Monday, November 28, 2011

Tog-a-palooza and a Princess Rod Striper

Sometimes, my brother and I don't talk for a while.  But when we finally do, we pick up right where we left off... joking around, talking sports, and generally reaffirming how awesome it is to be a Choi :)
But, one thing we haven't been on the same page about is fishing.  So all year, I've been trying to get him out on the water.  It finally happened on Black Friday.  

He's paddled plenty before, so I took him to the CBBT and we made the long trip out to the first island.  The current ran stronger than usual and made the fishing very difficult, but I got Charlie to pop his tog cherry.

Lil' bro's 16.5"
I have to admit, it was pretty awesome watching him set the hook and do battle with his first tog.  I tried to explain what a tog fight is like over Thanksgiving dinner, but there's nothing like experiencing it first hand.  He caught two others and I had a few with the biggest going 18.5".  We also got into a fair number of these...

Baby Black Drum

But the show was stolen by someone who recently got the tog addiction pretty bad.  Jack Daughtry from Maryland understands why I love tautog fishing so much.  Along with his buddy Josh Williams, they made the long trip several times in the last week and a half... and it paid off.

Jack Daughtry with a really nice 22"er.

I also went out on the 19th as well and got into a decent number.  A lot of them were between 13 and 14" with a few going 19"+.  Billy Ragulsky had the hot rod of that day with several nice ones and the biggest going 21".

Did I mention that the boys from Maryland have the tog addiction?  Because they were out there on the 22nd also.  And did I mention that their time on the water paid off?  Because, holy crap, it really paid off.  Jack Daughtry pulled in the coveted citation tautog.

24.5" and 10lbs.

Those of you who read this blog with any regularity know that I've been after that fish for a long time and put in a lot of time while searching for it.  Yes, I am insanely jealous.  Jack, I hate you.  Ok, I'm kidding.  No, actually, I'm not.  I hate you.  But seriously, congrats man.  That is one helluva tog, and I look forward to fishing with you again, you bastard.

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving.  Here's little video of a lightline striper caught on my daughter's Disney Princess Rod.  I'll have to work on the lighting for the next one.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Last Minute Trophy Trout

I wasn't planning on going, but I got invited to a screening of Kayak Kevin's new DVD which was on the way to the spot.  At the last minute, I figured that I might as well strap the kayak on the rack.  All my stuff was still in my car from the last trout trip, which made the decision even easier.

I left Kevin's party a little early and headed down to the southern branch of the Elizabeth.  I launched a little after 10pm to a breezy river with dramatically lower temps than last time.  The action wasn't quite as good as Tuesday night, but I still ended up with 4 fish.  Three on topwater and one on the jig.  I could of had 6 but I dropped 2 right at the boat.  18.5", 21.75", 19.5" and the release citation I was looking for at 24.5".

I was walking-the-dog in the light of the half moon when I saw it quietly suck the lure under.

Nice night, off the water at 1:30am.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Topwater Trout Action on the Elizabeth

Justin and I were tempted to try the infamous Hot Ditch area of the Elizabeth River.  But part of me was also interested in trying some of the other areas on the E.  Lucky for us, Matt Anderson was feeling generous and agreed to take us to one of his spots.  It's not often that a speckled trout fisherman is willing to share.

We launched into the Southern Branch around 9:30pm and I quickly picked up a 16.5" speck on a Marshworks 3" Bayou Thumper in "croakain" color on a 1/4oz jighead.  I love the hard thumping action on those lures.  We were working the flats and drop offs and it wasn't long before Justin got a nice one that went a little over 20" on a purple MirrOLure.  I stuck to working the bottom and hooked a pretty decent trout that got off right at the boat.  It was probably around 18-19".  After that the action died off.  It took a while, but Justin came up with the right idea.  Topwater.

Just over 20"

Justin preferred the Super Spook Jr. and I worked a Rapala Skitter Walk in "speckled trout" color.  Though, I think any walk-the-dog style lure would have worked. 

Matt joined in on the fun and we all had numerous blow ups.  Many of them missed the lure, but it still got the excitement level up.  Sometimes they would explode on the lure just as we were pulling it out of the water.  It's pretty startling when the dark calmness is suddenly shattered as the black water detonates way too close to you.

The action would come and go and we would change the retrieval cadence.  A lot of times we would get them to hit on the pause.  After a great night of great topwater trout action we called it a night around 2:30am.  Thanks again, Matt.


