Anglers looking for numbers of redfish and good-sized fish are getting what they want in Bulls Bay north of Charleston. Big schools of reds that are common this time of year are cruising these waterways and are willing to bite a number of offerings, from cut bait to live bait to soft plastics.
Gary McElwain of Seewee said the weather has been a factor, but that anglers who watch it closely increase their chances of stellar fishing days.
"The fishing is good most days, but catching those days just before a front comes in means the difference between a good fishing day and an incredible one," McElwain said.
One thing McElwain will never be accused of not bringing enough weapons to battle reds. When he’s on the water, he isn't interested in trying one pattern and sticking with it no matter the outcome. He goes with a collection of bait, lures and tackle that would make most tackle stores seem understocked. What is working for him these days is dead-sticking soft-plastic grubs and shrimp. To some anglers, this is tough fishing, as it requires even more patience than normal.
"Especially when anglers can see the fish in these large schools, it is difficult for them to just let the lure slowly sink, but it's the best way to fish these big schools right now," McElwain said. "Some anglers prefer to cast only in front of these schools, but when dead-sticking soft plastics, I won't hesitate to cast in the middle of a big group of fish."
The key, according to McElwain, is to use the lightest rig possible, so that the lure sinks slowly in the middle of the schools.
Most anglers, McElwain said, won't be able to pass up the temptation to twitch the lure, especially when they can see a fish checking it out as it sinks. While this works during certain times of the year, McElwain said now isn't that time.
"A twitch will just send these fish scattering and bust the schools up," he said. "But letting it sink and even sit on the bottom for a minute or two can be just the ticket for drawing a strike."
While soft plastics are keeping McElwain busy and the fish biting, he said having some cut blue crab and live mud minnows on hand is always a good idea, and has resorted to using them when the fishing slows down – which has been happening at dead low tide. He fishes these under popping corks but doesn't impart much popping action, preferring to let the bait sit still.
McElwain is having most of his success at high tide when schools are stalking the shallowest parts of creeks, but he said as long as you can locate fish, they are biting with some frequency. Finding the trio of incoming water, oyster shells and spartina grass always gives him confidence that redfish are nearby. He pays close attention to the weather, and said the day before any major change in temperature is always a good bet for excellent fishing.