Month: February 2016

Last Cold Water of Winter

Mid February is traditionally when our waters reach their lowest temps, then begin to rebound for spring.  This is the end of the “seasonal lag” where we get our coldest temperatures in North America.

Lately, the water in the Cooper River has been as low as 47F (surface temps).  I fished on Wednesday 2/17 with my high school friend Scott who comes down to SC a couple times a year.  A couple years ago he struggled with the basics of artificial lure fishing: feeling the bite, managing line, even simply casting.  But now, I’m telling you, he is a legit fisherman.  I was watching where he was choosing to place a cast, and he was spot on.  By this, I mean he was choosing to cast to points, rips, current breaks, etc. It’s pretty cool to witness his evolution.

But, I digress…So the day started out pretty darn good.  Scott caught an upper slot red on his first cast of the day!

On that subject, if you don’t know Ralph – that is a superstition of his.  He will always make his first cast to deep water then reel it in fast…. I don’t share that superstition but I’m sure he comes by it honestly and/or there is a story behind it….

Scott with Redfish 7
Scott with a beauty of a redfish
Rigged MinnowZ
Pearl MinnowZ on Gold Trout Eye jig

Redfish Trout Eye Shirt

Redfish release with DNR tag
Releasing a SCDNR tagged redfish

If you have read my prior posts on cold water fishing, this day completely reinforced them.  The fish wanted a pretty slow presentation, and we found them either not at all, or stacked up on deep structure.

Its always most productive, if you have two or more people fishing on the same boat, to throw different colors and profiles at the same time.  By keeping this up, and changing periodically, you can pretty easily find out what is the “hot” thing for the day.  Recently we have noticed that white colors have been working in the sort of chocolate-colored water with a little bit of clearness to it that we are finding in the creeks lately.  We fished an SSWA tournament last Saturday in brutal cold and windy conditions when we made that discovery.  I was lucky to land a nice 2.5 lb trout on a white lure – our first bite of the day.  We did well on white colors the rest of that day. So, I started out throwing Pearl white Z-Man MinnowZ on a gold Trout Eye jig and Scott chose to use a Gulp 5″ jerk shad in Smelt color.  We fished a long bank and found two distinct locations where redfish were holding.  Each spot yielded about 15 fish all within an area about 20 ft square.  Interestingly, the first spot held fish that were all in two very distinct and consistent sizes.  22″ and 15.5″, with most of them 22″.  No, I’m not going to tell you tourney fishermen where that was 🙂  The second spot, all the fish were right at 26″.  These fish were a lot of fun.  We had a few doubles and the fish were surprisingly fired up and willing to fight.

SSWA Feb Tourney Trout

So, as I said in prior posts, work these areas thoroughly, and when you find the reds, you will often find a pile of them.

Overslot double – trying to get ready before camera timer is tough

Later we moved up some creeks and found a few decent trout, 8 to be exact, with the smallest one about 7″ and the largest 18″.  The range of sizes was encouraging since many year-classes were represented in the creek.  This winter will have almost no trout die-off due to cold water it seems.  The bite was in the deep middle of bends in the creek and was barely perceptible, just a slight resistance.  The trout were caught on 3.75″ StreakZ in Opening Night color (ie. white).

Dave with Trout
Nice 18 inch February trout

Scott and I had one of our best days of catching, and made a few new memories.  I know he will be looking forward to his next visit!

Trout with StreakZ


Really Cold Fishing

So, since our last post and report, it finally became winter.  Still not a bad winter, but in the creeks the water temperature is now down below 50F, at least on the surface.  So, this changes the fishes behavior and therefore the tactics you must use to catch them.  I’m gonna break down some tactics between redfish and trout.  I’ll start with redfish, specifically creek redfish.  Most people are familiar with schooled up reds in gin clear water on the flats.  That’s another article but not this one.

