A wintry Lowcountry can have some beautiful moments

cdad@hiltonheadisland.netJanuary 10, 2014 

    Two weeks ago, I wrote about the importance of donating to the Waddell Mariculture Center so it can continue to protect our precious waters but inadvertently left off where to make your tax-free donations. Checks should be made out to The Waddell Fund and may be sent c/o Community Foundation of the Lowcountry, P.O. Box 23019, Hilton Head Island, SC 29925.

It is probably 75 degrees and sunny outside today, but how about that cold snap last week? For many of you transplants from up North, you were probably wearing shorts and a T-shirt for those three days. This Southern boy had on so many layers of clothing, I looked like the Michelin Man.

Looking back at past January columns, I have a tendency to rant and rave about how much I hate the cold. This time around, I'll try to be a bit more upbeat. For the most part, we are pretty darn lucky to have a winter that lasts all of two months, specifically January and February.

But did you know that since I have lived here, the cold snap last week paled in comparison to a few of the weather events I have witnessed in the Lowcountry over my 50-something years living here? Obviously, I didn't do much fishing this past week, so I thought you might enjoy reading about one of these past weather events. Anything is possible if the conditions are just right.

I know we had a few snow flurries on Christmas Day two years ago, but back in the 1980s, we had a white Christmas that was one for the record books. In a 24-hour period, it snowed 12 inches on Christmas Eve. If I had time to crawl up into the attic where my photo albums are stored, I would have grabbed a couple of photos to show you from that day.

It snowed so much, so fast while the tide was low, that the beach on Hilton Head Island was a foot thick all the way to the edge of the water. It was bizarre-looking. You know how the chamber of commerce describes, "Wide beaches with sugary sand as white as snow"? In this case, the beach was just that.

Also, because there weren't quite as many folks around back then, there wasn't a footprint to be seen in the snow, making the scene even more surreal. Another aspect of that blizzard that stands out in my memory was the palmettos draped in thick layers of snow. It was breath-taking.

As you probably have guessed, I was a wild man back then. I was living in Hilton Head Plantation, my kids were young and my fishing car was a blue Suzuki Samurai with the floor boards rusted out so you could see the road zoom by under your feet -- kind of a Fred Flintstone car. Anyway, the snow began to melt pretty quickly and turned to ice, but before it all disappeared, I just had to take my kids sledding for the first time.

Since there were no hills around, I nabbed a large sheet of plywood, curled up the front a bit so it looked like a sled and tied a rope to it so I could pull it behind my four-wheel-drive vehicle. By the time I had finished making it, the roads were mostly ice with a thin layer of snow on top.

Besides my children, all the neighborhood kids wanted to get on board and, being the responsible parent that I was, my theory was "The more, the merrier" -- much to the chagrin of my wife. Loaded down with kids, I took off slipping and sliding down the street, and everyone was howling with glee. At some point, that howling sort of changed to screaming, which I took to mean, "Go faster," which is exactly what I did.

In my rearview mirror, I saw what looked like smoke.

Being the observant type, I thought it was simply the car's exhaust in the cold air. It was only when the screaming reached a fevered pitch and one kid appeared to jump off the board and roll down the road that I deduced something was wrong.

The friction of the board on that ice-covered road had caught the board on fire.

I can laugh about it now, but neither my wife nor the neighbors would talk to me for weeks. Ah, the good old days.

Other weather events included an 8-inch snowfall in the 1960s, a spring hurricane in the early 1990s and, in the 1980s, when 24 inches of rain fell in a two-day period. I wish I had more space to tell you about some of these weather-related phenomena, but that will just have to wait for some other time. Now, I want to tell you about something I have up my sleeve, should there be enough interest.

January is the perfect time for another one of my two-part "How to Fish the Lowcountry" seminars at the Waddell Mariculture Center's River House. To make it feasible, I will limit the seminars to 15 to 20 attendees to make them a more personal experience.

I plan to cover every aspect of fishing our area. The primary emphasis will be on inshore fishing, but near-shore and offshore will also be covered. Bait and rigging for different species, the importance of tides, navigation and boat handling, throwing cast nets, plus a lot of one-on-one instruction, will be given. I will also answer any and all questions.

If you are interested, call me for details at 843-816-6608 or email me at cdad@hiltonheadisland.net.

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.

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