Shrimp Season

Recently, while on my daily pilgrimage to Publix, some one stopped me and asked two questions.  Can you really catch shrimp in the waters around Daniel Island?  What does Brody do when he is not finding fish or trading stocks? 

In regard to catching shrimp, the answer is a resounding yes!  Especially, this year.  An unusually warm winter has contributed to a bumper crop of shrimp in our rivers and creeks.   Shrimp baiting season is now open, and everyone is reporting good catches around Crab Bank and Bulls Bay.  Shrimp baiting is a simple affair.  You place (up to ten) marker poles in shallow water and toss shrimp bait around the poles.  After waiting a few minutes, you throw a cast next over your bait.  Viola, shrimp dinner.  While shrimp baiting is a highly productive technique, these days I more often than not catch my shrimp by deep holing.  This technique allows me to fish when the tide is moving (and the fish are feeding) and switch to shrimp when the tide slows down.  On the surface, deep hole shrimping sounds simple.  Position your boat over a twenty to forty-foot depth transition and throw your deep hole net.  If the net lands on a concentration of shrimp you probably have enough for a nice dinner.  The trick is to determine the depth that the shrimp are in and then to calculate the set and drift of the net to land in the appropriate depth.  Given variables like current, wind and the sink rate of your net it can be tough to get the net to land in the right spot.  But, when you do, it is a great way to catch shrimp!  Typically, I toss the deep hole net 5 to 10 times and this produces enough shrimp for a dinner or two.

Finding fish and trading stocks keeps Brody pretty busy.  It seems there is not enough time in the day.  Soon as the market closes, Brody shuts down his trading station and runs to the end of the dock.  If we do not go fishing, he sits on the dock and looks for fish.  This time of year, he does not have to look very much.  The creeks are full of Trout, Flounder and Redfish that are feeding aggressively before the lean days of winter. 

The best fishing and shrimping of the year is happening right now.  Get out and enjoy it. 

Epic Fail

Before I became obsessed with Jacks

Anglers can be very creative when explaining why they did not catch any fish.  After getting abused by a large Crevalle Jack last week, I dedicated this week to getting even.  Every moment on the water was spent looking for a school of Jacks upon which I could take my revenge.  Sadly, the Jacks once again got the better of me.  So, here are my excuses for not catching a Jack.

Excuse number one – Brody (the amazing fish finding and stock trading dog), opted out on my quest for Jack revenge.  He muttered something along the lines of “You put on a fur coat and stand in the blazing sun for hours; see how much fun you have”. 

Excuse number two – I put on a fur coat and stood in the blazing sun for hours and passed out from heat stroke.  Brody was right.  It was not much fun.  To make matters worse, I lost two days of fishing while recovering from heat stroke.

Excuse number three – Severe dehydration from wearing a fur coat in 92-degree temperatures reaggravated my back injury.  It is impossible to catch a Jack when you cannot stand up straight.   However, on the bright side, I am a finalist for the lead role in the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Excuse number four – Subconsciously, I do not want to catch a big Jack.  Thus, I unwittingly sabotage every opportunity to catch one.   I use tackle way to light for the job.  Hooks that are not strong enough.  Oh yeah, and fish in a fur coat.  Who does that?

Clearly, I am obsessed with targeting Jacks.  But, apparently not very good at it.  So, there will probably be even more creative excuses next week!

Good Luck Jack!

This week, I felt my age.  On Monday, I pulled a muscle in my back.  On Tuesday, I could barely get out of bed (much less go fishing).   So, I spent most of the week laying about feeling sorry for myself.  Thankfully, my back recovered enough to fish with Jack Gardner on Sunday.   Jack and I have been fishing together since he was in middle school.  He is now an alumnus of The Citadel and beginning his career in Virginia.  Sunday was the last opportunity for us to fish together before he left town.  I was not going to miss it!

