Originally created 08/06/99

Schooling fish 'explosion'



Schooling hybrids, striped bass and largemouth bass are on the verge of a surface feeding explosion on Strom Thurmond Lake.

Reason for that prediction is the sighting of hundreds of thousands of threadfin shad schooling on the surface. While the shad appear vulnerable to wholesale slaughter by schools of hybrids, stripers and largemouth bass, one never sees the pods of baitfish being disturbed.

Theory is that the baitfish exude some sort of body odor during this phase of their lives and gamefish are turned off by that scent.

Another reason for the prediction is that Billy Murphy of Augusta, who sometimes reports fishing on these pages, will soon return to his teaching position at John M. Tutt Middle School.

"Hybrids start schooling about the time I have to go back to work," he complained recently.

Meanwhile, fishermen need to stay on the alert for the start of the schooling season, keeping Thing Poppers and white doll flies tied on below their popping floats.

Live bait fishermen love schoolers since they can free-line live blueback herring into the melees. Free-lining is not using a sinker or float, but letting the baitfish swim more or less naturally.

In three weeks, the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society will test the waters for a new tournament series designed to be more spectator-friendly, according to Ray Sasser, outdoor editor of the Dallas Morning News.

With no more than 25 anglers in the field, Illinois Bass Quest '99, as the inaugural tournament is called, will pay $525,000 in cash prizes, including $250,000 to the winner and $3,000 to the last-place angler.

Anglers earn 60 percent of their score from the fish they catch. Then they drive their specially painted boats through a timed, 3,500-foot course with a series of turns and hairpin maneuvers. The boat-driving event will determine the rest of the final score and give spectators a little excitement. Just as importantly, the boat-driving course gives marine companies a vested interest in showing off their products. In fact, sponsors will put up the $35,000-per-fisherman entry fees for the 25 hand-picked anglers.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources will hold a public hearing to receive comments on a proposal adding a portion of Amicalola Creek to be managed under delayed harvest regulations. Another proposal is to open the Evans County Public Fishing Area year-around.

Delayed harvest is a program designed to provide a "fish-for-fun" experience with high catch rates for trout. Only catch-and-release fishing with single-hook artificial lures is allowed from Nov. 1 through May 14. From May 15 through Oct. 31, the stream is managed under general regulations with no bait restrictions and a daily eight-trout limit.

The hearing will be held at the Gainesville (Ga.) Civic Center on Aug. 17 at 7:30 p.m. Those who cannot attend can send written comments before Aug. 26 to Scott Robinson, WRD Fisheries Management, 2123 Highway 278, S.E., Social Circle, Ga. 30025.

Jack Wingate, owner of Lake Seminole's famed Lunker Lodge, writes a weekly column for the Bainbridge Post-Searchlight. In his latest, he talks about electric trolling motors:

"Charlie Price (of Bainbridge) had electric trolling motors before anyone here that I knew of. He took the circulating fan motor out of a wet Pepsi box, taped it to a stick with a handle wired to an oar lock, and it would move a boat."

STROM THURMOND LAKE

Buddy Edge, professional fishing guide specializing in stripers and hybrids, 803-637-3226. I had a good week last week. Will and Randy Aycock of Atlanta fished with me. We kept 26 fish from 2 to 8 pounds, about half hybrids, on live herring fished in 30 to 40 feet in the Parksville area.

Raysville Marina, near Thomson, Ga., Doug Pentecost, Leon Buffington, 706-595-5582. Mike Arrington and his son caught 47 shellcrackers around the islands close to the marina on hybrid Louisiana pink worms.

David Willard, Little River Marina, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed professional fishing guide specializing in hybrids and stripers, 803-637-6379. Fishing is tough and may get tougher before we get some cooler weather. The fish have scattered and we're only picking up singles, even though we had bait all around us. I've been getting around 15 to 20 strikes and have boated 10 nice fish each day. Ernest Caddell and son Trampus, two mountain men from Lewiston, Idaho, caught their first stripers and hybrids before heading back west. They're planning to return in the fall. Jeremy Beeland, Johnny Beeland, Hillary Pittman and Ricky Dubose from Augusta caught stripers and largemouths up to 6 pounds. Johnny caught the first and largest striper for his birthday and Hillary caught her first-ever striper.

