By popular demand, we are going to start offering brief tips to help you improve your catching and enjoyment on the water. Our latest is the following video, we are calling “Stay in Your Lane”. When fishing three people it is so annoying when you’re about to make a cast to that perfect little piece of structure when suddenly out of the corner of your eye you see a line coming from the back of the boat all the way across your “zone”. Sometimes the person in back finds that structure too tempting to wait for, and all you can do is put your hands on your hips and wait till the line is clear. You don’t want to cuss out your fishing buddy, but man, it’s tempting! Follow this tip to keep everyone happy and trust us, you will still catch plenty of fish in the middle or back of the boat. In fact, on this trip Alex caught the day-maker (year maker?), a 23″ trout, off the stern!
We recently created a seminar space at our HQ at Eye Strike. We used it to host the Lowcountry Kayak Anglers club Toys for Tots Tournament captains meeting, along with hosting the Summerville Saltwater Anglers January membership meeting.
We have decided to start an event we are calling the Eye Strike Artificial Army Seminar Series, named for our Facebook private group Eye Strike Artificial Army. Our intention is to offer seminars that are “above and beyond” in terms of information and instruction and in general focused on improving your inshore fishing using artificial lures.
To promote our seminar series we have created a new page on our website named Seminar Series
Our first seminar we are very excited about. It involves a subject that many people want to learn about: How to better understand your sonar so you can set it up and interpret it to use it to its fullest. After all, what good is it to invest in all this technology if we don’t know how to use it. Most seminars on the subject gloss over the setup and interpretation. We intend to “dive deep” into this so that we all understand it better.
Our speaker is Capt Ben Powers of Reel Time Charter Adventures. Ben is a Shimano pro-staffer, local guide, and commercial oysterman and has been mastering setup and interpretation of his sonar lately. He has been taking snapshots of some of the amazing things he has found using his side imaging sonar and is excited to share his learning with our group.
We are very excited and proud to announce that Texas Eye jigs have joined the offerings of our business partners, Z-Man Fishing Products!
It was announced to the media last week with a press release and on their website.
Since they will now be available at tackle shops and online at Bass Pro, Tackle Warehouse among others, we have started to offer Texas Eyes in Bulk at a discount. Pricing tiers are aligned with our WeedlessEye line, and you can save up to 30% by purchasing in Bulk direct from us.
Stay tuned for a bunch of upcoming press releases on social media and, as always, thank you for your support!
Our TeamEyeStrike member Judson Brock has made a new YouTube channel (search on “Jud Brock Fishing”) and he has already posted some great product review videos that I think you might find useful. Make sure to subscribe to his channel to get all his new videos when they drop.
Here he is reviewing some of his favorite soft plastics and jig heads he uses on his guided trips in coastal North Carolina. A review of some of our Eye Strike jigs starts at 10:05. We agree 100% with his soft plastic recommendations by Z-Man, as they are the same profiles and colors we throw personally.
Its funny because he also has a review of topwater plugs for redfish, and between these two videos, I found myself nodding and going “yep…”. Great stuff.
We are proud to have Jud represent us on Team EyeStrike and you may recognize him from our post about fishing for reds in Louisiana last Fall.
South Carolina has one of the nation’s best recreational fish tagging programs thanks to our Department of Natural Resources. To be a tagger, you simply need to ask, and in order to save money and make sure you’re committed, you need to purchase your own tagging gun for about $30. I’ve done it now for about 5 years, and although I don’t tag every fish I could, I usually average between 80 and 150 fish a year. The link above will take you to the tagging page.
One of the main purposes for having a recreational tagging program is to encourage catch and release, and for anglers to self-educate themselves on the fishery. In my case, I have learned a lot. In fact, I had a catch yesterday that reiterated some things, and thus caused me to write this post.
