Recently, fishermen are battling more than fish

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By Capt. Jacob Frick

The alarm clock’s annoying beep goes silent as I slap it for the third time. As I roll over to get just five more minutes of sleep, my cellphone is ringing. I answer it, hearing the question, “Are we going fishing in these conditions today captain?”
I wipe my eyes clear and look out the window. The palm trees are bending toward the ground and dark clouds are coming in off the ocean.
I reply, “How bad do you want to go?”
Well, last time we went out in these conditions, we didn’t catch anything. I was not in the mood to argue with that assumption. I had just experienced my first kidney stone last night. I really wasn’t in the best shape to be fishing, either. We both agreed we would give it another shot later in the week.
Can conditions make or break a fishing trip’s success? As fishermen, we come up with all sorts of theories, excuses and conditions on why the fish didn’t bite. I have found that most conditions just make it more difficult for the fishermen.
There is no doubt dirty water makes it harder for fish to see your bait. Freshwater runoff will drop the salinity levels, making fish change locations or not feed as aggressively.
A good strong wind from any direction makes it tough for any angler to position the boat, make a good presentation and feel the bite.
Despite battling all of these elements during the past few weeks, the fish have been biting pretty well, considering all the circumstances.
Michael Switzergald and Dan Copeland were scheduled for a trip last Friday. As you may remember, it rained all morning. More rain and thunderstorms were forecast for the afternoon. I talked to Switzergald around 11 o’clock and he agreed the conditions were looking a little tough for success. We had made the decision to try it some other time.
Well, 15 minutes later, his buddy, Copeland, calls and wants my thoughts on the conditions. I was honest with him. The fishing has been tough. Fishing is fishing and you just never know. My expectations are always pretty high when taking folks fishing. I told Copeland as long as it does not thunder and there is no lightning, we would go. I also explain to him that catching a half dozen fish would be a great day in these conditions. Really catching anything at all would be a great day in those conditions. Copeland was set on giving it a shot. We loaded up and headed for the fishing grounds.
I took the guys to a long stretch of grass line where I have caught a few reds from time to time. I dropped the trolling motor to keep our position just off the grass on a slight drift as we cast light jigs towards the grass. I chose a white color pattern, as the water was severely stained from all the freshwater runoff. After a few tosses and tweaking my retrieve, I found just how the fish wanted it. I shared that information with my anglers and they went to work on some lower to middle slot reds. We landed eight reds and one trout tossing 4-inch Sea Shads by Bass Assassin in the sand trout color.
We moved from that area and changed gears to live bait. The black drum, sheepshead and red drum are suckers for live shrimp. We found a few docks that produced several more red drum, a few black drum and a sheepshead.
The point is this: Fishing is fishing and you never know until you go. You can’t catch them while you are leaning on the counter at the Ocean Isle Fishing Center complaining about the conditions. You got to go out there a get them.
In closing, congratulations to Team OIFC—Brant McMullan, Amy McMullan, Caroline McMullan and Brayden McMullan—for an awesome win in the Got’em On King Classic this past weekend. This is another prime example of no matter how tough the conditions, it can be done.
Our water conditions are not going to be improving any time soon. Much rain has already fallen and more is on the way. I can only leave you with this advice. Try to remain patient and the bite will happen. The fish are here, but they are also trying to make their adjustments to the conditions. As fishermen, that is part of the game, making those adjustments with the fish.
See ya on the water.

Capt. Jacob Frick, who has 10 years of knowledge and experience in guiding family, friends, and clients in the backwater surrounding Ocean Isle Beach, is a fishing columnist for the Beacon. Reach him at 803 315 3310 or jacob@oifc.com for additional information or questions about his articles.