George Red

Redfish in the Cold Creeks

In the really cold water, you will find redfish on deep structure.  And often times if you find one you will find 7 or 8 stacked together and very willing to eat.  Good places to look are submerged trees on creek bends.  Ralph has suggested that reds may be feeding on marine worms that bed into the timber.  For this reason, trout tricks work really well this time of year, especially the original “mood ring” color probably since they resemble a worm.  Now, you will lose a lot of jigs fishing this way but that’s where the fish are.  The closer you can get to the timber the better your chances.

Ralph Red Closeup

You’ve probably heard over and over at seminars… fish slow.  If you think you are fishing slow enough, fish slower, etc, etc.  Well, I’m gonna give you an example of what that means.  So, let’s assume you are on some deep structure and maybe had a bite and missed it.  So we know the fish are there.  Try casting out, letting the bait fall to the bottom, then a very, very small hop, hop, hop on the bottom.  Maybe 2 inches at a time.  It’s just a slight flutter of the rod tip.  If you have a good rod, reel, and line setup, you will be able to feel the lure hopping over rocks and shells on the bottom.  Then you will feel something weird.  That’s the bite.  DON’T set the hook immediately.  This is what I do:  “3…2…1..” then slowly pull back then set the hook.  Why?  The reds this time of year will suck the bait in slow then keep it in their mouth.  If you’re losing a lot of fish after the set, you’re probably doing it too fast.  In a lot of ways, its like a flounder bite.  Give it a try.  It works!

January 2

Trout in the Cold Creeks

Trout, of course, are a different species.  You will also find them among structure on creek bends, but this time of year you will often find them in the deeper parts of the creeks – many times not near any structure at all.  Bends are obvious places, but where else might they be?  In the very center of the creek (deepest points).  Instead of running your boat down the middle casting to structure, hug the bank and cast across the deep middle.  A killer bait this time of year is the modern version of Ralph’s semi-famous “rat-tail”.  The Z-Man 3.75″ StreakZ in Ralphs Shad color is the ticket.  Let the bait get to the bottom of the hole, sometimes up to 16 feet deep.  This seems like an eternity.  Cast out and watch the line on the water.  You will see when it hits bottom.  Then work very small hops and wait for the slight *tick*.  That’s the fish.  They will even hit a non-moving lure.  The Z-Man again is our choice because the ElaZtech keeps the tail floating up.

Fishing this weekend I kicked myself for not taking a photo of trout on the bottom as seen through my Humminbird sounder.  We slowly drifted a hole and I was watching the graph.  A smooth bottom then a few “rocks”.  Those are trout.  My buddy Ray cast up current from them and let it drop.  *tick*….he missed it but brought back the tell-tale sign of a missed trout:  A tail curled around the hook.  It’s pretty cool “sight-fishing” for deep water trout with your fish finder.  I circled back to get a pic of the graph, but the fish had scattered.

January 6

January 7  January 4

A Note on Water Clarity

Often we hear over and over, “To catch trout, look for clear water”.  That is absolutely true in the summer.  But what about winter?  Did you know that water can be TOO clear?  It can.  In fact, we search out slightly dirtier water for trout fishing in the deep winter.  We still want 1 – 3 feet of vis, but not 8 – 10.  It really makes a difference.

Hope this was of some help!  Let us know if you have any questions and as always thanks for your support.

Other News

Our Z-Man branded Trout Eye jigs are really getting traction.  We have been in both Bass Pro and Cabela’s saltwater catalogs and a lot of interest at the recent Big Rock show in Raleigh, NC.  Z-Man has said there are probably no shops east of I95 in NC that don’t stock them.

We are working on a bunch of new product ideas and can’t wait to reveal them.  It will be a few months yet, but they are in the works.

Come on our to the Haddrell’s Point Shallow Water Fishing Expo on Feb 27-28.  We will be assisting Z-Man in their booth and would love to talk Trout Eye jigs and fishing with you.

Shallow Water Expo

How about this whopper caught by Danny Phillips in a farm pond yesterday!

Danny Phillips Bass