If you haven’t noticed by now, I am a looker. Now, don’t get me wrong, because when I say that, I’m certainly not talking about my garish looks but rather keeping my eyes open in hopes that I will see something that might stimulate my rather peculiar — and at times lethargic — brain.
I’ve never quite grasped the right brain/left brain thing, but for as long as I can remember, I have always regarded nature as a wealth of artistic images for both sides of my noggin.
All through high school and college, I never went anywhere without a camera. Though I didn’t have a clue what I would do with my life, it was more or less a fluke that I finally ended up at Ringling School of Art in Sarasota, Florida, and then, after graduating, spending the next 3 1/2 decades as a graphic designer.
The point of this history lesson is twofold. First of all it might surprise many of you to know that I am not — and never have been — a professional fisherman. More importantly, I truly believe that nature was the inspiration for my career in art. Just growing up around here surrounded by so much indescribable beauty opened my eyes to art in its purest form.
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That beauty is here 365 days of the year, but October stands out as the most inspirational time. I simply go into sensory overload. Waking each morning to a slight chill, I walk outside, close my eyes and drink it in. It makes me feel so alive. Then, as the sun begins to rise, I amble down to the river with my two equally ambling beagles and am stunned by the beauty that greets me. The chill produces a slight mist on the water and, as the sun creeps over the horizon, the once green marsh gives way to a golden hue that soaks in the sun’s rays, tripling the intensity of that color. Artist or not, that scene has to be an inspiration to any who witness it.
Out on the water, October also is a visual feast. This past week, I was lucky enough to get out on the water twice.
On the first trip, I planned to do some inshore fishing. At first light, I headed up Bull Creek, and the water looked like it was alive. From shoreline to shoreline, massive schools of baitfish were creating wakes in the shape of a huge V’s.
Traveling a bit farther, I came across a dozen dolphins strand-feeding on mullet. Though I have witnessed this behavior many times, I really couldn’t help but stop and watch. It’s like watching synchronized swimming as half of the pod of dolphins round up the mullet and the remaining dolphins line up six abreast and charge the shoreline. With hundreds of mullet in front of them, the dolphins push the mullet up on the shore and, without hesitating the slightest bit, slide right up the slick, muddy bank after them. Completely out of the water, the stranded dolphins chow down on flopping mullet before sliding back in the water.
Mesmerized, I just happened to catch movement to my right. In a huge dead tree on the opposite shoreline, three bald eagles sat like an audience at a baseball game. Notorious for stealing the fruit of other creatures’ efforts, all three seemed to be enjoying the show as much as I was before one brazen eagle flew down and snatched a mullet.
October is also by far the most productive month of the year for foraging. In the past week I have caught flounder, trout, bull redfish, mangrove snapper, vermilion snapper, triggerfish and even a mutton snapper.
For those who aren’t familiar with mutton snapper, I could count on one hand the number of muttons I have caught here in the past decade.
With everything on the move, October is the only month of the year that I catch so many varied species. It proves that, if we work to keep our waters clean and healthy, the Lowcountry and all of the hundreds of estuaries here are, without a doubt, one of the most productive nurseries for all sorts of fish left on the East Coast.
If you haven’t found time to get out on the water, make time! October is the month of months to be out. If you keep putting off that day of playing hooky, you’ll have to wait another year before October comes around again.