I had my doubts as we pulled away from the dock and into the arctic chill. Not really arctic, but cold as it can be in South Carolina in March. Weeks before, when Mitch Strobl and Tammy Sapp of Kalkomey invited me to striper fish on Lake Murray, I accepted without hesitation. But that was then…
In the early morning dawn of a Saturday I shook the dust off my long johns, the particles hovering in the lamplight beside my bed. It was long past deer season, duck season, and cold season, supposedly. I zipped up my Filson jacket, buttoned the flap, put on my hat and stepped out into the frigid air.
I picked up my good friend Elizabeth on the way out of town. She too was bundled in winter clothing, a speck of apprehension in her voice.
We met up with Mitch, Tammy, and her husband, Wes, at Dreher Dam on Lake Murray. On the dock we stood waiting, the sun rising, but not the temperature.
At last our boat arrived. Captain Mike Glover warmly greeted us as we loaded our gear (mainly snacks, he provides all tackle and bait) onto the boat.
“Hope everybody brought gloves and a hood,” he said chuckling. “Gonna turn on the air conditioning for the ride out. It’ll be a good ten minutes.”
We stood with our backs to the wind. Elizabeth and I talked about warmer times and the summer to come.
Finally, the hum of the engine fell to a murmur as we idled into hole number one.
“Now, I’m about to ask you to do something that’s going to make you think I’m crazy,” Captain Mike said, the corners of his mouth turned up into a grin and his eyes dancing across our faces.
“I’m going to need someone to stand at the back of the boat and drum away with this stick,” he said, producing a long club with rubber stoppers at each end. “These fish were raised in a hatchery, you see? So when they hear the thumpin’, they know it’s feedin’ time.”
With the lines in the water, six total, I began drumming. My muscles loosened and the day didn’t feel quite so cold anymore. Fish had appeared on the depthfinder in droves–some baitfish and some stripers–when one of the poles came alive, the tip dipping into the water. Tammy was closest and it wasn’t long before we had the first one in the cooler.
Throughout the day we caught several more in spite of the constant shivering. Captain Mike kept us informed, entertained, and laughing whether the fish were biting or not. He even went so far as to implore a fisherman’s superstition on us when he found out that Tammy had bananas on board.
“May I see those?” Captain Mike asked kindly.
Tammy handed over the bananas. Actually, it was more like a double play exchange between a shortstop and second baseman, the Captain’s sidearm flawless as he flung them overboard. With a splash they landed in the water before Tammy could protest.
“Bad luck to have those on board, you know,” Captain Mike said to the somewhat stunned audience. But with a quick wit and a cautious joke, he wiped the tension out of the boat and we were back to merry times.
“Kids these days,” he began. “They just don’t respect their elders. You know, I say when I was young I was fightin’ wars. All kids today have to worry about is fighting gluten!”
At 4:30 PM we headed back to the dock. A falling temperature hadn’t helped the afternoon’s catch much, but the cooler held enough fish for us to eat well for a few days. To be honest, we exceeded my expectations when Tammy put that first one in the boat earlier that morning.
I haven’t been on too many guided trips, but I’d put Captain Mike at the top of my short list. In fact, I plan on booking with him again–just as soon as the mercury is in the 80-90 degree range.
For more information, contact Captain Mike at (803) 609-0066 or visit www.stripermike.net. A fisherman on his boat can do everything or nothing. He will rig your rod, bait your hook and even put it in the water if that’s your wish. Or, if you prefer, you are allowed to do everything – he’s not one of those pesky guides more concerned with his equipment than his clients.
Images by Mitch Strobl