Sunday, July 28, 2013

In Search of a Sleigh Ride at the Charleston Jetties

The Charleston Jetties were built to prevent sand from collecting in the entrance of the harbor to prevent the ships’ mobility in and out of the harbor. The jetties are made up of two walls; the north wall extends from Sullivan’s Island and the other from Morris Island that extends for nearly 3 miles.

Fort Moultrie is named after Colonel William Moultrie and dates make to 1776.  When the Revolutionary War was over there was little remaining of Fort Moultrie.  Around the mid 1700s Congress seeking to safeguard the American shores, they created the first system of nationwide coastal fortifications, Fort Moultrie become one of 20 forts along the Atlantic coast. In 1804 the fort was finally destroyed by a hurricane. Sometime after the hurricane many of the remaining First System fortifications were in need of repairs. Congress responded by authorizing funds for a Second System, which included a rebuilding Fort Moultrie. This time the fort was built from brick.
When South Carolina seceded from the Union, the Federal garrison abandoned Fort Moultrie for the stronger Fort Sumter. In the mid 1800s Fort Moultrie was modernized employing concepts developed during war. New cannons were installed, and magazines and bomb proof walls and buildings were built of thick concrete, and then buried under tons of earth to absorb the explosion of heavy shells. In 1885 Secretary of War William Endicott headed a board to review the current coastal defenses because of future weapons technology development. Again modernization of our nation’s fortifications created new batteries of concrete and steel were constructed in Fort Moultrie. Larger weapons were located elsewhere on Sullivan’s Island and the old fort became a small part of the Fort Moultrie Military Reservation that covered much of the island.

As the world wars brought new threats of submarine and aerial attacks meant new means of defense at Moultrie. As nuclear weapons and guided missiles altered the concept of national defense the armaments at Moultrie became obsolete. Today Fort Moultrie is a museum that portrays the major periods of its history going back in time from the World War II Harbor Entrance Control Post to the site of the original Fort Moultrie built of Palmetto logs back in 1776.
We planned to launch near Fort Moultrie at Station 12 Street on Sullivan’s Island to paddle out to the Charleston Harbor North Jetty. This will be a 2.3 mile paddle through the Grillage another great fishing area. On this trip; my fishing buddies are: Lewis, Greg, and Henry. Eventually Chris will show up and fish with us. Our departure as delayed about an hour or more due to a storm front passing over the North jetty off in the distance. So we just sat at the launch site till the storm moved through. I should point out that we could see lightening coming from the clouds and made up the storm front. Eventually the weather radar on the Smartphone showed that the front had passed and we decided that the journey will be a go.

We will be targeting speckled trout, redfish, flounder, croaker, whiting, sheepshead, black sea bass, ladyfish, sharks, tarpon, and possibly several other species.  For me I decided to try to target bull reds. Normally Lewis and I fish the north side of the jetty so we are not on the shipping channel side. On this trip there were big breakers at the submerged part of the North Jetty coming off from Sullivan’s Island beach so we had a huge barrier for us to go through so this would not work on this trip so we had to remain on the channel side. 
So when I arrived to the jetty wall I picked a section that had water coming over the rocks and set anchor. On this trip the choice bait will be cut horse mullet on a 6/0 Gamakatsu Circle Hook with a 3 ounce egg sinker set-up as a Carolina Rig. I also brought a medium light inshore rod to cast a D.O.A. C.A.L. Shad for some smaller fish while I waited for the bull red to take the cut bait. I also had a heavier rod for casting a large buck tail with a 6 inch white Gulp curly tail grub.

I casted that cut bait towards that jetty wall in the hopes that a bull red will be cruising by to pick up the cut mullet. While waiting I decided to cast the buck tail with the 6 inch Gulp curly tail in the opposite direction of the soaking bait. No action with the buck tail so I decided to cast the inshore rod with the D.O.A. Shad on a jig head. Maybe I might catch something small to entertain me while I waited for something big. After a while I noticed some slight tip action with the rod that has the 6/0 Gamakatsu Circle Hook with the cut bait.
The tip movement was nonstop so I picked up the rod and noticed some additional weight. I started reeling the fish in; there was not much fight but fun. I managed to net a nice 12 inch Atlantic croaker into the Jackson Big Tuna. I just could not imagine how this hungry croaker managed to get a third of a horse mullet and the 6/0 hook into its mouth but it did.

