While lots of kids and some teachers -- especially those who like to fish -- are bemoaning the fact that they'll be going back to school in a week or so, there are others who just love schools.
Schools of fish, that is.
Schools of hybrids and stripers measured by the acre have been schooling in Catfish Creek (Parksville, S.C. cove) for nearly two weeks. The fish are chasing threadfin shad schools and credit for the sudden piscatorial explosion goes to the thunder storms that have struck the lake.
"Rain boosts the dissolved oxygen levels in the lake," said Toye Hill, owner of Soap Creek Lodge, who has been watching fishermen chase schooling hybrids in front of his place of business.
There was a quorum of high school athletic coaches on the lake Thursday, represented by Butler's Ricky Peace (baseball, girls' softball) and Rob Johnson (boys basketball) and Hephzibah's Wendell Lofton (girls basketball). Tutt Middle School coaches Billy Murphy and Doug Holland have been seen in the vicinity from time to time.
The fish have been bursting onto the scene in the Parksville cove between 8 and 9 a.m., and staying up for an hourly increments until 10:30 or 11 a.m.
The scene reminds veteran Thurmond Lake fishermen of the "good old days" of the '70s and '80s when schools of fish surfaced "as far as the eye could see."
Fishermen are known to sometimes exaggerate, but Peace swears some of the schools to be two or three acres in size, while Bill Harvey of Evans saw a school covering five acres.
The best part of the scenario is that the fish are staying on or near the surface long enough for 10-fish limits to be caught with a minimum of effort.
The fish also are schooling across the Savannah River arm of the lake on what are commonly called the "Georgia Flats," and small gray-and-white birds called terns are helping pinpoint the schooling action.
The little birds hover over the breaking fish, darting down to grab the fleeing shad as the silver hordes of 2-to-3-inch fish burst from the water, trying to escape the ever-ravenous maws of the pursuing striped fish.
Short life expectancies make it tough to be a threadfin shad.
Hybrids also have been schooling in the cove behind Bass Alley and along the main (Savannah) river channel near the water quality buoy off Horseshoe Island.
Bonnie and David Annis of Trenton, S.C., fished a school of fish measuring at least an acre on Wednesday from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.
Number One lure is The Thing Popper, trailed by white-painted cork "bugs" on leaders of varying lengths. Some anglers prefer the "bug" to be placed within a foot of the popping float, while others tie on a three-foot leader.
The Zara Puppy, CC Spoon, Gotcha! plastic shad and white doll flies (the latter tied behind the popper) also are preferred baits. The spoon, which weighs three-quarters of an ounce, can be dropped to the bottom beneath schools in 25 to 35 feet of water. Sharply raising the rod tip and then letting the spoon free-fall often will catch bigger fish than what are being seen on the surface.
Today's fishing report is likely to generate so much enthusiasm that an armada of fishing boats may appear on Saturday morning. Skippers are urged to be patient and courteous, which means stopping their boats on the schools' perimeters, cutting off their main outboard engines and using trolling motors to follow the fish.
There are plenty of fish for everybody.
STROM THURMOND LAKE
Buddy Edge, professional fishing guide specializing in stripers and hybrids, 803-637-3226. Mike and Pat Snyder and their granddaughter, Jessica, from North Augusta fished with me last Friday. Jessica caught 28 fish and let her grandparents catch two apiece. We limited out on 4-to-5-pounders. Glenn Brewton and Reggie Fouche of Augusta caught limits of 4-to-8-pound hybrids with me last Saturday. All the fish are being caught on live herring.
Mike Patrick, Strom Thurmond Lake, professional guide specializing in stripers and hybrids, 1-864-333-2513. John Fischer and his 10-year-old daughter, Kimberly, both of Evans, caught a limit of 3 to 9-pound hybrids and stripers last Sunday morning. We were fishing live herring in 25 feet.
Soap Creek Lodge, Lincolnton, Ga. (Toye & Sue Hill, 1-706-359-3124) -- Bryan Bradberry of Harlem caught flathead catfish weighing 23 and 20 pounds and three others over 2 pounds each on cut bait in Soap Creek. Will Adcock of Lincolnton caught a 25-pound striper on live herring on Thursday and nine other keepers in and around the 7-to-8-pound class. Hybrids are schooling in front of the marina as we speak (at 3:35 p.m.).
David Willard, Little River Marina, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed professional fishing guide specializing in hybrids and stripers. (1 (803) 637-6379) -- Fishing has been great all week. Danny Hill, Billy Grassmeyer, Don and George Dodsworth and Don's boys, Tommy, 11, and Don-Don, 9, of Cash-and-Carry Carpets in Augusta kept a smorgasbord of 34 fish, including hybrids, stripers, largemouths and catfish, of the over 50 fish they had on during the course of an evening's fishing. Charlie Harris of Leah, Ga., caught a limit of 3-to-5-pound fish faster than you could say pass the peas. Chuck Logan and Russ Hendricks from Kelly's Paint & Body caught and released a bunch of hybrids, keeping four that were hooked deep. We drifted over schooling fish and would have the graph black out and five rods go down at one time. That made it sort of interesting since there were only three people in the boat. All our fish were caught on 24 to 30 feet of water on live herring.
