ON THE HORNS OF A DILEMMA,
OR, FISHING THE RUT
Fall is my favorite time to fish. Unfortunately, it is also the time I have an irresistible urge to climb a tree in the hopes of sighting an unusually large whitetail buck. How to pursue each of these passions without compromise can be tough. Each can be consuming and require extreme dedication. The results could leave me a basket case if I didn’t keep things in perspective. We are truly blessed to live in an area that has such great outdoor opportunities. Wehave what may be the longest deer season in the nation, if not the world. We can also fish the entire year with few exceptions. Having to decide between catching big stripers and hunting whitetails is a problem we should all have. So whatever your passion, living in South Carolina is just another day in paradise.
Since I make my living striper fishing, I had better start to focus. Let’s see where was I? O.K. Here we go. Fall fishing is fun because … the polls reveal some surprising answers:
Number One Answer – You don’t have to get up early. That makes a lot of folks happy. No 5 a.m. blast off common to Spring and Summer fishing. The fishing is often fantastic in the middle of the day and temperatures are pleasant! The springtime pattern, while awesome and very productive, can really separate, as they say, the men from the boys or more accurately those who will do almost anything to catch fish. The necessity for a pre-dawn arrival at the boat dock in the spring hinges on the baitfish spawn. Baitfish spawn in shallow water. They move in at dark and move out at daylight. The predator fish take advantage of their vulnerability and gorge themselves. This occurs mostly at night. So getting up at 0700, stopping at the Waffle House and moseying down to the boat around 8ish will result in 12 hours of fruitless fishing. Not so in the fall. The baitfish are deep,in huge schools and the bigger fish will feed on them throughout the day.
Number Two Answer – Fishing is great! The fish are congregated in huge schools as they prepare for a seasonal migration. Let me translate that for you. Six rods down at one time, three eyes deep in the water and drags screaming! That can cause you to almost forget about the rut – at least for a few hours. The big fish are active again. Southern stripers go through a stressful time in the heat of the summer. Sometimes they can even die. Hot water and low oxygen levels affect the larger fish more. Summertime fishing can still be good with limits of mostly smaller fish. Autumn gets us back to catching some quality stripers.
Number Three Answer (especially among women) – The scenery is breathtaking. The hardwoods are ablaze in colors. Hickories are turning bright yellow, oaks deep reds, sweetgums purple, and maples all shades of orange, red and yellow. Majestic oaks are dropping their heavy yields of acorns. The deer are feasting. Oh, sorry. Its tough, folks. Winter waterfowl are migrating in from the north and the loons begin their mournful mating call. Occasionally a bald eagle will soar overhead and scoop down and pick up a fish right in front of the boat. It is humbling to realize, in spite of all man’s technology, they are still the best fish catchers.
The Last Answer to our survey (and running very close to the top answer)- Since I fish live bait on a large, stable, very comfortable 26-foot catamaran boat, striper fishing is ideal for the entire family. Kids of all ages, ladies, grandparents as well as macho anglers can have a blast catching limits of hard fighting, delicious eating saltwater fish on a freshwater lake. Other catchable species include largemouth bass, crappies, white perch,hybrids and catfish. Fishing grounds can be reached in a matter of minutes, instead of hours. No long sick boat ride with a cranky old salt of a captain hollering at you. In fact, you might even see me with a totally relaxed, completely focused-on-fishing smile on my face. Let me translate that for you. Fishing is good and so was the hunting.
Captain Dave with Ethan, a famous fish magnet, on the Lake this fall.
Captain Dave is a retired Firefighter/Paramedic who has been guiding for stripers on Lake Thurmond since 1987. He and his family live on a 90-acre working farm near Clarks Hill, S.C.