CPR Initiative & Project ReSpeck

Eye Strike Fishing is very proud to announce our involvement in a new initiative that will positively impact our fisheries for years to come.  Joel LeVine of Redfin Charters spearheaded this effort in partnership with ourselves and Z-Man Fishing.  What it is, is a pathway to direct funds to conservation and sustainability projects through a non-profit, tax deductible organization.  This is the Community and Professional Response Initiative (CPR Initiative), which is a non-profit fund to collect donations toward certain projects.  This is in contrast to sending a donation to, say SCDNR or other government organizations, and having it go into a general fund.  In our case, your funds go directly to the cause we are focusing on.  

Why are we doing this?  Because we have heard from others, and thought ourselves, that we would be willing to pay extra to fund something such as, increasing the numbers of stocked fish in our waters – or wanting to do something to help our recovery from our historic freeze.  Now, we have a way to do so!

Project ReSpeck

Our first project is called Project ReSpeck.  It is aimed at helping our spotted seatrout recover as fast as possible.  In many discussions with the Waddell Mariculture Center and SCDNR it was determined that their most pressing need is to fund an additional spawning tank at SCDNR’s Fort Johnson Facility.  These tanks run $25,000 and are capable of spawning 600-700,000 eggs a season.  These eggs are then taken to Waddell to grow and eventually be released into our waters.  Eye Strike, Redfin, and Z-Man have seeded this fund with an initial 10% ($2,500) and will also be donating a portion of our sales to the fund.

How can you help?  You can donate directly to the cause by going to http://projectrespeck.com which will take you directly to the CPR Initiative’s fund page.  After you enter your information and send in a donation, you will receive a donor letter in the mail to be used for your tax deduction.  Please allow a couple weeks to receive it.   Let’s raise these funds and let DNR purchase a tank.  This will greatly increase their capacity for growing fish to stock.  It’s a great cause!  Thanks in advance!

An existing trout spawning tank at SCDNR. It contains local trout up to 13 lbs! It’s a real sight to see…

The Future

Once we have funded this project, we will direct the CPR Initiative to another cause, to be determined.  However, our mission states that the funds must be used to benefit the SC coastal estuaries, so it’s focused on what matters most to us.

Heating Back Up

We haven’t been on the water too much in early 2018, so not much to report from personal experience until now.  I have yet to catch a trout this year, but also haven’t been targeting them in their usual places – but others have been posting encouraging reports so hopefully our large numbers of trout before the freeze will help our recovery.  

Lower slot redfish on a 3/16 Eye Strike Weedless jig with a Pearl MinnowZ (aka Fladd-Shad)

This past weekend Ralph and I took separate trips and found a very strong redfish bite in the Cooper river.  Water temps are up to the low 50’s and the bite was super aggressive once you found the fish.  They are still in their cold water patterns, ie. packed together along deep water structure.  Once you find the fish, you hardly need to move.  

Ralph with a grown Redfish
Lots of big girls around!

I had a good day solo fishing on Saturday, with 15 redfish caught, tagged and released in a few hours.  Most encouraging to me was the size range – with several year-classes represented.  I had fish from 16″ to 31″ and all in-between.  I polled a few friends who had similar days and they also reported similar size ranges of fish.  That is a very good sign.   I wish I was fishing a tournament, as I had four fish between 22 and 23 inches (all released, maybe to recapture in a tourney?)

We were doing a little new product testing, which I will keep under wraps for now, but the new product passed with flying colors.  Really excited to announce the product when its ready!  

On the subject of new products we are working on… we have a lot of new stuff coming, and should be making prototypes and testing them in the next few weeks.  Stay tuned!

It’s almost spawning season for Riverene Striper and they are Fat-Fat-Fat

See you on the water –

-Dave

#RELEASE2018SC

In past years, I used to closely monitor and track winter water temps here in Charleston, trying to understand at what level trout die due to cold water.  I used to get really obsessed by it, because a cold water kill means at least a couple years of poor trout fishing.  In the past few years, however, I have taken a more laid back attitude towards it because, really, what can you do about it?  Nothing. 

