Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"Today was a good day"

The alarm went off at 5:45am and my eyes were wide open. No snooze button today. Optimism swelled as I brushed my teeth, kissed my wife, and got in my already loaded car. There was no traffic the entire way, not even at the HRBT and the tunes were cranking when I pulled into the parking lot at Ocean’s East 2 tackle shop. As I get out of the car, the guy taking out the trash smiles and askes “how many fiddlers today, bud?” It almost felt like Cheers, where everybody knows your name and already has your beer ready for you. 4 dozen please, big bag of ice, and I’m off to Chicks beach, lickety split. I’m ready to launch to perfect conditions at 8am when a family comes over and oohhs and aaahhs and asks about what I’m fishing for. I tell them sheepshead, which they never heard of. I just smiled and said “they’re a ton of fun”. As my butt hit the seat of my “cool ride”, I was wished good luck and happy hunting. I yelled back “thanks” as I took my first few paddle strokes. I love the first few strokes of the day.

After a smooth paddle out, I was on the spot under the CBBT. For those of you who really want to know, I use 30lb braid, to swivel, to 40lb leader with dropper loop, size 1 Owner J Hooks, 2 or 3 oz sinkers with the swivel on top. My dropper loop is around 6 or 7 inches above the sinker. All on a 7’ medium heavy Shimano Teremar rod. Anyway, I get out there and immediately I get bites. They’re quick and fluttering bites, so I knew they weren’t sheepies. It turned out to be these guys.

I switch pilings and immediately felt a different type of bite. Light, subtle and before I knew it, my hook was clean. I knew it was a sheepshead. I quickly re-bait and get it down to the same spot. As soon as it hit bottom, I felt that same subtle bump and as soon as the second tap came, I energetically swung up with the rod and... swing and a miss. Without hesitation and as quickly as possible, I re-bait again. I get the fiddler down to the bottom, hoping to feel that tap again, but it’s not there. A few minutes go by and my heart beat goes back to normal and I let out a long sigh. And bamm! There it was, barely a tap and my muscles instantly knew what to do. I guess the adrenalline was still pumping. Drag ripping mayhem ensues as my kayak gets banged around the piling I was on and I see my line rip towards the next piling, I finally get my leg around to the right side, kick off and away from the piling and desperately try to stop this fish. He gets turned around, I get him close enough to see (or for him to see me) and he goes on another amazing run. Taking drag he pulls me all the way back to the bottom and I feel something strange happen and he’s gone. That strange feeling was my sinker getting lodged in something and getting broken off at the swivel. The swivel was still on the bottom of my rig, but no lead, and my hook was bent open. I was in shear and utter amazement at the power I just felt. I pulled on the line from the reel to feel how much drag I had going. It was pretty tight. I remembered looking on Shimano’s website and it said max drag pressure for that Corvalus reel was 11 lbs. so I tightened it all the way down.

The next couple of hours were spent talking to God. And I’m not really the religious type, but it’s funny how fishing will do that. I fed a bunch more puffers, had a few more highly suspect sheepshead bites, but no hook ups. At this point, I was even running low on fiddlers. I took a deep breath, looked up at the sky and on my exhale, I told myself, it’s a beautiful day, gorgeous sky, a perfect light breeze, it’s not insanely hot, happy families playing on the beach, I’m out on the water, doing what I love to do..... today is a good day. Sure as hell beats the office anyway!

Well, just then, my muscles went into auto drive again and set the hook on something huge. Even with drag rippping, 3/4 of my rod is pulled into the water and my kayak started leaning as the line shot under the boat. I desperately held onto the rod as I leaned back the other way. An intense battle commenced as I brought him to the surface and he dove back down. If I remember it correctly, he did that about 4 or 5 times and each time he dove back down, drag ripped and my heart came up to my throat... once again, praying to god that the hook stayed in him. Eventually, I got him to stay on the surface. When I saw that the hook placement was good, I grabbed the leader, dragged him over the gunwale and it was like that Berkley commercial where they show a bunch of guys yelling “Woo Hoo!”. Except mine was louder and followed by “#%&K YEAH! I LOVE THIS $H*@!!!”

About 20 minutes later I ran out of bait, so I paddled in, proud of my one fish. I packed up my equipment and drove over to Ocean’s East to show them what their fiddlers did for me. It ended up weighing exactly 11lbs and was my first citation sheepshead. I felt the adrenaline still rushing as I signed the paper work and I was all smiles when I asked for 4 dozen more fiddlers. The guy looked up and asked “Are you serious?”. I looked at the clock. It read 11:45 am. I said “Damn skippy, I took the day off of work and I’m gonna spend as much of that time fishing.” He replied “Sounds good man. Go gityerself ‘nother one”. I smiled, got my bait, a bite to eat and I was back on the water in no time.

