Roseate spoonbills make their way into Lowcountry waters to feed in the shallows. (Photo from Sept. 20, 2022, issue)

Is it really 2023? 

Just so you know, I am one of those folks that has a hard time giving up the past. A perfect example of this happened in early 2022. My bank would call me weekly until around April saying I had put “2021” on checks I had written and could I stop by and correct them. 

Even my grade school report cards, which my parents so graciously held on to, include teacher comments like “Collins is likable but he has a hard time accepting what day it is. He is not exactly ‘slow’ but he’s also not very fast either.”

This past year is pretty much a blur. Talk about time flying by! For me, 2022 was like one of those cars going for a land speed record on the Bonneville Salt Flats. 

I think a lot of it had to do with the weather. If I remember correctly, it never really got cold and, for a fisherman like myself, it kept me guessing as to when this fish or that fish would show up. In hindsight, every one of them came early. 

Starting with shad, which usually show up in late February, they must have migrated up the rivers in early February because I simply missed them. 

Then there was the wahoo run, probably my all-time favorite fish to catch. They started chewing in early February and by March and April the bite is insane. There were more big wahoo caught around here this past year than at any other time in my life. 

Always a show when they chase down a trolled bait, without a doubt the best visual wahoo bite happened six years ago on-board Don McCarthy’s boat the Manatee Mac. It was an 84-pound monster that still gives me chills when I think about the way it took the bait. 

It was around 1p.m. and I had just put out a lure I had made and just after dropping it back, I tapped my friend Will “Catfish” Thompson on the shoulder and told him to check out my homemade. In the blink of an eye, that monster came straight out of the water a good 10 to 15 feet in the air and like a cat, pounced on the lure on the way down. 

It was spectacular! The wahoo fishing here during March and April is as good, if not better, than any other place on the planet. I can’t wait to see what 2023 has in store.

2022 was also a banner year for good friends. I feel so blessed to have friends that accept me for who I am and, if you read my columns with any regularity, that is asking a whole lot of someone. 

I am talking friends that would take the shirt off their back for me if asked. I have always cherished friendships more than about anything and during this past year I have held onto tried and true friends from all periods of my life, as well as building onto that stable with a handful of new friends. Even on my very worst days, a call from one of these friends can change my entire attitude from gloom to laughing so hard I can’t catch a breath. Now that is priceless.

Speaking of weather, we lucked out with hurricanes but, Lord have mercy, was it brutally hot. I was stupid to ride out hurricane Mathew in 2016 on Hilton Head Island, but does that really surprise you? Other than Hurricane David in 1979, in my 65 years here I have never once left for a storm. 

Even when I was 6 years old with four brothers and sisters, my folks would take us to the oceanfront William Hilton Inn to ride out hurricanes. Blame my arrogance on genetics. 

Even when there are mega lightning storms, I am that idiot that is outside watching the light show. 

Extreme weather intrigues me but I do have great respect for the power of Mother Nature. Any of you who spend a great deal of time out on the water, often many miles offshore, know that the ocean can take you in the blink of an eye. That’s where respect, and awareness comes in. I never, ever take the power of nature for granted.

I know many of you think I am a full-time employee of the Sun, but truth be known, I am a lowly freelance writer. I just like to write. 

With that said, what I am about to say does not reflect the opinion of the Bluffton Sun/Hilton Head Sun but is solely my opinion. 

I am extremely worried with the direction Beaufort County is taking regarding development, especially when it threatens my greatest love, the ocean. An avid supporter of the Waddell Mariculture Center and the Port Royal Foundation, I pray that more of you, especially those who are new to this area, get involved in some way to protect this incredibly beautiful, yet fragile, ecosystem. 

On topics from stormwater runoff to over-the-top development, only our unified voices can ensure preservation of the unique beauty we call the Lowcountry. 

May good health be with you all this new year we call 2023.    

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