Cast & Blast

Fish whisperer: Top 2 secrets to hitting the ‘fishing fanatic’ level in SC Lowcountry

3 fish fun to catch off Hilton Head Island for sport

Capt. Brian Vaughn of "Off the Hook Fishing Charters" offers these three fish that are fun to catch for sport off Hilton Head Island.
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Capt. Brian Vaughn of "Off the Hook Fishing Charters" offers these three fish that are fun to catch for sport off Hilton Head Island.

When I was first asked to start writing this column years back, I accepted the task under one condition and that was freedom to write whatever was in my rather quirky gray matter at the time I sat down to write.

Looking back at some of my earliest columns, I am amazed that my editor let some of those stories go to press.

Another thing I noticed about these early articles was I was much more a rebel than I am these days. You could say I am like a barrel of whiskey that mellowed with age, and that bothers me.

Why? I love thinking outside the box and I’ll be danged if age is going to rob me of this way of approaching life. If it’s in my head, it usually pops out of my mouth, no matter whom I’m talking to. I guess that’s why I have never been invited to the White House and, Lord knows, I’ve tried.

So what’s bouncing around in this orb on my shoulders this time?

It started yesterday as my wife and I were taking our usual late-afternoon walk. I rambled on about how different people approach the art of fishing. During that same conversation she asked me to explain what makes a fishing fanatic like myself and why, with two older brothers, didn’t they get swept off their feet chasing fish like I did.

I have mentioned many times how my father got me into fishing at a very early age. Every year at Christmas time, he somehow convinced my mom that the best way to spend that holiday break was to load up all five kids and head to Key Largo, Florida, where he chartered a boat called the “Blue Fin.” For two solid weeks we fished each and every day.

The captain, Al Mende, was a captain’s captain straight out of a Hemingway novel. Dressed head to toe in khaki with tanned skin tougher than a cow’s hide, he was bigger than life to me. Being the youngest child, that weathered face of his with a cigarette dangling from his lower lip and a booming voice, snatched my imagination better than any pirate story I had ever read.

Since there was quite an age difference between my brothers and myself, maybe the youthful imagination of a 7-year old vs. a young teen’s mind explains why they never got the fever like I did.

Also, I was blessed with a stronger tolerance to motion sickness than the two of them. I got sea sick early on but somehow grew out of it while my two brothers didn’t. From experience I know there are few conditions as miserable as seasickness so I suspect this had a lot to do with their non-existent desire to hit the open ocean ever again.

Two other factors that distinguish a fishing fanatic from a casual angler come to mind.

First and foremost is patience.

If a wannabe fisherman lacks the art of patience, he or she might as well take up some other pursuit.

I love teaching folks the art of fishing and I do it a lot. In most cases, I can almost instantly pick out the handful of students who will make it to the fanatic level. It’s not how many fish you catch or how big a fish is, it’s the experience of simply being there and hopefully grasping the subtle aspects of angling that makes a fisherman a great fisherman.

You need to learn how to use all your senses, and these include intuition. I can’t tell you how many times I get this tingling sensation that tells me everything is perfect. Usually within moments of getting that sensation, it’s fish on.

Disregarding these less obvious, but vital, senses will keep you from ever reaching that ultimate level.

The second part of reaching the fanatic stage is that you must realize that fishing is hard work, particularly when fishing in saltwater.

On average, I would say I spend two to four hours preparing for a day of fishing. Whether it’s throwing a cast net for bait, digging fiddler crabs, re-rigging for the species you plan on targeting, if you don’t put in the time, your chances of success go way down.

Here again, patience comes in.

I can’t tell you how many times I have taken the same person fishing time and time again and they don’t even attempt to learn a fraction of the things I do to get prepared.

If you really, and I mean really, want to be in that upper echelon in the fishing world, you have to watch and attempt the tasks your guide or captain do that up to that point you have taken for granted. Cutting corners will get you nowhere and you will always be nothing more than an average fisherman.

Listen, watch and practice all that you see and hear and I guarantee your catch ratio, and enthusiasm, will go sky-high.

Fripp Island tournament

Memorial Day weekend will kick off the fishing season with the Fripp Island Memorial Day Fishing Tournament.

The two-day tournament will have a $5,000 payout with the proceeds benefiting the local cancer-fighting Pledge The Pink Foundation.

All fishermen and their crews are invited to registration and captains meeting from 6 to 7 p.m. Thursday, May 23, at the Fripp island Marina followed by a Lowcountry cookout.

Fish days are May 24 and May 25 from sunrise to 6 p.m., with weigh-ins each day from 3 to 6 p.m.

An awards ceremony will follow Saturday weigh-ins with live entertainment.

The first-place cash prize is $1,000, with second-place paying $800 for largest Dolphin and Wahoo. First-place largest king or Spanish mackerel is $700.

If fishing is canceled either Friday or Saturday, the make-up day will be Sunday with the awards ceremony to follow.

For more information call the Fripp Island Marina at (843) 838 1517 or Capt. Ralph Goodison at (843) 986-4070.