Well, I know this story’s getting kinda long, so I’ll wrap it up. I spent 4.5 more hours on the water, hooked and lost another one, and ended up with 2 more citations!!! 13lb 4oz and 13lb 2oz !!! One of them wasn’t hooked very well so I used my leg to help lift it into the boat and I got the marks to show it.

I showed back up at Oceans East and put on a spectacle. After signing the paper work, I dropped off one fish at my parents and before I hit the road I stopped off to get some gas. As I was pumping, I looked at my reflection in the glass and realized my fishing shirt was on inside out. I chuckled and said to myself “Today was a good day”.

p.s. I might have to wear my fishing shirts inside out from now on.

Also, I decided that I’m not going to keep any more of these big sheepies.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Spades n Triggers

Friday, my main focus was spades. I got out to the CBBT and I immediately started hookin up.

Only problem was...

...they were tiny.

The biggest was 10".

I also found some triggers.

It was crazy hot so I took a break when the current got too fast to fish and took a swim by the down current side of the island. Other than tiny black sea bass, I didn't catch anything else all day and of course... the paddle back was miserable. I had a nasty head wind and I had water crashing over my bow on every other wave. Salt sprayed in the mouth as I breathed through my teeth and the upstroke end of my paddle felt like a sail on every stroke. It sucked.

Sunday I went looking for sheeps and found a couple little guys.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Just a few...

Nothing huge and not the hottest action, but still a lot of fun. Especially since I didn't think I was gonna get out cuz it was my wife's "birthday weekend". But I guess I did a good job of making her happy cuz Sunday afternoon came around and she asked if I wanted to go fishing. I just looked at her and smiled (resisting the urge to say something like "Do Asian people eat rice? Duh")
And she smiled back.

I got a couple of these...

and lost a couple more.

I can't tell you which piling, but I'll tell you that they love some fiddler crabs.

Fish tacos tonight! Woo hoo!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Offshore Kayaking 7/7/10

There's a small part of me that says mothershipping is "cheating". But the other part of me says "when am I ever going to see that bluewater, the beautiful colors of a dolphin, and feel the amazing power of an AJ if I don't go?" If I ever was to see and feel those things, it was definitely going to be in a yak. So I commited. I met Rob Alderman and crew down at Teach's Lair Wednesday morning at 5:30am. Actually, I got off work Tuesday, went to the HRBT, fished the schoolie stripers until 12:30am, got to Teach's Lair by 3:30am, slept for 2 hours and got on the big boat. I couldn't help it. The schoolie stripers were on fire last Thursday and Friday so I had to.

So the crew aboard the Big Tahuna consisted of Capt. Scott, 1st mate Kenny, Alderman, Alderman's Parents, Rich (OBX Taco), Chris Peebles (from near Blacksburg) and myself. Four yaks were loaded; gear, food, drinks and we were off.

We found a grass line and started trolling to see if we could find them. It took a little time, but we found them. We all brought in some dolphin from the big boat. The action wasn't very steady, so when we found them again, we deployed the yaks. I was the first one in and in no time I was hooked up. There are no pictures or video that can do the beauty justice. The color of the water is just gorgeous and the dolphin look like they're lit up from the inside. The bright blue of the pectoral fins when they're in the water is just amazing. The incredible aerial feats are insane as well. So I had my first yak hooked mahi right at my side and I decide to get my camera out to do some underwater footage.

With one hand, I grab my camera, turn it on, press record, and that's when the mahi makes one last run and it's gone. I regret not pulling that fish in, cuz all the others spit the hook as well. All I had to do was grab the leader and lay him in my yak. It was the same story with the other 3 yakers too. Everybody hooked up, but the dolphin always found a way to get off. Just one of those days I guess. Oh by the way, I tried standing since I wanted to get a better view to find the fish. Alderman with his Ride135 and tons of experience in the open ocean seemed to have no problem standing and casting. He even hooked two mahi while standing.

I gave it a shot and was up there for a few seconds, but then took a quick swim. I tried it again and quickly sat myself down as I was losing my balance. I can stand and cast in the flats no problem, even on a breezy day, but the ocean is apparently another story. Alderman also had something take his ballyhoo while paddling that made us all wonder. Whatever it was slammed the bait hard and was taking line when it came unbuttoned. Any given day out there...

