At a holiday get-together recently, a 14-year-old boy who told me that he loves to fish, but, because his dad isn’t much of a fisherman, he had no place to go wet a line. Something about that conversation struck a deep chord in me because when I was his age fishing was all I could think about. 

Luckily, I had a dad who loved to fish. Even so, because my dad was working, there were a lot of days I was on my own – just me and my old beat-up Schwinn bicycle. 

As if it were meant to be, the day after my chat with the boy, I decided to take my 6-year-old grandson, Benjamin, lagoon fishing. Unlike so many kids around his age that I have mentored over the years, Ben is a born natural, always wanting to do everything himself, from baiting his hook to fighting redfish nearly as long as he is tall. 

Maybe some of you look at lagoon fishing as cheating, but when a 6-year-old boy hooks into a 4-foot-long redfish, it pretty much seals the deal that he will grow up with a deep love of fishing. 

Local lagoons are home to a variety of fish. Some hold 14-pound largemouth bass or 5-pound crappie while others, more brackish, have fish that are so big they could eat a small child. 

I kid you not, because I have hooked and landed redfish that are more than 50 inches in length, black drum more than 45 pounds, tarpon pushing 40 pounds and trout in the 8- to 11-pound range.

 Most always I practice catch and release when lagoon fishing so that maybe, just maybe, some kid from Ohio will latch into one of these bruisers and go home with a story and pictures that might inspire him to fish the rest of his days. 

Thankfully I no longer have to ride that old Schwinn bike loaded down with rods and buckets of water to go lagoon fishing, but every so often I get the itch to head back to my roots. When my daughter’s family moved here from Virginia, Ben became my excuse to give lagoon fishing another go. 

The plan recently was to get some big live shrimp, a few finger mullet and, using nothing but ultralight spinning tackle, head to some of my tried and true lagoons that have given me an almost fanatical love for angling. You would think since I have done this type of fishing since I was knee high to a grasshopper that the excitement of once again going lagooning would be somewhat diminished, but I was stoked. You never know what you might encounter in these amazing ecosystems. 

The conditions were perfect. It was one of those unseasonably warm days, there was no wind, and I had lucked into some shrimp that were the size of freshwater prawns. After a short drive, we reached our destination. No sooner had we begun fishing than something big burst through a school of mullet that were basking on the surface within casting distance. 

Looking at the commotion through my polarized sunglasses, there they were – redfish, and lots of them. These weren’t small redfish either. I don’t think there was a fish in that group that was less than 23 inches long. It was like watching a fishing show, as the tightly grouped school of mullet swam in lazy circles over a white sand bottom and every so often, six or eight monster reds would rise from the depths and scatter the mullet. 

Using an ultralight spinning outfit, I hooked one of the shrimp through its horn, handed the rod to Ben and told him to wait. Patience is by far the hardest thing to teach young kids but, by gum, he held off for a good five minutes before this big redfish edged toward the mullet. 

Ben made a near-perfect pitch, with his shrimp landing about 4 feet in front of the redfish. That shrimp didn’t last three seconds when that brute exploded on it. 

It’s one thing to catch reds that you don’t see but when you pitch to one that is right there in front of you, it is a totally different experience. I felt like Captain Ahab and the great white whale as the fish screamed across the lagoon with powerful sweeps of his tail. After 10 minutes and numerous heart-stopping moments when the fish headed for any and all obstructions, Ben got him within netting distance and with one swift scoop, he was ours. 

With a picture taken and a kiss on the nose, Ben released him for the next person to battle. Was I proud? It was fantastic!

In all, Ben and I caught about 10 redfish, three flounder and a couple of really nice black drum. Other than instructing him to keep the rod tip high and not to reel when the fish was taking line, he proved to be a natural, all while sight casting.

All I could think was, how could anybody not thoroughly enjoy this type of fishing? Lagoon fishing is a blast, and you never know what you will hook into. 

Since that day it doesn’t take much convincing to get both Ben and his 9-year-old sister, Alice, to accompany me lagoon fishing. 

One thing is for sure, if you are lucky enough to have kids that love the outdoors, try lagooning. Whether you are 6 or 60, one successful fishing outing in any of the hundreds of brackish bodies of water around here, and I promise you’ll never look at a lagoon the same again!   

Collins Doughtie, a 60-year resident of the Lowcountry, is a sportsman, graphic artist, and lover of nature.