Here is one of the charts I made several years back, and it clearly shows the cold water of 2010, the last year we had a cold kill.

Since 2011, we have had a long stretch of very warm winters, some where the water hardly got into the 50’s.  That has made for some great trout fishing, both in numbers and in size.  

Enter 2018.  The chart tells the tale.  We have had temps as low as 42F in the harbor and below the known stun/kill temp for trout of 46F for more than a week straight.  In localized areas, the temp got much colder.  I personally observed 32F water in the upper Ashley with ice chunks floating down river.

Fishermen have reported seeing hundreds of dead fish in the shallows where they were not able to escape to deep water in time.  This includes not only trout, but redfish, sheepshead, black drum, flounder and mullet.  Some guide friends have stated that they have never seen dead redfish and sheepshead due to cold water in their lives fishing here.

It’s nature’s way of cleaning house and the fisheries will be fine, they will just need time to rebound.  Many have stated “why doesn’t SCDNR make a catch and release closure”.  The answer is that they cannot.  These calls are made by our state legislature (which most people think is absolutely ridiculous, but its a fact).  DNR has the ability to enact an emergency closure, however, this closes fishing for the species, so in effect it shuts down fishing.  Its a matter of wording as far as I understand it, but for this reason DNR is very hesitant to use it (for good reason).  What they can do, and have done in the past couple days, is request voluntary catch and release by anglers.  They have done this for seatrout specifically, but many of us think that doesn’t go far enough.  

We all want our fisheries to recover as fast as possible.  Guides, tackle shops, boating companies, lure makers, will all feel the effects of poor fishing.  If we focus only on seatrout, this will put extra pressure on other inshore species.  We believe this should go beyond the spawning season and through the entire year, as the fall is when a lot of fish can be caught and potentially harvested.  We need all fish around if they are going to rebound quickly – especially the large fish as they release the most eggs and are almost all female.  Studies have shown that a 15″ trout will make 9.5 million eggs in a spawning season, and an 18″ trout will make 17.6 million eggs.  It’s clear to see how important larger fish are to the rebound of the species.

I was mulling this over last week and trying to think of a way to start a grass roots initiative to encourage catch and release of all inshore species when I got a call from Daniel Nussbaum at Z-Man.  He was thinking the same way, and asked if we would like to join them in an initiative to release all inshore fish in 2018.  It’s a voluntary effort and one that we will follow and hope you embrace as well.  They designed some cool stickers with a hashtag #RELEASE2018SC.  We will have them available at the Haddrell’s Point Shallow Water Expo this weekend and plan to have them at our shop as well.  We hope you join us and put your stickers on your vehicles, boats, coolers, etc to let others know you are all-in with us on this initiative.  

Thank you for your support!

 

Pushing Your Limits

It’s fun every now and then to really get out of your comfort zone and try something new.  The tangible rewards may be few, but the ones that come are all the more sweet!  

Recently I did something that I’ve always said I’d do, but never have:  Make a trip with only a fly rod.  I’ve always referred to myself as an opportunistic fly fisherman.  What I mean by this is, I sometimes bring a fly rod, but won’t bring it out unless I’m seeing fish or on a good bite (or, the only thing the fish are feeding on are super-small grass shrimp for example).  I’m also a mediocre caster at-best, mostly because I don’t do it that often.

Josh casting at a small group of reds

My fly fishing mentors (Jeremy Mehlhaff, John Irwin, Jeremy Clark) all have told me that if you want to become a better fly fisherman, go without a fall-back plan, ie. fly rod only.  It turns out Josh, the son of some of our close friends, has become a fly fishing junkie…he’s got it bad… real bad!  He tears up the local golf course pond bass with his fly rod because he doesn’t have a boat (yet).  When he has a minute free from class at USC he’s in the Saluda casting for striper.  

What he hasn’t done yet is to catch a saltwater fish on fly.  So, what better opportunity to go fly only!  

