Teleological Exercise, Floating Bait Holders and Redfish on a Salt-block

As time and work schedule allowed, my daily routine included a walk to a local South Georgia intercoastal community dock where I threw a cast-net for bait shrimp. A daily break at low tide took me away from my often mentally challenging albeit sedentary home-office desk job; it afforded me the opportunity to see the sun, feel the breeze and rather than engaging in non-teleological beating of the air such as jogging to nowhere, my daily aerobic catch of even just a few bait-shrimp added up over a few days to enable some fruitful kayak-fishing at week’s end with live bait. 

Redfish, speckled seatrout, black drum, whiting, and flounder are all readily enticed by live shrimp when the conditions are right. The only fish I desire to catch on the intercoastal waterway that seem less attracted to the live shrimp are sheepshead which prefer fiddler crabs jigged along barnacle-encrusted dock posts and other crusty coastal infrastructure. Sheepshead is always an excellent dinner catch, but they seem tricky to catch in the Georgia intercoastal rivers. I have actually caught some accidently in my cast-net when tossing near infrastructure for bait shrimp, not without risk of net damage as barnacles and oyster beds will mercilessly cut up and destroy a carelessly thrown cast net. 

Garfish and stingrays also tear up a cast-net; the former have a long row of teeth that entangle in the net and the latter have a stinger that is difficult to dislodge from the mesh without damage. I learned the hard way to avoid such risks as much as possible and just aim to catch shrimp; a veteran intercoastal net caster knows to avoid spots in the turbid waters where the river is recently disturbed by something apparently large. I learned the hard way to avoid such temptation and not be curious; it is most likely something that will destroy a net. Along with garfish and stingrays, large bonnethead sharks can also damage a cast-net with powerful sharp tail whipping action.

Even just a few days of modest exercise tossing for shrimp often adds up to a nice load; the challenge is keeping the bait alive throughout the week in anticipation of my eventual kayak fishing adventure at weeks end. If tide-times, storm-clouds and the barometer allow, a meatless Friday might be complemented with a fresh catch that can bring to mind the full and tearing nets of the reluctant net-tossing fisherman who declared himself unworthy of his Master; this thought I meditate upon to help justify enjoying such an excellent dinner on a Friday when it seems unlike anything resembling abstinence or fasting; it feels like cheating via a legalistic canonical loophole especially with the right wine pairing. A good rose’ with redfish, and sauvignon blanc compliments seatrout and flounder nicely.

One evening after dinner I walked down to the dock just prior to dark. The barometric and tide conditions were right to offer a few minutes of fishing before retiring for the night. I was disappointed to find that my floating baitholder had been raided and left hanging off the side of the dock just above the water. All the remaining shrimp left by the thief were dead – a rotting pink stink was the hallmark of the evening. The latch that holds the cover shut on my floating bait holder was only partially engaged. Some local kid had apparently hastily stolen some of my bait and then quickly and carelessly tossed the holder back in the general direction of the water without bothering to see where it landed; he left it hung up above the water dockside. I did not fish that evening, but instead hosed out the reeking mess and took my floating bait box home to dry it out. 

The homemade bait holder pictured works well for shrimp in the intercoastal Georgia tides. It is rough mix of scrap lumber, steel mesh and rubber from a tire-tube. The longer I leave it in the water the lower it sits. When I pull it out and dry it out, it sits higher on the water for the first couple days before the wood starts to get heavy again. It works very well through these stages. The river current flows though this homemade option unimpeded allowing the shrimp to live and even stay healthy unlike inside the ubiquitous floating plastic bait sarcophagi imported from China and often left abandoned at the dock by those who try fishing but are quickly bored by anything that does not beep and buzz. 

Fishing in the tidal rivers is not a passive activity. I have seen more than a few abandoned plastic bait buckets sporting full beards of sea growth. Occasionally a dysfunctional resident will actually let that happen to a boat. I recall one that got so heavily encrusted that its engine certainly could not start let alone plane-off the heavy mess and it was probably just slowly towed to the marina dragging its full crusty beard behind a disgusted Sea Tow captain’s laboring tug. 

I don’t use a fishing kayak on my end of week expeditions. Rather I use the tandem adapted for fishing that is pictured. It is long and narrow so I can slide it down the intercoastal dock ramps. It also cuts the water well even against the fast tidal flow common to the intercoastal rivers. Many fishing kayaks would be difficult to use as effectively in many parts of coastal Georgia; they are too heavy and too wide. My tandem Hobie, affectionately nicknamed the dinghy of death, is long and narrow and even when rigged for fishing, I can launch it alone through the often steep and narrow dock ramps and because of its effectiveness in allowing me access to parts of the river too shallow for even small skiffs, I often did quite well in my efforts to score a fresh dinner. The only drawback is a lack of stability; its narrowness makes it impossible to stand up for an effective fight and I have lost fish that required effort exceeding my precariously perched arthritic abilities in the sleek kayak.

