Monday, May 30, 2011

Lovin' them Big Reds

On Sunday Justin Mayer, Mark Rioux, and I went searching the vast openness of the Eastern Shore Fisherman's Island area for the big reds.  After getting some tips from a great friend, we were lucky to find them.  It was A LOT of paddling, but it was worth it.  

We just about ran over the first school we found.  I thought I saw some shapes, so I stood up and plain as day, there they were.  As I yelled and pointed "Reds! Right there!", Justin realized there were several right under his yak.  I tossed my swim bait, cranked, saw a big red turn and hit it 15 feet in front me, but no hook up.  We frantically searched for the school again, but lost them without anyone catching one.

We paddle around for hours with our eyes playing tricks on us.  Any inkling of a shape or color had me thinking it was a red.  Eventually, Justin found a school and hooked up first.  I paddled up and started shooting video as his sleigh ride was in full throttle.  I looked below me and saw some MASSIVE fish.  I  spooked several, one of which had to have been pushing 50".  So I put the camera down and tossed my swimbait.  By the second cast I was hooked up and lovin' it.  Grinnin' from ear to ear, it was pure joy...

Hooked Up!

Justin's 45"er caught on free line crab

New personal best Red Drum at 45"
We also met up with Terry Reece and Dave Narr and spread out our formation in hopes of finding the school again.  We would find them, then lose them, but not before Justin hooked into a nice 46.75"er.

Congrats to Justin on his Citation Red Drum!

We split up and searched some more, but couldn't find them again.  It's my understanding that Dave found another school later on and caught two as well.

I'm not sure if I'll be getting back to the Eastern Shore any time soon.  As fun as it is, I know the Cobia bite is on fire down in Hatteras and I've been wanting to get on one of those for quite some time now.  I missed out on the epic run last year, and I really don't want to regret not going this year.  So time to switch gears...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Natalie's First Fish!!!

My wife and I decided that Wednesday evening family time was going to be spent at Forest Hill Park, which is conveniently right down the street.  I figured it was the perfect time to bust out the Princess rod I got Natalie for Christmas.  She's been messin' with it in the house, but definitely needed to be taken to the water. 

Even though I did all the casting and hook setting, I was proud that she held the rod and cranked when she realized there was a fish on the other end.  When I passed the rod to her after the hook up, she was obviously excited to the feel the fighting fish and reeled it in all by herself.  It was awesome. 

Green Sunfish (I think)

The magic twinkled in her two and a half year old eyes and as I smiled, I hoped this would be the beginning of many, many more in years to come.  I prayed that she would keep interest, and even cultivate a love for it as she gets older.  And as I looked over at Miles, sitting, smiling, and watching birdies in mommy's lap, I knew anticipation will inevitably bring his turn.  But I tell you what, there's something amazingly special about fishing with my baby girl.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Craming before the Wedding

As a groomsman in a wedding on Saturday, I knew I wasn't going to have time to fish at all over the weekend.  So I decided to hit up the HRBT on Thursday night.  I had to drop my babies off at my parents anyway.  And after I did, I launched a little after 10pm.  The shad were still there, the blues were in thick, croakers even thicker, and when the current really got going (outgoing), the stripers were shoulder to shoulder, satiating my desire for pullage.  The fish ranged between 19" and  24".  Justin Mayer had a bunch up to 26" and Forrest Short had several up to the mid 30s.  I was off the water around 2:45am with lots of Kayak Wars points for team Fish Junkies.  WOo hoo!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Afternoon of Little Stuff

You probably can't tell by looking at my blog archive, but I used to love bass fishing.  Before getting married, and before getting a kayak, I used to frequent the shores of several local ponds on my way home from work... looking for what is quite possibly the most popular gamefish in America, the Largemouth Bass. 

So, on Tuesday evening, with the weather being iffy to drive all the way down to the HRBT, I decided to hit up an old pond armed with the ultralight set up.  It felt pretty cool being on that small body of water that I've only known from shore.  I always wanted to know how deep that pond was, so I felt a satisfying grin creep onto my face as I checked the depth finder... 10-11 feet with some interesting drop-offs and points. 

Anyway, before the weather blew me off the water, I ended up with lots of small stuff... some bluegills, a few small crappie, and a couple of tiny bass.  I was hoping for bigger, but good times none-the-less, especially for just an hour and fifteen minutes.

On Sunday, I also hit up the James river.  The weather wasn't very good, but the herring, white perch and small bluecats were plentiful.

So these last two outings weren't big, huge, epic fish trips, but it was still fun to get out and mess around.

Cute little thing tried to eat a spinnerbait that was as big as he was.
Gotta love them crazy bass!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Flounder Prints for Charity Tournaments

I recently had two kayak fishing organizations ask if I could donate a fish print for their charity tournaments.  So when I caught this the other day...

Photo credit Kevin Whitley

... I went ahead and made several prints from it.  Of those, three turned out good enough to stamp my signature.

Click for enlarged view

The first one is going to my dad (upcoming birthday).

The second one is going to be auctioned off at YakAttack's Charity tournament benefiting Heroes on the Water.  Click on the two previous links for more info.  If you're in the Central VA area, please check it out.  It's for a great cause.  Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend since I'm a groomsman in a wedding that day. 

The third one is going to Pirates Of Lynnhaven's Angler of the Year Charity Tournament.  This is an ongoing tournament that ends in December and is also for a great cause.  All the money will be donated to the Massey Cancer Center.  Plus there are great prizes to be had along with some awesome raffles items (including this print).  If you're in the Tidewater area of VA, please check them out.

