Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Fresh On the Boat

I couldn't remember the last time I took someone completely new to kayak fishing out on the water.  My way of helping yak-fish-cherry-poppers is usually just through this site, answering questions in emails, forums, social media, and the occasional seminar.  And the little gestures of gratitude, usually through a computer screen, is all I hope for in return.  I enjoy helping people.  But my time on the water is almost always reserved for myself.  I made an exception this time and at the end of the trip, I was really glad I did; not only because I helped out a friend, but I was reminded first hand of what it was like for me when I first started. 

Last year, I met Mike randomly while out having a couple of beers with friends, shooting some pool.  One topic lead to another and before we knew it, our 8-ball friends got tired of listening to us rant about fishing.  He ended up buying Kayak Kevin's old Trident 13, had a baby, found it hard to get out, enjoyed daddy life stuff, got a spork crammed into his eye by his baby, you know... stuff... 
Fast forward to me agreeing to take him out on the water and I could feel his excitement while getting the kayaks down from the roof racks.  We skipped the weekly pool tournament and decided to try our luck on the James river for the shad run.  From simple things like paddle blade shape preference and kayak space/storage management to some not-so-easy things like anchoring in current, my answers came effortlessly.  Do's and don'ts, how and where's, all got explained at the beginning along with "yes you will wish you had your waders on especially when the sun goes down" and "watch your rod tips around that tree".

Everything went without a hitch and he expressed his gratitude several times during the trip. However, my real reward was getting to watch the pure elation on his face after landing two new-to-him species. They weren't the biggest fish, but to him, it was a big deal; which in turn was a big deal to me.  Every time he hooked up, I shared his excitement.  Helping him get to the spot, building his confidence on the water, and watching him accomplish what he wanted far exceeded the joy of catching my own fish that day.  He let out an enthusiastic "I LOVE THIS $%^*!" which he knows is usually my line. 

The ready-to-spawn male hickory shad dripped fish porn on our decks (sorry no pics) then became cut bait.  The white perch was an added surprise to him and served as live bait.  We were hoping for big catfish or stripers but like I told him it would, it got pretty cold later in the evening.  Plus, the lack of action from the bigger fish had me craving a drink back at the ol' watering hole.  After a couple of medium sized cats, we packed it up and swung by the bar to share our fishy smell with the pool junkies.  We toasted to a kickass time, and like that feeling of the first chug after a long hot day of working in the yard, that beer was really freakin' good.  The cherry on top is that an hour later, it was my birthday. 

Mike, thanks for a great time on the water and reminding me that this sport I love so much is not always about catching the fish.  Cheers, buddy.

P.S. for those of who might be wondering...
No, I don't plan on becoming a guide.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Pickerel in the Mist

It had been nearly three months since my paddle pushed through the water.  The forced hiatus, which may have allowed me to focus on many "grown-up" things, still felt like an eternity.  

Jeff Lockhart and I met Drew Camp and his dad, Chip, in their neck of the woods in search of bass and pickerel.  Even though it was wet and chilly, a perma-grin remained plastered on my face as I felt my kayak glide.  And my cheeks didn't get any rest for awhile because my first fish of the day was a trophy pickerel.

Afterwards, we caught several more pickerel but the bass were tough to come by.  I had a few little ones but that was it.  My best luck came on a spinnerbait, husky jerk, and square bill.  

Bass Dorsal

Pickerel eye markings and gill plate
Being able to check a citation off the list with my first trophy pickerel felt pretty awesome especially while juggling daddy-life, office duties, and trying to get a house ready to put on the market.  

'Til next time, hope you all get on the water, and hopefully it won't be too long before I get out too.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

2015 Recap and Compilation Video

I know.  It's almost March and I'm just now getting to look back on the last year.  That proverbial struggle is very real.  Unfortunately for the fishing side of my life, the trend will continue in 2016.  It was the least I had fished in many years, but 2015 still had some great moments.

I continued to fish many of my favorite locales but also tried several new areas, including a couple new spots on the Eastern Shore, the upper James, as well as the beautiful New River.

Checking off a new specie always makes the highlight reel, except when the cameras aren't rolling and the fish flops out before a proper shot.  None the less, I was stoked for my first bowfin at 23".  I had 4 follows on my first musky trip as well, which I will count as a successful endeavor.  The notoriously difficult VA kayak cobia was also checked off the list, twice.

Although I never promote the awards, it is still rewarding that this site won the Kayak Anglers Choice Awards Blog of the Year.  I somehow managed to place 3rd for Angler of the year and last year's compilation, Nothing But Love, won 3rd place Online Video of the Year.   I was very tempted to put up a gif of Ron Burgundy saying "I'm kind of a big deal.  People know me", but I'll just say thank you to the people who really follow along.  I really do appreciate it.

For 2016, I have one citation left to get Saltwater Master Angler and one citation left to get Freshwater Master Angler.  For saltwater, it has to be an accumulation of 25 trophies with only one specie per year counting toward the total.  For freshwater, it has to be 5 trophies of different species (flathead, bluecat, yellow perch, and gar so far).  Even though I have a lot on my plate this year as far as work, daddy life, and much more, I look forward to chasing these goals.  However, even more so, I can't wait to get back out on the water with my friends and family, perhaps make some new friends, and continue to keep the smiles coming...

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.