Yesterday, I caught a nice redfish with multiple spots, approximately 27.75″ long. It had an old rec tag covered in growth. I had an idea it might have been one of “my” fish based on where it was tagged. I always tag them on the left side and in a particular location. I also keep my own copy of the tagging reports that I send in, and when I got home I looked it up. It was, in fact, one of the fish I tagged. It was tagged almost two years ago to the day at just 15″ long (1 year old) and in the exact same place, or within 1/4 mile anyway.
So, what does this say about the impact we as anglers can have on a fishery? Well, obviously, redfish are creatures of habit. They return to the same place year after year. Often on the same piece of structure. This time of year, the fish tend to bunch up in tight groups of 50 to hundreds of fish. People who fly fish the flats can see the schools visually. In the areas we fish, we can’t see them because they are in deeper, more murky water. Its become clear to me that if a particular spot were heavily fished in winter time and most people kept their limit each day they fished there, it wouldn’t take very long to completely clean out a location of all the fish there. Now, I will occasionally keep a redfish or two for a meal, but certainly not a limit every time I fish. I’d much rather have a fish like this one to catch in the future than a meal in the short term.
Catch and release can even have monetary reward, as Ralph and I found out a couple years ago. We were fishing a local redfish tourney and Ralph caught a “line-painter”, which is a perfect tourney-fish. Right at 23″, our upper limit in SC. It was tagged, and come to find out I had tagged and released that fish 6 months before. We ended up winning $1000 big-fish money for that one!
Note that if you have never caught a tagged fish, that if you catch one, to take down the tag number and date and make a careful measurement of its length by pinching the tail. You can call the info in or submit online. When you report the info, you can opt to receive a gift in the form of a T shirt, visor, towel, buff, etc. You will also get a report of the tag and recapture history of “your” fish. Please release it to continue the research.
Next time you’re on a hot redfish bite in the winter time, please consider releasing them for the future. And, maybe start tagging them yourself!
If you follow my posts on social media you probably already know that I am a huge fan of our SC DNR, and I try to support them in any way I can. Something I have wanted to do for a long time was go along on one of their fish sampling days. So, I sent along a few messages and was able to get on their list of volunteers. I was interested in going on a trip to the upper Cooper river – Bushy Park as we know it – as the brackish water has an amazing variety of fish to offer and its one of my favorite places to fish.
As luck would have it I was able to go along with two people I admire very much. Brock Renkas is an incredibly smart and really cool fisheries biologist who I got to know about 5 years ago when I organized an event called the “Cobia Flotilla” for Summerville Saltwater Anglers fishing club. He joined us on one of our events and we have messaged back and forth occasionally since then when I have had questions about fish that only a scientist would know the answer. The other was John Archambault, who if you have ever caught a fish with an orange tag you probably know his name. I had never met John before, but he pretty much was exactly as I imagined him: a kind of patriarch figure, full of wisdom and knowledge of everything related to our fisheries. I knew John’s name very well, as we have traded tagged fish over the past several years. He is also the one who sends you a recapture report on fish that you tag. John was really patient and had lots of information to offer on everything from the smallest silverside minnow to red drum. Lastly, we had Helen, a college intern from Charlotte, NC along with us. This was also her first sampling trip.
I met them at Bushy Park landing and we loaded up the electro-fishing boat. This thing is the perfect tool for the job – there seems to be a place for everything – but they assured me it wasn’t so great when the water is rough! So, this boat has basically two long arms with cables hanging from them like chandeliers. These stick down in the water and create an electric field between the arms and the front of the boat. Any fish within the field gets temporarily stunned and floats up to the surface where they are netted. You net everything, from the smallest minnow to the largest fish. I want to ensure you that, although some of these images may look like dead fish, that ALL of the fish we sampled eventually recovered and swam away.
