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!
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!
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.
The number of fish you catch is not as important as who you catch them with. On a recent fishing trip with Mark Friedfertig and his sons Chase and Cole, this was particularly evident. Families fishing together is important to me. So, I really wanted to share a great trip with Mark, Chase and Cole. Unfortunately, Mother Nature and the fish had other plans. Our first fishing location was a small creek that was draining over an oyster bar. It is typically a highly dependable Trout spot. Not so on this day. No worries, there are a lot of highly dependable Trout spots in the Wando River. Or, so I thought. After hitting several prime locations with only a few small Trout to show for it, I began to worry. However, Mark, Chase and Cole did not seem to mind. They were enjoying their time together even if they were not catching fish.
The day ground on. We fished the entirety of the Wando River. No matter how much we tried, the fish simply would not cooperate. After hours of fishing in earnest, we had only released 15 or so fish. For me, it was a very humbling experience. For Mark, Chase and Cole, it was a wonderful day together. On the ride back to the boat landing, I was struck by the fact that my new friends understood the true essence of fishing more than I did.
Did we catch a bunch of fish? No. Did we spend quality time with family and friends? Yes. Many thanks to Mark, Chase and Cole for reminding me what matters most in fishing. You guys rock!
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.
Wind and rain dominated the fishing scene this week. However, when I did manage to get out, the Trout and Redfish were biting. Earlier in the week, while at The Charleston Angler, my brother Dave, Paul Speranza and I were wondering how the bite was in the upper Wando. None of us had ventured up that way since the snow storm. Rather than continue to wonder, we decided to go find out. On Saturday, we launched into the last of the falling tide. A thick fog made navigating up river an interesting endeavor. Thankfully, my new skiff is equipped with a Garmin 54CV GPS/depth finder. The Garmin allowed us to make the trip in near zero visibility.
Upon arrival up river, we began casting Z-Man TRD Ned Rigs and TubeZ lures around docks and drop offs. The water temperature was 54 degrees (which is close to normal for this time of year) but the fishing was slow. We tried shallow and deep-water locations but we could not locate a large concentration of feeding fish. A few Trout is all we could manage in the first hour or two of fishing. Rather than continue scouting, we decided to head back down river and catch some fish. The fog had lifted by then so the run back down river was a quick one.
We stopped at a submerged oyster bar outside of Horlebeck Creek. On the first cast to the bar, I hooked an over-slot Redfish. Paul and Dave followed suit. At last, we had located a school of hungry fish. After releasing several Reds, we switched our attention to Trout in deeper water. It took a bit of looking, but we found a few schools holding along depth transitions in 10 to 15 feet of water. They were hungry too!
On the ride back to the boat landing, we laughed about wearing T-shirts and flip flops to fish in February. A far cry from fishing in the snow a few weeks ago. Hopefully, the warming trend holds and fishing continues to improve. Especially in the upper Wando.
With the water temperature nearing 60 degrees, Trout and Redfish are feeding more aggressively. So yesterday, I switched from my favorite cold water lure (Z-Man TRD Ned Rig) and began fishing a Z-Man Slim SwimZ on a 1/6 ounce NedlockZ jig. Trout and Redfish have been crushing it. While I am still learning to use the Slim SwimZ, a couple of things have become apparent.
A Slim SwimZ on a 1/6 ounce NedLockZ jig is a light weight lure that requires a light tackle system to fish effectively. I am using a 6’8″ Shimano Zodias light rod matched with a 1000 frame Ci4 reel that is spooled with 10 pound PowerPro. A 12 pound fluorocarbon leader about 2 feet long completes the tackle system. This outfit casts the 1/6 ounce NedlockZ jig really well and the light Zodias rod telegraphs even the most subtle strike.
Retrieving the Slim SwimZ is something I am still working on. However, a slow retrieve with a pause (letting the lure hit the bottom) and short snap of the rod has been producing a lot of strikes. Still experimenting but this is the retrieve cadence that I always begin with.
Slim SwimZ colors that I have been using are Opening Night and Bad Shad.
Time will tell but I think the Slim SwimZ is going to be a great year-round lure. I will keep you posted on how it does. So far, Trout and Redfish like it. I do too!