Bluffton Packet

Cast and Blast: The last column about the cold. Honest

This darn winter weather has all but kept me in the house these days, cleaning out tackle boxes, restringing my rods and praying that the warm comes back soon. I’m sure you’re tired of me talking about how much I hate cold weather, but one last time: I have simply had it with the cold! I’m grumpy, my skin is dry and cracked and unless it warms up soon I may just go postal.

Have I been fishing at all? To be honest, other than a bit of crappy fishing and a day chasing redfish, I’ve been landlocked. It’s not that I haven’t thought about going out and wetting a line, but every time I plan a day on the water the weather demon seems to sense my intentions and brings bitter cold, wind and rain.

But last week I finally tricked that weather demon. I planned on going out Tuesday but switched it up and went Monday —and it worked! I know you think I’m nuts, but after getting hoodwinked by the weather over and over, I figured that trickery was the only way I would get to go. I actually was able to get out on the river and feel the sun on my face, and it was wonderful.

But sadly, the fishing was terrible. I saw at least 300 redfish, and not one of them would give me the time of the day. The water is so cold the fish just sit there; I could have grabbed a net and scooped up as many redfish as I wanted. At this time of the year, the water is pretty much crystal clear, and, as I slowly putted along in the shallow water, the redfish didn’t even move when I went right over them with the motor. Even when I came up to large schools of reds, they would swim en masse maybe 10 feet, stop and just sit there.

So I didn’t catch any, but I know who did: the dolphins. I was in no more than three feet of water, and for nearly an hour I had a grandstand seat to several dolphins that were slowly working the shallow water feasting on these frozen redfish. They had it down: three of them would parallel the shoreline, weaving back and forth and driving the reds toward their buddies. Their tails would then slap the redfish to stun them. This went on until they all had to have been so stuffed there wasn’t room for dessert. Still, it was a sad show because as much as I love watching dolphins, they are putting a real hurt on our redfish population.

Even upriver, way past the Oyster Factory, I’ve heard reports of huge numbers of dolphins and cormorants having field days with the trout and redfish that are too cold to escape. I guess it’s all part of Mother Nature’s grand plan, but our trout population was just beginning to recover from the last really cold winter, and that was more than 10 years ago. I have kept up with reports from biologists and they estimate at least a 20 percent decline in trout stocks because of this year’s colder-than-normal conditions. Even the shrimp have taken a beating from the cold.

But we aren’t the only place that is getting hammered by the cold. Today I’m heading to Melbourne, Fla., to see my sister and to sample some warmer weather. Usually when I go to Florida I head out with a friend to do some snook fishing, but he told me that they too have suffered the wrath of winter. Even that far south, the cold has done a real number on the snook and tarpon. Still, hopefully I’ll soon be able to tell you a fish tale that actually has fish in it.

But enough rambling about the dismal weather. The good news is it won’t be long now before it finally starts warming up. The sheepshead are still chewing pretty well and I can’t wait until the shad start their run up the rivers to spawn. So pray hard for warm weather, and then maybe, just maybe I can get back to writing some quality columns.