Ralph Barbee, professional guide, (706) 860-7373): Paschal Owens of Hephzibah and his grandson, Luke Owen of Brandon, Fla., went with me on Thursday. I caught one bass and Paschal did not get a strike. However, Luke caught five largemouths, with the biggest 6 pounds, fishing a Hub's Chub over the hydrilla beds in the back of Cherokee Creek. This same place has paid off for the past two weeks. Our best fish came between noon and 1 p.m.
New Savannah Bluff
Lock & Dam
Lock and Dam Bait and Tackle (Bob Baurle), 1-706-793-8053 -- Jeff Gay and sons Jacob and Jonathan caught more than 100 mullet on red worms, fishing the sand bars. Ray Battles and Taylor Battles caught a 7'-pound bass and eight others down river, fishing Super Flukes and spinnerbaits. Charles Smith caught 25 nice bream down river.
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 2001.
Bill Gibson 1 (706) 722-2980 -- The membership pond remains open to contestants in our Friday night tournament.
Bass tournament hours are 6 p.m., to 10 p.m., each Friday and entry fee is $20 per person. Check out our Web site: www.merrybrothers.com.
(706) 722-8263 -- Warren Wiley caught an 8-pound catfish on liver. Wayne M. Davis caught a 13-pound catfish on a spinnerbait and worm. Victor S. Odom caught four catfish 2 pounds or better on herring. Mike Knightly caught three catfish on liver and three bream on red worms. Otis Evans caught catfish weighing 12 and 3 pounds and four smaller ones on liver. Joe Delaigle and David Geeter caught three bass toting 14 pounds on All-American Spinnerbaits. Robert C. Durham caught a 20-pound grass carp on liver. Albert Prescott caught 18 bream on red worms. Mack Carter caught 14 shellcrackers on pinks. Robert Willis caught catfish weighing 10', 8 3/4 and 6 pounds on shrimp. Willie Williams caught 16 shellcrackers on pinks.
BEAUFORT, S.C. & VICINITY
Includes Paradise Pier
Joe Mix, Island Outfitters, Ladys Island, 1-(843)-522-9900 -- Charter captain Trevor Strever reports schools of speckled trout at creek mouths around the spit off the south tip of Parris Island. On a recent trip, his party boated and mostly released 24 fish up to 4' pounds on liver shrimp. Bring plenty of bait because ladyfish seem to be everywhere. A few trout are also being taken in Chowan Creek and Trenchards Inlet. Spottail bass catches remain strong on Port Royal Sound, particularly in the Hazzard Creek area. Tarpon are being caught at the 170 bridge and between the shore and bars off Bay Point. Black drum and spottail surf catches continue to build and trolling for Spanish mackerel is productive. The Beaufort Sport Fish Club is sponsoring a family 11-species fishing tournament on Saturday, Aug. 12. Best female and youth angler prizes will be awarded. Proceeds will be used to support the local artificial reef program. More information: 843-521-0023 or 525-1515.
Miss Judy Charters, Capt. Judy Helmey, 912-897-4921. It's been an exciting inshore fishing year. The bite continues to be long and hard, especially when it comes to trout and bass species. Record amounts of these fish are being caught in the creeks, rivers and sounds of our area. Live shrimp remains the No. 1 bait, with plastic grubs the second choice after the shrimp find the fish. The Cajun Popper makes the noise that prompts the fish to take the bait, whether or not they are hungry. I use chartreuse-colored ones for a number of surface-feeding fish. Just attach the popper to your snap-swivel and put your favorite artificial lure in tow. Keep the float moving and popping and the fish will charge the float. Hopefully, they'll bite the hook and not the float
I'm seeing large schools of tarpon feeding from Cabbage Island along red marker No. 16 in Warsaw Sound and all the way out to the Warsaw sea buoy. Live menhaden is the best bait to try to hook these fish on heavy tackle, since most of the fish are over 100 pounds. Please: Carefully release all of the fish you catch.
Spanish mackerel continue to school, with bait pods surfacing on slack tide, the best time to fish. If you can see them, you can catch them. The tide's been pretty strong this week, keeping the fish close to the bottom. I've been using a No. 3 planer with a medium Clark Spoon attached. It's not as much fun as catching 'em on light tackle, but a fish is a fish and you'll catch 'em with this method.
King mackerel can be found in 30 to 150 feet of water, with Tybee Roads and the rip about a mile off the Warsaw Sea Buoy holding large kings, better known as "smokers." Use live menhaden or millet and slow-troll for best results.