Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Spotted Eagle Ray of Conch Creek

On this journey with me will be Lewis, Greg, and Henry. We were planning on launching from Breach Inlet. Breach Inlet is a well known area for dangerous tides that result in numerous drowning. When Lewis and I examined the outgoing tide the current from Conch Creek, under the bridge, and into Breach Inlet was flowing pretty fast. This launch site would provide access to some great dock structure that holds some nice redfish and flounder. All we would have to do is accomplished a beach launch into Breach Inlet, under the bridge towards Conch Creek and to the left towards north side of Sullivan’s Island. As we decided not to launch from this location, we decided to launch from Station 26 Road instead.

At the end of Station 26 is a small boat ramp. Where the pavement ends the road gets very narrow and a little curvy for a short distance that only allows traffic to go only in one direction. Basically the width of the road will only allow a single vehicle at a time. Another concern that you might have is that this launch site on a strong incoming tide can cover the road and your parked truck could be standing in saltwater for a while. Other then that the small creek will have a water depth that will permit small boats, canoes, and kayaks to make it into Conch Creek, the Inter-Coastal Waterway (ICW), and even Grey Bay.
Our planned called for us to fish the area of docks on the south side of Sullivan’s Island. So we continued with our plan so when we launched we headed toward the right from the ramp fishing as we went along. At one point I noticed some activity of something just crushing the bait fish. As I worked my way I casted that D.O.A. C.A.L. Airhead towards the activity, as I drifted closer there was a huge explosion of water next to the Jackson Big Tuna. Uff da!! The activity that I thought was a redfish ended up being a nice 3’ sting ray. I continued to drift towards the targeted fishing area and across the creek was more feeding type of activity.

I worked my way across the creek and started fan casting towards the activity. Nothing but then I heard Henry yelling that he caught a fish. He asked if I would take his picture of his small redfish. So he worked his way to me for the photo session. After taking the photo, I worked my way towards the docks and Henry went back to the small creek to try to catch another redfish, trout, or whatever would take the live shrimp that he was using for bait.

As I worked the bank towards the targeted fishing area, I spotted two nice redfish working the oyster shell bank. I bent down and laid the paddle down and picked up the rod. Then I looked but could not see the redfish, so I casted into the area where I last observed the redfish but nothing. Uff da I just got to figure out this sight fishing method in a kayak. Just across from me Lewis was fishing a small creek feeding into Conch Creek from the grass. He reported that he had caught several small puppy drum (redfish) and a couple of small flounder. He was fishing with a popping cork and mud minnows.
Eventually I managed to make it to the docks on the south side of Sullivan’s Island. At this point I changed to a D.O.A. C.A.L. Shad in the Bream color pattern. I got to section with some a nice oyster bank between two docks. Casting parallel along the shore and Uff da; I had a fish on. The fight was not much so the fish must not be that big. In no time I lifted a 13” rat redfish into the Jackson Big Tuna.

After releasing the redfish; I continued to fish towards Breach Inlet and the balance of the dock systems in the hopes to catch some fish. I was fishing between the fourth and fifth dock system from Breach Inlet, Lewis arrived to the same dock system to fish with me. While fishing, I noticed a huge dark fin coming out of the water. Both Lewis & I could not figure out what it was. It could be a redfish tail but maybe a huge black drum. The closer we got to the tailing fish; we decided that it was not a redfish or a black drum. The tailing action was bluish or blackish with white spots this would not be associated with the redfish or a black drum.  A fishing boat with a couple of anglers came up and was docking their boat; they reported that had a great day at the jetties.
We described to them what we had saw one of them stated that occasionally a spotted eagle ray has been observed in Conch Creek. So I thought what is a spotted eagle ray? As this animal was very graceful on the surface of the water I had to search out some information on the internet later. According to Wikipedia near the base of the ray's relatively long tail, just behind the pelvic fins, are several venomous, barbed stingers. The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has the spotted eagle ray is listed as Near Threatened on their Red List. After learning about this great sighting; I truly feel privileged to have observed some of the spotted eagle ray’s activity in the wild.

By this time we decided to fish on the way back to the launch site at Station 26. On the return trip make I observed several bonnet head sharks cruising the grass and oyster shell line of the creek. They mostly ranged in the size of 3 to 4 feet with a large bonnet head at 5’. They were not interested in any of the artificial lures that I offered near them. From my understanding they really love blue crabs. I’m sure that is what they are searching for along the grass line.
Although we did not launch from Breach Inlet; we did get to explore a new inshore area that proved to have some possibilities, the sighting of a spotted eagle ray, and best of all a great day on the water with my fishing buddies.

Tight lines and we will see you on the waterways.

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