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November 17, 2010

Chill Out for Redfish

Cold weather means red-hot redfishing in Charleston's back bays.

"There are a bunch of baby stone crabs hiding amongst the oyster shells," Wilson explained. "That's the primary food source for these fish. Later in the day, though, as the sun warms up, we also catch reds that are full of bloodworms. So they're scrounging for whatever they can find."

Wilson, who has been guiding in the greater Charleston area for 14 years, said the days immediately before and after a passing cold front are some of the best times to target Low Country winter reds. The moon phase doesn't seem to affect the bite as long as the water is moving.

"Once the tide hits dead low, the bite usually turns off," Wilson added. "The fish then like to hunker down in the channels and cuts between bars, where they'll still feed occasionally. But my favorite time is this falling tide, when the visibility clears and you can sight-cast to hungry fish."

True to form, as the temperatures warmed and the tide kept falling, the reds turned on aggressively. Double and triple hookups were the norm on dark-colored jerkbaits and Gulp! New Penny shrimp. With more than 40 fish recorded between the two boats and barely enough water to float the hulls, we idled to the main channel for the return trip to the marina.

The next morning was another crisp, bluebird winter day, albeit not quite as chilly. My hosts were Scout's James Pate and Capt. John Crislip. The bite was on again as soon as we got into position in the middle of the large bay.

Mixed Crowd
"My biggest backcountry red is 23 pounds," Crislip told me between strikes. "The 'teenagers' are up close in the shallows, while the bigger fish prefer the deeper water. But you never know what's on until you get the fish close. I've caught a 13-pounder one cast and on the next hooked a little rat. It's all good, though, when they bite this well."

As on the previous day, Dylan was top stick, with a 14-pound trophy among his tally. Shortly after we released that fish, we all watched as a bottlenose dolphin ran it down and crushed it between its jaws. The dolphin threw the big red in the air like a beach ball before finally eating its catch. We called it quits after that.

"This is definitely the best flats fishing in South Carolina," Crislip boasted on the ride home. He wasn't getting an argument from us. One-hundred slot reds in two days will warm the spirits of any saltwater sportsman.