As I have told you in past columns, winter is by far the hardest time to write columns about nature, fishing and other outdoor pursuits.
With that said, my column last week about developers that are tossing out all the standards that have made this area so special nearly blew up my email inbox.
I received over 70 emails from people who are as worried as I am about the direction Beaufort County is going, especially regarding storm-water runoff, along with more stringent regulations on preserving trees and other natural flora.
The more I think about what is causing this change in attitude is this: Sadly, many of the old-timers have passed away, and for years and years they were the protectors.
It's now up to the new generation to step up to the plate and curb the greed that is driving this new way of doing things. When I was that age, I was lying in front of bulldozers as the chemical giant BASF was ready to build a massive complex where the Waddell Mariculture Center now stands.
Was I a rebel? I sure was (and still am), but quite frankly I am tired and saddened that the younger generation doesn't see the urgency of what will happen if things don't change in a hurry.
Starting out my column spouting gloom and doom like that bothers me. I think overall I am a pretty happy person, with laughter being my favorite emotion, so enough of being an old grump.
Instead, let's talk fishing.
On the near shore reefs, the sheepshead bite is on big time. I know many of you are obsessed with redfish, but give me a fiddler crab on an ultra light rod and I am like a pig in slop.
It's not that I don't enjoy catching redfish, because I do, but in my lifetime I bet I have caught 10,000 or more and the fire to chase them day after day has gone out of me.
On the other hand, growing up I did some sheepshead fishing but it wasn't until a few years back that I got pretty darn good at catching them. One thing for sure is they are one slick fish, able to suck a fiddler off a hook without you having a clue they did it.
And now that the water temperature in the low 50s, their bite is even harder to detect. It's almost as if they have one eye watching you as they sneak up to your bait, open their mouth, gently suck in the crab, crush it with those grinders in the top of their mouth and spit out the empty shell.
Even more amazing is the fact they can do all this in the space of couple of seconds.
So what are the secrets behind catching them? First or foremost, if you lack patience, don't even bother to go.
Secondly, if you can't stay perfectly still, forget it. Especially now with the water temperature way down there, an ultra-sensitive rod is a must.
Even with that, the bite is almost imperceptible, so if you even think you saw that rod tip move, strike them hard. I prefer small No. 4 Eagle Claw hooks while friends of mine go with heavier hooks, saying that a big sheepshead will straighten my hooks.
I do lose a few, but if your drag is set properly, my choice of hooks has caught me a bunch of sheepies over 10 pounds. I have to put a new hook on after four or five fish, but those tiny little hooks sure seem to do the job.
I know many of you don't have the means to get out to the Gulf Stream, but if you do, go. It used to be that we all waited until May to go, but about five or six years ago we discovered that the fish were there in March and April, too.
I'll give credit where credit is due, and that goes to Capt. Marc Pincus, the organizer of the wahoo series and wahoo shootout tournaments on Hilton Head. The wahoo series, where contestants can fish any two days of their choice between Jan. 29 and mid-April, has inspired fishing the Gulf Stream earlier than I can ever remember.
And the fish are there.
Winter has always been regarded as the time to catch blackfin tuna, but with over 60 boats entered this year, boats have been heading out in the last week and hitting the dock with multiple wahoo, dolphin and even sailfish.
Who woulda thunk it? If you could see my office right now, it is strewn from end to end with lures that I have been madly rigging so that first nice day that comes along, I am out of here.
Without a doubt, my favorite type of fishing is wahoo fishing, or for that matter, any Gulf Stream pelagic. I can see it now, one of my lures skipping across that deep blue water and then, like a bullet, a fish charges across the surface from 100 yards out.
So fast, so furious and with a loud snap, the reel zings -- fish on.