I miss fishing the intercoastal waterways having moved inland to set up a family farm. In saner times one would prefer to retire to the coast from an inland farm rather than move from the coast to an inland farm. One of the reasons for the move is hidden in what you just read. Eight years ago, when we moved to the Georgia coast, it was rural. It quickly became suburban with cancerous growth and a less than desirable influx of people. The neighborhoods close to the ocean were significantly affected. We were prudently reluctant to risk facing a worldwide communist great reset on a three-quarter-acre lot surrounded by a “fully vaccinated and boosted” mix of freemasons, toy-oriented arrested-adolescents, nouveau riche, neocons and democrats – all the usual suspects found grabbling about a two-income bedroom “community” unhealthily subsisting on prepared and processed foods. We would not wait around to see them morph into zombies when all the poisons they consume and inject collide with the concentrated misinformation and radiation blasted into them via 5G. We have mostly escaped all that by going fully rural. My new neighbors do not have metabolisms that register as connection options on a Bluetooth search although many do sweat vegetable oil.

When we first moved to coastal Georgia from the People’s Republic of Massachusetts, we declared ourselves refugees. We were escaping the weather, the people, and the politics and welcomed our new rural coastal environs. When our accents betrayed our origins to suspicious ears, we would plead accident of birth and suggest there is a difference between refugee Yankees and damned Yankees. We have now been driven inland by similar forces to what initially drove us South. The rural inland community is genuine. We certainly had a few great neighbors on the coast, but unlike the intercoastal Savannah suburbs, there is little in farm country to attract any influx of undesirable pop-culture cucks – at least not prior to the zombie apocalypse when the starving cannibalistic hoards are forced to attempt migration for survival.

I definitely miss inshore tidal fishing. Inland freshwater pond, river, and lake fishing are anticlimactic by comparison. I have made one long but worthwhile fishing trip back to the coast on a day when the tides and conditions looked promising. The seatrout evaded us all day, but we did well with a catch of many schooling redfish, and we made it home in time with our fresh catch for a late dinner. We heated a large salt block in the oven and then put it onto the smoking charcoal grill. The mixture of infused salt and smoke made the fresh redfish filets most excellent. I paired it with chenin blanc.


Frank DeRienzo is a retired Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel. He holds a BA in Philosophy from Gordon College and an MBA from the University of Massachusetts and is a graduate of the US Army Defense Language Institute. He currently works with eLearning technology.

Frank DeRienzo

Frank DeRienzo

4 Responses

  1. James D. says:

    Mr. DeRienzo,

    I always enjoy your fishing posts. I spent last weekend on a frozen lake in northern PA. You might appreciate this tune. It makes me think of some of my younger days fishing for stripers and Tautaug near Block Island….

  2. Frank DeRienzo says:

    Hi James, Thanks for the kind words. I too recall the striped bass and tautaug off Rhode Island. In a prior Army life, I commanded a coastal base in Narragansett and dawned the scuba gear with speargun in hand when time allowed. Very much the saltwater novice at the time however, I never did well with the rocky coast, strong currents, often murky water. One frustrating day off was saved by my giving up on some fruitless fishing and instead I rented a small sailboat from the Navy base. The winds were right if the fishing was off. Newport Harbor is uniquely beautiful. It was a good choice.

  3. Michael Strenk says:

    Your description, Mr. DeRienzo, of how the Georgia coast has changed could easily have been written about where we are living on Long Island. We sometimes feel near desperation to get out of here and well inland, but can’t yet. We’ve developed our 1/4 acre property into a productive little homestead and take some comfort from knowing that almost no-0ne around here can recognize what food looks like out of the package and on the tree, won’t know when to pick it if they do and won’t like much of what we grow. Some of it is also gloriously thorny, like the gooseberries up front. It won’t stop them from burning us out though, out of pure malice, if for no other reason, so leave we must.

    I’m thinking on braving the Asiatic hordes at the dock this spring and taking up squid jigging. It looks like fun and with the scant availability of frozen calamari in the stores at present and the fact that our usual brand has started adding a couple of suspicious chemicals where they always got away with none before, it might allow us to stock up on what had been a fast-day staple for us pre-scamdemic. I could always use some as bait for stripers and fluke as well.

  4. Frank DeRienzo says:

    Hi Michael, I used to catch baby squid in my cast net. I have never had much luck with them but then I never really did much jigging. I did have success with redfish in the winter using small mud minnows (killfish or mummichog). I would catch them in a bait trap with cat-food; they are a great alternative to shrimp in the winter. The trick in the inter-coastal rivers here is to constantly move the trap to keep it at the ideal catch level in the raging tides.