WINTER COLUMN: Best bites as fall sets in
Now that cooler weather is finally, mercifully, moving in, a few things are going to start happening.
The water will start to clear up. Mature shrimp will move out of the shallows and intertidal zones to open water to spawn. Mullet will wrap up their annual migration to offshore waters, and the big schools of menhaden will start to dwindle.
The fish we all love to chase — redfish, trout, black drum, flounder, tarpon — instinctively react to this flush of food, doing their best to fatten up before winter.
Capt. Tucker Blythe of Grey Ghost Charters (843 670-8629, greyghostcharters.com) knows the next few weeks can be some of the most productive of the year for inshore anglers. Blythe, whose ability to stay on top of fish throughout the year and great photographic work are well known in local fishing circles, says anglers should be in for some great fishing this month.
“Right now, there’s still a few tarpon around,” Blythe said. “Up north, up around Georgetown, they’re still pretty thick.”
“And the bull redfishing is bang-up right now at the jetties. That should be good until the end of October.”
Redfishing up on the flats is just going to get better and better, he said. “The cold is going to be pushing the shrimp up out of the creeks, and they’re really going to be targeting these shrimp. That’s when you’ll find the birds over top packs of redfish, which are crushing the shrimp, moving down the banks.”
That’s one trick many flats anglers might not take advantage of, Blythe said: most don’t pay attention to the birds. “If they see flocks of seagulls pecking at the surface, there’s a 90 percent chance there’s redfish underneath them.”
Because the chances of catching fish are so good under these conditions, Blythe prefers using artificial lures. He throws shrimp patterns when fly fishing and Gulp shrimp and D.O.A. shrimp when using a regular spin-casting setup.
When using the D.O.A. shrimp, he doesn’t use a popping cork (a popular setup), opting instead to free-line the lure. He prefers casting root beer color schemes in clear water and darker patterns in low-light conditions.
Blythe also loves surf fishing for reds and black drum. Surf fishing action is strong through the summer but really heats up in the fall, he said. “That’s my favorite thing. I’ve been on it this year really strong on the fly. We’ve been catching big huge reds with poppers, one after the other.”
Blythe concentrates his redfishing efforts at sandbars near or in inlets, “the smaller the inlet, the better.” He doesn’t just anchor up at random spots — he poles along the bars and looks for fish. “When you have a clear, calm day, that’s when you can really see them well.” Over the years, he’s learned a lot about how reds behave in these inlets.
“They’re just like the flats fish; they have patterns,” he said. “At low tide, they hang out on the outside of the bars, in deeper holes. On the high tide they move up on the bars, and you’ll sometimes even see them flashing or tailing.”
On one recent trip, Blythe eased up on a pack of about 60 to 80 redfish.
“They were all elevated in the water column, and they looked like this big purple mass. We caught 9 on the fly in 30 minutes to an hour.”
Most fish in these inlets, Blythe said, are in the 8-12 pound range.
“But every now and again, you’ll see one that makes your knees shake a little bit.”