This is a working trip. Volunteers are crew members and part of the data collection process. The way it works is there are pre-determined spots located approximately every 1/4 mile, mostly along the main river, but a few located up the creeks. Six sites are chosen at random prior to each sampling day. At each site, the boat is idled along the shore for 15 minutes. After the time limit you pause and process what you captured. Whether or not you are able to hit all six sites depends on how many fish are collected at each site. Its a time-consuming process especially if you have a lot of baitfish or a lot of redfish, for example. Redfish are tedious as each one is carefully measured, inspected for lesions, fin-clipped, and an orange anchor-tag is inserted in the abdomen. This requires making a small incision in the abdomen. A couple of the stops we were pretty darn successful and it sometimes took an hour to process all the fish. We also took measurements of salinity and water clarity during the day. My job was managing the fin clips – I would take the piece of fin and place it in a small vial and make sure the number was recorded correctly. These fin clips are used to check the DNA of the fish.
Our first stop was along a random bank well upriver. We collected a few minnows, a small eel, a catfish, and several largemouth bass. The second stop was a lot more interesting, as it happened to be in a location that is one of my most productive fishing areas. We started the troll and a couple largemouth came up, one was pretty large. As we approached my usual spot I was waiting patiently to see what would happen, when suddenly a mushroom-cloud of redfish floated up! We netted as fast as we could and by the end of the run we probably had over 50 reds in the holding tank. Included in the catch was a couple yellow (recreational) tags which I think might have been mine.
Our third stop was nothing short of stunning. It was up a creek in another area I have fished many times. Really, I still can’t believe what we found there. We started the troll and approached an area that held a lot of fish in prior sampling runs. Nothing. We kept going and came to another piece of structure when all of the sudden carp estimated to be 20 to 35 lbs started floating up all around us. I have never seen a carp in these areas and they were absolutely huge. They were hard to lift into the boat. We were laughing because once they started to wake up they were really hard to handle. I think we all got a good soaking – that is a strong fish! In this same area we also had catfish, redfish, striper, largemouth, and big bream. By the time our sampling ended in this spot we had no more room in the holding tank! We estimated that we had over 300 lbs of common carp. We had to process these first so that the other fish had room to breathe. It was crazy! Needless to say this spot took a long time to process…
We had time for one more trial so we went up another creek and found an unusually large flounder (21″) for February in the creeks, and a couple decent trout.
This was a really memorable trip and I’m so glad I did it. We should all be very thankful for our SC DNR and the dedicated biologists that work there. I know I am!
Hope you enjoyed this description of our day of sampling fish in the Cooper river. As John pointed out, our day did not represent a typical day. It just so happened that our sampling spots that were chosen at random were productive ones. Brackish water is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re gonna get! That’s why I love fishing there so much.
Hope everyone had a great holiday break and we’d like to wish you Happy 2019! Ralph and I were able to get out fishing 4 or 5 times over the break and man, was that nice. At the end of the year, the water was still in the lower 50’s and we found some typical schools of redfish that were an absolute blast. This time of year can be epic fishing when you find the fish. We found the 14-17 inch redfish that seem to be everywhere in all creeks right now, but also a bunch of 27+ inch fish. I even got my personal best inshore redfish…34.25″. As I have said before in past posts, make sure you give a red 1 or 2 seconds to eat this time of year before setting the hook.
I don’t know about you but the cold weather in late November / early December had me very concerned about another trout kill. But, we had this nice warming trend in early January and this has brought the water temps up to near 60F at the end of the first week of January. I think its safe to say the trout will be just fine this year. Traditionally our water temps reach their lowest by the 2nd week of January – per the last 10 years or so of trends. Whew! You know, timing is everything…
So anyway, the coolest thing about this warming trend is that it brought on a great big trout bite, but also a topwater bite. In January. Crazy stuff. My first fish of 2019 was actually a topwater trout. I had three fish on top and one was a true gator. I lost it just as I was about to net it. I was solo fishing and, well I fumbled and bumbled my way toward landing that fish but unfortunately I had it by the lip and not a solid part of the mouth.
As I write, we have had another cold snap and maybe the topwater fun is over for now. Oh well!
In other news:
We are very close to officially launching a new product – we will have announcements on all our media when we are ready.
