Wednesday, December 23, 2015

50" Striper and the Curse of the Slim Jim

We got off the exit and decided to grab a quick bite to eat along with some drinks for the upcoming paddle.  Along with the normal pregame snackage, Jeff opted to grab a Slim Jim as well.  During the short rest of the way to the launch I noticed that the wrapper was giving him a hard time; not allowing him to snap into that questionable jerky deliciousness.  He flipped it over to try the other end, but it still would not open.  The proverbial struggle was quite real.  So much so, he thought maybe the universe was telling him that it was not meant to be.  "Dude, it has to be a sign of bad juju".  We chuckled and discussed some of the other foods that created undesirable reactions on the water, included the infamous rumble-gut of 2010 where Justin had to paddle back to shore in a hurry and came back missing both sleeves.  Mid way into theories about good luck food and bad luck food, he finally got it open.  He shrugged his shoulders and it was down the hatch by the time we pulled up to the ramp. 

35"er from 10 days ago
10 days earlier I had fairly good luck with mid thirty inch stripers, but reports from earlier this week showed poor results at the same spot.  However, two nights of colder temps after an unusually warm spell had me thinking my luck could be different. 

I was right.  My eels found their way into striper mouths fairly quickly and at a good pace.  For rigging info, click here.  Both the eel on the free line as well as the one on bottom were getting hits from upper 20 inchers to mid 30 inchers.  They were entertaining and all, but when I hooked into one that had very wide headshakes and didn't come up so easily, I got ready for the imminent sleigh ride.  About 50 yards later, as I'm trying to grab the leader, my freeline rod that was in the flush-mount behind me gets a zip-zip then starts peeling line out.  With leader in hand and mid 40" beast next to my gunwale, thrashing and spraying water all over, I loosened the drag on the other reel.  I reached and tried to grab the lower lip 2 or 3 times but then the big striper dug it's head under the surface and followed up with a few strong kicks.  I should have let the leader go at that moment but my nerves and anxiety from the other fish still hooked up got the better of me.  I tried to force the big one to turn around and popped the 50lb flouro leader right at the hook.  I didn't turn into Hurricane Lee, but as you can imagine, there was a string of expletives before grabbing the other rod.  It came up pretty quick and measured around 32"-33" like many of the ones earlier.  And far, far smaller than the one I just lost.  

Good thing was, it was Saturday night, there was plenty of time, and I came to get down.  Continuing to find and mark fish on the Humminbird, my bottom rod tip would bounce shortly after my screen lit up.  I set the hook, smile, fight, measure, release, repeat.  As the current slowed down, my freeline rod with a fairly small eel started zipping out.  I slam set the hook and knew immediately, this was a good size fish.  While holding on for the impending ride, I reeled in the bottom rod with the other hand.  And the ride came.  And it was awesome.  I took my time, landed it without incident, and stretched it out on my deck.  Jeff helped measure it 3 or 4 times just to make sure it was accurate.  To my delight, the tip of the tail went a little passed the 50" mark.

Released.  Big photo credit thanks to Jeff Lockhart.

Afterwards, I got into a few more lower 30" fish before my feet couldn't stand the cold anymore.  By the time we got back, my car thermometer read 29 degrees.  I ended the night with 25-30 hits, landed 15 fish, had 2 doubles, and a new personal best striper.  Poor Jeff had to listen to my clicker all night and unfortunately only had a handful of hits without any hook ups.  

We were both in utter disbelief at the contrast in results since we used the same rigs and fished the same area.  

As silly as it seems, Slim Jims now keep the notorious banana company on our list of fish retardants.   

I hope you all have a great holiday.  
Stay safe.  
Wear your PFD.  
Layoff the Slim Jims.
And go catch some big ones!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Dinner Time

A temporary leave from the office chair shackles was granted for a rare Tuesday and the boss lady kindly approved my plan for stripers and togs.  Monday night dinner time with the kiddos was quickly followed by a hasty packing of appropriate gear and a forecast-double-check.

First stop was at a spot I used to fish all the time.  I was all smiles even though the schoolie stripers weren't there in numbers like they used to be.  Over a couple of hours, I plucked 6 off the light line and kept two at 23" and 22".  

Phase one, complete.

The next morning, in search of tautog, I launched at the CBBT before the sun was over the horizon.  Tex had the same idea and met me out on the water.  With the full moon being a day away, the current was brutal.  We started off with a bunch in the 15"-16" range but eventually we got what we were after. 

Tex's two biggest went 20" each.

Chunks of blue crab got it done for us but I'm sure it'll be hard to find them soon.

My craving for that hard thumping signature tog fight got a momentary fix.  I ended the day with about a dozen togs with the two biggest at 22" and 19".

Phase two, complete.

Keeping my promise, I made the drive back to Richmond in time to pick up the kids and get back on dinner time duties.

For those of you that were interested, I'll have striper prints ready in time for the holidays.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

5 Trophy Gar and Chunky Cat

It was what I was hoping for.  
They were everywhere.  

I took Jeff to a spot down on the James River below Hopewell and got into them quickly.  Minnows on the bottom as well as under bobbers didn't last long.  We lost count of the mid to upper 30" gar.  The hard part was letting them run after they picked up the bait.  If it was too earlier, we could feel them drop and the minnow would come back missing scales.  When we timed it right, we were treated to fast streaks and tail walking mayhem.  Anytime you have a 40 plus inch fish jump clear out of the water multiple times then thrash right next to your kayak with mouth wide open and full of please don't get in the kayak yet, adrenaline will flow.

Over the span of a few hours I tallied 5 citations up to a little over 44".  Jeff got the timing right as well and landed a citation also right at 40". 

After running out of minnows, I found a nice channel with a sharp drop off.  We dropped chunks of gizzard shad on 8/0 circle carolina rigs and I quickly had a strong take down.  The heavy catfish swung my kayak around in a hurry but somehow the circle hook came out.  Not too long after, this 41"er gave me a chance for redemption.

I wish I had brought my scale because it had been eating very, very well.
The trophy blue catfish was a most welcome cherry on top of a an already awesome day.  

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Short River Trip

Hit a creek off the James River well below Richmond.  Main target was gar.  Caught 7-8 up to 35".  A few stripers to 20".   Too many little catfish to lower 30".  Lost one decent catfish in the mid 40" range at the boat.  Most on minnows.  Couple hits on silver buddies.  Hoping to go back for that 40+" gar.