Saturday, December 13, 2014

Fort Sumter Reds

One of my new fishing buddies, Chris D was texting a few of the guys from LKA to go fishing in a new area that he discovered and was planning to launch from the Melton Peter Demetre Park near the James Island Yacht Club. The park is not very big but offers spectacular views of the Charleston Harbor. The park has a fishing pier, a couple of small sandy beaches, a marsh, small picnic area, and a small pond. The park is open from 6 AM to 9 PM daily.

Chris planned for us to fish a nice flat behind Grice Cove. In the past I have launched from Demetre Park and fished the Grice Cove area. The paddle might be a mile from the park to the cove. During the one time that I had fished this area was maybe two years ago for pre-fishing for the Charleston IFA event in June. I managed to land some nice fish back near that flat that Chris planned for the trip.
Chris was at Time Out Sport and Ski in Mt Pleasant, SC and Dolphin Dave H mentioned a closer kayak launch point that would put us into Grice Cove. I called Chris and told him that I would run over and check out the launch Friday after work. The launch site is located on a 100-acre site known as Fort Johnson. Today people in the area refer to it as the DNR. Unfortunately there is a gate that prevents folks that do not work for the DNR, NOAA, and College of Charleston for the Grice Marine Laboratory. When the gate is open the general public is welcome to visit and use the primitive launch into Grice Cove. You have to be off the grounds before it gets dark.
Fort Johnson was constructed on what is known as Windmill Point back in 1708. There are no traces of the original fort and I could not find anything about why it had to be rebuilt in 1759 when a second fort was built. There is evidence still of the second fort as portions of the "tabby" walls, made from sea shells, are still visible today. About 1780 when the British were advancing on Charleston they found the fort abandoned. During this period the fort was destroyed either by enemy action or maybe by a storm.
A third built in 1793 and then as temporarily abandoned after a storm breached its sea wall in 1800. Some improvements were done during the War of 1812 but a year later another storm nearly destroyed the fort. By 1827 not much remained of the fort and about this time it was dropped from the reports of the U.S. fortifications.
In early 1861 South Carolina state troops built two 10-inch mortar batteries that consisted of two mortars each along with an earthwork of three guns. Fort Johnson is given the credit for the first shot that opened the bombardment of Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861. There is a historical marker on the point looking towards Fort Sumter identifying the site of the east mortar battery. Besides this marker the powder magazine is still standing.
So I called Chris back and told he that this would be a great launch site to get us onto Grice Cove and the small flat behind the cove. So we planned to meet at the Li’l Cricket near the intersection of Harbor View Road and Sterling Drive at 8 AM on Saturday morning. When I arrived at the Li’l Cricket Todd VH greeted me as explained that Chris was getting some drinks and ice.  When Chris came out we drove towards the Fort Johnson Road and headed to the DNR. Approaching the gate we noticed that the gate was closed. So we did a U-Turn and headed for Launch Point ‘B’ the park.
Once in the parking lot of the park I started setting up the Jackson Big Rig with the rods, J-Krate, the Raymarine Dragonfly, and the Power Pole Micro-Anchor. To get the kayak down to the small beach it will take team work as the beach is below the rock rip rap. This process will be slow to ensure that everyone has a good footing as we lift the kayaks over and down the rocks. As I write this I’m thinking that maybe it would have been easier to carry the kayaks without the great and carried the gear in several trips.
We paddled the mile to Windmill Point. I started casting to the rock rip rap with a Trout Trick that is now made by ZMan. As you can see from the photo that the new ZMan Trout Trick is closer to a blue color vs the purplish color for the original Trout trick. Also the ZMan Trout Trick is made of 10X Tough ElaZtech® soft plastic that resists nicks, cuts and tears when compared to the plastic that makes up the original Trout Trick.
As I got closer to the deep channel where the R/V Palmetto is moored, this ship is 110 feet in length. It is used by the SCDNR for offshore research that is conducted from Cape Lookout, NC to Palm Beach, FL and out to 200 miles. The R/V Palmetto operates around the clock for ten days at sea with a 6-person crew and nine scientists. I got a hookup on a fish. On the new ZMan Trout Trick I managed to land a small rat red.
