Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Watching the Weather for Signs of a Wet Winter

Hardwood bottomlands of the Lowcountry are FULL again

It has been quite interesting to watch the weather change over in September from a hot and dry cycle into wetter weather. In Australia they simply call their rainy season ‘The Wet.’ Predicting the weather for the entire next season is best left to a meteorologist, but we can all see some indications for a wet winter due to September’s persistent precipitation.
A brief synopsis of summer might be that July was cooler than the normal heat and humidity we know as the Dog Days. That was followed up with a searing August heat wave that saw most days reach a temperature of 90-degrees or higher with little rain and lots of hot sunshine. The first of September was no different and portions of the Lowcountry began to dry out under the dual elements of sun and heat and the SCNDR Drought Response Committee felt the need to act.
On September 16 Colleton County and eight other adjacent Counties were placed under the first level of drought status known as Incipient Drought. “The Edisto and Salkehatchie River Basins have been the driest overall experiencing persistent low streamflow conditions over the past few months,” said Scott Harder, SCDNR Hydrologist.

However, since mid-September we have had a string of wet weather days, with days with heavy cloud cover and no sunshine separating the rainy days. With no sunshine or high temps the ground has been slower than normal to shed the moisture through evaporation, and soggy conditions still persist. Ditches are full in some cases, and they are holding water that will flow through the creeks and rivers of the ACE Basin for weeks.

Even when the rain stops and the sun comes out in early October it will take a couple weeks to dry out the land enough for farmers to get back to work. Peanut farmers say its too wet to dig their crop, hay farmers can’t cut their crop without sunshine to dry it, tomato farmers are at a crucial point where their crop may rot without sunshine and corn fields still need cutting.

For now we can expect a greatly reduced threat of wildfire, and quite possibly an increase in the number of mosquitoes and mushrooms. Dirt roads can become damaged during wet times especially considering the increased activity associated with hunting season. Wet conditions now and perhaps cold later this winter could provide an additional allure for outdoorsman who are already watching the weather closely.

To view the entire feature article in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

To view past blog entries on climate click 2014 Ice Storm or 2010 Snow.

To view past blog entries on critters click on snakes or Bats or Horses or Wood Storks.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Report - 9/30/2014

Fishing Report for the Coastal Lowcountry of South Carolina:
Redfish caught in the Surf Zone on 9/20/2014
Inshore: Craig Lupton at Buck, Bass and Beyond in Beaufort shares that like any time of year the bite changes daily. He presumes the relentless rain in September will hurt the redfish bite and put a hamper on shrimping plans too. His recent reports show that being closer to the ocean might be the best place to wet a line with Trenchard's Inlet and the surf providing a steady mixed bag of fish. The shrimp are running and a wide variety of species can be caught right now using them for bait including trout, redfish, flounder, sheepshead, ladyfish, jack crevalle and sharks. With all of the shrimp imitators out there you can cast a Vudu shrimp in natural coloration or a DOA shrimp in holographic. For the bigger bull reds try fishing in the surf zone, at the Paradise Pier or under the Highway 170 bridge. Use blue crabs or dead baits like cut mullet on a Carolina rig for best results. The tarpon bite is still hanging on but will taper off steadily as water temps drop, which gives them a case of lock jaw. For the latest store information visit the Internet at Buck, Bass and Beyond.

Scott Hammond at Haddrell's Point West tells us that with almost ten days of nothing but rainy conditions, don't let that fool you into thinking that the bite has slowed down in the Lowcountry. Cooler air temps and lots of rain have dropped the water temperature considerably, which has ignited a hot trout bite. The specks are holding in 4 to 6-feet of water along shell rakes and creek mouths, and they are tearing up the live shrimp while they are running. However, a Savage Gear shrimp or a DOA shrimp can fool the fish too. Surf fishing is on the upswing with bull reds and sharks biting cut mullet, with some black drum mixed in. Shrimping season is yielding moderate to good reports coming from the harbor, but past history tells us that a rainy season is not the best for recreational shrimp harvest. For the latest seminar information visit the Internet at Haddrells Point.

Offshore: Scott shares that the weather has made it tough to sneak out on the 'big pond' but those that have ventured out say the bottom fishing is very good in 70 to 100-feet of water. Triggerfish, b-liners, black sea bass and grouper are all giving a good pull for those bumping the bottom. The trolling reports were few but a strong wahoo bite was going on in 140 to 250-feet of water and a few sailfish were being found around waters about 400-feet.

Craig is still getting reports of blackfin tuna when trolling small naked baits way, way way back at first light and last light. High speed trolling has been the ticket for wahoo using darker color combinations that troll straight and true. The Dennis Braid Marauder is a great choice and so is the C/H Wahoo Whacker, Tuna Tango and Double Cavitator when fished sub-surface.

To view past Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Reports click here.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

2014 National Hunting and Fishing Day

Surf fishing is a great way to spend time outdoors
September 27 is National Hunting and Fishing Day, the day that access to public lands is FREE. This day is also a theme that folks should get outdoors and celebrate their hunting heritage and their right to fish! For more details click on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

To view past blog entries about National Hunting and Fishing Day click 2013 or 2011.

Some practice this sentiment everyday

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Pee Dee Student Anglers Fish SALTT Tourney Trail

McKinley Grooms and Daniel Rourk with an over-sized redfish
A new student angler saltwater tournament trail has been formed in the Pee Dee region of the Lowcountry and the first tourney was held in Georgetown on September 20. Dreary weather with no sunshine and blustery winds greeted the students as they launched from the Carroll Campbell boat landing. Some fished the Sampit River while others crosses Winyaw Bay to fish the North Inlet.

