Hero, Zero, Or Somewhere Inbetween.

Fishing Report 9/23/2019

Recently, inshore fishing has been outstanding.  Especially for Trout and Redfish. Now that summer is over, predators are feeding aggressively in advance of Winter.  So, they are pretty easy to catch. While Trout and Redfish are abundant inshore, they are often on the smaller side.  

This weekend, I decided to fish a “hero or zero” strategy.  Exclusively targeting larger fish and significantly increasing the chance of catching nothing.  When inshore fishing, I typically fish with a Shimano Expride 7-foot light action rod with a Stella 1000 frame reel.  This outfit is very light, sensitive and easy to cast all day long. When hero fishing, I use an Expride 7-foot medium action rod with a Stradic 3000 frame reel.  This outfit casts larger lures and handles hero-size fish extremely well. However, it weighs significantly more than my light tackle outfit.  

My plan was to fish at the jetties for the first half of the incoming tide.  When fishing with lures, clear water is important (so fish can easily see the lure).  At the jetties, the incoming tide usually brings clear water with it. On Saturday, this was not the case.  High winds and big waves stirred up the bottom sediment and poor water clarity prevailed. Undeterred, I selected a chartreuse Z-Man 4-inch Jerk ShadZ (the most visible lure in the conditions) and rigged it in a 3/8-ounce jig.  Then began casting the lure to the rocks. Two hours and hundreds of casts later, I had no bites and a sore elbow from casting the heavier tackle. I made a note that hero fishing is not as much fun as I recalled, took some Advil and started casting again.   Over the next 2 hours, I made hundreds of more casts, caught one small Redfish and made an appointment with my doctor to look at my elbow.  

On Saturday, I was not a hero or a zero.  Today, I am an orthopedic patient

100 Fish Challenge

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!

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.  

A Very Happy Birthday

For years, it has been a tradition for my son, Elliott, and I to fish together on my birthday.  However, now that Elliott lives in Japan, my brother, David, has picked up the tradition.   So, on my birthday we launched the Pathfinder and set off in search of fish.  Idling away from the boat landing, I asked David what fish he felt like targeting.  He said it was my birthday so I should decide.  Without much thought, Bull Redfish became my birthday target species. 

After a quick run to the jetties, I spot locked the Pathfinder within casting distance of the rocks.  The out going tide was creating current seams as it passed between gaps in the rocks.  We cast Z-Man 4-inch Jerk ShadZ on 3/8-ounce jigs into the current seams.  Our most productive casts were literally right on top of the rocks.  The current was strong enough to sweep the lures off the rocks and into deeper water.  Speckled Trout, Weakfish, Bluefish and Ladyfish were crushing our lures as they bounced down the rocks.  This technique caught a lot of fish, but we also caught a lot of rocks.  If you give this technique a try, bring lots of jigs and lures!

The bite hot with a wide variety of specifies, except Bull Reds.  So, I set the trolling motor on a track parallel to the rocks and we began casting our lures to fishy looking places that we passed.  We continued to catch Weakfish and Bluefish.  The Bulls Reds were elusive.  Then, we passed over an area that was slightly deeper and I could see big fish on the side scan sonar.  On my first cast into the deeper area, an upper slot Redfish ate my lure.  The Redfish bite was steady.  However, none of the Reds were Bulls.  After releasing several, we left them biting to seek out my birthday Bull Redfish.  As it turned out, I never caught one, but David released a couple of nice ones.

On the ride back to the boat landing, Elliott called to wish me a happy birthday.  I stopped the boat and put him on speaker.  David told him to come back soon because he was getting tired of carrying me.  We all had a good laugh.  It was a very happy birthday. 

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!

Killer Day With Shelly

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.  

After the Storm

We are very fortunate that Hurricane Florence did not hit us. Sady, our friends to the north were not so lucky. Let’s all keep them in our thoughts and prayers. Given the slow-moving nature of Hurricane Florence, I missed a few days of fishing last week. On Sunday, conditions improved to the point that I could safely go fishing. So, I launched the skiff into the last of the falling tide. It was my theory that with the tide being low, the creek banks would protect me from the wind. As with most of my theories, this one was also incorrect. It was windy all over. After enduring a bumpy and wet ride to my first fishing location, a shallow marsh point, I deployed the trolling motor and began moving into casting distance. About then, a commercial crabber pulled up. He waved and yelled, I have to be out here to make a living, but you are just crazy. We both had a good laugh and went our separate ways. Once in position, I cast a Z-Man 4-inch Jerk ShadZ on a Finesse BulletZ 1/6-ounce jig to the marsh point and felt a solid thump. I set the hook but somehow missed the fish. On the next cast, my luck was much better, and a solid Redfish welcomed back to the river. While I was unable to fish due to the storm, I figured out how to take a timed photo with my phone. So, I propped my phone on the console of my skiff and posed with my first fish after the storm. Turns out my theory on taking good pictures via a timer on my phone was incorrect (again). The Redfish bite continued until the tide began to rise and the fished moved off the marsh point. With the windy and choppy conditions, I was unable to re-locate them. So, I headed back the boat ramp. On the way home, I passed the commercial crabber. He waved, and I could hear him laughing for a considerable distance.

July Fishing

 

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!

Everyone have a safe and happy July 4th holiday.

Summer in the Lowcountry

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.

Father’s Week

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!