We set out on the upper Wando hoping to try some of my reliable spots for trout and at low tide go searching on some flats where I have found winter redfish before.  A big tide made it difficult to get our floating lines down deep enough for trout and we ended up 0 for trout.  I was surprised because a fly is a great winter time trout offering.  

We poled around a mile of flats with a grand total of 3 or 4 redfish and a stray trout or 2 spotted.  The fish have moved to different flats since several years ago that I last pursued them.  Eventually, however, we found a couple fish in deeper water.  It’s actually kind of easy to fly fish in deeper water with floating line.  You simply let your fly sink and watch your floating line.  When it jumps, fish is on.

Great redfish on the fly, note heart shaped spot!

I was the first to land a fish, and it turned out to be a real nice red – 29″ with a heart for a spot.  I tagged and released it and we went looking for a fish for Josh.  It wasn’t long before I look over and he is hooked up to a redfish!  What a thrill watching him play it with a very satisfied look on his face.  It wasn’t the biggest fish, but it was the first which made it awesome.  We took a bunch of pics and tagged it, so hopefully if it’s recaptured we will know that this one was special.  

Nothing better than a first!
The first, but won’t be the last. Congrats Josh!

A very fun and memorable day.  Hope you get a chance to get out of your comfort zone and find it as rewarding as we did today…

A Cold Snap Changes Everything

Here we are, mid-December and our first couple hard frosts have really cooled things off.  On the water yesterday it was actually a really nice day, but the air temps did not climb above the 40’s so it was really chilly.  I hate being cold (which is kinda funny because I’m originally from western NY, you know, near Buffalo), so I have learned to invest in really good clothes to fish in.  One of my native southerner friends told me “you’re a southerner by choice, it just took you longer to get here”!

If you do it right, you won’t have to wear so many layers you can’t move.  Get a real good base layer long underwear, one or 2 mid-layers and a nice Gore-Tex jacket and you will be comfortable.  We offer the best of the best of base layers at our shop (Wool Power) – its expensive stuff, but worth the money.  There are plenty of other options for a budget also, cold-pruf is one.  

A cold water redfish with a SCDNR tag. Note the life jacket!

Another thing I always like to emphasize this time of year is safety.  If you are fishing solo, do yourself and your family and friends a favor by always wearing a life jacket, and use your tether!  Every year it seems we hear of a fisherman being killed by the cold water.  You have literally seconds to survive in the cold water, because your muscles will seize up, keeping you from being able to swim.  Wear your PFD, it will save your life.  

OK, enough lecturing 🙂  

I’m gonna talk a little about cold water redfish. 

Another over-slot red on the chartreuse trouteye and pearl minnowz

Everyone knows this time of year they bunch up on the flats in huge schools.  So much fun to see and to catch them.  The fight ain’t much, it’s more like dragging in a log pretty much.  I’m not a huge fly fisherman but I’ve done my share and learned by trial and error that a killer offering for these fish is a simple unweighted deceiver.  I just tie a sparse amount of buck tail on a hook with a little dab of adhesive and you will find it lands super light and sinks very slowly.  Often you just need to let it suspend as a school passes by and one will pick it up.  

Another thing reds do is collect on deep structure.  Sometimes you would not believe how many fish can fit in a 10 foot diameter spot.  I’ve personally seen 50 fish caught out of the same spot several times.  Of course, if you miss the spot you will never know they were there.  Find the spot and its on!  Things to look for is deep rubble, rocks or concrete.   Also, fallen trees or shrubs.  Maybe a slight hole nearby any of the above.  These fish will often be in 10 to 20 feet of water.  Use your sonar to find likely spots and drop down and jig around.  This time of year I always ask SCDNR to double up on my tags as I can easily go through 25 in a single day.  To present your offering to these fish you need to go REALLY slow.  Think 2″ hops.  The pickup will be barely perceptible sometimes.  The best way to describe it is that it feels “weird”.  Count to 2 then set the hook.  Try it!

It’s a whole lot of fun, and remember conservation – handle them with care and release them to be caught again.  A fish is too valuable to be caught only once!

Trout are still biting. That’s a subject for another post!

Fishing Big Tides, or Winds (or Both!)

