Since the cool snap arrived last week I have heard one statement over and over again from just about everyone I bump in to.
Curious what that statement is?
It's no secret to me because hot, warm or cold, I say it all the time and that is: "We are so lucky to live in this beautiful place."
Maybe it's the clear air and cool breeze that make those words flow so easily right now, and I must say that everything -- including the bright green marsh grass and palmettos swaying in the breeze -- have a vibrancy they didn't have two weeks ago. Also, have you noticed how people just seem to have more energy right now? It amazes me how one little change in the atmosphere can make such a big difference to every living thing.
Usually I wait until October to say this, but if you haven't been out on the water lately then you are missing out on some of the finest foraging of the year. I think it was last Sunday that I decided to give deep-dropping for shrimp a try.
I called my friends Trevor O'Neill and Jake Kruse and asked them if they wanted to go with me. Both are young and strong and, since I am a bit disabled with back issues, my motto is "I'll go if you throw!" Both of these guys will throw a cast net all day long, which is fine by me because I have gotten pretty darn good at recognizing shrimp on my depth finder.
Deep-dropping is nothing more than throwing a cast net -- the only difference being the water you are throwing it in can be up to 50-feet deep. As for the cast net used, duct tape is placed approximately 6 inches up from the weights along the edge and goes around the entire circumference of the net. The duct tape acts like a parachute and makes the net open fully as it goes down. If you are on top of the shrimp, this process is unbeatable. Compared with shrimp baiting, the shrimp caught are clean and free of stinky fishmeal.
So off we went and since it had been a year since the last time I tried this, all I could do was guess where these little buggers were hanging out. Stopping at one spot, I saw what looked like shrimp on my sonar, but after one throw it was apparent they were nothing but small shrimp and bait fish. Moving on, it took us three different stops to finally find the shrimp, and it was the Mother Lode.
Taking turns throwing, Jake and Trevor were absolute animals. It's rare to hit them like this so when it does happen it's as if some primal urge takes over and all you can think is more shrimp, more shrimp and more. There were so many shrimp down there that when the net hit the bottom, we could actually feel the rope jerking as dozens of shrimp tried their best to get out of the net some 40 feet down.
In no time we had our limit and, with smiles all around, we headed in.
There is one part about all of this that simply blows my mind. If you are familiar with our local waters then you know there are thousands upon thousands of creeks and inlets, and every single one of them is packed with shrimp of all sizes.
Around now, the shrimp begin the long trek to the open ocean, and the place I went was just one small spot in this huge maze of estuaries. Just imagine how many shrimp there must be out there. It has to be in the upper millions, maybe even billions. And they are out there just crawling along the bottom with instinct being their only guide. Maybe this image doesn't have any effect on you, but for me it is absolutely amazing.
OK, enough about shrimp.
Another adventure I took this week was with a friend of mine from Asheville, N.C. He was down for just a couple of days and really wanted to go fishing. Primarily a freshwater guy, he only reinforced my love for this place.
From catching bait with a cast net and seeing all the life around us, he was totally taken aback by the beauty of this place we live in. The wind was howling but being one of those people who nearly always says "yes" even when I should say "no," we went-- wind or no wind.
It was low tide, or redfish time, and I went to the only place I knew where we would have the wind at our backs. As the tide began to drift in, all hell broke loose. We had three rods out and all three went down at once. All but one were redfish -- big redfish -- while the third rod had something odd attached to it.
I saw something jump in the air where that bait had been sitting and thought it was a leopard sting ray, so it would have to wait until we got the reds in. It wasn't until my friend grabbed that rod that I realized what it was: a nice tripletail. It was going nuts. After boating all three fish, the redfish kept on coming. I am not sure how many we caught but only one was a keeper, while all the rest were way too big.
Moving to another spot, I swapped out rigs and bait, now live shrimp, in hopes of getting some trout. On my friend's second cast, the cork disappeared the moment it hit the water. The way it fought made me think it was another redfish, but it wasn't. It was a huge trout -- nearly 23-inches long!
My friend told me that this had been the best day he had ever had on the water and then he said it. "You are so darn lucky to live here!"
All I could do was smile, because this is what I say to myself every day of the year.
God does not subtract from the allotted span of a man's life the hours spent in fishing. Columnist Collins Doughtie, a graphic designer by trade and fishing guide by choice, sure hopes that's true.