Monday, November 14, 2011

A Great Day for Menhaden Management

Thank you to everyone who sent a message to help the menhaden.  

My previous post outlined some of the issues and on November 9th, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission held their meeting in Boston.  By a vote of 14 to 3, the ASMFC approved a new addendum to cut the annual harvest limit on the Atlantic Menhaden by 37%.  It's a great first step and I'm sure the 91,949 comments they received (overwhelming majority for harvest reduction) helped make the difference.   It's actually a historic moment since it's the first time ever that the commission voted for the reduction in menhaden harvest.

I think we as a collective community of sport fishermen/women should be proud to finally make a change to this problem.  This is definitely not the end to this issue, but definitely big step in the right direction.

The commission now has to create and vote on a plan to implement the new rules which should become effective in May of 2013.

For more information check out the ASMFC page and/or the CCA news page.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Back to the River

I almost forgot what it was like to drive less than an hour to go fishing.  My attraction to the salt had been pretty intense lately.  But today, I decided to switch things up and stay close to home.  I also decided to switch things up even more by going after something a little unusual..... GAR!

I found out about a spot on the James river that's loaded with gar.  However, the nearest public launch area was over 8 miles away and I didn't have time to dedicate to that kind of distance.  Staying determined, I did a little research on google maps.  Then I worked a little charm on a nice old lady who let me drag my kayak through her property.  Next thing I knew I was only a 15 minute paddle from the spot. Ya gotta love being able to do that with a kayak.

As I got closer to the spot, I could see the gar breaching the surface.  They were all over the place and some were definitely pushing 4 feet long.  I've used artificials/lures on them before but found it extremely frustrating since the hook up ratio on those skinny nosed gar was very low.  I decided to bring minnows this time, but it was still difficult to hook one.  The gar would grab it, then run, but wouldn't actually eat it for quite some time.  I would keep yanking it out of their teeth.

Speaking of teeth, I know some people have used frayed nylon rope as a lure and had pretty decent success with it.  The teeth would get tangled in the fine strands of rope and the angler could fight and land it.  I tried, but the fish didn't want anything to do with it, or any artificials I threw at them.

Eventually, I finally got one to eat a minnow, and with light tackle, it was a very enjoyable fight.  I got a little nervous when I pulled it close to the yak.  The prehistoric looking beast started tail dancing with it's mouth open... all 3 zillion pointy teeth flailing around in close proximity.

I think they're actually very pretty, except for their face.  My wife says they got "butterface".  I didn't see that one coming.  Anyway, my free lined minnows couldn't find the inside of another gar's mouth for the rest of the day.  But they did find several catfish, including this 42" citation blue cat...

I was a little surprised that this leviathan went after a 4" minnow.  

Just before I called it a day this pretty little James River striper came up to bid me adieu.

It was a nice day to change things up.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Jackassery of the First Degree

I recently found out that a fellow kayak fisherman lives only a few minutes away from me.  So naturally, I convinced him to do a midweek run down to the Tidewater area with me.  We loaded his Redfish 14 onto my car and made the hour and fifteen minute trip down.

Dan Smullen and I launched a little after 9pm and made our way out to the HRBT.  The water was like glass, which brings out the crazy power boaters.  We quickly ran into several other striper chasing yakers and shortly afterwards found a few rockfish of our own.  We also met up with Chuck Wrenn, another Richmonder.

The first few fish were very skittish but as we made our way toward the island, the we found more that weren't shy in the least.  Not too far from the island, we found a school causing a ruckus and busting on baits pretty hard.  Unfortunately, just as we were starting to get into them a boat notices our success and proceeds to run their outboard right through the school.  We held our tongues, even though we both found them guilty of jackassery in the first degree.  Of course, the fish disappeared so we ventured off to find more.

It wasn't quite as productive as I would have liked, but we did end up with a decent number of fish.  Dan caught at least ten.

I ended the night with around 15 or so with the biggest going a little over 25 inches.

We called it a night around 1am as the current started going slack.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Took a Chance

Justin and I were looking for Kayak Wars points.  The York River is closer than the HRBT for both of us and we heard some good things recently.  So we took a chance and went for it.


The schoolie stripers didn't show in numbers.  Instead we got a few small hickory shad, a 10" flounder, tiny bluefish, and a gazillion spike trout.

