Monday, December 10, 2012

Driftin' with the Striper Fleet

Our network of reporters didn't have much to say about the concrete ships so it was decided that the best plan of action was to join the armada of bobber drifters out in deeper water.

Kevin, Lee, Jay and I paddled out to where the depth goes from 30' to 120' and got right in the mix with the massive legion of motorboaters.  Clickers were screaming and nets were swinging so we knew the fish were around.  

We all had short strikes here and there, but Jay was the first to land one... a 41"er.  Lee hooked up almost immediately after, but it came unbuttoned after about 45 seconds.  Kevin came tight next and had it at the boat, but "released" it yak side, fearing the wrath of what Lee might say or do to him.  Poor Lee's misfortune continued as my eel got taken next.  

Playing it gently

I had taken the opportunity to bring out my 8lb test knowing there wasn't going to be any structure out there.  A certain IGFA record caught my eye a while back and this was a great chance to take a shot at it.  The initial run peeled line at an intimidating rate.  Had I had my clicker on, it would have reflected my nerves at the time.  But once it stopped, I gathered my line and surprising it didn't take too long for me to grab the leader.

44" Striper on 8lb Ande IGFA rated line


It wasn't the record I was looking for, but I was still all smiles.

Later on toward the end of the day Jay went on to catch another one at 42" 

As it turns out all three fish were caught on free lined eels with no weight...  
so we did a study...

Big thank you to Kayak Kevin for sharing the knowledge.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Late Fall Marathon

It ain't easy makin' that cheese.  But when it's time to play, it's time to play.  Friday after work, I bolted down to the Elizabeth River...

24.25" speckled trout

Tagged and released
After about 8 hours on the water I got off around 3:30am having caught a measly 5 or 6 trout.  I passed out in front of Long Bay Point tackle shop for a couple then picked up some crabs.  

The sun peaked over the horizon to a gorgeous flat calm bay as I was just reaching my tog spot at the CBBT.  My first drop down...

After the tough fighting 20" tog, I scrounged up 6 others up to 17.5".  The birds and boats were out in force with a few finding what they were looking for.  Schoolie stripers even messed with my crab on the way up from the bottom...  but they were not my target for the day.  I had plans to hunt for big bertha moo moo stripers later that evening.  

I made it back to shore around 2:15 and raced over to Appomattox River Company in Hampton to catch the tail end of their rigging party/chili cook off.  After a little socializing, I trekked across to the Eastern Shore to resume my marathon.  

I launched right on time as the current was starting to slack.  Unfortunately, after 3 hours with my eel barely getting nervous, I was done.  Exhaustion settled in as my toes screamed for mercy from the cold.  

The reports of big stripers from the Eastern Shore are flooding in so it won't be long before I'm back out on the hunt.  Hope to see you out there.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Specks, Schoolies, and a Long Paddle

It felt like an eternity.  The leaves gathered on my kayak for over a month as work and family priorities overshadowed my angling desires.  But as soon as my slate was clear, the familiar feelings of my Werner gliding through the water and fish putting that certain curvature in my rod ignited my senses.  

My immediate desire was to look for togs, but that mean four letter word kept me from venturing too far from shore.  North at 15-20 kts was just too brutal so speckled trout became the target.

I met up with Jack Daughtry from Maryland out on the Elizabeth River.  My first cast with a skitterwalk got two blow ups, but no hook up.  It was promising. Unfortunately, those were the only two blow ups I would get.  Being stubborn, I wasted a lot of time trying to make the topwater work as Jack was hookin' up left and right on MirrOlures.  I eventually gave in and switched.  We trolled around exploring new areas and getting reacquainted with old ones as well.  White, chartreuse, silver, and natural colors worked well.  All in all, Jack probably out fished me 2 to 1, maybe more, but it was nice to catch up with him and finally get back on the water.

My next outing came 24 hours later.  My little brother had been wanting to get on the water with me but our schedules never seemed to line up.  So I was super stoked when we finally had the chance.  I had described the lightline striper action to him many times, but for him to actually see it... was more than special.  

Charlie with a nice HRBT schoolie striper

After a little rockfish sashimi with Thanksgiving dinner we went out again on Friday morning.  This time in search of the not-so-schoolie stripers.  We met Kevin and Lee over on the Eastern Shore and went on a super long drift.  After dunking eels for almost 15 miles, Lee was the only one to hook up.

Lee's 32"er

It was a long day, but I'm sure it was better than shopping.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Bamboozled: A Trout Tale

Check it out.  True story.  

So there I was, hangin' out with some buddies of mine out on this flat.  As usual, the youngins were out makin' a ruckus... punk lil' spikes... And those little blue tailed rascals with the big spots... they were out doing their thing too... 

Man... it was one of those nights that just felt good.  
None of them noisy motors putterin' around, all up in our business... it was nice!

