Mystery of the sea: Trout made in China?

November 1, 2010 

I'm going to tell you a story about a man named Jed.

Yep, Jed was a poor mountaineer who barely kept his family fed. Then one day he was shooting at some food and up from the ground came a bubbling crude ... oil that is ... black gold.

Think that sounds a bit far-fetched, huh? Well, here's one that tops that and, whether you believe me or not, it's the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.

I was out fishing last week with Mike "Everybody Drives a Used Car" Cody and his son Marshall. We were into the trout big time. It was one of those days when almost before the cork hit the water, they were on it. Then it happened.

As we were fishing we were jawing about this or that and somehow the subject of China came up. Now this is where it gets weird. I cast my line and that cork hadn't drifted three feet before it disappeared. I set the hook, reeled the fish in and as I was slinging it over the side, I noticed a big black spot on the side of the trout. It's not unusual to catch fish that have scars on them from some earlier fray so I flipped the fish over to see what the spot was.

There, plastered on its side, was a sticker that read "Made in China." How it got there I will never know, but all three of us burst into laughter since we had just been on the subject of China.

The trout fishing has been awesome lately and the same goes for redfish. The reds especially seem to be everywhere. With tons of bait still in the creeks, live bait seems to be the ticket, but I have noticed the shrimp are starting to thin out, which means very soon artificials will be the way to go -- a godsend for me. As many of you in my age bracket know, cast nets are a royal pain ... literally. Having thrown cast nets since I was 6 years old, I used to be able to throw nets that were 20 feet across. But since I broke my back, it's been so darn frustrating not to be able to throw a net -- even small ones. Usually, I bribe young bucks to do the casting for me in exchange for either money or a fishing trip. I guess it is just the cards that were dealt to me, but accepting old age is a hard pill to swallow.

Tonight I will be giving my second seminar on "How to fish the Lowcountry." Last Wednesday, I had the perfect-size group attend my first seminar in which I could answer individual questions. Having fished around here for the better part of my life, I take a lot for granted and it isn't until I teach these seminars that I realize how hard it must be for folks who are new to the area to learn the tricks of successfully fishing our waters.

I can understand how alien everything must be to someone from Ohio but what I have learned is it can be equally frustrating for someone from the Gulf Coast. The primary problem is our huge tides.

The Gulf tides are two to three feet, whereas here they can be as much as 10 feet. That is a heck of a lot of water flowing in and out four times a day. On one hand it makes it doubly difficult to figure out where the fish go as the tides roar in and out but on the other hand, this huge water exchange is what makes our fishing here so good. No wonder our oysters are so sweet. That much moving water keeps them flushed out. Also our big tides push in huge quantities of food for just about everything.

No, our waters aren't crystal clear like in the Caribbean, but this is actually a good thing. Think of it this way: Our "dirty" water is like a soup. In that soup are billions of microorganisms that are the beginning of the food chain. They attract larger organisms, which attract small fish and crustaceans and the food chain just keeps on growing and growing as each level relies on the level before it. It really is pretty amazing if you think of it that way.

It takes practice, and lots of it, to figure out where to fish on what tide. But once you begin to understand the pattern you can pretty much catch a fresh fish dinner any day you want. Personally, I never freeze fish because I don't have to. I can almost always come home with a meal and there is no comparison between fresh and frozen fish. So keep a log book of what the tides were doing when you caught trout, reds or flounder and before long you'll see that pattern develop.

Tides are everything when fishing the Lowcountry.

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