By Guest Blogger – Captain Miles
The raucous cry of the marsh hen seems to carry the cooler breeze and as it brushes my face I can’t help but smile, after all it signals my favorite time of year, the fall season. Fall is a special time here in the low country for many reasons, the weather is cooler, the crowds thin…and the bull redfish swarm inshore waters. The bulls, 20 pounds upwards to the 50 pounds mark are here or offshore all year, but this time of year they come close in big numbers. Trips with catches of 20 or more fish are not at all uncommon.
The strength of these fish is incredible, rivaling any other fish its size short of an amberjack or tuna. I usually fish heavy spinning reels with 50 lb braid and even with a heavy drag they will strip line off at an alarming pace, and do it several times in a battle. I have fished lighter tackle but the lengthy battle takes a toll on these big fish and they must be released, the law being everything over 23 inches must be returned to the water.
The smaller redfish also invade the creeks this time of year offering the best light tackle sport available. Shrimp, live or dead, cut mullet and menhaden all are favorite baits when fishing inshore. The “slot” or keeper size is 15-23 inches and by SC law you may keep three per person. Not only a blast to catch, but they are delicious.
Before Chef Paul Prudhomme introduced “blackened redfish” these fish were locally known as spot tail bass or puppy drum. Officially their proper name is red drum. Coloration is usually a deep burnt orange or copper across the back with a single spot at the base of the tail. Some fish have multiple spots from the tail to the middle of the fish. A strong broad tail and thick shoulders give it all the horsepower it needs to make your day. Armed with a set of fangs that would make any snake or vampire jealous, a voracious appetite and an explosive strike, the speckled seatrout ranks in the top three inshore gamefish along with flounder and red drum.
Often attacking prey their own size, the strike of the seatrout is hard to beat. One nice “gator” trout I caught last winter almost took the rod out of my hands when he struck the plastic bait I had tossed near the bank. My intentions were to let it sink a minute so I had relaxed my grip on the rod and certainly didn’t expect the force of the trout’s attack. The fish weighed six pounds.
While after a cold winter, the trout population sometimes dips, it seems like the mild past winter holds promise of booming schools of trout for this season. In September large schools of 13 inch fish were plentiful and with the trout’s appetite they should be much larger as winter passes. Some of their favorite prey is finger mullet, mud minnows and shrimp. One fish I cleaned recently had a small eel in his stomach that was as long as the trout. While the shrimp are plentiful in the creeks, I prefer to use them live.
As the water temperature drops and the shrimp leave I switch to artificial baits, soft plastics with paddle tails or screw tails, scented plastics like the Gulp products or hard lures like the Mirrolure or Mighty Mike. I have caught them on a chunk of dead mullet on the bottom while fishing for redfish but the other methods should produce better numbers of fish. If using a live bait, finger mullet, shrimp or mud minnow, a popping cork with three foot of leader and a 2/0 or 3/0 circle or kahle hook will produce good results. Small live menhaden are also favorite food for the voracious trout. Working the popping cork vigorously will increase your strikes, where some fish spook easily the trout is fearless. Long ago we used to troll the grass edge of the creeks, the motor never bothered them.
Sleek and silvery iridescence covered with spots the speckled sea trout is a beautiful, hard striking, tough fighting fish that provides an angling experience that is hard to beat. When taken to the table the delicious while flaky flesh is the icing on the cake! I am often surprised that many of my summer clients remark that they come in the fall or winter also but never think about fishing then. Reservations are much easier to come by and the fishing is fantastic. If you are coming to visit the island this season, don’t miss a great opportunity to enjoy some world class fishing.
To fish with Captain Miles please call 843-842-7001 to book a trip at Shelter Cove Marina. For more about Hilton Head Outfitters and fishing the 11-mile inland lagoon in Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort, click here.