• May 2013 - Volume 8, Number 5


    If you’re gonna fish the deep, clear waters of Lake Keowee, it helps to have a plan.

    Most bass fishermen who have never ventured onto Lake Keowee’s deep, clear waters often wonder why anyone would.

    With few exceptions, Keowee’s shoreline is as well-manicured below the surface as the properties that surround the lake. Add in the degree of difficulty of fishing gin-clear water, and Keowee can be an intimidating lake.

    Redfish, flounder and trout are frequently caught by fishermen who learn the ins and outs of Bald Head Island’s marsh.

    The small schools of minnows, swept down the little marsh creek on the falling tide, seemed to get nervous as it crossed a spot just a few yards inside the creek’s mouth. The baitfish knew they were being forced by the receding waters to leave the safety of the deep marsh behind Bald Head Island, and they were moving quickly.

    But at this one spot where the grass kicked out into the creek a little, every one made a quick dart as if something had spooked them.

    As guides Rick Bennett and Stu Caulder watched another group of the minnows being pushed out the creek by the tide, the water erupted — a big splash right in the middle of the school of minnows — then the water calmed, and in just a few seconds, it was as if nothing had happened.

    Great-tasting member of tuna family makes an April-May appearance along the coast.

    A beautiful, spring morning became Wayne Crisco’s best bonito fishing adventure, and the Holly Ridge-based saltwater guide didn’t have a client on his boat.

    “It was absolutely gorgeous on the ocean off Onslow Beach,” Crisco said. “You could see for miles because the seas were only 1 to 2 feet. I had brought my wife, Karen, with me but no clients.

    “The first thing we noticed was schools of Spanish mackerel hitting baitfish out of New River Inlet. We were about 2 1/4 miles outside the inlet at the ledges where rocks are spread out across the bottom, and bonito were blowing up on schools of baby cigar minnows — not glass minnows like you’d expect.”

    Georgetown is jumping-off spot for great Cape Romain Reef action.

    The wind was up, and the rocking of the boat made it difficult to stand as it pounded its way around Cape Romain Reef in late May while we tried our hand at a “reef double.”

    May and early June can be prime time to fish around the artificial reef that, like many others, was established by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources to produce suitable habitat for nearshore species.

    Many different species call the Cape Romain Reef home, but the windy day trip was for just two of them, the reef double of spadefish and cobia, two of the pound-for-pound hardest-fighting fish in the ocean. While the spadefish is more along the lines of a saltwater panfish, the cobia is a beast.

    Jigs and minnows fished vertically around deep brush will get you your slab-crappie fill.

    As the sun cooks the waters over Berkeley County, America’s tastiest freshwater favorite continues to offer anglers an outlet for their prized flesh. Millions of the Santee Cooper lakes’ black crappie have left their shallow-water love nests to frolic again in their normal, deep stomping grounds.

    For some, crappie fishing is over when the last speckled bandit departs the shallow waters around the cypress trees and lily pads. But make no mistake, the post-spawn crappie season in Santee Cooper country is epic — and in more ways than one.

    Big tuna have unusual ability to feed super-deep and super at the surface.

    Bigeye tuna occupy the offshore waters off North Carolina’s Outer Banks from spring through the summer, but most of the action is from the second week in May through June. About once every 10 years, large numbers of bigeyes show up all in the same place, with every boat for miles fishing for them and every boat having frequent hook-ups.

    The numbers are enormous.

    Bigeyes are bigger than yellowfin tuna and smaller than bluefins. They will school with other tunas including yellowfin, true albacore and skipjack, and with non-tunas like wahoo. Although bigeyes average 100 pounds — twice the size of yellowfins — you can quickly tell the stubby, fat bigeyes during a multi-strike blitz; they charge off straight away on the surface rather than diving.

    It takes a special hunter and special tactics to score on gobblers late in the season. Learn from these...

    The easy gobblers are already in freezers across North Carolina. As the end of the 2013 spring season nears, it's the tough birds that are left in the woods, the old toms that have survived several seasons by understanding that there's somebody out there trying to fill them full of copper-plated No. 4s.

    Find ‘em, see ‘em, fool ‘em and hook ‘em and Lowcountry redfish can be yours.

    Redfish are easy.

    Some freshwater anglers, especially those who focus on cold-water trout, disdainfully quip that “Catching bass is easy; anyone can catch one.”

    It’s true, anyone can catch a black bass in freshwater, and more to the point in our Lowcountry shallows, anyone can catch a redfish — at times. When conditions are right and you find yourself near a school of spot-tail bass, throwing any bait or lure into their midst will get you hooked up.

    Start upstream in freshwater and sample everything the Ashepoo River has to offer on its way to the St. Helena Sound.

    Originating under the moss-draped trees of the black-water swamps outside Walterboro in Colleton County, the Ashepoo River flows approximately 42 miles before emptying into St. Helena Sound. The “middle” river of the ACE Basin, the Ashepoo is also the shortest of the three, but what it lacks in length it more than makes up for in diversity.

    This river is an angler’s dream.

    Robbie Robertson grew up on the edges of the Great Swamp and has fished the Ashepoo his whole life.

    Dragging a nightcrawler or deep-jigging will put a freshwater delicacy in your cooler.

    Few people associate North Carolina with a fish that practically defines the word “fishing” in the Great Lakes and upper Midwest.

    Walleye conjure up images of an angler in a snowsuit with a heavy northern accent trolling rough, open water with crankbaits and nightcrawler harnesses from a big, closed-bow, deep- V boat.

    Now, picture an easy going, laid-back, slow-talking angler casting a whole nightcrawler threaded on a light jighead from a flat-decked bass boat on a warm spring afternoon, and you’ve got western North Carolina’s version of walleye fishing.

    Weldon area is where the action is for May stripers in Roanoke River.

    Perhaps no fishing technique provides more excitement and satisfaction than using topwater lures.

    The anticipation of a surface attack is almost as thrilling as actually watching a fish smack a lure on the surface. Freshwater fishermen especially like to find striped bass willing to attack topwaters.

    The problem is that unless one happens to be at the right place at the right time, it’s a hit-or-miss proposition. Stripers must be visible, slamming baits, before anglers can motor to within casting range, and lake-bound stripers feed in deep water most of the time. That leaves rivers as the best places to engage in topwater fishing for stripers.

    Fly rods, ultralight tackle will fill up a cooler with aggressive bluegills.

    Why bluegills?
    Mayfly carcasses are everywhere. Boat docks and piers are plastered with dead insects. Boats and tarps are covered with them. Carcasses are everywhere — except on the water.
    Why none on the water? Those that expired over water got gobbled up by foraging bluegills, one of those species of small sunfish widely known as bream.

    Drift cut bait for blues and channels, anchor up and fan-cast for flatheads at Lake Wylie along the North Carolina-South Carolina border.

    Lake Wylie is about to wake up from sleeper status in terms of being a premier player among South Carolina catfishing lakes.

    Lake Keowee can be tough, but a game plan will get you closer to spotted bass. Also, cobia prowl Cape Romain Reef this month.