Lowcountry anglers are tearing up the redfish in the Isle of Palms area, and one of the best places to catch them is in the Intracoastal Waterway near smaller creeks and coves. Moving tides—either the incoming or outgoing—are good times for catching them, and Capt. Garrett Lacy of Charleston Fishing Adventures said live bait like mullet are working great, whether they are fished on the bottom or with a popping cork.
“The redfish go into those creeks at high tide, and once the tide starts moving out, they move to the main waterway and sit at the mouth of those creeks and feed on the baitfish that are being pulled out with the tide. Redfish of all sizes stack up in these areas,” said Lacy.
When fishing on the bottom, Lacy uses circle hooks in 2/0 or 3/0 sizes, and uses just enough weight to keep his baits on the bottom. This will change depending on current and location, but usually 1/2 to 1-ounce does the trick. He likes to put three or four rods out and places them all in rod holders.
“Just let the circle hooks do their job here. Don’t be tempted to jerk the rod out of the rod holder whenever you see you’re getting a bite. Let the rod load up. Once the redfish starts swimming off, the circle hook will find its mark in the corner of the mouth, the rod will double over, and then it’s time to pick up the rod,” Lacy said.
Having the drag set properly is key here. If it’s too tight, you’ll break the line when fighting the fish. If it’s too loose, the fish will just pull drag out and the hook may never make a solid hook set. “I want just enough drag pressure that the fish will hook itself once it starts swimming off. But between having it too loose or too tight, I’d much rather have it too loose,” said Lacy (843-478-8216).
When the fish pulls line out against the drag, the fight takes its toll and wears the fish out, but the angler is usually in for a good fight first, especially if its a bull red, and many of the fish currently biting are.
One mistake many anglers make is reeling at the wrong time during the fight. When the fish is pulling line out against the drag, it’s best to let it run. Once it stops, reel in while holding your rod up to keep an arch in it. When the fish runs again, which it will do several times before tiring out, especially the first time it gets close to the boat, just let it run, always keeping the rod arched.
In some areas, Lacy prefers to use popping corks with the mullet suspended underneath. With his boat in the Intracoastal Waterway, he lowers his Power Pole in front of a creek opening, then casts his cork toward the creek mouths, and lets the current carry the cork as close to the grass as possible, trying to keep the baitfish suspended above the oyster shells. He leaves enough slack in his line to allow the cork to drift to his desired spot, reels it in once it reaches that point, then repeats the process. It usually doesn’t take long for the cork to slip under, and Lacy said a few trout have been mixed in with the redfish lately.
Lacy cautions anglers from using regular, simple corks that are typical when freshwater fishing, and encourages them to use quality saltwater corks with a combination of beads and brass weights that produce a good sound when twitched. VuDu, Midcoast Products, Cajun Thunder, and Lowcountry Lightning corks are all good choices.
Lacy said another mistake some anglers make is sitting in one spot too long. “Even if I’ve had good luck in a particular spot before, I won’t sit there for more than ten or fifteen minutes without a bite. There are plenty of good fishing holes, so if one doesn’t produce quickly, I won’t hesitate to move to the next one,” he said.
Summing up the current fishing trend in the lowcountry, Lacy said as long as the weather stays hot like it has been, the redfish bite will continue to be the strongest, but once the first signs of fall weather rolls in, the trout will also begin biting aggressively.