The water temp was feelin' awesome and we were finding little things here and there to wet our appetite.  But we knew where to find the main course...

We could feel it in our bones.  With a big storm on the way and everything... yeah...
The current was startin' to get good... stuff was pourin' out this creek... 
man, I tell you what... 
it was about to get buck wild up in there!

So my buddies were really starting to get into 'em and having a good time when I heard a nice little splash behind me.  I had to go check it out...
When I saw it, I instantly knew... I gotta have that.  
The way it moved turned me on... for real
I made my move and went for it...

Strike! But some how, I missed.  I lost it for a bit in the darkness, but then I heard it again.  I was hellbent on getting this thing so I got all sneaky-like and snuck up on it... ninjas ain't got nothin' on me.  It picked up the pace, but I got the jump on it.  Could have sworn I got it, but dude... I missed again! 

I couldn't believe it.  By now I'm pissed... feelin' like a fool in front of my buddies.  One of them started making his way over like he was gonna take a crack at it... as if!  I turned around and quickly found it right on the surface... still movin' all sexy n' sheezz, drivin' me nuts!  The moment it stopped, I went for it.  I was all like Samuel L... striking down with great vengeance and furious anger... I didn't hold nothing back...

And I got it that time...

But, dude...

I was fooled...

Bamboozled, I tell ya!

I tried everything to get away, but next thing I knew I was on one of those little boats with no motor... there was an Asian guy... bright flashing lights... man, I coulda sworn I was a goner.

But then, he let me go.

True story... 

Apparently it happened to a bunch of my buddies too.  (Link)

Sucker for the Topwater
Closed mouth.  Right on the money.  24" Release citation Speckled Trout

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sea Change and Spreading the Love

The window-down kind of days have slowly brought on the wader-up type of outings.  Like a banner of farewell, the bold colors of the trees bid bon voyage to the mass exodus that brings about a sea change to the Chesapeake Bay fishery. 

The last several weeks have been a great time to take advantage of the gluttonous appetite of many species on the way out.  And if there was a certain summer specie you were looking for, unfortunately time is running out.  My quest for a trophy croaker (3lbs or 20") will have to resume next year as I fell short in 2012.


One of the species that stay available almost all year, including winter in certain warm water pockets is the speckled trout.  Local legend and trout master, Forrest Short, was once again generous enough to let me hang out with him a few weeks ago. 

But even the most decorated anglers have off days.  All we got was this lil 17"er.  However, he redeemed himself a week later or so later with an amazing day that included a beautiful 25.5"er.

On Sunday the 21st, I took my cousin Chris and his friend Steve out to meet Richie Bekolay at the trout hole.  Long story short, casting MirroLures, jigging soft plastics and trolling either or both did the trick.  Pink, pink/yellow, chartreuse, peppered white, and dark greens with chartreuse tails were the flavors of the day.  Several nice specks up to 20" and a few small reds were tagged and released.

Richie Bekolay 18" Speckled Trout

Chris Lee with an 18" Speckled Trout.  He also had a pretty 20"er earlier

 We were off the water just as the sun was setting.  After a bite to eat we launched again at the HRBT.  There was 2 hours left of the outgoing and I was hopeful.  But I was wrong.  As my cousin put it, I "snipered" off the one lone striper we saw on the entire light line.  It was a skinny little 21"er and I put the lure perfectly in it's path.  Unfortunately no picture.  As the current slowed, we jigged for whatever wanted to bite since we had to wait until the tide swung.  After several gray trout, I picked up a 15" flounder and just as I was tossing it toward my cousin (just to startle him) I realized that was my inshore slam (speck, red & flounder)... and with the striper, an inshore grand slam... a pleasant surprise, but unfortunately, no pictures of the flounder or striper.  As the incoming current picked up I was really hoping that the stripers would line up thick.  However, after 2.5 hours into the tide, I knew it wasn't going to happen.  We found a few here and there that were very finicky.  I managed to entice 8 or so up to 27".  Chris and Steve had a few follow their lures but not commit.  It was great none the less to see them so excited.  Actually seeing the fish, sometimes literally right next to the kayak in paddle touching distance, reacting to their presentations is really a magical thing.  Even though they didn't catch any, they understood the challenge and what to look for.  They'll be back, I'm sure. 

It was a great day to enjoy the season and spread the love...  and the addiction.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Midweek HRBT Report

Fishermen always have theories.  And the more you fish, the theories evolve.  As night time schoolie striper fishing around the bridges of the Tidewater area gets hot, anglers scramble to formulate or confirm their hypothesis... especially when the season is open. 