After that we were off to a wreck with the hopes of finding some AmberJack. And boy did we find some. Once again I was the first one in. It was a trip to see 300+ feet on my yak's fishfinder. Kinda made me giggle a little thinking about how tiny I was. Anyway, we all hooked up immediately. These things are freakin' powerful! I could hardly getting any line in. Actually it was peeling off line at an exhilarating rate. I tightened the drag just a bit and pop*. I hit the back of my seat real quick. It was a similar story with two other guys too. Expletives came from every yak except one. Chris managed to pull in what looked like a 24" ~ 28" amberjack (I didn't get an accurate measurement). We re-rigged and did it again. We'd hook up and they'd pull us into the wreck. I must have lost about 6 or 7 fish. Some just pulled the hook, but most of the time I came up with a frayed leader. The captain decided to move us to another location so we packed up, quickly ate a sandwich and we redeployed at "the rock pile". Once again, we were on 'em. The mate got us some thicker leaders and I was able horse one in finally. It measured 35". But I could tell that the AJs at the other wreck had to be a bigger class of fish. I can safely say that was the hardest fighting fish I have ever fought. We just couldn't get them to turn their heads. Alderman pulled in a beautiful 40" and Chris hooked into something that spooled him. Rich had a nice size trigger and bee-line snapper. I saw a turtle try to eat my ballyhoo, some flyingfish, and had a great time! If you're ever interested, contact Rob Alderman with The Outer Banks Angler. His vast knowledge is impressive and his connections with the captains in the area will get you the best deal possible. He knows how to get it done and will help you make it happen. However he does expect you to work hard. Just because the mothership takes you out doesn't mean it's not a lot of work. The current is very strong and staying over the wrecks is tough. But it's worth it!!!

I don't necessarily agree or disagree with the lyrics of this song. I just like the pumped up feeling it gives. I hope you like it.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Binge fishing

I had Friday off (instead of Monday) for Independence day. My beautiful wife allowed me to fish until Saturday afternoon with the strict instructions to be back in Richmond by 4:00pm. So Thursday evening comes around and as soon as the wife got home from yoga, I was off to the HRBT. I launched around 10pm into light and variable wind (the weather man was wrong). I started off catching flounder. Ended up with 4 with the biggest being 18.25"
Par for the course, I had about a dozen lil' croakers too. In with the mix I caught this little guy.

Then after finding the schoolie striper, I got 13 of them to suck on the end of my line. Ranging from 20" to 23", they were very aggressive and very fun to stalk along the lights. Some of them even did some aerial acrobatics right after the hookset. Gulp, Yozuri crystal minnows, and Tsunami swimbaits did the job. I got off the water a little before 4am and passed out in the car.

I got up at 7:30 and headed over to ocean's east tackle for some bait then called my friend Thom for a wind forecast update. I spent all day in Lynnhaven for about a dozen dink flounder and one of 15.5" Sheepie. I took a break about at the launch around 5pm. After the wind died down a bit, I went back out to see if I could find anything under the bridge. No love. While packing up around 8:30, John Heintzman decided to accompany me back to the HRBT. After flapping the gums and picking up some Wendy's we launched around 9:45pm. The wind was nuts and the water under the bridge was like a washing machine. I thought to myself that if I didn't find fish under the first light we should leave. Well we pull up under the bridge and the fish were all around the light line. Needless to say, it was on.

Check out this crazy looking "frankenstriper"

My biggest striper went 26"

I got off the water around 2:30am. Passed out in the car.

Up at 8am. Met John at Chicks beach with fiddlers and clam. Made the long paddle out to the island and started looking for spades. I immediately start getting nibbles. They weren't the little fluttering bites, so I knew they had to be something good. But the bite disappeared, never to be found for the rest of the day. The few fluttering bites I did have ended up being 3" Black Sea Bass and some oyster toads. No love from the togs, sheeps and triggers either. On the way back I saw a couple of big shapes cruising the surface. I did a quick 180 and gave chase. They were what I thought they were. Two big ass cobia. One looked to be around 30-40# and the other was a biggun around 50-60# (guesstimates). I tossed the bucktail I had on from jigging flounder, knowing I would probably get spooled if I actually got one to take it. The first toss went unnoticed. The second toss had one turn and look, but didn't take. By this time, I got pretty close to them and they went deep. I desperately looked for them, feeling my nerves firing and adrenaline pumping, I look across the bridge and there they were. I gave chase again and as soon as I was in range.....

They disappeared.

Long paddle back keeping an eye out only to find rays.

Drove back to Richmond ending the fishing binge, for now.

Happy independence day everybody!