A Tuesday Night

I had a mean hankerin' so I made the hour and twenty minute drive down to the HRBT to get my fix. Upon arrival I found a veritable buffet of light tackle species under the bridge.  The shad, up to 16" were in thick as well as the croaker, up to 12".  The croaker were so thick it took me a while to find a flounder bite.  When the jighead n' gulp wasn't torn up as soon as it hit the bottom, the flounder up to 15" were willing to take the lure.  Not only that, the bluefish were everywhere also.  I switched to a Yozuri Crystal minnow after getting tired of my soft plastics being bitten in half.  However, I was quickly reminded of how much I disliked bluefish and treble hooks.

Luckily, that's not my blood.  I removed the first of the two treble hooks from the lure, leaving just the one on the rear.  Bluefish + multiple treble hooks = Loud profanity and incessant damning of the freakishly hyper specie.

I also found good numbers of 21" - 25" stripers as well.   In the mix, I managed to find this guy and enticed him to partake of my 3" paddletail offering.

Light tackle fun 31.5" Striper
I probably could have pinched the tail and took it home, but I didn't. 

For a gorgeous night out, there was hardly anyone out on the water.  I saw one kayaker heading in as I was heading out and one other boat.  I basically had the whole place to myself and had a pretty good time.... satisfied for now.

But the Eastern Shore Reds are still heavy on my mind...

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Change of Plans

After my last trip to the Eastern Shore, I've been itchin' to get back out there in search of the big reds.  Knowing that I won't be able to go during Mother's Day weekend, I took Friday off, and headed down Thursday night.  I stopped at the HRBT around 10:30pm for a little lightline action and caught croaker, hickory shad, dink flounder and about 15 schoolie stripers ranging from 19" to 25".  I told myself I was only going to stay a couple of hours so I could get to the Eastern Shore and rest up before getting up early the next day.  The wind was stronger than the forecast called for, but I still couldn't leave the biting stripers until 3:30am.  The unpredictable Spring Winds were also stronger than anticipated the following day as well.  Rather than the 9-12 kts they said it would be, it was 15-20 kts.  Not fun.  Kevin, Damien and I looked for the big stripers and reds with no luck.  A change of plans brought some flounder up to 20"

I'm glad I at least got on the flounder, but I'm jealous of those who are able to fish this weekend.  I desperately want to find more bull reds and with the wind supposedly being minimal, those who go this weekend should have a good chance at them.   My wife deserves a good Mother's Day weekend, so that is what I must focus on.  The end.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Skunked.  My first two bull drum trips to the Eastern Shore both ended without a bite, leaving my personal best redfish at 32".  And as with most things left to brew in the mind, the need to meet that goal from last year has been growing strong.  So after the highly anticipated first big red reports of the year came in, I called a good fishing buddy and said...
"Dude, this year, I am going to catch a Bull Red".

        The first good weather day to get out there on a kayak was Friday, but I didn't even make an attempt to pass the idea by my wife.  Anniversary date night = don't even ask.  It turns out that Kevin and everyone else that went had an absolutely epic day.  Check out his website photos.  He's got so much fish porn over there, it's disgusting.

        I finally got out there on Sunday, but only after a cold front moved through the day before.  It took us a while, but after some help from Ric Burnley, we got into some nice stripers.

Billy Ragulsky hooked up and going for a ride

34" Flats Striper

        We wandered the area for hours, finding them, then losing them, over and over again.  Aside from Billy and Ric, the rest of us got no love from the stripers.  Bumps.  But no hookups.  We changed our target to the Big Reds and anchored up around the shoals.  By this time, the wind had picked up and clouds rolled over our spot.  We threw out our crabs into the white water, but had no takers. Frustration set in and eventually, we got back to the flats.  It was hard to see anything in the shallow water with the wind up and sun covered. It had been an exhausting day (going to the HRBT the night before until 2am doesn't help).  Nearing the point of defeat, I decided to paddle over to Justin to check out what he was up to before I took off.  

        Keeping an eye out on the way, I thought I saw a brownish orange shape, about 5 feet from me, for just a split second.  Without looking away from the area, I stopped the kayak, picked up the rod and pitched my 6" paddletail.  I cranked and as the lure reached the kayak I lifted it out of the water just in time to see a massive head then a big cloud of sand.  DAMN!  I quickly threw it again and before I could finish my first crank, the rod nearly got pulled out of my hand.  The initial run was everything I hoped for.  After the drag finished screaming, the kayak was in full sleigh mode, going against the wind and the current.  Simply amazing.  And when I thought it might be done, even with the drag set tight, it went on another spectacular line peeling run.  After a while, I got it close and it started making my kayak doing 360s, just spinning me around.  Then finally, it stayed on top.  I grabbed it's lower jaw, leg lifted it in, and nearly creamed myself.  

Fat 40" Bull Red.
Photo credit William Ragulsky.

        Billy caught up to me and helped with pictures.  Then quickly, we resumed the search for the school.  It was getting harder to see anything in the water with the wind getting stronger.  I noticed a few sand bombs went off near me where the drum left in a hurry.  I threw my paddletail some more, but it was futile.  

        I spent about 12 hours on the water.  Paddled around 20 miles.  But it was worth it.  I learned a lot about the area and that one fight will have me going back as soon as I can.  I can't wait.