Releasing the croaker back into the water, I proceeded to freshen up the 6/0 hook with a new piece of mullet and casted the bait in the same direction of where it came. Then I started the routine of casting the big buck tail and alternating with the D.O.A. Shad with no results of even a bite while I waited. Eventually the rod with the cut bait started acting a little different. The fishing line started moving away from the jetty wall and when I picked up the rod it as an uff da moment. This was a big fish; maybe a bull red, shark, or a tarpon. Lewis as near and probably just as excited as me, he grabbed his camera started shooting some pictures of the action.
I hope that this is not a shark or a tarpon since the leader material was not strong enough to prevent a break off either by some sharks teeth or sharp gill plates of the tarpon. Whatever the fish was it was keeping to the bottom so in my mind I checked off that it was not a tarpon as it had not did the acrobatics that they are famous for at this stage of the battle.

When the fish finally got close to the surface, I managed to identify the beast as an Atlantic sharp nose shark about four feet long. I managed to get my hand on the leader to make it a catch. But no, uff da; I need to try to get the fish grips into the lower jaw to bring the shark into the kayak for a better picture. Let me tell you, the shark did not what anything do with those grippers, did a quick jerk with the head and cut through what was already a questionable leader.
After a while I decided to move to a different section as I was not getting any other action. Some of my buddies were catching some small black sea bass so I thought that I would try to get into some of that action. Just maybe a big black sea bass might take the bait offered on the 6/0 hook. While waiting I decided to just jig the buck tail alongside the Big Tuna I was getting some hits but the buck tail was too big. So I decided to downsize the buck tail but this did not work either. Then I decided to check my bait as well.

Picking up the rod I got feel some extra weight on the line. Maybe it is a small black sea bass, a whiting, or maybe another croaker. When the leader started coming out of the water; I stared into the water to identify my catch. Uff da! I had an 11 inch oyster toadfish. They are not very pretty I will tell you. They feel really soft and have jaws that are like vice grips with small teeth. The hook was removed and the ugly beast was set free. After this last catch it seemed like the right opportunity to head back into an outgoing tide back to the launch site just over 2 miles away.
The paddling was tough going heading back to Fort Moultrie where we had launched from this morning. Uff da! Every time that I would take a break from paddling to rest or consume some water or Gatorade I feel that I had been pushed back for some unknown distance. Two hours had passed by and I still could see the buoy that marked the fishing area known as the Grillage. Chris was having no problems as he appeared to sail circles around me with is Hobie Adventure Island and Lewis in his Hobie Pro Angler 14 using the peddle power mirage system. Eventually Lewis peddled back to inform me that the Grillage area was way too rough to try get through and suggested that we do a surf entry onto the beach. Chris would not have any issues getting through as the Hobie Adventure Island is a very stable kayak/sailing vessel with two eight feet long Amas outriggers.

The Jackson Big Tuna did a great job gliding through the incoming waves onto the beach. Lewis and I ended up near the beach access what is known as Station 16 Street. We were like three blocks away from any pavement or road. The kayak cart that I had along does not function with soft sand and either does the cart that Lewis had for his Pro Angler. We had nice beach sand at the beach and approximately a third of the trail to the pavement was also sand. Uff da this was going to be a rough portage. Working as a team we managed to get to the trail area where the ground was no longer beach sand so the portage got easier. Eventually we made our way to a paved road.
Uff da! We had approximately seven more blocks to go where the vehicles were parked. We managed to go one block and our buddy Chris showed up to help. I stayed with the kayaks, while Lewis rode back to his truck and trailer. When Lewis got back, we loaded the kayaks and equipment onto the trailer and he drove to my truck where we divided the equipment up so we could head home.

Although it had been a great day at the Charleston North Jetty it definitely became a huge UFF DA in my book. I need to inform you that fishing the jetties is not for the beginner yak angler. You will need to know how to do a self deep water rescue and have confidence in the kayak that you paddle.
Tight Lines and Always wear a PDF.

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