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Fishing report: Big jacks to be had; memories of an old Cornet
Capt. Judy fishing

Capt. Garrett Ross of Miss Judy Charters was nice enough to share his secret weapon for catching jack crevalle – a Sebile 8- to 10-inch surface pulling plug.

Once you have located a school of surface-holding jacks, I suggest you give it a few seconds so that you can see exactly their heading. The larger jacks are known for schooling in pods of 20-plus and don’t look that big on the surface because all you are really looking at is their dorsal fin. After a few times of getting a solid look, you will quickly be able to ascertain the size of jacks you are dealing with.

Smaller jacks are not going to hit an 8- to 10-inch plug. It is basically going to scare them off.

So always have a backup plan with other plugs on hand. Please try to match the hatch. What does this mean? The lure/ plug used must be able to fit inside the fish that you are targeting. If not, be prepared to quickly downsize.

Sound fishing

Well, I am not going lie to you about this fishing arena – the water is the hot and the fish’s reaction is almost like that of us fishermen, which is not moving or eating too much in all of this heat.

However, I would still go fishing in the sound if you get the chance.

We did catch whiting, summer trout, blue fish, croaker, yellow tail, spot, sharks of all kinds and numerous size stingrays.

No matter whether you keep them or not they are darn fun to catch on light tackle. The best bait is going to be frozen or fresh shrimp cut in small pieces laced onto rigs with small hooks. I prefer using a Carolina style rig, because when fishing on the bottom it’s where the fish are.

Believe It or Not:

In the 1980s I allegedly did a few burials at sea. I once traveled at least 75 miles from the Wassaw sea buoy and once arriving at 1,000-plus depth I would make ready. The Miss Judy Too from that time didn’t have the fuel capacity needed to make that long run, so I had to bring along extra 5-gallon tanks.

Looking at an old photo recently, I counted six 5-gallons tanks, which equates to a whole 30 gallons of extra fuel.

What did this do for me?

It allowed me an extra 3.5 hours of running at 15 knots!

1965 Cornet

As I passed the Wassaw sea buoy a couple days ago, for some reason I got to thinking about my first couple of charters. Now when I say the first couple of charters, I am talking about the year of 1965 when I was about 14 years old. My first paying charter came together as a mistake made by my father. On this particular day, I was supposed to be his striker for the day. A striker is the old time name for the captain’s first mate!

Anyhow, when all of the customers arrived, there was far too many.

They had either not listened to my father or maybe my father had become just plain confused – or my standard line of “drinking might have been involved” might just apply in this case. Anyway they had too many people and we had not enough boats to take them.

It was about to be one of those kind of situations where a customer gets mad and shows their true colors. Well, my father then said, “My daughter has her boat tied outside of mine and she would be happy to take you!” As I listened to what my father was saying, I felt I was standing way back and not where I was for sure!

So I ended up taking four people with me on this fish day. The boat that I was supposedly the captain of was my father’s just-refurbished Coronet convertible. I had just brought it from our dock on Turner’s Creek to Capt. Walsh’s dock, which is where Daddy kept his charter boat the Miss Jerry. Capt. Walsh’s dock was located at the mouth of the Lazaretto Creek.

Daddy’s new boat – new to him at least – was newly painted, the engine had just been replaced, and it sounded great. The fact of the matter is all of my father’s boats sounded beefy and great. Most people had muscle cars, but my father had muscle boats.

What is a muscle boat where my father is concerned? The engine installed is always bigger than needed. Back in the day, the boat manufacture always suggested the correct horsepower to use. In my father’s newly fitted Cornet, it meant as long as the engine fit Daddy could use it. So if the engine fit, it was bolted down and hooked up.

My father’s boat was what was better known then as an inboard/ outboard powered boat.Without getting too technical, it meant a V8 “souped up” engine with an inboard engine and an outboard drive hanging in the water.

For those that are scratching their heads, this is basically an outboard engine cut in half. The engine part is attached to the hull’s stringers, and hooked to the engine is the outdrive that hangs in the water and spins the propeller.

Believe me, it sounded like a pretty cool set up!

However, this stupid invention was just not such a great idea. The part hanging out the stern of the boat was always breaking, leaking oil out and letting saltwater in. A true mechanic’s nightmare for sure.