Yesterday I ducked out of work to get a quick session in before the coming big cold front and 3 consecutive days of rain and cold.  Usually a pre-front day results in a strong trout bite.  I knew we were coming off a super-moon and the tide would be strong, but the winds were also really strong.  It made for a really tough time to fish with artificials.  Some of the challenges are:

  • Getting the bait down into the strike zone
  • Managing the huge bow in your line
  • Feeling the bite and/or reacting in time to set the hook

This being said, the fish don’t seem to care that you’re having a hard time fishing!  I’ve had some really great catching on really windy days.  In fact, yesterday I was rewarded with a true trophy – more on that later.

The average size fish caught yesterday

So, here are some tips that can help you improve your catching on such days.  It’s gonna be a struggle, but you can still do okay… I’ll break it down into big tides, then big winds.

Big Tides

  • In order to get your lure down into the strike zone, generally go with a little more weight on your jig – the most I will go is 1/4 oz.  Beyond that I feel like you are messing with the presentation of the lure – it just doesn’t look natural on the fall.
  • Cast far up-current from your target zone in order to give the lure enough time to sink to the zone.  
  • Look for areas that have less current – these will be more productive.  With the exception of Striper, most fish don’t want to waste energy fighting a ripping tide to eat.  These areas will be in bays, areas where the river is wider, or back-eddies.

Big Winds

  • Line management is a big issue.  Try to position your boat so you are casting directly upwind or downwind.  If casting upwind with a baitcaster – you’re gonna probably backlash unless you’re careful.  I did this 2X yesterday – flinging a perfectly good lure off my line when the line stopped abruptly.
  • Keep your rod tip close to the water.  In general, it’s hard to work a jerk shad this way.  In these conditions I will use a paddle tail such as a Z-Man MinnowZ, because you can slowly swim it along the bottom with a low rod tip. 
  • Look for banks that have a close tree line upwind, as they will provide a wind-shadow.  This one is obvious, but many smaller twisty creeks are good places to go in high winds
  • At lower tides, you can often get down in a creek and the wind will be over you – it’s surprising how fishable they can be in high winds.

Hope this helps – 

So, anyway, I was generally frustrated fighting big tide and big wind and catching decent 15-17″ trout here and there.  Missed a bunch due to line-bow, etc.  Tried an area that had produced in similar conditions in the past and had a large strike.  Pulling drag in short aggressive runs, and I’m saying out loud “please be a trout”.  Managed this true gator trout – way over 20 inches, so took a quick timer pic and got her back in the water.  What a thrill!  

Gator trout caught on a Z-Man MinnowZ (Pearl) on a chartreuse Trout Eye jig

My personal upper-slot on speckled trout is 20″, so she was released

See you on the water!

The Spot within a Spot

Last Thursday was simply the best trout bite I have ever experienced.  I had a great friend I have had since high school with me, and it was a day neither of us will ever forget.  In November, you can get on that kind of bite if you find yourself in the right place at the right time. 

I got reacquainted with Scott about 6 years ago via Facebook (maybe the only useful purpose for FB in my opinion) when I found out his mother lives in Murrells Inlet.  Back then, he really didn’t know how to fish and over the year’s since we have made maybe 20 fishing trips together.  You should see him now!  Dude can fish!  He has since relocated to Murrells and soon will have his own boat – no doubt. 

Scott’s personal best trout – 23 inches (released)

Anyway, I had the Whaler tied off to a clump of spartina (poor man’s cajun anchor!) and we were on a fish-on-almost-every-cast kinda bite, from both sides of the boat.  It was outgoing tide and we were in an unfamiliar area, so we really had no idea about the bottom contour.  This kind of situation is really cool because you can experiment and try different lures, and presentations to see what works empirically. 

After a while, we learned where the best strike zones were.  If you cast 3 feet too short, nothing.  Too far to the right or left, nope.  Land your lure in a 8 foot diameter and let it drift with the tide and if you brought it through a narrow zone – tick!  Fish on.  We had about three of these situations within casting distance we discovered through trial and error.  Once we were dialed in, we would make maybe 1 cast in 20 that didn’t result in a trout to the boat.  With 2 guys doing this constantly – well, you do the math. 

