Without a doubt, 2011 was my best angling year thus far. My wife's generosity seemed to know no bounds and I spent more time on the water than ever before. I was lucky to have that much time and to say that I did pretty good would be an understatement.
Although I left a few goals still on the table, I accomplished more than I thought I would. I beat my personal best Red Drum 3 times (40", 45" and 48.5"). I boosted my personal best Spadefish several times up to 15.5", and raised my tautog record (22.25" twice and a 23.5"). I caught my first cobia ever along with 3 others. Even though it wasn't from a kayak, it still felt good to check that off the list. I'll be looking for the brown clown from the yak in the coming year.
I caught 10 Virginia saltwater trophy citations in 2011 spread through 4 different species (Red Drum, Speckled Trout, Sheepshead, and Tautog). In the freshwater world I had one Blue catfish citation and one flathead catfish citation. The Flathead also happens to be my new personal best at 41". I targeted and successfully caught carp for the first time as well.
Relentless in my pursuit, I launched my kayak over 75 times, spent more than 470 hours on the water, and paddled roughly 315 miles. My addiction also drove me to add almost 10,000 miles to my car.
Kayak Wars is one of the biggest online kayak tournaments hosting some of the best kayak anglers around. Virginia, being clumped together with the Northeast states made it very challenging to compete with the striper saturated northern states. None the less, our team, Fish Junkies, came in a respectable 2nd place in the Northeast division and I placed 3rd in individual ranking for the Northeast (second year in a row). With 279 registered fish, 5325 points spread through 15 different species, claiming 7 records, I'm pretty proud of my 3rd place. I feel like I gave it my all and that's that. I'm not sure that we'll get any actual prizes, but the bragging rights are pretty sweet.
The other tournament was with a smaller, more local, kayak fishing club called the Pirates of Lynnhaven. I won the Angler of the Year tournament along with a few of the smaller week long tournaments. I accumulated a few excellent glass mounted FishDV8 plaques, several gift certificates, an offshore deep drop trip with Rudee Angler, and a brand new kayak (Moken 12 angler from Appomattox River Company). The cherry on top is the fact that all the proceeds from that tournament went towards the VCU Massey Cancer Center.
My desire to promote the sport caught the eyes of some companies who had similar goals. In 2011, I was asked to join some very respected names in the industry in helping to showcase some innovative and excellent quality products made by some of the leading companies of the sport. YakAttack, Hook1/Kayak Bass Fishing and Werner paddles added me to their respective teams and I hope to keep contributing and helping to get their message out. And much to my appreciation, Hook1 and YakAngler continue to publish my articles on their website/blog. On top of that, I was also honored to be included in Kayak Kevin's 2nd fishing DVD.
Having said all that, with so much to be proud of, I think the thing I cherish the most is the couple of times I took my 3 year old daughter out. There are few things more satisfying to me than when she says she wants to go fishing with daddy. 2012 will definitely bring more trips with the wee ones.
Also, I look forward to helping the Heroes on the Water again in the coming year. My experience with the program left a supreme sense of satisfaction that mirrors the level of gratitude I have toward our service men and women.
I treasured the time I spent with some great fishing buddies and truly enjoyed making some new ones, too. I savored my time on the water and maintained vigilance to keep learning as much as I can about the fisheries I explored. But also, I remembered to simply enjoy the paddle and soak in what mother nature had to offer.
Although, some times mother nature wasn't so nice. I found myself in some scary situations in 2011 which will serve as a reminder to myself, and hopefully you too, that safety is always priority number one. Know your limits, wear your pfd, and please practice your self-recovery skills.
As far as goals for 2012 go, there are many. I've shared some already, but others include more trips closer to home and trying for a broader range of species. I plan on trying some new places for new species as well. Also, I promised my wife that I wouldn't doing any long term tournaments in 2012. So no Kayak Wars and no Angler of the Year tourneys. Kayak Wars served as a good way of keeping track of how many fish I caught, so this year, I will have to try to keep a separate log. I plan on creating more artwork as well as some entertaining videos. But mostly, I hope to keep learning through time spent on the water and then sharing those experiences.
I thank everyone who enjoys checking out my blog and hope you all have an excellent 2012. Whether it's just getting out on the water simply for the joy of paddling and being out in nature or you're quest is for the next big fish,
stay safe and best of luck.
Oh and watch out for deer on the road.