Keep It Simple

Fishing can be as complicated or as simple as the fisherman makes it. People have special knots, floats, weights, rigs, and lures that they believe in. The basic rules are that fish like structure and that live, natural bait is usually better than artificial bait.
Bo Hutchison, Wriston Barnes, and I started the day fishing the yearly shad run on Tailrace Canal. We did not catch any shad so Bo decided to ride to the coast and fish the marsh grass for red drum. (Commonly known as spot tail)
I bought some mud minnows while Bo launched the boat and off we went. The harbor was rough with the strong SW wind and we sought shelter in the lee of some trees on the other side. We followed a creek way up and off the beaten path to a bend with deep water. (5 feet is deep in a creek like this) A tree lay in the water on the other side and we set the anchor to start fishing.
I used a 12″ leader with a 1 ought circle hook and a little clamp on weight at the start of the clear leader. I hooked a mud minnow through the nose and Wriston already had a fish. His line darted back and forth in the water fast enough to make a splash. Even the little red fish have powerful muscles in their shoulders and the fish rarely jump out of the water during the fight. Wriston lifted the fish and quickly removed the hook so he can catch another. I pitched my minnow towards a log and hooked a red drum before the bait hit the bottom. These red fish were within the 15″-23″ keeper slot but we released each fish. These are not as big as the adult bull reds that we catch in the surf but they are far prettier. The young red drum have bold red color, a perfectly round spot on the tail, and a film of bright blue near the end of the tail. Their scales are arranged smooth and do not bear the scars that the older fish accumulate through life in the ocean.
Being hidden from the wind had it’s disadvantages. The no-see-ums and flies were forming clouds around the boat and their bites were so many that it was hard to accomplish anything. The bugs were in our eyes, ears, and biting every part of us. Bo packed a homemade citrus spray that helped to repel bugs without putting a repellant scent on the bait. Even though we had caught near 20 fish at this spot, we had to relocate to escape the bugs.
We moved to a larger section of water where we had more wind and anchored near a long dock. We took casts at the posts and quickly caught more fish. I hooked one fish which swam over the oysters and was lost. A lot of the fish were under the dock when hooked and we were careful to guide them out without causing a tangle. When fishing live bait on the bottom, I allow time for the bait to reach the bottom and then I slowly reel it in at an almost unnoticeable pace back to the boat. One of the fish I caught had a tag near the dorsal fin. A tag usually has numbers used to report the fish’s information. I later entered the tag information and which DNR uses to track the fish’s patterns, and quality. The health of the fish can assist DNR in determining if the fish have adequate water quality and they send a certificate showing the places where the fish was last caught. I have not received my certificate but I imagine that the young red drum was last caught in Charleston. Red drum do not wander out into the ocean until they grow to be a mature bull.
We caught about 10 fish at this spot and moved to another area where rocks were piled along the waterway. We used the same bait and rig but switched out the weight for a float. Casting at the rocks, we let the bait drift along side the bank until they disappear with a fish on. A few more fish were landed ad released before dark and we rode back to the house.
It is easy to get carried away with sight fishing or stalking schools. Sometimes you can catch more fish by slowing down and fishing for what is unseen. These fish were not nearly as large as the 30 pounders that we catch in the surf but that goes to show why red drum are one of the most perfect fish. There are so many ways to approach them that there is something in red fishing for every angler.
Our boat passed by the quiet Fort Sumter at dusk and the Charleston skyline was visible in the distance. It was a beautiful evening and having caught over 30 fish made for a happy crew. We forgot to pack any food or drinks for the whole day and we were anxious to find a good dinner when we made it back to land.