My name is Paul Pancake; I started living on the coast of South Carolina when I was 18. This is when I became a freshman at Coastal Carolina University. Throughout that time, friends and I experienced fishing in waters 6 inches deep out to 200 fathoms and everywhere in between. There was a learning curve to fishing this area and the start was slow. What made our feet sink into the fishery was meeting the right people at the right time. There are not many people who start fishing with zero knowledge and perfect their craft. Fishermen seek help from those who have “been there done that” to better hone their skills. Every successful fisherman has had some outside influence to help guide them: father, mentor, friend, bait shop owner, online forum, or pestering the charter guys for information.
In the first few months of living at the beach I met what would become one of my closest friends and fishing partners, Matt E. Matt and I have been fortunate to fish all over the low country and offshore, chasing about every gamefish we thought worthy of catching. After Matt got his hands on a Maverick Micro, it changed the way we played the game. We always gauged this boat on “Fun Per Gallon”, the micro was incredibly economic, shallow drafting, and went places most shallow water technical skiffs wouldn’t go. It was a fantastic fishing platform and it had more than a few fish grace it's cooler, right in front of the console. There is one day that sticks out that completely changed our trajectory on fishing the lowcountry, when “the plan” comes together and keeps giving.
For a while the goal was to catch a two-man limit of speckled trout in South Carolina, ten fish per person, so twenty for the boat. We were obsessed with trout, they took some skill, finesse, and time logged on the water to get figured out. Matt was getting them dialed in by trying different areas and techniques before this day. I had a day off from school and running charters and we decided to fish, and fish hard. This day would take a small ember and turn it into a roaring fire by learning about these fish, and the fishery we have in our area. Being able to take a bag of plastics, a handful of jig heads and catch so many fish you look wild eyed at the end of the day is always something that we will look back on and remember fondly.
The day started out fishing an area that is known for trout and picking at enough fish to make us both sit and think, “Is today the day we do this, finally?”, so we got our game face on. The bite slowed down and we figured we will run and gun to see if we can find another pocket of fish a few miles from our first stop. We probed a creek with gulp baits in search of a puppy drum and anything else that decided it wanted to go for a dark cool ride in a well-insulated cooler. We picked at a drum or two, and then found another small pocket of trout. After a half a dozen or so trout later the bite began to shut down. So with around a ¾ limit of trout in the box and a pair of drum we were getting late in the day and figured we had a long run back to the ramp. The tide was starting to get right at one of the spots we had checked earlier so we decided to make a stop on the way home and it was nothing short of incredible.
The light was starting to turn the marsh that fantastic golden color that happens in the evening in the lowcountry. The water looked perfect and within the first few casts we had the fish located. "It was on like donkey kong" would be an understatement; this was wide open, every cast, jaw dropping fishing. Every cast brought forth trout in the 2-4 lb range. The action was so fast that we were slinging these fish and throwing them in the bottom of the boat until we finished our limit. A milestone was achieved and then doubled with some bonus fish. We left the fish biting, the muddy water roiling at what we had just done. We felt accomplished and had yet to realize the knowledge we had gained. We decided that running home in the dark wasn’t nearly as fun as riding home with a little light to see so we packed our fish on ice. With the fish secure we grabbed a couple Miller Lites, and gave cheers and thanks with fish slimed hands for the run back to the ramp with the dim glow of running lights on reflecting off the water.
This day was one of my most cherished memories and I believe the same for Matt. We felt like Kings of the Castle that day. It set a personal benchmark for us and for the standard we held ourselves too. Pushing yourself with fishing can be challenging but so rewarding. You meet some of the most incredible people out on the water, and if your lucky develop lifelong friends that become family. I will forever be grateful for the experiences I have had and the people I have met. So thank you Matt, thank you to the Micro affectionately known as Chicken Nugget, and thanks to everyone who has had influenced on my fishing career.
Until next time.
-Capt. Paul Pancake