Saturday, October 26, 2013

Sol Legare and the Stono River Artificial Reef

When driving through Sol Legare Island the place does not look like much. It’s a small coastal community sitting right on the marsh across from Folly Island. It is not the homes that make this place unique but it is the people that call Sol Legare or Mosquito Beach home. From what I have been told can trace their heritage back 5 or 6 generations. This would mean that the original settlers were freed slaves who came to the island to fish and farm.

When Henry and I arrived to the boat ramp that some called it the Sol Legare Boat Launch or Barrier Island Boat Launch but when you are driving on Folly Road away from Folly Island the signage is labeled as Barrier Island Boat Launch. The boat ramp consists of two ramps but the shoreline to the right or left of the ramp has a hard bottom. This makes this launch site ideal for kayaks or canoes since we will not need to use the actual ramp itself.
So our plan was to paddle to up the inshore artificial reef on the Stono River to try to catch speckled trout and redfish. According to folks that are aware of the artificial reef that it is made up of what is called reef balls. Reef balls have many purposes from coral reef rehabilitation, fishery enhancement, snorkeling and diving trails, beach erosion protection, surfing enhancement, fish spawning sites, planters for mangrove replanting, enhancement of lobster fisheries, creation of oyster reefs, estuary rehabilitation, etc. For this area I’m sure the project had to deal with either enhancement to a fishery, spawning site, or estuary rehabilitation for this section of the Stono River or a combination of these three options.
The unusual thing about the reef was that with the fish finder the structure looked nearly flat. Talking to other anglers and even the tackle shops they think that the reef balls were disbursed with some hurricane or the Stono River covered silt over the reef balls to create a flat area.
Henry was using cut squid for bait and kelp having something cleaned the bait off of his hook. For me nothing, I was using half of a frozen blue crab hoping for a bull red. Uff da!! No takers. Finally Henry yells he has a small fish. When he brought the fish into the kayak, he yelled that he caught a ling. I’m sure what he had been a small croaker or maybe a whiting. I decided to pull up the anchor pin and travel further along the man-made reef to see if there actually was any structure.
I got down to one area of the reef and there was this dolphin on a feeding frenzy. He must have some a school of some type of fish to have an early dinner on. At this point I contacted Henry and move to another flat across the river from the reef.
We fished the mouth of the Abbapoola Creek for a while and then just moved on along the far bank of the Stono. I finally found a section of the river where there was a good current flowing over an oyster rake. Using a popping cork and a Vudu Shrimp I managed to start to get some hits. The bite was really weird.  The cork action reminded me of a walleye bite. The cork just traveled slowly and slowly under the water. So after missing several hook ups I decided to use a walleye fishing technique for floats or bobbers. So as the cork slowly traveled and slowly lowered itself under the water; I would slowly reel in the slack till I could feel the fish on the line and then I would raise the rod tip slowly to set the hook. Using this technique I managed to land a small weakfish. The weakfish is a member of the drum family. They also go by the name of sea trout like their cousin the speckled trout. Their name comes from the weakness of their mouth muscles which is probably softer than that of the speckled trout. As soon as I landed the weakfish the bite seemed to have stopped. So I asked Henry if he was ready to call it a day and he agreed.
So we paddled back to the launch, loaded the kayaks and headed home. On my way home I decided that this had to be an indicator that the trout bite was just getting started and I will have to return to the Stono to see if I can locate a trout that will beat my personal best at 18”.
Tight Lines!!!

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