Ralph Barbee, professional guide, 706-860-7373. I took out Paul Davis and his daughter Karli Conrad Davis, who turned 6 on Wednesday. She celebrated by catching a 2 1/2 -pound bass on a Pop-R. I cast it out and she retrieved the lure, popping it twice when the bass nailed it. She fought it and brought it in all by herself. We caught four bass all told, most coming along the riprap around Little River Bridge and all hitting the Pop-Rs.

SAVANNAH RIVER

New Savannah Bluff, Lock & Dam

Lock and Dam Bait and Tackle, Bob Baurle, 706-793-8053. Gerald Prince caught 22 nice mullet on red worms at the mouth of Butler's Creek. Al Skinner of Jacksonville, Fla., and Ben Buck of Waycross, Ga., caught 35 mullet down river. Cecil and Sarah Young of Warrenton caught three nice catfish and 11 bream down river. Steve Owens caught eight nice carp at Butler's Creek.

Fishermen are reminded striped bass and hybrid bass cannot be lawfully caught and kept from the river's mouth at Savannah to the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam. The moratorium is in effect until at least the year 2000.

MERRY BROTHERSBRICKYARD PONDS

Bill Gibson, 706-722-2980. Mike Aiken and Charlie Doyle won last Friday's tournament by catching the only bass, two about 3 pounds apiece and one smaller one. They fished plastic worms. We had three men come early this (Thursday) morning and catch a mess of fine bream early. They left when temperatures starting moving up, saying that the fish struck their crickets and worms early and quit when it got hotter. .

Our bass tournaments are still on, but few are fishing 'em because of the heat. Tournament hours are 6 p.m., to 10 p.m., with a $20 per person entry fee.

FAY & JOANN'S LAKES

706-722-8263. Eddie Lee Furse caught 57 bream on red worms. James Jewell caught 28 bream on red worms. John Miller caught catfish weighing 10 1/2 , 8 and 6 1/2 pounds on liver. Andy Roman caught a 16 1/2 -pound catfish on liver and 14 bream on red worms. Mickey Burley caught 16 bream on red worms. Ron Henerman caught 8 1/2 and 6 pound catfish on liver and 12 bream on red worms. Gene Rosin caught 62 catfish totaling 84 pounds on worms and liver. Trish Rosin caught 26 bream on red worms.

ATLANTIC OCEANBEAUFORT, S.C. & VICINITY, Includes Paradise Pier

Joe Mix, Island Outfitters, Ladys Island, 843-522-9900.Two weeks of intense heat brought our Sounds' water temperatures to 87 degrees on Monday. Oldtimers refer to these conditions as "the summer doldrums." Spottail bass, speckled trout and flounder feeding activity slowed, particularly in the creeks where daytime water temperatures can climb into the 90s and low oxygen levels force fish into deeper locations, or into the surf and ocean inlets. Migrating species such as tarpon, blues, Spanish mackerel, spadefish, barracuda, amberjack and some sharks actually seem to thrive under such conditions.

Offshore, from 20 miles out to the Gulf Stream, trolling for dolphin, king mackerel, tuna and wahoo peak this month, particularly along weedlines spun off by strong Gulf Stream currents and eddies. Recent catch reports include tarpon at the mouth Chowan Creek, Bay point and the Highway 170 bridge. Several wahoo and many yellow and bluefin tuna are being caught in waters about 55 miles southeast of Charleston at the 226-fathom hole. The S.C. Department of Natural Resources claims that more than 80 percent of the billfish taken in state waters during the past 10 years were caught near the 226 hole. General GPS numbers are 3200-00, 7906-00.

SAVANNAH AREA

Miss Judy Charters, Capt. Judy Helmey, 912-897-4921. It's been an exciting year for inshore fishing, with record numbers of trout being caught in our area's creeks, rivers and sounds. Live shrimp remains the No. 1 natural bait, but Bass Assassins and other soft plastic grubs also will work.

Offshore, Spanish mackerel have refused to cooperate, staying deep, until lately when they're doing what they're supposed to, feeding just beneath the surface. Large schools have been popping up around the Warsaw sea buoy, Tybee Roads and near Hilton Head Island. I'm fishing medium Clark Spoons about 1 1/2 feet behind the Cajun Popper.

King mackerel are to be found in 30 to 150 feet, with Tybee Roads and the rip that hangs about a mike off the Warsaw sea buoy holding large kings. Use menhaden or mullet for bait.

Bill Babb covers the outdoors for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at 1 (706) 823-3304.