Cast & Blast

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry: Hurricanes, tripletails and a hot new book

Waddell Mariculture Center biologist Jake Morgenstern with the tripletail that didn’t get away.
Waddell Mariculture Center biologist Jake Morgenstern with the tripletail that didn’t get away.

For once, I actually had ideas for my column all figured out — that is, until I flipped on the TV Wednesday morning and saw the latest on Tropical Storm Dorian.

Having weathered many a storm here, excitement was always my first thought. But after Hurricane Mathew and two other tropical events slammed our area, the excitement has gone.

I may be wrong, but other than Hurricane David back in 1979 and a near miss by Hugo in 1989, we all thought that being tucked in along our coast like we are, the chance of a direct hit was minuscule.

With that said, whether you believe in climate change or not, something has changed and, personally, I am scared to death that one of these things is going to take us out.

Having witnessed firsthand the destruction from these storms, first during Hugo and then again with Mathew when I decided to ride that one out on Hilton Head, should Dorian upgrade to a hurricane as predicted, I am out of here.

For all you newcomers to the area, all I can say is, “Be prepared.”Water, batteries, propane gas for grills, watertight boxes for important papers and an escape plan. My advice is head west or south because most of the time, storm tracks edge north. Get behind the storm, not in front of it.

Enough of that.

Getting away from scare tactics, I have to tell you a short tale that hopefully will bring a chuckle to your now-worried brow. It began last weekend when I launched my skiff, the “Marsh Monkey,” with my wife, Karen, and my beagle, Butterbean, for an easy day on the water.

Other than some sightseeing, I brought along a variety of baits, two or three fishing rods and, instead of going to places I had fished many times before, I went looking for some new turf. Even after 60-plus years here, I’ll bet I have never once explored more than 75% of our estuaries for new fishing spots. Sad, huh?

It was pretty darn toasty out there but if I had my choice between a golf course or the water, the water wins every time.

The first spot we stopped was a place I found two days earlier on a similar exploration, and talk about hitting the mother lode of redfish between 22-inches and 32-inches, this was it. I swear I caught at least 20 of these bruisers and there was no time to relax between releasing one before another hit. I actually had to stop because my lower back was killing me from reeling in big reds.

Arriving at the right tide, Karen immediately hooked into a pig that there was no stopping. It wasn’t as frantic as day one but she had a ball with fish that were true drag screamers.

Not wanting to overfish that spot, we went a-looking for another new possible honey hole.

It was hit-and-miss until I pulled into an area I had suspected for years but never tried. Down went our baits and within seconds I was hooked onto a huge sheepshead, which we landed and kept for dinner that night.

Down went bait No. 2 and before I could react, something huge slammed the bait so hard it broke my 30-pound test braided line. Re-rigging, down went bait No. 3 and wham! It was big, and after quite the fight, I saw it. It was a big ol’ tripletail! Knowing that the Waddell Mariculture Center in Bluffton was experimenting with breeding tripletail, that fish went into my boat’s live well, but it barely fit.

This is where it gets good.

I called Waddell biologist Jake Morgenstern and asked if he would bring a transport tank, oxygen tank and meet me at the Haigh Landing between the Hilton Head bridges. With two tripletail already at Waddell, this beast would make a grand addition.

Backing his truck down the ramp with quite the crowd watching, I went to get the fish out of the live well. Strong and frisky, I even held a landing net behind the live well should the fish go ballistic and, carefully maneuvering him, I slowly put my hand under him and like a bullet he shoots out sideways and skitters 10 feet across the water and with that he was gone. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Feeling awful, I took Jake the next day to the same place and I’ll be damned if he didn’t catch one about the same size! This time it rode to Waddell in my boat’s live well and is doing just fine in his new home.

‘Along Southern Roads’

Lastly, guess what? I have been published!

Local publisher Lydia Inglett asked me to be one of four writers to write essays in her new coffee table book, “Along Southern Roads.”

I have been strutting around like a male peacock now that it’s out with incredible photography and wonderful tales of living, and in my case growing up in the South. The other writers are Ryan Copeland, Lynne Hummell and Sandy Dimke.

Available online at www.starbooks.biz as well as many local outlets, you might just learn one of my most closely guarded secrets should you read my essay. Lydia did say that should you mention “Collins” when ordering, she will honor a 10% discount for the next 30 days. It’s a great read and beautifully bound.

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