Tourney rules call for two-man teams, open only to middle school or high school students. Like most popular redfish trails, they can weigh-in only two fish on tourney day, for a cumulative weight total. Those fish must be alive in order to be eligible and they are all released after weigh-in. SCDNR rules also stipulate that a redfish must be within a slot limit of 15 to 23-inches in order to be eligible.
Ben Cooper with his winning fish

Congrats to Team Coward for winning the inaugural tourney with a total weight of 5.77-pounds for their two redfish. Angler Ben Cooper from Conway High caught both redfish, measuring 19-inches in length, winning Team Coward a plaque and a gift card. Taking second place was Team RED-iculous with a pair of anglers from Carolina Forest High. Jackson Denny and Hunter Vines weighed in one redfish that weighed 3.24-pounds, good for a plaque and a gift card.

Sportsmanship is always a key lesson when youth compete and the tough luck award goes to Team Sweet Tea for having a redfish that measured over the limit by 3/4-inch and was declared ineligible. Daniel McKinley and Daniel Rourk took the judge's ruling well though according to tourney organizer Rayburn Poston. In fact, many anglers caught large redfish on this day that were well over the limit. So it's safe to say that a fun time was had by all. For a listing of future tourney's click SALTT schedule.

To view past blog entries about the Lowcountry Redfish Cup click 2013 Finals.

To view past articles click Redfish Are Loving the Lowcountry.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Snakes Seen Slithering Ahead of Fall

Rat snake with a meal inside of it on September 12

Reptiles seem to become more active in the Lowcountry during the months of September and October, making moves ahead of winter. Some are seeking shelter, while others seek wetlands and most all of them need something to eat now. Seeing a snake in the yard is often a rare occurrence, but a couple of recent serpent sightings in my own yard raises awareness that they are an ever present part of our natural surroundings.

Canebrake rattlesnake crossing a road in September
A change began about two weeks ago after the typical hot and sunny August weather rolled right into September. Locals were beginning to feel the heat if you listened to the chatter about extreme conditions coming in from dove fields and deer stands. Things were getting dry and the gnat population seemed to be surging, and then the rains came. Since then, cloudy weather has brought much more moderate temperatures and farmers began to see late crops green up rather than twist in the sun.
The snake sightings that have been reported since the summer weather broke is nothing new since it occurs each and every year. It’s just that since many snakes are nocturnal during the hot weather, they become a bit out of sight and out of mind. Then snakes begin to move during the day, and with each road crossing and every yard visitation they are spotted with greater frequency.

Outdoorsmen of the Lowcountry must acknowledge that poisonous snakes are also moving now, perhaps searching for a suitable den for winter. Practicing vigilance such as watching where one steps, and wearing snake boots are generally sound practices that can offer protection against any unpleasant experiences. These snakes are also a natural part of the ecosystem and we trust mother nature to keep them secretive and out of the way in most cases.

To view the entire article in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

To view past blog entries on other wildlife click on Bats or Horses or Wood Storks.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Field Notes and Photos - September 2014

This brilliant box turtle appeared on Sept. 7
A Monarach butterfly from Sept. 18
Fall migration seems to be picking up with recent arrivals of blue-winged teal to the Lowcountry. Migratory warblers like the American redstart have also been spotted recently. Butterflies have been joined by hordes of love bugs moving up from Florida. Reptiles seems to move around more in the fall when the weather cools for the first time, and I've seen more turtles crawling about than usual lately, and the snakes are slithering. It won't be too much longer until the color changes of leaves will be noticed all around the state. September 2014 started out very dry and quite hot but it will end up as a month with about 20 days where there was at least a trace of rain.

To view past Field Notes and Photos click on August 2014 or June 2014.

Yellow Jackets that I dispatched from a flowerpot

I saw a Snowman in September thanks to these mushrooms!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Southeast Coast Saltwater Paddling Trail

Kayak paddlers assemble for an afternoon on the water

Paddling has become a very popular way to enjoy the natural resources that really define coastal living. It doesn’t matter is you are piloting a canoe, kayak or a stand up board because the Southeast Coast Saltwater Paddling Trail (SECT) is set up to aid anyone who is up for the challenge of time on the water in a personal watercraft.
Established in April of 2013, SECT held its first public outing in Charleston, S.C. at the East Coast Paddlesports Festival, held at James Island County Park. It was announced that this SE paddling trail would run from Virginia Beach, Virginia all the way down to St. Mary’s Island in Georgia, just above the Florida line.

That’s a span of 800 miles of coastline that varies from the Outer Banks of North Carolina to the Grand Strand of South Carolina. Then it continues along the Beaufort Blueway of the Lowcountry and into the spartina marshes of Georgia. This Southeast Trail was inspired by the formation of the Florida Circumnavigational Paddling Trail that begins at the state line between Georgia and Florida.

More of the population is reportedly trending towards the coastal areas to live in the coming decades, with development possibly stressing the status quo of the natural world. But in the case of paddling the Southeast coast does have some elbow room, with wide rivers and vast harbors and sounds. It’s along these paddling trails where some of the real history of the South can be found and where the adventure of being in the outdoors can still come to life.

Paddling is non-consumptive for natural resources when compared with saltwater fishing for example. Paddling requires no fuel tank fill up either, which accounts for an increase in paddling popularity since the recent recession. Its up to the individual to be ready to go for a paddle and all they need is places like access points and camping sites to be identified.

The website for the SECT has downloadable maps that paddlers can access, plus a calendar of local events within the four states. The interactive map on the site allows one to zoom in to clearly see the paddling trail along its winding path. Those who are social media aware can join paddling clubs to learn more about where paddlers frequent, and related links can be found on the Plan Your Trip page of the SECT website at

To view this entire feature article click on All At Sea.

To view past blog entries about kayaking click Edisto River or Beaufort Bueways or Fishing.