Cast & Blast

‘Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes’: Let’s just say fall harvest time is here

Whether you remember the old David Bowie song “Changes” or not, that particular song will forever be ingrained in my gray matter.

I think my son, Logan, was in the 7th or 8th grade and had one particular teacher where the two of them never quite jived. Anyhoo, Logan’s complaint about that teacher was she seemed to always change her mind about what he and his fellow students were supposed to do.

Then it happened. Logan was seated toward the back of the room when she changed her mind once again about some project. Not particularly a trouble maker, Logan began singing that line in Bowie’s song that goes, “Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes ...”

That didn’t go over well at all with the teacher, which led her to ask for a parent-teacher conference. When she explained what he had done it took every ounce of restraint on my part not to bust out laughing. I thought it was great. Bad dad or not? I’ll leave that up to you.

Now to why I am talking about changes.

It seems every single day someone complains that fall will never arrive. I will say it has been some kind of hot with temperatures in the 90’s just about every day in the South Carolina Lowcountry, but if you pay close attention to nature, the signs that fall is rapidly approaching are everywhere.

On land, three wild plants in particular tell me the big change is right around the corner. Long strands of purple beauty berries, Clitoria ternatea (or butterfly pea), and those amazingly intricate passion flowers.

A bit higher up, bald eagles are flocking here in big numbers. Almost every time I am out on the water I see at least one or two. A few days back, I had the show of shows as a bald eagle tried to take a fish from an osprey. I see this quite often, but this time around the aerial acrobatics lasted a good 20 minutes right over my head.

Bald eagles and ospreys are both beautiful to watch, but our national symbol are pretty darn lazy when it comes to catching their own food. In this particular free-for-all neither bird gave a hoot I was there and several times came within 15 feet of me, twisting and turning. The eagle was right on that osprey’s rump and hanging in the balance was a big, juicy mullet in the osprey’s talons.

Most times I see this fight, the osprey finally drops the fish and the eagle quickly snatches it up. But not this time. I guess after 20 minutes of battle, much like World War I biplanes going at it, the eagle concluded that this osprey was hell-bent on keeping its catch. But what a show it was!

On and in the water, the signs of fall are multiplying daily. On my first bottom-fishing trip in quite a while aboard Dan Cornell’s boat the “Reel Deal,” fish that were not there a month ago were there in numbers this time.

Huge red snapper gobbled up our live baits with abandon and, in all, I would say we released at least 20 big ones, many in the mid- to upper-20-pound range.

Since the red snapper fishery is still closed, these bruisers gave our anglers the “what for,” but those live baits we brought along were intended for our target species — grouper.

Almost out of live bait, we headed to one last spot. Two live baits went down and up came two beautiful gag grouper. We missed a couple of other grouper but two in the box is just fine by me. The fact they were there was just one more indication that fall is close. Real close.

Inshore, probably one of my most anticipated early-fall events is still days away. The annual mullet run.

If you aren’t sure what a mullet looks like, they are the fish you see jumping in our creeks and lagoons. Triggered by Mother Nature, a mass migration south occurs around this time. Mullet by the thousands school up, heading toward the open ocean. And waiting for them are just about every fish with teeth.

Usually up on the surface, tightly packed schools of mullet run a gauntlet of predators. Every type of shark around, mackerels, trout, redfish, jack crevelle and others explode on these schools, which looks very much like someone has thrown a hand grenade into the middle of the mullet. What a spectacle!

Another sign of impending fall weather is that the trout have finally showed up.

For the past couple of months, you might catch one or two trout at best. But on a trip late last week, my friend George Norton and I got into them big time and all were nice, plump specimens.

As for shrimp, they too have doubled in size in a very short period of time and though not thick, they too are beginning to gather to make their annual migration seaward.

So, my advice to you is this. If you own a boat, kayak or anything that floats, now is the time to get out there. Let’s just say harvest time is here — and for inspiration, try listening to David Bowie’s “Changes.”