Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Recent thoughts on citation sheepshead

This is primarily toward my fellow kayak fishermen in the Chesapeake Bay area.

I usually agree with the idea that we should follow the regs and I will keep my limit of average sized fish. However, those regs were created for the masses which include power boats (who have access to a lot more water). Kayaks have a limited number of places to go to find these quality fish, so we as a conscious community should think about the consequences.

If you want to keep this awesome, kayak accessible, super hard fighting, trophy fishery around for many years to come, you should consider not keeping multiple citation size fish.

I say citation size fish because, the bigger the fish, the more eggs/sperm they produce. Plus, they must have good genes to fight off disease and/or escape predators. Not to mention the time it takes for them to get that big (20-30 years). If we dramatically diminish the population of the citation size fish in our small kayakable area, it will be a LONG time before we get them back.

Also, through the tagging program, they found out that sheepshead (and togs) have been known to stay on the same structure for long periods of time. So the more of us that catch them (and tell others about how and where to catch them), and keep them, the less there will be, obviously. With more and more of us kayakers targeting them, the rate at which they will be caught will increase exponentially.

Like I said earlier, I will keep my limit of average size fish, especially if there seems to be enough of them going around. And it's not expected to throw back your first ever citation either. I'd have a really hard time with that. But I hope all kayak fishermen will take this into consideration and not keep multiple citation fish.
I know I am probably the most guilty of having kept them in the past.

I hope this all makes sense and I did not offend anyone. I know there are some of you that don't believe in conservation. To each their own.

I really enjoy posting my fishing reports (as I'm sure Kevin enjoys posting his, too) because I believe part of the fun comes from sharing the experiences and I love seeing other people's reports as well. I have been lucky enough to learn from the veterans of the sport and it is only fair to have enough respect to consider their beliefs toward conservation, too.

Here's a few quotes from the Center for Quantitative Fisheries Ecology ( http://www.mrc.state.va.us/vsrfdf/pdf/0607-05App_E.pdf )

"Recreational catch of sheepshead in Virginia, estimated by the Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey (MRFSS 2007), increased from 1,583 to 20,319 fish from 1999 to 2005. Although sheepshead is not a major fishery in Chesapeake Bay, this increase has raised concerns about the population status of this species as the fishery develops."

"Sheepshead in Chesapeake Bay seem to be a near-virgin stock with many old, large fish and without significant fishing mortality. If a trophy-recreational fishery is to be maintained then exploitation must be carefully monitored as such stocks deplete quickly"

Monday, August 30, 2010

Lots of water, but no fishing

My wifes side of the family rented a house in Buxton, NC so we packed the cars and made the trek down. I knew I wasn't going to get much time away from my parental duties, not to mention I really don't get to spend much time with my wifes side of the family. So I was thinking I would get out for a few hours before they even got up. I had great expectations during the week about fishing for Spanish Mackerel, but Danielle put up some big swells. So I just took pictures instead. Hope you like them.

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There was one guy who came out and threw a bottom rig out into the surf. He didn't catch anything, but it made for a decent picture.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

I'm a junkie

So it had been two weeks since I the last time I fished. I found myself daydreaming at work and irritable at home. At one point a coworker caught me smiling at the wall... fantasizing about hard hook sets and drag ripping runs. I even watched the sheepshead and spadefish parts of Kevin's dvd for the 4th or 5th time. I giggle like a little kid every time.

My wife was generous and allowed me to fish Friday night through Sunday afternoon so I knew I was going on a binge. I got off work at 5pm and got to HRBT and launched by 7:45pm. I caught lots of small grey trout...

a ridiculous number of dink flounder and several stripers...

At one point I found a school of stripers that were bigger than the 18"-23" I had been catching. I knew just by seeing the splashing, but when I got closer, the shapes in the water confirmed. I tossed my swimbait perpendicular to the current, just outside the light line and let it drift into the dark, and as I start to crank, WHAM!

You know when a heroin junkie shoots up... the whole "ahhhh....." type of satisfaction they get from it? Well for me, it was that type of tiny satisfaction when I felt that striper hook up and rip drag.