Circumstances were not optimal on Sunday.  Strong winds made for rough conditions and poor water clarity.  If this was not our last fishing trip before Jack left town, I would have cancelled.  It was that awful.  Our first stop was a marsh point swept by the current of the outgoing tide.  It was exposed to the wind and the waves.  Given limited mobility due to my back, not falling out of the boat was a major accomplishment!  We cast Z-Man Finesse TRDs on 1/5-ounce NedlockZ jigs to the marsh point and let the tide sweep our lures into deeper water.  It was difficult fishing.  Thankfully, we managed to catch a few Trout and a Flounder.  So, our attention turned to completing the inshore slam with a Redfish.  As we ran from place to place in search of a Red, Jack and I recalled memories from each spot that we visited.  We shared stories.  We laughed a lot.  I marveled at the person he had become. 

Jack and I did not catch many fish, but we did take the opportunity to catch up.  Perhaps, that is the best catch of all. 

Fishing vs. Catching

Fishing and Catching Are Not Synonymous!

Fishing and catching are not synonymous.  Sometimes, I get to believing that they are.  But Mother Nature always steps in to remind me they most certainly are not.  Saturday was one of those days.  The tide was wonky.  The wind was howling.  The water clarity was abysmal.  It was a tough day for fishing.  Wait, tough is not a suitable description.  Awful, that is a better word.  Simply awful.  To tell the truth, I was not even having fun.

The search for synonymous took me from Daniel Island, throughout the harbor all the way to the end of the jetties.  After catching no fish, I ran the Pathfinder back up the Wando past the Highway 41 bridge.  Still no fish.  It was frustrating to say the least.  With literally no place else to look, I let the boat drift along the edge of the marsh and told my crew, David and Andrew, we should call it day.  They readily agreed.  As we got ourselves situated for the ride back to Daniel Island, I spotted a Redfish tailing in the marsh and it was moving toward us!  As quietly as possible, I nudged the bow of the Pathfinder into the edge of the Spartina.  To our amazement, the Redfish swam within easy casting distance of the boat.  Andrew cast a Z-Man 4-inch PaddlerZ into the path of the Red.  We held our collective breath and were elated when the fish ate the lure.  Our hoots and hollers could be heard from miles away.

After landing the fish, taking a few pictures and letting it go, we could not stop smiling and laughing.  That fish changed the day from awful to joyful.   It also served as a reminder that fishing and catching are most certainly not synonymous.

Dog Days

Brody, the amazing fish finding and stock trading dog

With Memorial Day in our rearview mirror, the dog days of Summer are just ahead.  However, when your fishing partner is Brody, the amazing fishing finding and stock trading dog, every day is a dog day.

In warm weather, the best bite is typically at first light.  So, Brody and I get out early.  Around 5:00 AM on Saturday, I was having a wonderful dream about being kissed by a Victoria’s Secret super model.  As it turns out, Brody was licking me on the face to wake me up and go fishing. 

On the way to the boat landing, we stopped at Refuel for coffee, chicken biscuits, drinks and ice.  Brody’s job was to grab the drinks while I picked up everything else.  Upon meeting at the cash register, Brody had a 12-pack of Coast Island Lager.  After explaining that beer is not adequate for warm weather hydration, he reluctantly agreed to return the beer and select something else.  In the blink of an eye, Brody came back with Truly Hard Seltzer Berry Mix.  With daylight rapidly approaching, we agreed to disagree and paid for our stuff.

We reached the end of the jetties, just after sunrise.  The wind light and the seas were calm.  Spanish Mackerel and Bluefish were busting minnows on the surface.  I deployed the trolling motor and spot locked the Pathfinder an easy casting distance from the end of the rocks.  Brody was looking at a 15-pound spinning outfit rigged with a Shimano 21-gram Colt Sniper jig.  So, I picked it up, made a long cast and began a high-speed retrieve.  A big Bluefish crushed the jig.  The Spanish Mackerel and Bluefish were fired up and feeding aggressively.  We kept a few of the smaller Bluefish for bait to target sharks behind shrimp trawlers.  When the incoming tide slowed down, the bite turned off.

