Fishing patterns change year after year, messing up fishermen, but not the fish.
This year, for example, fishermen who enjoy deep-jigging spoons in ditch lines, submerged road beds and creek channels are finding fish in water 50 to 60 feet deep.
The writer on Wednesday afternoon jigged up a white perch from 55 feet.
Just a few years ago, the average depths at which fish could be caught were 25 to 35 feet down.
Albert Moody took an old friend, Billy Smith, and the latter's 11-year-old son, Dillon, to the lake on Wednesday afternoon. From 2 p.m. until 5 p.m., their luck was nil.
They moved into the Parksville (S.C.) cove and Albert hooked a 5-pound hybrid. Then he spotted birds diving off a stump field point. Before leaving at 6:15, he and his friends boated 14 hybrids "that looked like footballs."
Most of the fish were caught on live herring fished 14 feet below the boat in 18 feet of water.
"I'd hook the fish and then hand the rod to Dillon, who had a great time reeling them in," Moody said.
The writer found diving birds and schooling fish in Shriver Creek about 4 p.m., and they cut off about 5. Nothing he cast or jigged could garner a strike. Go figure.
The Florida Invitational bass tournament on Lake Okeechobee last week proved to be too tough for most of the field, including Barry Durden of Rocky Ford, Ga., David White of Jackson, S.C., and Jordan Dozier of Thomson, Ga.
All finished well out of the money. Dozier had motor trouble on the first tournament day on the lake, which was four feet lower than usual. Most of the winning catch of 10 bass and 44 pounds, 4 ounces came from a canal on a fire-tiger Bomber Model A crank bait.
Ben Parker of Denver, N.C., was in the field. He's a son of former professional bass fisherman Hank Parker.
STROM THURMOND LAKE
Ralph Barbee, professional guide, (706) 860-7373): Oh, man! They're biting the Little Earl (GGG finish and the "parrot" color) and the Silver Buddy big time! Biggest hybrid weighed 4 pounds. You couldn't see the fish - they were just on the banks chasing shad. I caught six bass up to 3« pounds and three hybrids. None of the fish were in water over 6 feet deep. I put an O-ring on the front of the Little Earl and a No. 4, long-shanked treble hook on the back. I'll be at the American Sportsman on Washington Road from 10 a.m., to 2 p.m., today. I'll be glad to give people tips on late winter fishing.
SAVANNAH RIVERNew Savannah BluffLock & Dam
Lock and Dam Bait and Tackle (Bob Baurle), 1-706-793-8053 - Folks are catching some nice yellow perch off the wooden pier at the dam and at the mouth of Butler's Creek. Small shiners are the key baits.
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 2002.
MERRY BROTHERSBRICKYARD PONDS
Bill Gibson 1 (706) 722-2980 - Mike Jenkins caught 20 nice crappies in the Ditch on Wednesday. He caught them just before dark. Those are the first fish I've seen come out of here in three weeks. We are carrying live shiners once again.
Check out our Web site: www.merrybrothers.com.
(706) 722-8263 - Billy Matlow caught 14 crappies on small minnows. James Jewell caught 21 crappies on small minnows. Mike Knightly caught 12 catfish on liver and 13 crappies on small minnows. Willie Williams landed 17 crappies on small minnows. Carl Smith caught 21 small catfish on liver. Fay Stringfellow caught 28 crappies on minnows.
ATLANTIC OCEANBEAUFORT, S.C. & VICINITYIncludes Paradise Pier
Joe Mix, Island Outfitters, Ladys Island, 1-(843)-522-9900 - The recent warm spell came too late to save our over-wintering white shrimp crop from decimation. Shrimp-killing water temperatures were reported as far south as Jacksonville, Fla. Thankfully, a few roe shrimp always escape well offshore where they spawn. A single female produces between 500,000 and 1 million eggs and, if favorable conditions occur, we could experience a reasonable fall crop. But prospects aren't bright.
Fortunately, we so far have had no reports of game fish kills, which take place when temperatures fall into the single digits and fish are left to freeze in the marshes as tides recede. Inshore, charter captains report finding spottail bass on sunny afternoons over high tide mud flats where water temperatures are relatively high. Other times, the fish remain in deep holes. Offshore, bottom fishing is good when winds allow the boats out.
Miss Judy Charters, Capt. Judy Helmey, 912-897-4921 or www.missjudycharters.com. - After the snow, high winds and cold temperatures, a warming trend inserted itself into our weather pattern. Speckled trout haven't left the creeks - they are just waiting for that perfect bait. Another great winter bite comes from the sheepshead. As you know, the preferred bait is fiddler crabs, but they're tough to come by this time of year. Don't give up - try dead shrimp, barnacles or crickets. Don't laugh about my last suggestion, just don't tell anyone you are using them.
Offshore fishing should be great if predictions of light winds and warmer temperatures hold true. If you want a short ride to the fish, I have a plan: All the near-shore artificial reefs and those in up to 60 feet of water are holding fish.
The reefs in 40 feet are holding lots of black sea bass, black drum, bluefish and sheepshead. The lower structures are reefs made of culvert pipe, old tires, rocks and pallet balls and hold black sea bass and school blues. Load up your 2/0 hook with squid, lower away and set the hook. If it sounds simple, it is.
Don't scatter the fish by drifting and pulling the schools apart. Anchoring is your best bet once you've found the fish. Be careful and not get hung up on the wrecks.
Deeper reefs hold larger black sea bass and Atlantic flounder. Squid remains the No. 1 bait, but don't be afraid to try small, live fish such as cigar minnows, rock bass or sand perch.
Last week, I fished the middle Savannah Snapper Banks some 30 miles offshore. It turned out to be a CATCHING event. We caught large black sea bass, a few red snapper and a 15-pound scamp grouper. My party had a great time.
Charter Capt. Emerson Waters, a member of the Miss Judy Fishing Team, made it out to the Gulf Stream. He caught a few bull dolphins and had a great time. After moving his boat back into 100 feet of water, he found large schools of little tunny. His party caught quite a few before heading home.