But, when it came off, it's just made the "need" even stronger. Well, I quickly tossed the lure back out and achieved the same result. Drag ripping from my spinning reel caught the attention of a near by powerboat and just as I see the boat out of the corner of my eye, the fish came off again. Next thing I know, the boat comes over to my spot and throws an anchor right into the school. I couldn't believe it. It was hard to hold my tongue, but did mumble some choice words under my breath. I tried for about half an hour but couldn't find another hook up. I tried until 3:30am, looking for that school that I really thought I'd find.

I took a nap in the car and got up at 6:30. I got to Ocean's East to pick up fiddlers and clams and ran into the (in)famous Kayak Kevin. We made our way out to the first island (CBBT) and found ...

I thought to myself... I paddle all the way out here to catch the smallest fish I've ever caught on rod and reel.

Then a couple minutes later, I broke that record.

These things might be pretty, but they sure are annoying. Especially when there's a gazillion of them.

Oh and by the way, broken bits of clam shells and lack of sleep equals...

I did hook a 12"ish spadefish that got off just as I was about to grab the leader. Kevin caught several. I'm sure he'll have his story on his website.

He also caught a citation sheepshead as he was spadefishing. It was a blast to watch him do battle with that light rod. Later on, he found some triggerfish and after taking some pictures for him, I dropped my fiddler to see if I could bring one up too. A couple of minutes go by and WHAM! My spring loaded arm on a hair-trigger goes off and as we watch my rod tip take a deep dive into the water we knew... "Oh, this ain't no trigger!" The adrenaline starts pumping and once again, I was high as a kite on that feeling. It ended up being a slightly beat up looking 25.5" release citation sheepshead. And to top it all off, Kevin caught most of the fight on video!

After a while, Kevin took off and I stuck around to see if I could find some spades at the next tide change. No love, and of course the paddle back was miserable.

After a bite to eat, my friends Thom and Dean convinced me to head back out to the HRBT. We got there just as the sun was setting. Lots of croaker, up to 12", dink flounder, and I had 3 stripers. Nothing big. But still fun. We got off the water around midnight and I crashed hard.

I woke up at 6:30 in the CrabCreek parking lot, to the sound of rain beating on my windshield. While waiting it out and listening to NOAA radio, I could hear the remaining fiddlers still scratching the side of my bucket. Long story short, I lost one small sheepie at the boat, caught several small flounder, a few oyster toads and foul hooked a 14.5" sheepshead with a bucktail. A guy I know caught two keeper flounder as well. I think the biggest was 24".

I was off the water by 11:45am and back to Richmond in time to take my daughter to the mall playground and do some grocery shopping.


For now.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Got out with my dad finally

I got out with my dad in search of sheepshead and only got one blowfish. The red tide was out in force.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Fishin' with the boss

I don't fish out of boats very often these days. I LOVE my kayak. However I was invited by my boss, Bob Shepherd so I accepted and fished with him this past weekend. For those of you who don't know, he's a badass. He owns several IGFA lineclass records and is a member of the VAC. He's the one that got me into that club as well. Anyway, he has a house on the Eastern Shore and knows some great flounder spots. So Saturday, bright and early, we ventured out on his 21' BayPro from his backyark dock in search of flatties.

Did I mention he's a badass? Cuz, the first drops down got us two keepers at 19.5" and 20". We rocked 2oz jigheads with 7" Gulp jerk shads and tore them up. We did have the occasional chesa"freak" bay oyster toad though. We kept 4 flounders in the livewell and culled them out as we kept upgrading. Before lunch, we had our limit (ranging from 20" to 25") and were on our way back to his house.

Afterwards, we packed some heavy gear, caught a bunch of baitfish (croaker) and went in search of the elusive VA Silver King. Not feeling very optimistic because of the recent NE wind we had, we still gave it a shot. The rays and sharks would not leave us alone though. I hooked my first spinner shark that gave me quite the work out and adrenaline rush. Them things are nuts! We guestimated it to be around 5 feet. The animal jumped 3-4 feet clear out of the water and truly put my tackle to the test. AMAZING! We weren't using steel leaders, so we didn't land very many of the sharks. And even though we didn't hook any tarpon (although my boss thought he saw two roll), I had a great time.

On Sunday, I thought I would return the favor and take him to where I was catching citation sheepshead. We trailered the boat across the CBBT and launched out of CrabCreek. The weather wasn't very conducive to fishing close to pilings, but we gave it a shot anyway. It was kind of weird playing the "guide" for my boss who has so much more experience than me. Anyway, I got him on 3 citations.