It's finally happened, the trout are officially here.
I knew once the shrimp started moving, the trout would show up for the big feed. But what amazes me is, how do they know?
Since I spend a great deal of time in nature, I am always trying to figure out what triggers fish to bite, what factors were present when a bite was red hot and why the fish didn't bite on a certain day and time. You know what I mean? One day you go to a particular spot, and it is fish after fish. Then you go back to that exact spot the very next day with the tide at the same level, and you can't buy a bite.
What happened? Is it barometric pressure? Has the bait moved? The possibilities are endless. But I guess that's just fishing, and if I were to figure out what makes fish bite, it might take away the challenge.
So, getting back to the trout: I was out with some folks who are recent transplants from Pennsylvania. With only a two-day window to take them out, the tide high in the morning and knowing the trout weren't around, I was a tad perplexed about where to go.
With a live well full of shrimp, I figured we would try some old-school cork fishing, so we headed to one of my favorite spots.
On the very first cast, the cork had barely touched the water before it shot out of sight. Thinking it was a big ladyfish (which are everywhere right now), the woman on the rod fought the fish to the boat. Looking to see what it was, I couldn't believe the size of the trout that came from the depths. It was a monster that easily could have won any trout tournament.
I thought it might have been a loner, but the next cork pitched also disappeared instantly. It was another trout and a beauty to boot. For the next hour or so it was trout after trout after trout. In a single day it went from no trout to be caught to the trout coming out in force.
You can imagine how my weird wheels were spinning. All I could picture was a wall of trout turning the corner at the south end of Hilton Head Island, heading for the millions upon millions of shrimp pouring out of the creeks on their way to the open ocean. And those trout only have three things on their minds: Eat shrimp, eat more shrimp and keep eating shrimp.
On the subject of shrimp, this year looks to be a bumper crop of "bugs." Throwing cast nets is totally out of the question for me since I broke my back, so I have been scouring my pool of friends to see if anyone wants to throw the net for me -- if I provide the boat and gas.
Usually the conversation is very simple: "I'll go if you throw." But finding the right person to throw my giant, 12-foot net is easier said than done.
It takes a man to throw that net and, more importantly, to get it to open. I catch a lot of flak from the few who have attempted to throw it, saying things like, "You don't need a net that big to catch shrimp." But if you're on the shrimp, all it takes is one throw of that net, and we're done for the day.
Last year, my nephew Byron (who can open that net every time) threw on a batch of shrimp, and it took three of us to bring the net over the side of the boat. The catch completely filled our cooler, and within five minutes of setting out to shrimp we were already on our way home.
It might sound like I am a shrimp hog but all I do is catch enough to freeze for two or three months. Sadly, I see certain boats out there each and every day filling cooler after cooler. What do they do with all those shrimp? There is no way they can eat that many, even in a two-year period.
I'll admit it is fun to catch a load of shrimp, but day after day after day? I see that as another example of abusing out resources. And I also know for a fact that some of these same boats catch a limit of shrimp, run back to their dock, dump that cooler off and come right back and catch another cooler-full. Some will even come back three or four times and then go sell the shrimp.
Say what you will, but in my mind they are nothing but gangsters. If they're ever caught, they truly deserve to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
So get out there and stay out there, because the next four weeks are going to be the peak of the fishing, shrimping and crabbing season. But don't let the numbers of fish and shrimp trigger your "greed button." It's OK to take a limit every once in a while, but release the rest. Do that and they will be there for everyone for years to come.