We have set up a space for hosting seminars and clubs at our shop. We hope to host several during the year. We are kicking it off by hosting the Summerville Saltwater Anglers fishing club on Wed, January 16.
Z-Man has picked up our TexasEye product for their product line for this year. This is really exciting and we can’t wait to see how it is received when distributed to a wider audience.
Maybe you’ve heard of Muskellunge called a “Fish of 10,000 casts” before? I’ll submit my request to add a fish to that, read on and you will see why.
We speckled trout junkies are kind of a small fraternity. There are a few sickos who would rather pursue a gator trout than 10X that many redfish or other species, and we tend to seek each other out and commiserate over our lack of understanding the behaviors of our muse – the elusive gator trout. Ralph has made me into one of those – and one of my fellow junkies is Justin Carter of Redfin Charters here in Charleston. Justin is famous here in Charleston for catching a 10 lb trout here a couple years ago on a TroutEye jighead. He regularly puts 20+ inch trout in the boat (catch & release, by the way) and definitely has put the effort in more than anyone I know in terms of pursuing the truly big trout in this area.
Just to be clear, we are talking about the pursuit of “gator” trout, let’s say, 23″ and up. These are a whole other level than catching “good” trout. A big trout is almost always female and almost always a loner. They don’t run in schools and you are unlikely to catch more than one in a particular spot. To catch them on artificial lures is something to be really proud of, and anyone who can do it consistently I would say is probably a hell of a good angler.
We have both admired Ricky Kellum, a.k.a the Specked Specialist out of Jacksonville, NC via social media and discussed chartering him to try to learn more about how he does it. The thing I find interesting about Ricky is I can tell by the background in a lot of his pics that he is fishing brackish water a lot of the time. This is what I do regularly and the areas I’m fishing look almost exactly the same as his.
We set a date and that was Dec 11. It turns out that it was the day after the “winter storm of a generation” hit North Carolina – mostly the western part of NC – but a bunch of rain had passed through the prior 3 days and the forecast was calling for 15 kt winds and high pressure. Needless to say, our expectations were really low going into this. But, we reminded ourselves that we were there to learn, first and foremost.
We left the landing dressed for the 35 deg weather and headed to a spot that produced a winning trout in a recent tournament. Ricky explained that the area was known for trophy trout and that it could also humiliate us. A friend relayed that they had fished for many hours and had a 30 minute period when they bit. To our expectation the bite was very shut off and we didn’t have even a bite for a couple hours. And that was Justin with a largemouth bass and I followed with a pickerel shortly after – if that tells you how fresh the water was.
Our day consisted of casting, a lot. And trying different spots and patterns. And casting. And casting.
We eventually found an area that held a few small trout – the trout were often hitting the lures without eating them – a tell tale sign of a negative fish.
It literally wasn’t until the last hour of daylight that Ricky set the hook on a fish, and when it came over the bow it was a real hammer. Estimated at 6 lbs. Big trout. And foul hooked – another sign of a negative bite.
A few casts later I thought I might have felt a bite (or bottom, after that many casts you tend to get lulled into a stupor) then I got the hit I was looking for. Set the hook and …. missed it…Ugh. It felt heavy…
Justin had a couple similar swings and misses. He was throwing a Mirrolure and it was probably the same thing where the fish didn’t really take the lure.
At almost the last minute I finally had a thump and landed a real nice trout, probably 23-24 inches. Not gonna lie, that felt good!
In the end our bite window was….30 minutes give or take. Go figure!
We called it a day as the sun went down. A long day, for just a few fish. But, I will say that despite the tough bite and conditions, that Ricky was upbeat and positive the whole time. He worked really hard to put us on some big trout. Really looking forward to fishing with him again hopefully soon. If you’re able, we would highly recommend him as guide.
Post-front, post rain, high pressure, freezing cold, gator trout – another Fish of 10,000 casts? I submit my vote. Worth it? Of course!