It was time for sharks.  I positioned the Pathfinder a good distance behind a trawler and cast a 30-pound class spinning outfit rigged with a small Bluefish on 6/0 circle hook.  It only took a few seconds for a large Spinner shark to eat the Bluefish.  It jumped several times before settling in for a punishing fight.  It took 30-minutes to catch and release the shark.  By then, I was hot and thirsty.  The Truly Hard Seltzer was cold, tasty and refreshing.   Sadly, I could only drink one because Brody refused to be the designated boat driver.

With shark checked off the list, we turned our attention to Bull Redfish back at the jetties.  I began casting a Z-Man 5-inch Jerk ShadZ on a 3/8-ounce jig to the rocks.  After several minutes and a couple of lost jigs, we checked Bull Redfish off the list and called it a day.

Other than the face licking episode, I love the dog days of summer.

Dolphin Day

My Constant Companions

For me, the glass is usually half full.  During the closure of our boat landings, many friends went above and beyond to help me fish.  Their thoughtfulness and kindness make my glass and my heart full.   

With our boat landings now open, I have returned to my normal (every day) fishing schedule.  As I get back into my routine, things that I may have taken for granted are wonderments once again.  On Sunday morning, the water was 69-degrees and the Trout bite was going off.  I was catching and releasing Trout at a torrid pace.  After about an hour, a pod of dolphin began hanging around my skiff and eating the fish I was releasing.  One of them was very distinct as it was missing the top half of its dorsal fin.  Not wanting the released Trout to be eaten and for dolphin to associate food with people, I moved to another area about a mile away.  Thankfully, the Trout bite we good there as well.  After just a few minutes, the pod of dolphin showed up again.  I knew it was the same group because of “Shorty”, the one missing half its fin.  This time, I moved a further distance away, but the dolphin found me again in very short order.

It became clear, that I was not going to lose this pod of dolphin.  So, I began putting the Trout in my release well to be returned to the water away from the ravenous mammals.  Each time, I put a fish in the release well, the dolphin would surface right next to the boat and look at me.  To my surprise, this went on the rest of the day.  Even with the Trout supply cut off, the dolphin stayed with me.  It was a bit frustrating but a wonderment none the less.

Best of People in Worst of Times

The best of people comes out in the worst of times.  This is the bright side of the Covid-19 pandemic.  While my biggest challenge is the inability to fish due to closure of our boat landings, I am amazed by the number of people that have reached out to help. 

A few days into the boat landing closure, a friend ran his skiff across the harbor from Sullivan’s Island to Daniel Island and took me fishing in the Wando River.  He joked that he was compelled to help because I was literally a fish out of water.  The next week, another friend invited me to fish on his boat which was docked on Ralston Creek.  It was good to catch a few fish.  It was better to catch up with an old friend.  Then, to my surprise, another friend offered to let me keep my Pathfinder at their dock.  I am lucky to have such thoughtful and caring friends. 

With my Pathfinder back in the game, I am making up for lost time and fishing nearly every day.  The water temperature is approaching 70-degrees. Baitfish have returned to the rivers and creeks.  Redfish, Trout and Flounder are feeding aggressively.  It is great to be fishing again!

More good news.  Brody, the amazing fish finding dog, has stopped trading stocks and returned to finding fish.  While I am happy to have him back on the boat, I do have mixed feelings. Turns out, Brody is fantastic at picking stocks.  Well, at least, better than me.  So, after intensive negotiations, Brody has agreed to trade stocks during the day and then fish after the market closes at 4:00.  Brody is also the new owner of my Pathfinder 2500 Hybrid.  A small price to pay for an amazing fish finding dog that can pick stocks too!

Yes, the best of people (and fish finding dogs) comes out in the worst of times.