Do I go shrimp-baiting or sit in a deer stand? Do I hit the dove fields, surf fish for reds or gig some late season flounder?
Late September is a magical time for outdoors endeavors here in the Lowcountry. Just about everything seems to be in season, and the action with fish, fowl and furry creatures keeps heating up as the weather cools.
The toughest task often seems to be figuring out which passion to pursue.
A round of calls to hunting buddies, fishing friends and tackle shop sources shed some light on our wealth of options.
Though the 60-day shrimp-baiting season has only just begun, reports from local tackle shops seem to confirm what we’ve all been fearing: the flush of summer rain took a toll.
Scott Hammond of Haddrell’s Point Tackle and Supply said the season seems to be off to a mediocre start at popular spots, including Crab Bank, and Bull’s Bay.
“We’ve had some good reports from the James Island shoreline,” Hammond said. “Great numbers, but small shrimp.”
Hammond said shrimpers south of Charleston seem to be running into similar conditions in St. Helena Sound: Good numbers but a mixed bag when it comes to size.
“But I haven’t heard anything from Cherry Point, out of the North Edisto River,” he added. “I have a feeling that might be a hot spot this year” due to better salinity.
Jeremy Burnham at Atlantic Game and Tackle said he, too, has heard mostly poor reports.
“But I hear Bull’s Bay may be starting to pick up,” he said.
Rumors also are circulating that some deep-hole shrimpers have found the jumbos up in Bull’s Bay.
Doe season cranked up last week, and most of the Lowcountry hunters I know took full advantage. Over the past week, I’ve seen quite a few posts and received messages showing an awful lot of fresh venison on the ground.
Though I’m still at a goose-egg for the season, I hope to spend some time in a stand over the next week or so. Some of the biggest bucks taken in my circle of friends fell in mid to late September.
Numerous scrapes and rubs signal that the pre-rut is well underway, with bucks starting to stake their claims on prime breeding areas.
The cooler mornings should knock the mosquitos back a bit, too.
My Facebook news feed has been littered with redfish shots over the past week.
Charter captains seem to be tearing it up along inlets and up on the flats, from Beaufort through Charleston up to Murrells Inlet.
A stretch of relatively dry weather seems to have increased the salinity in many of the big bays, and without the runoff, water clarity has improved throughout inshore waterways.
Surf fishing for reds should get better and better as we move in October, so break out the carts and sand spikes and hit the beach.
The few reports I’ve heard back up my own limited experience in the dove fields so far this year: A wave of birds early, and then … nothing but blank sky.
But there’s still plenty of time for more birds to arrive. This segment of the mourning dove season continues through Oct. 5, then more segments follow Nov. 23-30 and then Dec. 19-Jan. 15.
Some buddies and I managed to get out on the water recently for a late-season gigging trip.
We had a relatively slow night, gigging one redfish, one sheepshead and only two flounder. Only one of the flatfish, a nice 6-pounder, was gigged. I actually managed to grab the first flounder after spotting it in the shallows at Prices Inlet as we waited for the sun to go down. Noodled a flounder — go figure.
We also went home with a nice catch of stone crab claws — surely one of the world’s tastiest seafood items.
The tides, wind and weather might align later this week, so keep gigging in mind. I hear there are still plenty of fish near the big inlets.
Reach Matt Winter, manager of niche content and design and editor of Tideline magazine, at 843-937-5568 or firstname.lastname@example.org.