One of the things that I love about fishing is that its a great equalizer. It doesn’t matter your age, your economic standing, race, religion, etc – it makes grown ups act like little kids again. It gives all of us common ground, and can make lifetime memories.
I distinctly remember when I started getting into inshore fishing – I was really clueless. Many skunks came with me on a trip. But my goal was to learn enough about it to have the confidence to take others and share the joy that comes from having a good day of catching. Flash forward, and although I still feel I have a ton to learn, I do feel that I have the confidence to put others on fish.
Which leads me to our story.
We are all on our own trajectory of learning, and I finally had an opportunity to take a friend from Summerville Saltwater Anglers out on the water. Ed is relatively new to inshore fishing, but already I can see his improvement. So it was going to be fun to bring him and show him a few things. The day before, he got his personal best redfish, a beautiful 25″er on artificial (on a TexasEye, incidentally) while fishing with another club member and guide Shane Shields.
As we pulled away from the landing, he mentioned that he had never caught a flounder on artificial, nor an inshore slam. Challenge accepted!
My first stop was a known trout flat and it was a matter of casts till we caught a handful. Nothing large but the slime was on the boat. I tried a few more spots with a couple fish here and there. Then I decided to try a piece of structure I had fished often over the years, but not recently. I said “Ed, let’s get you a nice flounder”. As we rounded the structure I pointed out a pocket and Ed cast in there. A solid Thump and a nice 17″ flounder comes in the boat! That’s a pretty good flounder for your first. That was fun, and I’m going to claim the Called Shot 🙂
I convinced Ed to keep that one, to surprise his wife Ilona with a delicious dinner.
A little while later once the water started coming in, I hit a bank that has been good on that tide. We worked down it slowly, and ended up finding a school of 14-19″ redfish, that we proceeded to pull about 10 out of. For a while it was an every-cast kind of bite. Fun! And….Ed’s first inshore slam accomplished.
Really fun day with my good friend Ed. Hope you enjoyed dinner, and an honor to be with you for two of your Firsts…
I often wonder how many people really put a lot of (any?) thought into their plan for a day of fishing? We take a good look at the next day’s weather (wind direction, velocity), tide (low / high times and range) and time of year and put together a plan. For example, it will influence where we launch, and what spots we hit and in what order. And, we usually have a Plan B or even C in place in case the best laid plan doesn’t work out.
We had the opportunity to finally meet our second-ever Team EyeStrike member David Teran a.k.a PrimeGancho and better yet, get to fish with him. David hails from Humble, Texas – a suburb of Houston – and is used to fishing a completely different area than Charleston, SC. Until recently, he was confined to shore and the catching he did from shore was amazing. He now has an awesome skiff and his catching has exploded. He holds the distinction of catching (to our knowledge) the only Rooster Fish on an Eye Strike jig!
Since its prime-time for catching, our Plan A was to take him to an area that has been a home run for trout this time of year. We met early, made a run and…not enough water for the Sportsman to reach our desired spot. So, we waited it out and caught a mess of rat-reds. Once we had enough water, our spot was, well, not firing off…
Ralph and I made the decision to punt and implemented Plan B. So, we put my Masters 207 on the trailer and went to another ramp. Within minutes of launching Ralph was tight to a 20″ trout, and shortly after David landed his first SC fish, a very respectable trout! That broke the tension and he proceeded to slay right along side of us. David is a very good fisherman and he was able to complete a quality inshore slam on his first attempt – awesome!
We are always down to learn something new and David showed us how he uses a chugging popping cork with a jighead/jerk shad underneath it (a technique we were shown in Louisiana recently also) and – it works, really well! Might have to try that ourselves…
Incidentally, Plan B also applied to dinner that night. I met David at Park Circle for dinner at Lotus and due to water problems we had to punt and go to Plan B – Fratellos – not a bad Plan B!
We are already looking forward to our next opportunity to meet up and fish with David. Hopefully, soon!