I heard of some bigger stripers coming from the HRBT (Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel) up to 40". So, I waited for the storm to die down, then launched around 9:15pm. Justin was running a little late, and me being anxious to look for the bigguns, I launched without him. The current was running good and I saw a few small stripers in the light line. But the wind was 12kts with gusts to 15kts so things were challenging to say the least. At one point, I was keeping position right at the light line when I notice a much bigger shape in the water. A little farther back into the shadow and a little deeper, I knew it was a BIG striper. I felt the excitement in my nerves, but I kept my cool and tried to position myself to get the right cast. With the water being a little choppy it was hard to keep it in sight. It was also one of those nights where if you stopped paddling for 5 seconds, you were quickly being pushed into the next set of pilings.
My first few casts went unnoticed. My next cast landed too close and it disappeared. I stayed a while longer and it came back up..... I stalked that fish for half an hour... I'd lose it in the glare of the waves, then it would pop back up a minute later. I'd have to reposition again.... sometimes it was on the wrong side of the piling, and I knew if I hooked up I would not be able to fight the wind, current and fish while getting around the piling. So it took a while to find the right angle with the perfect cast for the fish to notice but not get spooked.... and just as Justin was paddling up.... WHAM! Fish on! My little spinning reel was burnin' even with a tight drag. My skinny bass rod bending from the handle had me yelling. "WOO HOO!" I was taken from the west bound bridge over to the east bound with a quickness. I got him to the boat several times, but just when I thought he was done, he'd go on another run. I was smiling the whole time, but still anxiously hoping the hook doesn't pull out. I finally grabbed the leader... the fish does the perfect head shake... and I'm left with a paddle tail dangling in the wind.... expletives echoing under the bridge. *^#&@! Damn it! *#$@*%!!! It wasn't a full sized cow, but definitely in the upper 30's (inches) and fat.
Sulking in my defeat, I caught up with Justin, expletives still being grumbled under my breath. We looked for more and about half an hour later, I found another one worth stalking. After about 5-10 minutes, I got him hooked up. He wasn't quite as big as the other one, but his attitude made up for it. He fought hard. He took me to the other bridge licketty split and out the other side. By the time I got him to the side of the boat I was in the darkness away from the lights of the bridge. I leadered him and.... would you believe it... he does the perfect head shake... and off he goes. Un-freakin'-believable. He was probably in the lower 30"s and FAT.
We ended the night around 1am. Justin only had one 23"er and I managed 3, with the biggest going 23.5". All fish caught tonight were fat.
I know I should of been happy with those 3 fish, but to see, fight, and have the big ones at fingers distance before losing them was disappointing to say the least. I immediately looked forward to the next day. I planned to go toggin' and heard that Lee Williams caught a release citation Tautog the day before. CONGRATS LEE! I've been wanting one of those for some time now.
The next morning, I woke up to my 2 year old laughing and wanting to play, so I stayed around the house with my parents, entertaining the children... then changed the oil in my car and helped my dad install some new storm doors. I got a call from Billy Ragulsky and we got a game plan going for the 1st island trip. We met and launched around 1:40 into a pretty strong headwind. The occasional 4 foot wave came rolling through but we still made decent time. We got to the promised land that is the 1st island of the CBBT (Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel) in a little over an hour. With the plan to communicate via VHF radio, we split up to cover more area. Hopes were high. We were going to catch some tog.
Wrong. Hours went by without a bite. It sucked. I eventually found a piling with some activity. I set the hook, started cranking, expecting that hard pull back, but it was only a 9"er. I found 4 others, up to a whopping 11"s. Poop.
At least Billy had a tagging kit and he tagged three of my five fish. It'll be really interesting to see if he gets any returns and what we can learn from the info he gets back.
I got back to Richmond, pulled my lucky hat off my head and threw it in the washer. I hadn't washed it in quite some time since, like most fishermen, I'm superstitious. All that luck would get washed off.
Well I figured I must have got some pretty bad joojoo on it at some point. Call me stupid. It's getting washed and tomorrow is another day.