Weather hotter than the bite
“You should have tried harder to get us to reschedule,” said Ken Payne as he finished off his third bottle of water in less than an hour.“From now on… don’t just recommend that we try another day…insist on it!”
It was only 9:30 and it was already 91 degrees with the weatherman promising triple digits by noon. The tide was at a standstill and a 20 mile per hour west wind had the entire lake stacked up in dingy white caps. It was already blowing when we launched and the lone slot red and two trout in the box had been all but forgotten over the past three hours.
I was ready to pay Ken and Eldon if they would agree to call it a day, when Eldon’s rod bowed over much to our surprise. Even a gafftop would have been considered a win of sorts, but this was a solid three pound trout that exploded out of the water with less than an inch of the pearl maniac mullet sticking out of its mouth.
“I never even felt her hit the bait,” shouted Eldon as he baled off the back deck and followed the fish around the troll motor. In an effort to be of some assistance to his partner, Ken grabbed the net only to immediately launch it at least twenty feet out into the middle of the ICW.“Don’t look at me like that,” he yelled while looking at the palm of his hand.“That metal handle blistered my fingers.”
We eventually hand lined the trout into the boat and harassed Payne while he soaked his hand in the melting ice in the fish box. By the time he quit whining and insisting that we look at two little red spots, both Eldon and I had each boated another trout and Eldon had another one pulling drag. I would like to report that we sat right there and limited, but in fact, we fooled only two more fish before the school moved or just quit biting our Maniac Mullets.
The depth finder showed that the bait was still suspended at about 15 to 19 feet, but we could not make another trout bite. Undoubtedly, the absence of any tide movement hurt our cause, but the abbreviated bite was enough to convince us that we were on the right track. Not unlike the winter bite, the trout were looking for their next meal at cooler depths in the ICW.
Locating these fish is far from easy as they move with the bait on a daily basis and it is not a program I normally fish this time of the year. I have caught these same deep water trout anchoring up and fishing live shad or finger mullet on a Carolina rig, but I have ignored that program in hopes of fishing open water schooling trout and reds. I apparently have not been hoping hard enough as the wind blew every day this past week!
Live bait fishermen on the lower coast catch more hell than an IRS agent this time of the year as they long ago discovered that a big trout will eat a live croaker even in the heat of the summer. It wasn’t the croaker that disgusted the artificial purists initially as much as the fact that very little catch and release was taking place and the majority of the trout were bragging size fish.
We have caught our fair share of summer time trout in both the river and the ICW on finger mullet, but until recently there has been no reason to even consider hustling live bait. We found the fish that Eldon and Ken were catching the week before while drifting a protected shoreline of the ICW with 5-inch Assassins and Trout Killers. Even with no tide, the fish would bite shortly after a barge or tanker moved a significant amount of water in passing.
The bonus, at least as far as I am concerned, is occasionally stumbling up on a pod of flounder holding up on a structure break in the deeper water. Unlike the trout, they are far more aggressive when the bait washes in front of them and you can catch several fish without ever moving.
My choice of baits for deep water flounder is any GULP bait rigged on a heavier 3/8ths ounce jig head or live bait. Having said that, I recently watched two young anglers catch four or five very nice flounder and probably as many reds vertically fishing drop shot rigs with what appeared to be either a Vudu or DOA shrimp. They were anchored within arm’s reach of a wooden bulkhead and they had it going on!
If all of this sounds like I am touting a weak Plan B just for the sake of going fishing…think again. I am down to Plan C and there is a whole lot more fishing than catching taking place in my boat right now. The good news is that there are viable options to resort to when all else fails. The bad news is that I don’t care to fish those other options in the summer time and it is H-O-T!