Lowcountry sights always a delight

info@islandpacket.comOctober 24, 2011 

This past week has been a strange one for me. I am not sure if it was the moon phase or the funky weather, but whatever it was, I just felt off my game in a big way. My back had a lot to do with it, and it wasn't until I started wishing that someone would come along and rip my spinal column out that I decided to get outdoors and see if nature could put my mind in a better place.

I figured that just maybe the fall run of monster stag redfish had begun, so a friend and I loaded up with menhaden and decided to gave it a try. After anchoring up at a spot that had proved to be successful for big reds in the past, we put our baits down and started chumming. Thirty minutes went by, then an hour and nothing. It was a beautiful day and the company was good, but the fishing was as slow as molasses. Finally deciding that it just wasn't going to happen, we began dumping all our leftover menhaden overboard, figuring that if the fish didn't show up with all that chum in the water, then they just simply weren't around. Right then, I felt a whoosh of wings over my head and watched as a bald eagle nailed a menhaden that was floating on the surface of the water not 10 feet behind the boat.

It scared the heck out of both of us.

We looked at each other in disbelief as the eagle flew up in the top of a nearby tree and feasted on the fish. I told my friend about another time this same thing had happened to me and that if we kept throwing fish overboard, he probably would give us an encore.

Talk about a show.

That eagle stayed with us for another 30 minutes and ate fish after fish. With absolutely no fear of us whatsoever, he would swoop down and grab the fish I threw, barely letting it hit the water. It was an awesome up-close and personal experience that neither my friend nor I will ever forget. Being that close to such a magnificent bird made me understand why it was picked to be our national symbol. For the first time in days, my back didn't hurt quite so much, but I could kick myself in another body part for not having my camera.

That encounter is just one more example of why I am always trying to get you folks to get out and experience the nature that is so abundant here in the Lowcountry. I can honestly say that nearly every time I go out on the water I see something that most people never ever see. To prove that point, I had yet another wild moment two days later as I was shrimping with my friends Don McCarthy and Will Thompson.

It was low tide in the Bull Creek area, and the shrimping was so-so. Will was on the bow throwing the net and about 50 yards from us a group of porpoises were corralling schools of mullet next to the shoreline. Ironically, right before the porpoises showed up, a boat had gone by us with a long boom extending off the bow and on the end of the boom was a large, high tech movie camera. We suspected they were looking for porpoise "strand feeding," a form of feeding unique to the porpoises in our area. In a nutshell, the porpoises herd schools of mullet and then, at full speed, they will charge toward the shoreline, driving the mullet out of the water and up onto the bank. The porpoises follow them right out of the water and eat the mullet as they flop around on the shore. Then the porpoises slide back in the water and do it again. I have been lucky enough to see this plenty of times over the years, but I felt bad that the movie folks were missing the show.

The strand feeding continued and finally we saw the movie boat farther down the creek. I couldn't stand it any longer so we began waving to them to get their attention and pointed to where the feeding frenzy was going on. Though they missed a good portion of this unique way of feeding, they were able to get some great footage of porpoises totally out of the water as far as eight to 10 feet up the bank. One thing I noticed this time was the number of very young porpoises that seemed to be getting a lesson in strand feeding. Though the younger porpoises never came all the way out of the water, their parents would flip mullet to them right at the edge of the water. It tells me that a new generation of strand feeders are on their way to learning this art of catching fish.

Hopefully, these events will inspire you to get out and see the Lowcountry by water and, at the same time, motivate you to stay involved to protect these waters that are so full of life.

Yes, my back still hurts but during these two amazing experiences, I almost forgot that my spine is like a twisted pretzel. Nature has a way of healing, but only if you keep your eyes open.

And thanks to all of you who emailed me about wanting to attend my "How to Fish the Lowcountry" seminars. I'll send you information this week with the times and dates.

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