I ended up with a measly two stripers that counted for Kayak Wars and Justin didn't get any.  The paddle back seemed longer as disappointment settled in.  But I guess, sometimes, that's just the way it goes.  The drive back up to Richmond sucked.  The end.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Got Toggin' on my Noggin

The forecast just looked too good.  I took the day off, crossed my fingers in hopes that the forecast stayed good and made the trek to Virginia Beach.  I paddled 3.5 miles along the CBBT and as I arrived at the 1st island, I was greeted by 7 other kayak fishermen who all had the same thing on their minds... beautiful Thursday morning... TOGS.  It felt like I had just made a pilgrimage to the promised land to be with my people.  It was awesome.  The weather was perfect with minimal winds and warm sunshine.

Kayak toggin' enthusiasts of the day included Kevin and Lee along with their friends Jimmy and Rob, Jay Brooks and Tripp Seed of, and Kyle (I forgot your last name)'s dad.   The action had slowed down since my last trip out to the island.  It wasn't super hot, but we all still got some decent pullage.

Working the rocks over the tunnel

Fiddler crabs did the trick for me in the morning.  When I ran out, I switched to chunks of blue crab and they worked well too.  I ended the day with around 15 or so tautog, 9 of which count for Kayak Wars.  We had a few oystertoads and black sea bass too, which are par for the course.  One of the 17" togs was obviously a repeat offender...

I did it a favor and pulled out the extra hook before releasing it.  When I looked closer, I noticed it was the same size and style of hook I use (Owner cutting point 2/0 that have a specially designed tip which are easily recognizable).  It made me wonder if it was one of the few I hooked and lost two weeks ago at the same spot.

I stuck around until sunset and started the trip back. 

The wind picked up in the afternoon and seemed to get worse the later it got (of course) It made the return paddle a little tougher, but after the sun went down, using a 4" swimbait in natural bunker pattern, I had fun messing with the stripers.  I caught 9 stripers around the first small boat channel (red and green lights). 

I could have easily caught a bunch more, but I was beat and figured I should try to be somewhat coherent for my daughter's birthday the next day.  I took a few fish to my parents who were super excited and all in all, it was a great day!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tog Chowder

With the chill of autumn setting in and old man winter fast approaching, I thought I'd share one of my favorite feel-good soups, Tog Chowder. 

Here's what I use...

2-3 tablespoons of butter
2-3 cups of onions, chopped
About a dozen fresh mushrooms (I really like mushrooms.  Give or take to your preference)
2 stalks of celery
Small can of corn
4 cups of chicken stock
4-5 cups of potatoes, diced.
2 lbs of tautog, diced into 3/4" cubes.  Any firm white fish will do, such as striper/rockfish, cod, etc, but my favorite is tautog. 
1/4 teaspoon of ground thyme.  Some people like Old Bay, too.  Add to taste.
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 twelve ounce cans of evaporated milk
Finely chopped parsley

In a large pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat.  Saute the onions, mushrooms, and celery just a little bit.  

Add the chicken stock, potatoes and corn;  simmer for about 10 minutes.

Add the fish and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Add milk, season to taste with thyme or Old Bay, salt and pepper.  Let simmer for another 5-7 minutes.  It should thicken up a bit.

Add parsley.  


I like those french fried onion things that go on greenbean casseroles, too.  Add a nice piece of crusty bread and it's a great meal after a cold day on the water.  Enjoy...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Hawg Trough Improvement

After using the Hawg Trough for a couple of years now, I looked back through my Kayak Wars stats and realized that it's helped me measure and photograph well over 4 hundred fish (including the ones that were too small).  It makes documenting the catch quick and easy.  It's accurate and the numbers show up well in the photos.  It hardly weighs anything, which is great on a kayak, and it stores easily.

However, it does not float.  Last week, I had a fish thrash while it was on the board and normally I can keep control of it, but this time it went over.  It sank slowly, but I was not able to get to it in time and down to Davy Jones' locker it went.  After I caught the next fish, I forgot what it was like trying to measure a fish without it (besides the monster Red Drum and Kow Stripers).  I ordered a new one the next day and started thinking of ways to not lose it.  A friend of mine suggested a retractable cable, and although it's a good idea, I couldn't logistically find a place to attach it to without getting in the way and/or slowing me down.

When I got it in the mail, I saw on the back that there were two groove and the light bulb came on.  I got a roll of 1/2" x 3/8" strip foam insulation and some glue from the hardware store...

...and crammed it into the two grooves...

Ta Daa!
Bath tub tested!  Good to go!

The Hawg Trough is available at Hook1 Kayak Fishing Gear.