Sunday, August 21, 2011

Double Tourney Saturday

A while back, I was asked to join the TKAA team for the Catching for Kids 20th Annual Anglers Club Challenge Tournament.  Of course, I was happy to oblige not only because I love to fish, but the money raised goes to a great cause.  Click the link for more info about Catching for Kids.

The TKAA team divided up into several groups to target different species.  The CBBT group, consisting of Justin Mayer, Billy Ragulsky, Seth Goodrich and myself, met up around 5am, got things ready, set a good game plan, and launched to a gorgeous sunrise.

We stopped at several spots that usually produce quality fish, but either no one was home or no one wanted to come out and play.  Well, at least no one we were actually looking for.  The baby bluefish were everywhere, destroying any soft plastic we dangled off the kayak.  Justin and I decided to move close toward the 1st island while Billy and Seth tried a little longer.

As the current slowed down we were sure the bite was going to turn on.  Justin focused on the spades as I worked the fiddlers on the bottom.  Sheepshead, triggerfish, and tautogs were all on the list of species for the tournament and all of them love fiddler crabs.  Justin started off getting a few small spades, then the action shut off.  I caught a bunch of trash fish, which I actually didn't mind for this trip.  I'll explain later.

Justin and I were baffled.  All through slack tide, we didn't catch anything we wanted to enter into the tourney.  A little before, through slack, and a little after are the best times and we were at the spot that normally holds fish.  Staying persistent, I eventually caught a couple of small togs, one of which was tagged.

I love learning where, when and how big the fish was when they tagged the fish.
I had my doubts about whether those two little togs would rank in the tourney, so I kept at it.  I was also hoping for a good size trigger, since I hadn't caught one all year.  But I failed to find any.  After a while, I switched over to clams and enticed 2 spadefish around 12" to play along.  

Frequent CBBT kayak angler Kyle (forgot the last name) hooked up to a nice spade
We also met Seadoo Dave out there for the first time.  He seems like a good guy... check out his site.

Hoping for that big sheepshead, I went back to using fiddlers.  I tried a new area along the bridge and my hook started getting cleaned with a quickness.  On the third drop over the same piling, I finally hooked up to a nice fish.  After several line peeling bull dog runs, I brought it up to the surface...

... and twice it buried my rod tip deep into the water ...

... but in that tug of war, I was victorious.

It was the second 22.25" tautog for me this year.  .75" shy of release citation.  

Long story short, that fish ended up being the second place tog for the tournament and I was proud.  Justin had one of his spadefish end up being 3rd place for that specie as well.  There were many reputable angler clubs to enter teams in the tournament. And for us to be the only kayak team against a bay full of motor boats and placing 4th over all is a great achievement.  If my understanding is correct, we were only one point behind 3rd place. The weigh-in was a great time with excellent food and camaraderie.  I admit however, I left shortly after the food...

Remember how I said that I didn't mind catching trash fish earlier.  Normally, I'd be pretty annoyed, but I was actually double dipping tournaments that day.  Pirates of Lynnhaven held a week long trash fish tournament and it was the last day.  The weigh-in was at 7pm.  And even though I didn't think my fish were going to hold up, I left the first tournament awards early.  My croaker, spot and oystertoad (3 of the 6 species included in the tournament) measured a mere 1/8" more (combined) than the next guy and I ended up winning.  (Sorry Joe, I got lucky)

I won this cool trophy designed by Fish DV8 and also a 16 hour deep drop trip with Rudee Deep Sea Fishing.  On top of that, half of the money raised in entry fees gets donated to the charity of the winners choice.  So CCA of Virginia should be getting a decent little check from The Pirates of Lynnhaven.

My wife was happy I helped out two great organizations and also excited I won a tournament.  
But, she wasn't too keen with the idea of me going on a boat for 16 hours.  

I told her it's really not much different from my usual fishing trips.
Just not on a kayak.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Cobia Charter

So once or twice a year, I find myself on a boat.  And every time I do, I feel weird.  All the space, the speed, the ability to see better and farther, and of course the smell of gas and machinery.  I got invited by my boss, Bob Shepherd, to go on a cobia charter.  So, along with his friend Fred Murray, we met up with Capt. Tony Horsley and went in search of the infamous brown clown.

I can't disclose where we went, but I can tell you this; Capt. Horsley knows his stuff.  We spotted over 40 nice cobia through out the day while taking turns in the tower.  The man does his job well.  I, on the other hand, sucked.  I had several chances and screwed them all up.  Being 12 feet, or maybe more, up in a tower is big difference from sitting on the surface.  Almost all my casts were over thrown and when I tried to compensate, I was either too short of off to the side.  Did I mention I sucked.

