Remember the very first time you went fishing? If you don’t remember, then how about the first time you took one of your kids angling for the first time? No doubt you were using a Zebco rod and reel, but the most important item that day was that red and white plastic bobber that told you or your kid that something was down there nibbling on your bait.
Oh how I remember watching those bobbers for hours on end just willing it to twitch and then, hopefully, submerge. Maybe those early days struck such a chord in me that, even now, I absolutely love to cork fish.
So why am I bringing up this slightly odd subject matter? I guess until a week or so ago, all my fishing has been offshore. The reason I bypassed inshore fishing was the heat. I found it so darn hot inshore, that it was hard to enjoy fishing when sweat was popping out of me quicker than a bunny rabbit being chased by a hound dog. I just couldn’t take it.
Miraculously, a package arrived at my front door, and in it was a thing called Black Ice that you put around your neck to cool your core temperature. Capt. Tim who runs Cast Away Fishing Charters in Beaufort and a regular reader of my columns had tired of me complaining about the heat, so he put a note in the box saying “try this” the next time you go out. Curious whether the cooling neck wrap really worked, I decided to fish inshore on my faithful boat, the “Marsh Monkey,” which I had sadly neglected for the past 2 1/2 months.
One thing about outboard boats is this: If you don’t run them often, then they tend to get temperamental and something is bound to go wrong. Though I live only a block or so from the boat landing, I had my neighbor drop me in the river, and, as he pulled the empty trailer out of the water, it snapped right in two on the middle of the boat ramp. Getting what was left of the trailer back to my house was hilarious. Dragging 200 pounds of metal on bare pavement was so loud you could hear it a mile away. It was like the Jolly Green Giant was dragging his fingernails across a massive blackboard! I had no choice but to leave my boat in the water until I was able to get a new trailer, so I said to heck with it, grabbed my rod, fired up the Monkey and went exploring.
Now, back to my love of bobbers. I don’t use those round plastic types anymore; instead, I have loads of Cajun Thunder corks and Billy Bay popping corks. The only difference between the two is Cajun Thunders are oval while the Billy Bay corks have a concave top, but whichever one you choose, they both make quite a racket. My mission was to see if the trout were as numerous as I had heard. Though the creeks are full of bait-size shrimp, I went totally artificial. The rig was simple, a Billy Bay “Aggravator” popping cork, about 24 inches of 15-pound test fluorocarbon leader and, for bait, a white DOA shrimp with a chartreuse tail.
Firing up the Monkey, it actually felt good to get the old gal out for a spin. Alone, I had a sense of freedom that I hadn’t felt in quite some time as I wove my way through the maze of creeks near my house. Stopping at one of my old trout drops, I began pitching up near the grass. As my cork drifted along, I would give it short, quick snaps of my wrist, and even from 20 feet away, the loud “Pop!” reverberated off the trees well beyond the marsh grass.
That cork hadn’t gone 10 feet before it suddenly disappeared, and it was fish on. Immediately, I knew it was a trout with their unmistakable head shakes, but it wasn’t until I saw it that I realized this wasn’t one of those little 13-inch trout. It was a pig well over 23 inches — a fine trout in anyone’s book.
Thinking that it might have been a fluke, I made another cast and, almost as soon as it hit the water, whoosh, the cork was gone again. I was having a blast! Having taken out many folks new to trout fishing, their biggest flaw is not being aggressive enough with the cork. It’s not a side sweep motion; it’s a sudden wrist snap — sudden and deliberate. The louder the pop, the more trout and redfish are drawn to that sound, even when using artificial shrimp.
I have had redfish totally ignore the bait and go for the popping cork, and the same goes for trout. If you have ever fished for trout at night around docks with lights, you will usually hear that same exact popping sound as a trout smacks a glass minnow or shrimp that drifts by near the surface. I think the sound fires them up and actually draws them to your cork thinking one of their buddies has found food.
So forget live bait and try the rig I described above, and I guarantee you’ll catch more and bigger trout. Best of all, I didn’t even break a sweat while wearing that Black Ice invention, so thanks Capt. Tim.
Don’t forget to make that cork talk, or you’ll come home empty handed. Snap! Click! Whoosh! — fish on!