As always, in late February and March the fishing is best near offshore reefs where the sheepshead congregate.
Sheepshead are members of the snapper family and are highly desirable table fare. But they are quite a challenge to catch —if you are skilled enough or lucky enough to even set the hook — and sheeps put up quite a fight. Armed with human-like teeth, sheepshead easily crush the bait of choice (fiddler crabs), sucking the essence right off the hook, and leaving you with nothing but crab husk before you even know what hit you.
“I’d love to join a trip one of these days,” said Herb Rennard, a buddy of mine from way back. Herb had made a living catching fish around the world, running longline boats chasing swordfish and tuna in the exotic ports of the Caribbean, South America and New Zealand, to name just a few. But the pull of the Lowcountry was strong, and he came back to spend his golden years fishing our local waters. Running a classic boat for Palmetto Hall, Herb’s wealth of knowledge and easy-going personality ensured that he was well-known and well-liked throughout the Coastal Empire.
“I’ve got a trip planned in the next few days and you are more than welcome to come, Herb,” I said. “All right,” he said with a grin. “Count me in.”
Loaded with a bucket of fiddlers and high expectations, we skimmed across a flat ocean to a nearby reef. The depth finder lit up immediately, indicating that fish were definitely hanging around the structure. With the anchor lock set on the trolling motor, we eagerly dropped our fiddlers to the bottom, and were swiftly rewarded with several solid hookups. But something wasn’t quite right. Instead of the trademark back and forth vertical battle that is the mark of the sheepshead, these fish were making long runs, pushing the limits of the light tackle we were using.
We finally got one of the fish out of the water and onto the boat.
We were astonished to see that it was a 25-lb. black drum! With multiple hookups set, the action continued non-stop for another hour. We boated more than twenty jumbo black drum (all over 27 inches). We even ended up chasing a monster that Capt. Bryan Benson caught, and that one was pushing 60 pounds!
It was a day for the books, and I’m so thankful that Herb was there for it. Cancer has taken him from our fishing community way too early, and he will be sorely missed. Rest in peace, Capt. Herb Rennard. I know the wind is at your back and smooth seas are ahead.
Article and photo by Captain Miles Altman, Bay Runner Fishing Charters
Capt. Miles Altman of Bayrunner Fishing Charters has more than 42 years of experience fishing. Don’t miss the Finatic boat, which features a special 3-hour shark/dolphin eco-tour trip. Contact Miles at (843) 290-6955 to book an unforgettable inshore or offshore charter fishing trip, departing from Shelter Cove Marina.