It was so bad that my father had an extra outdrive on hand all of the time. He could change one out in no time. Why? That is how many times he had to do this. Most people would pull their boat out of the water to change an outdrive.

Not my father. He would take the boat to the next door neighbor’s white oyster bed bluff.

He’d stand in the water, drop tools, cuss, and then drop more tools. At the age of 14, I was the retrieval person. Sometime he would drop the wench and sometimes he would throw it!

However, on this particular fish day, the old but newly refurbished Coronet 1965 was styling for sure. Heck, when you cranked it up it kind of sounded like a Harley: potato, potato, potato!

After my father handed me the necessary tackle, which would have been about six rod/reel combos rigged and ready, bait and some extra hooks etc., I was ready to go.

I was excited to go, too. And never once did I think anything about navigation going or coming or basically any of things that I think about before I leave the dock now!

As we pushed off the dock, it was my job to fall in right behind my father’s boat. And here’s the thing, I could have passed him at any time.

However, to be honest, I did not know how to cross the Savannah shipping channel, I didn’t understand the buoys, and I certainly didn’t exactly know where those darn ships were headed.

It seemed to be so easy when I was at the helm of Daddy’s boat. His explanation was simple, with him telling me to take a heading to here and then take a heading to there.

Well, my first fishing trip went very well. I followed Daddy to the Black Fish Banks buoy and was on my own from there.

Yep, I could catch plenty of fish for sure. Catching fish during this time was never a problem for me.

However, navigating in what I called uncharted areas for me certainly was.

And then it happened – I had followed my father to the Black Fish Banks buoy and all was well. I started getting my tackle situated and had started explaining my fishing plan. I looked up and saw that my party was not doing so well.

The fact of the matter was of the four, two were hanging over the side and the two others were very green. So soon I would have a total of four people hanging and cascading over the side. It was not a pretty sight for sure, but what the heck, I just started fishing. At least I could catch them some fish.

One of my customers, I will say the one in charge – and also the greenest – said, “Take us home!” Well, now this is something that never had happened before. No one had ever asked me to take them home early.

So far all of my fishing parties had departed and returned at the same time as my father. It was just the way it was. But now this sick person that was in charge was asking for me to take them home.

So basically all I could say was OK.

I knew I had best tell my father, and after taking a strong look I could see that Daddy was way over the other side of the banks. So I turned on my VHF marine radio, which definitely had to warm up before I could use it to transmit.

While the old radio’s tubes were in the warming mode as my father and I had pre-planned I ran a white rag up the outrigger. As soon as my father recognized the white rag waving in the wind, he too would then turn his radio on. Since I was the first to raise the white rag, I was to wait until he called me on the radio.

Sure enough, about 10 minutes later I heard my father’s scratchy transmission on the radio. I picked up the mic answered “This is the Miss Judy!” I then proceeded to tell him that I was headed back to the dock. To my surprise, my father showed no emotion, told me to have a safe trip, and he would see me back at the dock. And that, my friend, was the greatest thing he could have done.

The heading home was a straight up 270 degrees, which I didn’t even have to think about. So I brought the Coronet about to said heading and gave her some gas. This boat would easily do 45 or 50 knots, but I thought a speed of 25 knots would be perfect for this situation. After all, my four so very green passengers weren’t looking so good.

It seemed that some of the green color started to disappear as soon as we had about 10 minutes into our run back to the dock. Heck, I had almost forgotten that I really didn’t understand this buoy configuration in the shipping channel. As I approached the critical crossing area, as luck would have it, a large ship was crossing about the same time that I was.

So I just set back, slowed her down a bit and basically watched the ship as it passed right in front of me. As soon as the ship passed, I pushed forward into the ship’s trail and it was at that time my depth finder made a chirp and I noticed the depth of the water. And then it dawned on me, at least for the most part, how to cross the shipping channel.

Back then I was not so concerned about the situation! Why? At 14 I didn’t have enough experience to know much, less care.

And just like that 54 years has flown by. But I can still remember my first crossing of the Savannah River behind this ship as if it were only yesterday. The fact of matter is, I am reliving the first crossing without a bit of fear right now.

Thanks for reading!

Capt. Judy Helmey can be reached at 912-897-4921 and www.missjudycharters. com.

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