Bluffton Packet

Lure of spring means more trips for the UPS driver

Praise the Lord, spring is about on us!

Of course, I might be speaking too soon and we'll probably get hit by a freak snowstorm or something today, but that's OK, because it isn't long until everything warms up.

Many of you probably rely on that fat, stupid-looking groundhog to tell you what's ahead, but I have my own methods. Take robins for instance. In my neighborhood, robins finally have showed up and are hopping around by the hundreds. I guess I first noticed the correlation between the arrival of robins and the arrival of warmer weather about 10 years ago -- and so far they haven't let me down. Also, I am seeing some of my lilies popping out of the ground and the tree buds getting bigger by the day. As far as I am concerned, winter can't get out of here quickly enough.

If you haven't figured it out by now, I absolutely dread the period from mid-January to mid- to late-February. Why? There is absolutely nothing to do. The days are gray and dreary, and everyone is hunkered down in their homes with nary a soul to be seen out and about. On those rare occasions when the sun does come out, I actually find myself running for that lone spot where a sunbeam has made it through the trees. I stand there and soak up the warmth like a human solar panel. Luckily, my neighbors all know me well enough to consider this typical "Collins" behavior.

It's not that I can't go fishing; it's more that I don't want to go fishing. But come Valentine's Day, I am like a turtle sticking its head out for the first time in a while, testing the air and thinking, "Is it time yet?"

I simply can't fathom how you folks who spent all those years up North did it. Here we have, at most, a two-month winter. How on earth were you able to stand it for four or more months? I can always pick y'all out when I make trips to Home Depot. You are the ones wearing nothing but a T-shirt and shorts while I still have on my silk long johns and three more layers on top of that.

But now that we have reached mid-February, I am starting to pick up some steam. My fishing friends who, like myself, have remained hidden for the past couple of months are once again calling me about the upcoming offshore fishing scene. Others are pulling out all their tackle, pitching all the rusty hooks and other garbage while greasing up their reels, putting on new line and getting ready.

Personally, I find myself sitting in front of my computer pouring over images of wahoo and looking at what color and type of lure they were caught on. I think between my offshore fishing partner, Don McCarthy, and I, we have enough lures that if we were to put them end to end, they would stretch all the way to the Gulf Stream. But that doesn't stop us from getting the newest, latest and best lures on the market.

Yep, this is the time of year when the sound of the UPS truck on my street sends shivers down my spine. You would think the driver was Santa Claus the way I go bounding out the front door to see what he brought. "Oh boy, oh boy! Did you bring my new lures?" (I think he is kind of scared of me because when he leaves, he sure puts the pedal to the metal.)

And then there is shad season, which should start any day now. Shad fishermen are a very peculiar bunch. Definitely not for everyone, shad are one of those fish that you either love or you don't. For example, the average Georgia shad fisherman isn't dressed to the nines with all the latest fishing garb, and their boats aren't fancy either. If I had to describe the shad folk, it would go like this: Usually it is a guy and his wife. They are a tad overweight, the man sits in the front while the wife sits in the rear chain smoking cigarettes, and their boat is always an aluminum jonboat with an old -- and I mean old -- 15hp Evinrude engine.

When I first started shad fishing these couples wouldn't give me the time of day -- no doubt because I have a fiberglass boat and I'm from South Carolina. It took about three years for the first person to talk to me and now I am actually accepted as a "regular." My dad raised me on shad roe and during the spring shad run, our entire family would drive to Savannah just to have shad roe sautèed in bacon grease. It is cholesterol heaven!

Just sitting here writing about things to come has gotten my juices flowing. As the weather starts to warm up, the water will warm up too and things will start hopping. The redfish will get back their zip, the shad will be heading upriver to spawn, and the turkeys will begin to gobble. And it only gets better from here on.

And for those of you who missed my "How to Fish the Lowcountry" seminars -- because I was booked solid -- I am planning a new series that will start within the next month or so. And with that I gotta go because I hear the UPS truck coming down my street ...