Yours truly with a 21.5 inch trout (released)

As the tide continued out and the water got lower, the strike zones changed accordingly, as ambush points shifted.  But, the bite never really diminished until almost slack low tide.  What was really cool was that low tide revealed the bottom contours in the creek and when you observed them you said “uh-huh”.  The strike zones were all where a dropoff in the creek channel was.  As most creeks do, there is a deep channel on one or the other side, maybe with some undulations.  With the water gone, the strike zones became visually pretty obvious, but we were able to find them by experimentation at high tide. 

No doubt, next time we go there we will be armed with the new found knowledge of the bottom contours, but this goes to show that you don’t really need to know – you can figure it out by trial and error. 

Conservation Note:  We caught hundreds of fish and kept only a few, while carefully releasing the rest, and all fish over 20″ of which there were maybe 25.  Mimimize handling of trout to preserve their protective slime.  We pinch them carefully behind the head to control them and otherwise do not handle them.  Wetting your hands prior to touching them helps also, as well as using a rubber net. 

Hot colors for the day were Pearl and Festivus

During this day, I witnessed something I have never before seen.  A school of 18 inch-class trout numbering in the hundreds came up under the boat and scattered.  I could see their spots clear as day in the clear water.  This explains how we were able to boat so many fish in the same spot.  The sheer numbers of trout on that day was amazing – and a great sign for our fisheries.   


We will have a Black Friday sale, 20% off store wide using code BF20.  We have also added a Holiday Gift Pak that will make a great gift at $19.99 for the avid angler in your family.  

Happy Thanksgiving from Eye Strike Fishing!

A day to remember

It’s November, so, you need to make any excuse you can to get on the water.  At least that’s the way we think of it.  Ralph and I hit the water this weekend despite pretty raw conditions;  42F on the thermometer, blustery 10 – 15 mph winds out of the NE.  A recent couple cold fronts have the surface water temp down to approx 62F and this is prime time for trout.  

We started out throwing topwater plugs at dawn with a bit of a lackluster bite.  We did, however, have a few good strikes.  I was using the same red/white Skitter V plug used with much success as documented in my last post.  While we were casting I was looking at Ralph and talking about something when I had an eruption and a true gator trout on the line.  What a beauty!  Made up for numbers with quality.  I’ve tried a lot of plugs, and keep coming back to just a couple because they simply produce.  I think this Skitter V has found a permanent place in my tackle bin based on the last two trips.

We hit a second spot and had slightly better numbers but slightly poorer quality.  Any topwater bite is a good one though!  

As the sky turned brighter we switched to Trout Eye jigs and various Elaztech profiles and colors.  Our first stop produced a quality slam with an overslot redfish and gator trout included.  The gator hit a “Fladd-Shad” aka Pearl MinnowZ on a Chartreuse Trout Eye.  Being an optical engineer I believe in contrast and this is counter to the old saying “light-light”, “dark-dark”.  I like contrast, and this means “light-dark”.  I’m not saying the legions of “dark-dark” anglers are wrong, it just doesn’t compute for me.   This particular spot had very dark water, I almost forgot to mention!  

As the day went on, we found quality fish in every spot we tried – typical for November.  We did some exploring way up a creek and didn’t seem to find good numbers of trout up there as of yet.  On the other hand we did find 3 true gators in the big waters, so there you go!  

To end our day, we found a perfect Fall trout bite in shallow water with good aggressive bites coming on schooled up fish.  I was lucky to get another gator trout in this last spot.  A great day with Ralph – one that we will play back in our memories for a while.

For the day we both had traditional slams, and in addition:  Largemouth Bass, Grey Trout, Lady Fish (that was a surprise), and Lizard Fish.  Plastic color of the day was Festivus.  If you don’t have them in your tackle box, you need to.  We stock them in our shop, FYI.

See you on the water!

