressure system provided a cool (for late summer) northerly breeze and more comfortable conditions. However, the comfort came at a cost. The breeze also created rough conditions in the harbor and nearshore waters, making fishing a bit of a challenge.
What do you do when the weather is great, but fishing conditions are tough? Take the family, including Brody our fish finding dog, for a sunset cruise. Of course, I brought a fishing rod, just in case. We launched late in the afternoon. The tide was just beginning to fall as we idled out of the Ralston Creek. When we got to the Wando River, we found breezy and choppy conditions. No problem in my new Pathfinder 2500 Hybrid. It eats harbor chop like I eat Orlando’s Brick Oven Pizza. After an hour or so of sightseeing, we decided to settle into a spot and watch the sunset. Naturally, I picked a spot that usually holds Trout, a marsh point swept by the falling tide. After setting the Power Pole to hold us in place, Amy (my lovely wife), Heather (Elliott’s girlfriend), Maddie (my daughter) and I lounged around and enjoyed the great weather. Brody had other ideas. He kept looking at me and then looking at the fishing rod. After a few minutes of his encouragement, I decided to make a few casts. Brody was right. The Trout bite was on. The fish were not large, but they were hungry. I asked the girls if they wanted to catch a few but they were in chill mode. So, Brody and I continued catching and releasing Trout. Then, I decided to try and teach Brody to hold a fish for a picture. Turns out, this was not one of my better ideas.
After a great sunset, we listened to some tunes and idled back to the boat landing. Sometimes, a great fishing trip has nothing to do with fishing.
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!
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.
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.