A special day of kayak fishing in the Georgetown salt marsh
The drive through Murrells Inlet to Pawleys Island was special on this balmy mid-December morning.
Sunrise was well over an hour away, but the temperature had barely dropped below 60 degrees overnight, leaving patches of fog and mist along the US 17 Business across the creek, then Litchfield Beach and to Pawleys Island. Cars were few in number, but within a week of Christmas Day the red, green and blue lights were plentiful, enhanced with their mystical glow by the hazy conditions.
With the speakers smoothly playing Sirius XM’s holiday traditions, underscored by Nat King Cole’s Christmas song, the mood was festive on the drive south.
The opportunity was to meet Rob Birchmeier for a kayak fishing trip in the vast salt marsh area south of Georgetown and the goal was to cast just after sunrise.
Birchmeier, owner / operator of the Pawleys Island Beach to Creek Guide Service, is a prolific kayak angler who specializes in fishing trips to salt marshes and freshwater areas, as well as fishing trips. surfing.
The sun had just risen on the horizon on the east side of the Intracoastal Waterway when Birchmeier and I started pedaling away from a Charleston County ramp in his two Hobie Mirage kayaks.
No engine, just labor, and the only sounds were from sea birds and the lapping of water at the bottom of kayaks, in a largely underdeveloped area teeming with oyster pots and cordgrass along the banks.
The fog was still in and visibility limited, so we were attentive to the sound of motor boats, with our whistles close at hand. We, of course, wore automatic inflatable life jackets from start to finish of the trip.
After 20 minutes of pedaling, we stopped along a spartan bank with a few areas of shells, and the tide was approaching high. We started to throw and retrieve soft plastic larvae on jig heads and on his third throw Birchmeier had caught and released a spotted siege trout just the minimum size of 14 inches for our main target species.
Over the next 45 minutes, we worked along the shore, heading to and within 10 meters of the shore and collecting the larvae above the drop off. The bite was consistent with the 14-16 inch trout and we hit double digits before Birchmeier was ready to move on to the next point in search of bigger fish.
After crossing the waterway and ascending the bank for 10 minutes, Birchmeier hit the jackpot as the tide rose and began to fall. Over the next three hours, we worked a half-mile area centered around a drain, sinking mostly parallel to the bank in 3 to 6 feet of water. Bigger trout were in the mix and we consistently landed fish ranging from 16 to 22 inches.
In recognition of Release Over 20 ”, a popular initiative in South Carolina promoted by Eye Strike Fishing, we were sure to release the biggest trout we have ever caught.
We also found a school of rockfish along the nearby bank, and we captured and released three in the 15-18 inch range.
During this time the weather turned beautiful as the fog cleared, the temperature rose in the 1960s with partly cloudy skies as a moderate southwest breeze settled in.
As the tide receded, Birchmeier decided to discover a winding cove off the waterway, largely inaccessible by boat at low tide but no problem by kayak. The cove was peaceful except for the splash of red mullet with no other boats or people, only birds and fish. Working in the deep pockets adjacent to the shallow oyster traps, the larvae produced three more rockfish and one trout.
At the bottom, after about six hours on the water, we called it a day and cycled to the boat launch.
The impressive population of lowland spotted sea trout had been fully exposed, as we ended up catching and releasing mostly dozens of trout, as well as half a dozen rockfish.
We caught just over a dozen trout, which resulted in, as Birchmeier likes to say, some tasty fillets. With the yaks attached to Birchmeier’s tandem trailer, the temperature had climbed until the mid-1970s when returning in the mid-afternoon through Georgetown County. Not bad for the third week of December.
Thinking of such a great day, there is much to be thankful for here on the coast of South Carolina this holiday season and throughout the year. Merry Christmas and a blessed year 2022.
* For more information on the Pawleys Island Beach to Creek Guide Service, visit https://pawleysislandbeachtocreek.com/. For more information on the Release Over 20 “initiative, visit https://eyestrikefishing.com/releaseover20/.
This story was originally published December 24, 2021 at 10:00 a.m.