Here's where my theory stands so far.  The stripers are always around.  You just have to be there when they want to eat.  I've caught plenty along the light line in the middle of the summer, but they obviously like to congregate thicker when the temps are cooler.  They seem to like a little chop on the water and current is a must.  As far as direction of the current goes, everyone seems to like one over the other.  I've had it switch on me so many times, I don't favor either.  This time of year, if one direction doesn't produce, you just have to wait for it to turn and start flowing the other way.  It may stay good for that direction for several day, but then at some point it'll switch again.  But then again, sometimes, they're stacked up on both incoming and outgoing.

I met Richie Bekolay and Matt Anderson under the HRBT for a midweek patrol of the light line.  We got there just before the current was maxin' out hoping to find them active and hungry.  Unfortunately, that was not the case.  We cruised up and down the entire length of the bridge up to the south island and only picked up one or two skinny stripers that were mixed in with a gazillion little gray trout and baby bluefish.

Slack tide (2300) came and shortly after we switched sides.  Richie picked up two nicer ones in the mid to upper 20s but had to leave soon after.

Richie Bekolay 28.25" Striper

I started seeing some here and there and knew it was only going to get better as the current got stronger.  By 0100 they were everywhere and very aggressive.  I had a blast hooking up on nearly every cast.  With the exception of one strange growth, they were nice healthy, not too skinny, in the 21"-24" range.  Unfortunately, the thought of the hour and a half long drive back to Richmond weighed heavy so I was off the water by 0200.

The one with the weird growth fought well and was otherwise perfectly healthy.  The mass was very hard, but when I pushed on it, it would move in and out of the folds under it's jaw.  Ever see anything like this? 

In a strange way it kind of reminds me of the "frankenstriper" I caught a couple years back (link).

Side note: striper prints will be available soon.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

2012 TKAA Tournament

Once again, I forwent the pleasure of competing this year.  Ever since my experience with Heroes on the Water at last year's tournament (link), I've been thinking about making this video.  I hope it gives you a peek into a different side of kayak fishing...

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Going Big in the Wide Open

The mindset was that if we were lucky, one of us might get a shot at a cobia.  The five of us knew going into it that finding mister brown of respectable size in a kayak is no easy feat.  Yet, we all trekked out to the beach to take our chances.  Our realistically curtailed expectations quickly found a serious deterrent as we stood there stupefied at the much higher than expected surf.  As luck would have it, that wouldn't be the only curve ball of the day.

The photos really don't do the waves justice.  We had sets maxing out over 6ft that would build very quickly and close to shore.  After stowing and tying everything down, everyone timed their launches well... 

except for me.

After studying the waves for over 10 minutes I thought there was going a be a lull in the set and took a chance.  I pulled the kayak out, sat down, and took one paddle stroke... just in time to see a massive wave build quickly and crash right on top of me... throwing me out of my seat.  Luckily, I wasn't hurt and had everything in the rod pod.

My second attempt was smooth with far less drama.  I quickly found the others on the greener side of the breakers and joined in getting equipment out and ready. 

While catching bait, we immediately realized that we were surrounded by gray suits.  The toothy bastards chomped on everything we threw out.  Although entertaining at first, they became quite the nuisance.

Both eels and baitfish intended for cobia didn't stand a chance.  The sharks demolished everything and put a slow burn in our muscles.  Dealing with hook removal and/or retying became a time consuming chore and as hours went by our hopes for the target specie sank deeper into doubt.  We went farther and farther out into the vast Atlantic and continued to get harassed by sharks.  To make things worse, clouds rolled over and took away our already limited ability to visualize our ambitious goal.

I eventually picked a spot to anchor up and everyone gathered around.  We got into a few more sharks and then ...

Alex Britland's first ever big red just short of 43"   (Photo credit: Seth Goodrich)

Losing line fast
47.5" Release Citation Red Drum

Justin Mayer caught three up to 45"
As I'm releasing a 38"er Seth Goodrich hooks up
It's a great feeling
Seth with his first ever big red @ 42.5"
Alex with a 46.5" citation   )Photo credit: Seth Goodrich)

The action was incredible and lasted for a good while.  We still had sharks mixed in, but when one of us hooked up with a drum, we knew it.  The signature head shakes and ensuing sleigh ride were more than enough to put the elusive cobia on the back burner.

Big jigheads and bucktails with various soft plastics got the job done as well as fresh cut bait on the bottom.

William Ragulsky with a 47" citation  (Photo credit: Seth Goodrich)
Rod diggin' with my tongue out
44"er with no spot on one side

Poop shoot

Seth, Alex, Justin & Billy

The finally tally was 11 big reds between the 5 of us ranging from 38" to 47.5".  Three personal bests were crushed.  Three citations were registered.  The number of sharks were ridiculous with the biggest going around 4ft.

On an ending note, I was the only one who ate a wave on the way out and I was the only one who turtled in the surf on the way in.  Good times none the less...

It was a day none of us will ever forget.