Fishermen have a tendency to exaggerate a bit when it involves the loss of a fish.
Everyone has heard stories of the big and bigger and the ones that got away. Yet very few admit any loss as being their fault. They blame their equipment rather than the possibility that it could have been an enthusiastic oversight.
As with any story, pay attention to your audience when broadcasting your reason for failure. There are enough variables to warrant legitimate excuses while fishing, don't add to the challenge.
I have had anxious moments which resulted in less than desirable outcomes. Yet, most of my associates among field and waters know I am adroit at recovery. Mainly due to the fact that I have had a bit more practice than most.
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And yet, I make a point not to get to carried away with what I think I know. This is usually because the other person in the audience may know what I am talking about.
After all, fishing is too important to be left solely to fishermen. Someone has to raise the bar and tell the stories.
This baitfish has proven on more than one occasion to be the answer. It is easy to catch, economical if purchased, holds well to hook and line and tolerates abuse.
Mud minnows are often overlooked during warmer months due to claims of shrimp and merchandised artificials. But the attraction of live bait cannot be denied, and the lowly minnow deserves consideration for the number of species it attracts.
The versatility of your rig is limitless and the bait accepts change easily. You can free line a large minnow or just add a small spit shot.
I will often use a small float as an indicator that my minnow is alive and well. By casting to the grass or around structures, such as pier and bridge pilings, minnows tempt a variety of gamefish to strike.
To add more action, snip off a portion of the tail with nail clippers, the erratic movements the minnow makes is often just the ticket when things slow down. If you want to fish weedless, you can do so by adding a point guard. Simply pinch off a small bit of plastic and attach it to the hook barb. The added weight has little effect on the minnow and will keep you from getting snagged.
Using light wire hooks will often result in more hook ups as well. By threading pieces of old grubs or plastic worms around the shank you add a bit of color, using gold hooks has also shown marked improvement.
Another method which works well in open pockets of grass is to use a 1/8 or 1/16th jig head. These are more often located on the freshwater section of the aisle.
This is a "do nothing" rig so don't be up and ready all the time. Toss your minnow to a target and let it set -- light lines and rigs allow your bait to move around and your minnow will soon be the target.
While the method works well for a number of gamefish you can also troll mud minnows for flounder. Move slowly over muddy or sandy bottom with a drift rig. A further attraction to this rig is adding a small spinner just after the cork but before the hook.
The slight flash and action of the spinner gets their attention by disturbing the bottom. Thus a meal is served.
If you go decide to trap your own minnows, keep in mind the bait for your bait. I use earthworms and usually can fill a trap in about half an hour. Although they are not expensive, I refrain from leaving my traps unattended. The fact that my preparation has rewarded a thief takes the shine off the day.
Lastly, hook your minnow properly to keep it swimming. If the minnow is large, I hook it through the nose or eyes. Otherwise, I run the hook from the bottom through the top lip. If fishing shallow water in grass or weeds, a small jig rig with the hook just aft of the dorsal fin works well and keeps things lively.
While there are many variations on what to use and when, don't overlook mud minnows for a summer bait. This alternative to the norm may be just the thing for your next outing. They're worth a run and are cheap to boot.
Here are some results form the 2014 Hilton Head Island Food and Beverage Tournament:
Number of boats -- 50
2 largest fish -- 95.9 pounds, Capt. Michael Perry, Papa Bear
Largest cobia -- 70.5 pounds, Capt. Eric Moore, Moneric
Female angler -- 63.2 pounds, Capt. Christiaan Pollitzer, Bulldog
Total cobia -- 32
Total king mackerel -- 0
Average weight -- 38.9 pounds
All fish were caught offshore, and cobia were presented to S.C. Department of Natural Resources biologists for research.
The deadline for applications to SCDNR for the 2014 Public Alligator Hunting Season and the Wildlife Management Area Alligator Hunting Season is June 15. Applications and information can be obtained at www.dnr.sc.gov/wildlife/alligator/index.html.