Sunday, February 22, 2015

Short Stay at the Pinopolis Dam

Lately with the cold weather that we have been experiencing here in Charleston, SC has been close to freezing. The anglers have been concerned about the low temperatures possibility contributing to a speckled trout kills. Also with the near freezing temperatures the redfish will be really not expending much energy to chase whatever bait that might be swimming around.

We decided to concentrate on some freshwater catfish action by hitting the deeper water columns on Lake Moultrie near the Pinopolis Dam.  To shorten the paddle distance we will launch from Short Stay near Moncks Corner. Short Stay is operated by Joint Base Charleston – Weapons Station Morale, Welfare and Recreation Department. The mission statement for Short Stay is to provide quality outdoor recreation experience for military, DoD employees and military retirees. The facility provides a varied program of wholesome, construction, leisure-time activities which contribute to the mental and physical well being of our military.

To access to Short Stay will not be a problem for me as I’m retired Air Force. For my two fishing buddies should not be an issue either as they will be my guest. When you arrive on Short Stay you will need to check in at the convenience store in the main office to pay for use of the boat ramp. Cost to launch is $5. Also at the convenience store there is a great selection of fishing gear and frozen & live bait for your fishing experience.

Since we will be fishing for catfish my choice for bait will be live shiners on a 3/0 Gamakatsu Circle hook with a 3 ounce weight, Lewis planned to use his favorite bait which is shrimp and Chris will be minnows. Launching from the boat ramp we only had to paddle across the water maybe a quarter of a mile to the dam and lock. My plan was to fish a deep channel that is about 30 feet deep sort of drifting towards Atkins Boat Landing at the other end of the Pinopolis Dam. According to the Raymarine Dragonfly the water temperature was at 44 degrees (F). We also noticed that there was a war going on out near the fishing area.

There were several boats shooting the double-crested cormorants since South Carolina DNR is authorized by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to designate agents for this hunt under the ‘Depredation Order for Double-crested Cormorants to Protect Public Resources’.  The effects of migrant cormorants that winter on the Santee Cooper Lakes include competition with the resident fish population for herrings, shads, menhaden, etc. forage, direct predation on out-migrating anadromous juvenile shad and herring, direct predation on returning anadromous adults while crowded below the System's dams and  direct predation on juvenile game fish and catfish. In addition, cormorant harassment has been linked to significant winter kills of adult redear sunfish too large to swallow. Permanent damage to flooded bald cypress and tupelo trees used for roosts has also been documented. Hunters are required to through training before they are issued permits to harvest double-crested cormorants. The season runs from February to the end of March.

Back to the fishing journey for catfish, so as I drifted towards Atkins Boat Landing I occasionally had to take the Bending Branches Angler Pro and paddle a stroke or two to keep me drifting towards the destination. Why is this you might ask? The wind direction and current would start the drift back towards the Pinopolis Dam Lock. The glide on the Kraken is remarkable; a one or two strokes with the paddle would keep me traveling to the direction that I wanted to go and keep my live shiner at the 30 feet level for the opportunity of a huge catfish. The Raymarine Dragonfly reflected some fish but I have not yet had any bites. Finally the rod started bending over as if I had a snag. I began to reel in the line but this was no snag as the line was being placed back on the spool. It was just like reeling in sack of rock as there was nothing fighting back.

So a catfish appeared near the surface and the Ego net was used to lift this heavy non-fighting catfish in the Kraken. The Blue Catfish when I laid it on the YakAngler Hawg Trough cracked from the fish’s weight. My trophy measured 33.5 inches in length. I decided to keep this fish from dinner and invite a few friends over for dinner that evening. I had to figure out how to store the fish as I did not bring a cooler or a stringer to keep him fresh. Since the air temperature was cold and the water temperature was 44 degrees (F) I decided to store the large catfish in the Kraken. So I opened the center hatch, removed the insert and lowered the catfish tail first into the Kraken. I then placed the insert back and closed the center hatch cover.

As I continued to work my way to the planned destination I did not get any more bites. On the return trip I was not charting as much fish as compared to the first past that morning. I made my way back along the dam, past the lock and the Short Stay boat ramp straight across from me. My two fishing companions also decided they had enough so we paddled back to the ramp. Then I displayed my catch to them as I removed it from the Kraken. This catfish ended up to be out only fish that day.

Loading up the kayaks on the truck and planning out next kayak fishing journey; we parted ways till the next weekend. Till the next journey I wish you and your fishing buddies tight lines and maybe our paddles will cross and we will be fishing together.

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