Chasing Red Drum In The Delta

I haven’t launched the skiff in Georgetown since the fall and was glad to be back in the East’s most remote section of coastline. The skiff sat in the still water tied to the dock and the only sound was the bait tank watering the mud minnows.
Joey, Julia, Zeb, Jake, Ben, and Caleb Boykin pulled into the lot ready to launch and we were headed downriver before sunrise. This is one of my favorite ramps to launch at because we can watch the river as it changes from fresh to salt water. The trees give way to marsh grass as we drew nearer to the beach and we found a crab boat checking traps. Blue crabs make excellent bait for the bull reds and the crabber sold us a full basket.

We reached the inlet and chose a position near sandbars where the waves were breaking. The latest addition to the boat was a trolling motor equipped with spot lock which holds the boat in place without having to use an anchor. Moving from one spot to another has never been so easy now that we are not throwing anchors and pulling hundreds of feet of rope.
Caleb and Jacob clipped our pre-tied Lupton rigs onto the line and Ben tested the reflex speed of a blue crab. The hooks were baited with a variety of baits. Shad, mullet, and blue crab all make good options and it is nice to have all three baits in the arsenal. Sometimes, the fish will eat anything, and on other days, they will be selective. We generally start with the variety and begin to focus on the bait that produces best results for that day.

Time passed and there were no bites. We continued to checked hooks to make sure that we still had the bait. Fishing with an empty hook is not productive. The early wake up started to have its effect and some of the crew started napping on the rocking bow. Joey and Julia had out lasted everyone else and were standing by waiting for a strike. Joey laughed saying, “All we had to do is out last the boys and now were first in line!”
We fished all around the breakers and in the channel until late morning and we opted to move in shore. Hunter’s skiff was nearby and we passed him on the way into the river. He was too far to see, but Hunter had just landed and released a bull red fish before we moved.
We rode up into two small creeks where the red fish seek refuge from the dolphins. Here, alligators are the feared predator and we found plenty along the way. Zeb said it felt good to be in a skiff because his last encounter with a gator was in a kayak. I was looking for a good deep hole that we could fish using live bait. Red drum like to spend their time in the grass when the tide is in because it is excellent cover. The red drum plow their nose in the mud searching for crabs to eat. The fish are driven from the marsh grass as the water recedes and are concentrated in the creeks. If you can find where the fish are hiding then you can catch many with little effort. That was not the case for our crew as we were still empty handed.
A storm was brewing to the South and we rode to the intra-coastal waterway to let it pass. Georgetown does not have as much manmade structure as other coastal cities like Charleston, and so a school of fish can be found around the structure of most docks.
I locked our position to be within casting range to the dock and fished with mud minnows. Caleb was the first to hook up with a fish. The red drum was twisting and fighting to get back to the dock but Caleb successfully landed him. The fish measured as a keeper (between 15 and 23 inches) so we put it in the cooler. These slot size red drum have a prettier appearance than the giant bulls in the inlet. Their backs are a bold red, with a bright blue tail, and a single spot in front of the tail. Zeb and Jacob hooked fish under the docks but the lines were cut on the barnacles of the dock. I heard the drag of another rod and Caleb had his second red drum. This one fought much harder and when measured, was too large to keep. Caleb released the fish to be caught again. We moved to fish at one more spot before quitting for the day and Caleb caught a flounder. He had a natural feel for the bite and was able to handle his fish perfectly until they were in the boat.
The fish did not give themselves up easily on this trip and we had to pull every trick out of the hat. Luckily, our angler of the day, Caleb, broke the streak. It is on days like this that it is good to be on the beautiful Santee Delta with good friends.