One can't traverse the Charleston area without encountering water. Even a quick drive from neighborhood to neighborhood usually involves crossing over a creek, river, or inlet of some kind, and the harbor and ocean always loom nearby. It's easy to take the grand beauty of the local marshes and waterways for granted.
Of all the popular water-related sports and activities, fishing may stand as the most conspicuous and far-reaching. In many cases, it's among the most genuine of Charlestonian traditions. I almost forgot how enjoyable embarking on a morning or afternoon fishing trip can be.
I fondly remember my early fishing experiences as a young kid, casting from a 14-foot boat with my dad and granddad in the creeks behind Sullivan's Island and the Isle of Palms, just off the Intracoastal Waterway. We always used shrimp for bait, either purchased fresh at the old Simons Seafood (R.I.P.) on the way to the boat landing or scooped in cast-nets straight from the creeks. The slow, steady ritual of baiting, casting, and waiting for a nibble or strike relaxed everybody.
In recent years, with no immediate access to a motor boat, I've moved toward an even more laid-back experience. As a low-key guy with a not-so-fat wallet, I prefer a more easy-going, inexpensive, low-impact approach to fishing the saltwater around here — one that involves very light tackle, low-pressure situations, no boat worries, and no special license from the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.
Getting out on a boat is always a blast. Honestly, though, when it comes to fishing, I'd rather spend an afternoon throwing a line into the surf from the beach or dropping one into a creek from a small dock to buzzing around on a gas-powered motorboat.
In the spring and summer seasons of 2006 and '07, getting out of the house and into the sun and breeze for a few hours with my two fishing rods in hand was a regular weekly ritual, but I got off track over the last two years, too easily distracted by band gigs, get-togethers, and lousy TV shows. It took just a few quick "reminder" trips to the nearest beach and out to my favorite public pier to get back into fishing. I've reclaimed a favorite fishing hole, too: the Old Pitt Street Bridge in the Pickett Bridge Recreation Area at Cove Inlet.
Located at the east end of Mt. Pleasant's Old Village, alongside Charleston harbor and across the Intracoastal Waterway from the western tip of Sullivan's Island, this pier was originally used as a trolley trestle. It connected Mt. Pleasant to Sullivan's Island in the late 1920s. It closed when the Ben Sawyer Bridge opened in 1945. Nowadays, it serves as a scenic destination for fishermen, birdwatchers, walkers, and joggers of all ages.
As a resident of Old Mt. Pleasant, the convenient accessibility of the Old Pitt Street Bridge and the creeks running beneath it is alluring. A fishing trip to this place is easy. Plus, there's more to it than just the bait, tackle, and fish.
My most recent outing occurred on a windy afternoon. I was at the far end of the pier at low tide, and the fish weren't biting, but the blue crabs sure seemed glad to steal my bait. I reeled in only one little croaker. (I unhooked him and released him back into the inlet.) Despite the small catch, I actually caught a lot.
I watched several brown pelicans flapping around on the oyster beds, splashing across the inlet, and eventually gliding in formation overhead. I heard the wind whistling through the marsh reeds and the palmetto fronds. I spotted two kayakers as they carefully paddled past the last few craggy bridge pilings. I saw two huge container ships chug by the jetty toward the ports. I noticed the rustle of fiddler crabs scurrying in the pluff mud. I cheerfully hailed several happy-looking couples as they walked their dogs.
A worthwhile water encounter for very little expense — that's the kind of fishing I look forward to all season.