Cooler temperatures bring lively fishing

info@islandpacket.comOctober 24, 2011 

When I walked outside this past Friday morning, it was as if nature was trying to give me CPR. The change in temperature combined with a stiff north wind was like a breath of fresh air after all these months of 90 degree-plus days. I actually felt invigorated, and for the first time in months I wasn't sweating.

On one hand, I embraced the change, but on the other hand there was a tinge of sadness at the realization that summer was drawing to a close. You see, these days I am a kind of like a lizard. Just like these little creatures, I love the feel of the warm sunshine on my body and, with my rickety back, the cold weather and I just don't get along at all. But until the really cold weather hits, there isn't a prettier place on Earth than the Lowcountry with that distinctive golden light that only can be seen during the fall period. If that alone isn't enough, the fishing is off-the-chart fantastic, and the combination of beauty and the ease of filling the freezer with shrimp and fish makes this period pretty darn amazing.

I know I have been down this road in past columns, but every time I get out on the water these past few days, I think about what is going on underneath the water. Right now, it's a traffic jam down there. The shrimp are moving, the crabs are running and fish are heading every which way. I always know that the fall migration is on when I start seeing the big jack crevelle riding up the May River with the tide.

Packed in groups of 20 to 30 fish, the jacks swim on the surface with their dorsal fins high out the water. I don't know whether you have ever had the opportunity to see these monster jacks do their thing but it is pretty neat stuff. Averaging from 20 to 45 pounds, they are a fly fisherman's dream come true. My nephew Byron Sewell and charter captain Brian Vaughn went looking for the jacks this past Wednesday and pulled off a stunt with one of these big boys that was pretty darn neat. They located a school of jacks and, with fly rod in hand, Brian hopped out of the boat onto his paddleboard and eased over toward the fish. On about his second cast, a real stud of a jack inhaled the fly. Byron videotaped the fight, and that jack towed Brian around for nearly 30 minutes before he landed it.

This is just one example of how good the fishing is right now, and it should get even better and stay that way for the next month or so.

Inshore and offshore, it's all about to change. Massive schools of mullet are starting to make their way to the open ocean, and you can bet your bottom dollar that every predator out there is going to be tearing into them and the shrimp that are beneath them.

Fall is a free-for-all in the fish world. Trout and redfish will go on 24/7 feeding binges, flounder will start heading out of the creeks toward the ocean and, offshore, the grouper are heading into shallower water, looking to get in on the action. Even as far out as the Gulf Stream, the whole scene is about to change. All those fish that went north for the summer are starting their journey back south, and if you are good enough to figure out when they are straight out from here, the bite should be phenomenal.

Here in the Lowcountry, we live in the land of plenty. Whether you fish or not, we have it better than just about anyplace I have ever been. Where else can you go and fill a cooler with fish, shrimp, crabs, mussels, clams and oysters and do it all in one day?

If you love this place as much as I do, then do me this one favor. There was a public meeting planned Thursday to discuss the proposed May River Watershed Action Plan. The meeting has been postponed, according to a press release from the Town of Bluffton.

Ron Bullman, director of the Stormwater Management Division, said the town needs more time to incorporate comments received during two recent public meetings on water quality and management.

The meeting is expected to be rescheduled for October. Please take the time to attend this meeting, folks, and speak out. It will greatly impact the future of the May River and our way of life. Unless we come together as a community and dictate the future of this area, you can rest assured developers will do the dictating for us.

Lastly, should there be enough interest, I am planning a two-part "How to Fish the Lowcountry" seminar in mid-October, so if you would like to attend, please email me at cdad@hiltonheadisland.net.

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