 

You Gotta Love November

Ask me what’s my favorite month to fish in the lowcountry of South Carolina and I will tell you without hesitation…November.  Bait is pushing out of the estuaries and the fish are starting to panic a little bit.  That’s awesome for us artificial bait aficionados.  It makes for stupid good fishing pretty much everywhere.  

Pre-dawn in the fall can be breathtaking

On 11/2 I made a solo trip and stumbled upon one of the best topwater bites ever for me.  That’s kinda saying something because I love me some topwater fishing!  I found a broken grass line where some finger mullet were gathering and you could see them getting blasted periodically.  I had tied on a Skitter V, a plug we recently heard about through our friend Daniel Nussbaum – President of Z-Man Fishing.  It was my first time trying it, and the fish really killed it. 

A solid trout on top

There are a couple small annoyances about this plug.  One being that the front hook is kind of close to the nose so it often gets wrapped around the leader.  Another is that you need to kind of finesse it into it’s cadence.  It will sometimes act as though its wrapped up but its not.  Just needs to get in the rhythm.  Once going, it has a little wider walk-the-dog pattern and what really matters is the fish were charging it hard.  I’ll put up with the annoyances for a plug that works any day!

So anyway, this morning the trout bite was on fire from pre-dawn until the sun was high enough to lighten up the water.  Good trout too, 16″ – 20″ all of them.  Don’t know about you but when I’m by myself I talk to myself a lot.  Several times I found myself saying “no way!” or “oh my god that was awesome!”.   

A few highlights:

  • Caught a “Zombie Trout” with one eye that still was able to charge my plug.
  • Had a trout knock the plug out of the water 3 times before a redfish pushed him out of the way and took it.
  • A nice size trout came up in clear water pushing a big wake, whacked the plug, then took off to the side.  Never did get that one but what a cool site.
The “Zombie Trout”

I ended up with almost a Margarita Slam.  Had redfish, trout, flounder, striper, so I went way up river to try to find a largemouth bass but ran out of time before I had to give up.  

Evidence of the great catching to be had in November.  Now is the time to get out there!


In other news:

We are almost completely out of Original Trout Tricks.  We bought out Z-Man of their entire remaining inventory and we have exactly 380 of them left.  They can be purchased on our online store or here at the shop.  At this point there are no plans to make any more.

Goat Island

Every year I plan a guy’s trip with some of my best friends.  Often, we camp at Caper’s Island and surf fish, drink beer, and eat.  It’s a great time and we have been doing it for years.  This year I had a little surprise in store for them.  Some fans of our products are the owners of a house on Goat Island.  I discovered them on Instagram when they would tag pics of them holding up fish caught on Trout Eye jigs.  If you’re not from Charleston, Goat Island is a really cool and unusual place.  It’s an island just across the ICW from Isle of Palms and is only accessible by boat.  The houses range from very rustic to very nice.  I contacted them about possibly renting their place for my trip and we picked a weekend and it was on.

Dave with a “reverse push” flatty that was actually a pretty good one!

Well, their house “Goat Island Getaway” was really cozy and full of character.  It has plenty of decks, porches, hammocks and is a great place to chillax.  The fishing was not on fire, I believe due to the water temperature still being 80F in the middle of October.  Usually by this time of year we have had a few cold fronts, dropping the water temperature and turbo-charging the catching.  

Al with a nice inshore speck

Regardless, we searched around for a pattern that worked and eventually found a few fish here and there.  We even went to the jetties a couple times and everyone had a chance to be on the rod end of a freight train.  Unfortunately our landing ratio was not great…ok it was awful!  But exciting nonetheless!  

Kevin with a topwater trout

We ate like kings, as a few of our friends are great cooks and even enjoyed trout ceviche made with trout caught the same morning.  It was an awesome trip and I took a survey of who wanted to re-up for next year and it was a unanimous YES!

This 28″ topwater redfish was a blast on light tackle

If you have never visited Goat, you should give it a try.  I think I’ll be back with my wife to spend a weekend away – a vacation in our home town.

Jeff on the way to getting nearly spooled on an 8000 Penn Battle by a jetty giant

See you on the water!