My boss hooked several and landed two.  Fred landed one.  My frustration was starting to get the better of me when I finally got a cobia to eat.  I watched the big beautiful fish give chase and take the bucktail.  I set the hook, and as the rod loaded, the tension suddenly disappeared.  I was tip wrapped.  I stared at the curled inch of braid on the end of my rod in utter disbelief.  The wind that was blowing in my face had made a loop over the first guide as I bounced the bucktail just under the surface.  It felt like a big fuck you from the fishing gods and I was left speechless.  In sharp contrast however, an amazing explosion of expletives came bursting out of Capt. Horsley.  It was as if he was fishing "through" me and couldn't believe what just happened.

And of course, soon after, the storm clouds showed up and the day ended before I was able to hook into another. 

Bob Shepherd

Fred Murray, Capt. Tony Horsley, Bob Shepherd and that guy who can't cast.
Even though I'm smiling, I really, really hate holding someone else's fish.
I really thought I was going to catch my first cobia, but at least I learned a lot from the experience.  I even thought of some things / places I can try on my kayak. 

One day...
I'm gonna catch that brown clown.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Midweek Antics

I took the old Redfish12  out to see what was shakin' under the HRBT.  After launching at 8:45pm I quickly found huge numbers of cutlass fish.
aka Ribbonfish
More chrome than your rims and a wicked grill to match.  Check out the barbs on dem teefers!
Korean people love to eat this fish and swarm from as far away as Maryland (maybe farther) to catch them by the cooler full.  But this twinkie (definitions 1,4,5&7 apply) doesn't have a taste for them.  My mom would be pissed if she knew I threw them all back.

I also found a good number of these...
Weakfish aka Grey Trout
Nothing big, but big schools of little ones, which is good because their population was on the brink for a while in VA.  Hopefully this is a good sign for the future.

Par for the course, I also had a few small croaker, bluefish, and some...
Wee little flounder
Also got to do a little battle with good ol' Morone Saxatilis

Most were in the 17"-19" range and very skittish.

All fish were caught on 3" chartreuse, white or dark green swimming mullet Gulp on 1/4 ounce dark green jigheads. 

The smoke from the dismal swamp fire got pretty nasty so I called it quits around 1am.

Until next time...

Peace out homies.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Can't Stop Thinking About Them Spades

I got a fever. 
And the only prescription
is more spadefish!

My last intense battle had me yearning for more.  So I got the OK from the greatest woman in the world (my wife) and drove on down to the magical land of Sheeps and Spades.

The wind was rough and the current didn't help.  But I found a few up to 12"~13" and one 23" sheepie.  I was hoping for bigger spades, but I guess I can't complain.... especially with the big sheepshead.

Released to bump uglies and make lots of baby sheepies.
I'm kind of pissed because I broke my favorite baitcasting rod (Shimano Cumara) on this smiley faced little spade. Not sure what happened, but I'm hoping Shimano honors the life time warranty
on it even though I don't have the receipt.

On a side note, I tested out a new YakAttack product.
 New Panfish Portrait with GoPro Hero.
I'll have a full review after I take it through the paces.

In the mean time here's a few screenshots.
I need to remember to wipe the lense off

And I'm hoping to get the GoPro HD soon so the picture would be clearer.

My quest for the big spades will continue.


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Spade. It's What's for Dinner.

About to land one
Photo by Justin Mayer
It was as if Mother Nature was apologetic for her excessive bitchiness on my last trip out to the CBBT.  I was granted a full 9+ hours on the water with almost no wind.  It was sexy.

The target for the day was spadefish.  It is the fish I probably curse at more than any other.  In the last three years, I've fed more spades than Asians eat rice.  Their ability to strip a hook clean is almost as uncanny as their strength once it's finally hooked.

My personal best has been stuck at 12" for a while, so I really hoped to break that on this trip.  But it started off with only a few the size of my hand and a bunch of little bait stealers.

Kevin says Hi
Baby Black Sea Bass
aka PunkassBait Stealer

I kinda think they're pretty cool looking though...

...but not as cool looking as these guys.
Pretty little thing
Kevin put on a show as Justin and I were swinging and missing with empty hooks.  He had several up to 17" with some amazing fights that took him in and out, zigzagging, through and around several pilings.  Justin had a few decent ones then eventually hooked into a real nice one, but dropped it at the boat.  I finally broke my personal best with a 13"er.  It put up a great fight for a relatively small fish.

Photo credit: Justin Mayer
But on my next to last clam strip I hooked into what I was really hoping for.  After watching Kevin's fights, I was dying hook one myself.  

Inch for inch, spadefish are definitely one of the strongest fish out there.  The second you hook one, there isn't that pause before it reacts like with some fish.  It's absolute pandemonium from the split second it's on there, and their brute strength is phenomenal.  They go completely spastic and ballistic at the same time.  I love 'em!  I can't wait to get back out and try again.

From what I understand, spadefish don't take forever to grow like big sheepshead, nor are they in serious decline like many other species, so I decided to take a few home.  I made a few spade nuggets for the wee one...
Natalie with the smile of approval
And I had my panko breaded yummy deliciousness with veggies and of course...