A New Area to FishI fished in North Carolina with a lifelong, good friend, Sam Burgin. We fished from his customized, twenty-four foot Sea Ark aluminum boat in a very special stretch of the Pee Dee River. Many of you know that this river is famous for almost being the river named in Stephen Foster’s Suwannee River, because it sounded better with the lyrics. Sam knows it better as home to monster freshwater fish.
The Pee Dee runs from North Carolina down through South Carolina and out to the Atlantic, generating electricity along the way at numerous dams. Water flow in the river is carefully controlled both day and night, making it either a full bank river with sometimes heavy current to a very still, very shallow home to big rocks.
Sam has been fishing this area for quite a while. He made it his business to learn one stretch of the river like the back of his hand, and then to learn to catch the fish – big fish – that inhabit this very special place.
River ConditionsIn low water conditions, the area he fishes is only accessible from one private boat ramp. Rapids and rocky shoals to the north and south of this stretch prevent most other boats from navigating there. The whole stretch runs maybe 1500 yards from shoal to shoal at an average depth of two feet in most places.
But, when the water is moving and the dam is generating, the river moves up five to six feet on the banks, covering almost all the rocks, and allowing Sam to move about to his favorite spots.
Sam has patterned this area, and keeps detailed records of the fish he catches – almost all of them released to fight again. He knows the water depth, where the big boulders are under the surface, and most importantly where the big fish can be caught.
Did I say big fish?He has caught ten fish over forty-five pounds this year alone. On any given trip of a few hours, he averages three fish. Most are in the eighteen to twenty-two pound range. Only five fish this year have been under ten pounds, and his biggest is well over sixty. He is convinced that he has hooked and lost much bigger fish, perhaps as big as ninety pounds. He is also convinced that a record fish lives in this area.
The fish?Catfish, big catfish. While several species of catfish are living there, he catches American blue catfish perhaps more than any other species. On the trip I fished, we caught two, one a thirty-two pounder on a jug, and one a twenty-two pounder on a rod and reel.
So what does all this have to do with the saltwater fishing site? Plenty if you want to be a more successful angler.
Sam's StrategySam patterned the fish in a relatively small body of water. He studied their habits, Kept track of their movements, and read everything he could get his hands on about both the body of water and the fish. Being retired has helped a lot, but he has fished multiple days every week for over two years in this same location, never moving more than a few hundred yards up or down stream. He kept records on his catch, the water conditions, weather conditions, and time of day – or night.
He didn’t start off catching monster fish right away. It took time and patience to learn how, when, and where to fish.
Know Your Home TurfAll of us who fish a local body of water can learn from Sam. Perhaps it’s a bay or estuary system. May it’s a sound, a river, or a shoreline. Whatever it is and wherever it is, it can produce fish for you if you take the time and effort to learn.
Pattern the FishKnow when they move. Learn the tide movements in the area and keep track of which tide stage the bite occurs. Open a few fish up when you keep them and find out what they have been feeding on.
Keep a LogProbably the most important thing you can do is to keep a log. It can be anything from commercially available software to a simple handwritten log book. Whatever you choose, make sure you capture all the events that surrounded your fishing trip that day. I knew a charter captain who friends say fished one area every single day, rain or shine, for two full years before ever taking a paying party on the water. He stayed booked for months in advance, even in foul weather – and it was because he caught fish. He knew when and where they would be and what they would eat under almost every condition.
Someone will almost surely want to know the exact location that Sam fishes. Suffice it to say, I can only tell you that he is on the Pee Dee River. After all, I want to fish with him again one day!