I continued to work my way around the rock rip rap into Grice Cove using the ZMan Trout Trick but no more hookups. We made our way to the flat behind Grice Cove. Standing on the Jackson Big Rig looking for schooling redfish in the shallows of the flat proved to be unsuccessful. We worked our way back to the cove and decided to paddle to the flat behind Fort Sumter.
Fort Sumter, fortification; built 1829 – 1860 on a shoal at the entrance to the harbor of Charleston, SC. Fort Sumter is the scene of the opening engagement of the Civil War. Bombardment of Fort Sumter was started from Fort Johnson which is located on the eastern portion of James Island. Fort Sumter became a national monument in 1948.
As we got closer to Fort Sumter and the shoal that it had been built on, my fishing buddies were wondering if we would be managing to find any schools of redfish. I told that that I felt pretty sure that this area was going to produce some redfish for us. We must have been about just past Fort Sumter about 200 yards from the part of the harbor that is behind Cummings Point on Morris Island when I spotted a small school of redfish that looked like they were somewhere between 25 – 30 inches in length. They were hugging the grass line. I would cast the Slayer Sinister Swim Tail (S.S.T.) in the Golden Bream color pattern on a 1/8 oz jig head toward the direction of the reds and just past. I would lift up the rod tip to lift the lure off the sandy bottom and let it fall naturally. After a couple of cast with the Sinister Swim Tail (S.S.T.) in the Golden Bream color pattern on a 1/8 oz jig head I had good hookup using this technique.
Uff da this was an exciting hookup!!! The red took me on a sleigh ride in the shallow water and then started pulling me into the grass. I just could not keep him out of the grass. Once in the grass the red stopped pulling and he was sitting just under the Jackson Big Rig in the grass. I decided to grab the leader and maybe pull him alongside the kayak so that I might be able to lip him. Uff da the leader broken and the redfish swam away into the weeds a little further. This is my story so I will have to say that he must have been close to 30 inches.
At this time Chris and Todd came over to try out their luck. The school was still in the area; Todd managed a hookup and lost the fish. Chris still was having no luck with a hookup. The school finally dispersed or moved on to another location. So we moved further away from Fort Sumter towards the body of water behind Morris Island.
The three of us paddled up Parrott Point Creek for a short distance. Chris and I did not manage to locate the reds but Todd followed a small creek that actually went into the grass behind the area that we were chasing the school earlier. In this area Todd had several hookups and would lose the reds into the grass. I worked my way back along the grass line and managed another hookup. Chris and Todd made it to the area in time to watch the battle and the redfish throwing the hook.
We kept working the grass line toward our starting point. Uff da Fish On!!! I had another battle erupt from the shallow water. This time after a short sleigh ride and at one point the red decided to head under Todd’s kayak. Todd had to lift his Mirage Drive so the fish would not get my line wrapped around this obstruction. I managed to land the redfish with the Ego landing net that measured 26 inches.
Todd casted beside Chris’ kayak and the waters exploded and startled Chris. Todd was on for a sleigh ride finally. Then the worst thing that could happen; the red managed to get tangled with Chris’ line. It was so bad that Chris had to cut his line so that Todd could land this fish. Finally Todd had the fish in the landing net and in the kayak.
I managed to catch two more redfish on the return. Chris was still working on his first redfish for the day. He managed to get a hookup on a paddle tail in the new penny color pattern. He was on his sleigh ride finally.  He tried landing the fish a couple of times with his net but the red kept falling out but soon the spot tail was in his kayak for some pictures.
After this catch it was time for us to head back to our launch site. At this time the tide was going out and I estimated that I will have a 2.5 mile paddle back in the Jackson Big Rig. The Big Rig is a great flats kayak but not so for paddling some distance especially against the tide. What makes the Big Rig hard to paddle in this condition is that it is 37 inches wide. We made it back to the launch site and this time we emptied the equipment off of the kayaks to lighten then up to carry the kayaks up the rock rip rap but this time we using the stairs.
This journey will conclude my fishing for 2014. I hope that you enjoyed my stories, tips, and photos. For 2015 I will try to shift to keep my stories educational as I have tried by providing some history of the areas that I fish but also try to provide more information on the weather conditions, tides, water clarity, and more on e the techniques of the lures that I use.

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