It’s hard to believe its mid-October, because it feels more like July. Yesterday (Thursday) I went fishing and sweated my you-know-what off and was shocked to see the water temperature was still in the low 80s. I won’t say I like cold weather, but cooler temperatures sure would be a nice break from all this heat.
After what seems weeks of howling winds and huge tides, things finally settled down for the Fishing With Friends event last Saturday. For those of you not familiar with this annual event, local captains and other boat owners offer their boats and time taking kids of all ages with special needs fishing. Capt. Fuzzy Davis started this awesome gift to these kids 23 years ago, and it has grown by leaps and bounds ever since. For me, I haven’t missed a single year, and quite frankly it’s kind of spooky when I realized that many years have gone by.
It made me realize that someone is getting old and that somebody is me! Regardless, I have taken the same kids year after year, and one in particular is Riley Lewis from Bluffton. Now 28, I started taking him when he was only 5 or 6 years old.
Along with Riley and his dad also named Riley, this year I had a new addition: John Baker. John may be 48 but at heart has “kid” written all over him. Always happy and with a contagious laugh, he simply made this special day that more satisfying for me. Did we catch fish? Thankfully huge bull redfish cooperated making our outing picture perfect.
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I know most of you think all I do is fish, but to bust that bubble, my real thrill is watching others fish. Rarely do I reel in fish, other than flounder maybe, because teaching newbies to our area is what keeps me on the water.
A perfect example of this was on my Thursday excursion when I guided Kentucky native George Norton. Now a part-time Lowcountry resident over on Haig Point on Daufuskie Island, we had a day of days. Having bought a boat and not all that familiar with our waters, he gave me a call a while back, and ever since our first trip together, we get along like peas and carrots.
Our first couple of trips together were more exploratory than anything else, learning where and where not to go, but this time he wanted to take a couple of fish home for dinner if possible. Quite honestly, had we not caught a single fish I truly believe he would have been just as happy to simply be out on the water. Now that is my kind of guy. On earlier trips I had pointed out places where Native Americans once gathered and showed him up close my favorite shorebird, the beautiful oyster catcher, as they pried open oysters with ease. After each trip, he would comment how much he enjoyed the show. We might have caught a fish or two but that seemed secondary to the experience itself.
This time around all the stars must have been aligned just right because we caught just about every fish that swims in our waters. Redfish, black drum, croakers, trout — the action was nonstop. If I had to guess, we probably released 40 to 50 redfish that morning along with some big black drum and a bunch of trout. He kept enough for a fish fry, but during our own private fishorama he was like a kid that was let loose in a candy store.
Having done more freshwater lake fishing than anything else, this was his first go around with half the species we caught. Watching him reel in fish after fish was my gratification that day. As I try to instill in anyone I guide, it’s not how many fish you catch but more the experience that surrounds the trip. I strongly encourage catch and release, explaining that to keep a couple for a meal is perfectly fine, but releasing the rest ensures fish will be in that spot every time you go back. Thankfully, most everyone I have guided has bought into this practice.
Once again I hope that all of you enter the Waddell Benefit Inshore Tournament out of Shelter Cove Marina on Saturday, Oct. 21 . Every cent raised will go toward the purchase of a breeding tank for the Waddell Mariculture Center that will allow them to raise cobia, redfish and trout year round that will be released into our waters. A trout and redfish tournament, winners will be awarded prizes, not money. We have $500 gift certificates to Bass Pro Shop, a $400 gift certificate to the Hilton Head Boathouse Tackle Shop plus tons of other giveaways. To enter, or simply donate to this great cause, call Shelter Cove Marina at 843-842-7001 or check it out on Facebook under Waddell Benefit Inshore Tournament. There will be food and party at the weigh-in too!