With spring-like weather, anglers are on the move, and so are the fish. Although not yet prime, water conditions are improving daily. Now, if only the winds would cooperate.
Both inshore and offshore anglers are beginning to shake the cobwebs from their gear, as well as their thought patterns. This promises to be an eventful year in many respects, mainly because of the unknown.
Granted, most fishing trips are based on the unknown, but at least a reasonable outcome can be predicted most of the time. This year, anglers will be taking a wait-and-see approach. With one of the coldest winters on record, much is left to the survival percentages of the species being pursued. While many areas had drastic fish kills and reduced stocks of baitfish, many others shared more favorable reports.
Recently, anglers have been bringing in fair catches of trout and a ready mix of both large and small spottail have been reported. Schools of both species have been sighted, with good numbers following normal migration and feeding habits.
Around the docks and structures, some large sheepshead refused the hook but made their presence known by actively removing your offering. There are plenty of baitfish in the creeks, and mullet have shown well, running the shallows and mud banks. A big scattering means gamefish are in the area, and this also is a sign that maybe things will turn out better than expected.
Offshore has been a bit more restricted than normal due to the winds and full tides, but a good gathering of bottom fish has been plotted along the skirts of the larger structures and reefs. Wait and see, but don't wait too long, as others will tell you the fishing was better yesterday, so go when you can, keep what you can use and release the rest.
Shad River Run
A reader recently inquired about the area shad population and asked about the best time to troll the rivers. I was happy to oblige him with the answers, as many a day would find our fishing group involved in the shad run and collecting roe.
Historically, shad spend most of their life at sea, but swim up fresh rivers to spawn. American shad gather in large schools along and in coastal rivers and creeks in the spring. The species often referred to as white shad or Atlantic shad are sometimes found with a similar species, the hickory shad. Because of their leaping abilities, they are occasionally referred to as the "poor man's salmon".
Sexually mature fish enter coastal rivers and streams in spring or early summer, from April to June, when the river water has warmed to 50 to 58 degrees. Fishing conditions typically improve as water temperatures warm and river flows decrease. Shad run correspondingly later in the year, passing from south to north along the coast.
Shad are selective in their spawning and will usually locate sandy bottom reaches or small pebble shallows for spawning grounds. The majority of adult females will deposit their eggs between sundown and midnight.
Like many other fish, their feeding instinct is set off by a variety of factors such as turbidity and water temperature. Fishermen use both spinning and fly tackle in their pursuits. While the bulk of catches are attributed to those with spinning gear incorporating a shad dart or flutter spoon variety, as well as in-line spinners. Some anglers prefer to use a downrigger of sorts, which places their lure at desired depths. For chucking and cranking, most will stay with small jigs, shad darts, spoons, sabiki rigs or other lures.
Fly fishermen enjoy the quest, as well, and have ranked the species among the top fighters, fishing for them with a variety of small, shiny fly patterns, light bead chain attractors and featherlight lures.
Meetings and Events
The Sea Island Fly Fishers monthly meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. on March 9 at Bay Street Outfitters in Beaufort. Following a social hour, the program will feature a panel of experienced members who will discuss tips and solutions for better fly fishing. The panel will also answer questions. There is no charge, and the club welcomes anyone interested in the sport, especially beginners. Future club programs and events will include fly only tournaments, casting clinics, kayak fishing, wade fishing, picnics, fishing videos and wildlife conservation. Visit www.flyfishingbeaufort.com for more club information, or call Jack Baggette at 522-8911.
Spring Turkey Season Tags and Changes
The 2011 spring turkey season will run from April 1 to May 1. Please note that Bucksport has been removed from the Wildlife Management Area listing.
Still need your tags? Most turkey hunters request tags the preceding year when they purchase their hunting license. If "Turkey Tags" appears on your hunting license, you should receive your tags by late February. If not, tags will be available at any S.C. Department of Natural Resources office and local vendors the first week in March.
Warning at the Pump
The Environmental Protection Agency made a recent decision to allow the use of gasoline with up to 15 percent ethanol (E15) in 2001 and newer model cars and trucks. But the Boat Owners Association of the United States says trailer boaters will need to remain extra vigilant when filling up their boat at the local gas station. That's because while E15 could be fine for the tow vehicle, it's not good -- nor authorized by the EPA -- for use with boats. A strong solvent, ethanol has been known to degrade marine fuel systems, damage engines, add safety concerns and lead to expensive repair bills.
Parents have an opportunity to share the love of the outdoors with their children. S.C. Reel Kids was launched 10 years ago. With the help of volunteers and donations from sponsors S.C. Reel Kids is even more exciting today. Using U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Sport Fish Restoration funds, this goal-based program for kids 15 and under has proven to be a success. With a parent or guardian, the kids learn about fish and habitat, visit state parks and take a boater safety course. Once completed, prizes are awarded, including tackle and boxes, and even rods and reels. If you are interested in signing up, request a Master Angler application from, S.C. Reel Kids, P.O. Box 167, Columbia, 29202, or call 803-737-8483 and request an application.
I got a call last week from Pete Pye, safety and risk manager for SCE&G. Pete was checking on a compliance issue and was wondering about the prognosis for fishing this weekend. I mentioned to him that the weather looked like it would cooperate, but that the winds may pick up later in the day Saturday.
Pete isn't one to waste time when he could otherwise be more productive doing something else. I told him I may be fishing along Station Creek, and if he came around the point to give a shout.
"I doubt I will be taking the boat out this weekend," he said.
When I inquired if it was because of the pending wind conditions, he said he had a bit of mechanical work to perform.
"How's that?," I asked, and Pete replied with an original that was worth repeating.
"I'm going to be putting a rear-end in my recliner."
Thanks Pete, gonna park mine close to the seat as well, but in the boat.