Saturday, June 30, 2012

Got Line?

I wasn't sure what to expect when I pulled into the parking lot at ten minutes til three, but it quickly became apparent that I was about to get a glimpse into another subculture within the world of fishing.  There were massive coolers already in line waiting to get loaded on to the Rudee Angler.  Guys were sharing stories about the last time out and commiserating over how long the haul was going to be.  A small group of Korean men in their late 40s-early 50s were bragging about how superior their equipment was then pointed out "there's that old lady again... the one who caught all those citations last time" (not in English).  Several guys had sleeping bags or mats, neck pillows, folding lawn chairs and car batteries.  It was obvious that most of the people there were seasoned veterans of that scene.  As for me... I felt like.... well... a fish out of water.

We left the inlet a little before 4am and settled in for the 4 and half hour trek.  It didn't take me long to figure out why people brought sleeping bags and neck pillows.  The prime spots around the tables (booths) were taken up quick and before we knew it, guys were setting up to lay on the floor.  I squeezed into a small spot on a bench, sat down and passed out for a couple hours.  When I woke up the boat was headed straight for the rising sun, guys were snoring, mates were getting equipment ready, and I was thinking a neck pillow would have been a good idea.  Upon venturing to the upper deck I realized there was a lot more room up there.  A few guys had the right idea and set up camp up there in the open air.  One guy was even smart enough to bring a reclining camp chair. 

After the long awaited approval from the captain, I finally released my Lucanus jig into the dark abyss.  The first drop was into 300 feet and it seemed to take an eternity to reach the bottom.  

But when it finally did, it only took 2 slow cranks and I was hooked up.

Keeper Black Sea Bass

The jig worked great for most of the morning.  The long ascent didn't bother me with the lighter equipment.  I also tried what every one else was using... the double dropper rigs with squid.  I quickly realized that I liked working the jig much better.  The standard sinker for the boat was a whopping 24 ounces.  That's a pound and a half of lead.  Do you remember me mentioning car batteries in the beginning of the post?  Yeah... a bunch of guys had electric reels.  Some of them even made a little bracket that they attached to the rod so as soon as they hooked up, they would brace the rod on the rail using the bracket, then push the button on their electric reel and stand there.  I guess to some people that's what "fishing" means to them.  It's a little different for me, but to each their own.

Leroy with a decent little Blueline Tilefish
John the pirate first mate with one of my Sea Bass
At one point, I hooked into a nice fighting fish on the jig and worked him all the way to the surface pulling drag every once in a while.  It turned out to be a really nice Blueline Tilefish, but I pulled the hook trying to lift him out of the water with my rod.  I should have waited for the mate to get a net or gaff.  I'm definitely not used to needing other people to help me land a fish.  I'd rather grab the leader and leg kick the fish into my kayak :)

Cool colors

We ended up going to about 650 feet.  As you can imagine, the drop wore on my patience and reeling up was grueling.  I guess one of the fun parts of the this type of fishing is that you never know what you're going to find down there.  Any one of those drops is potential for a true monster of the depths.  Giant grouper, sharks, who knows...  I caught something I never seen before and had to ask the specie name...

Yellowfin Bass
Little thing turned out to be quite delicious

A veteran fishing just a few feet from me caught the biggest of the day.

Big ol' Tilefish
Almost back to Rudee
I have to admit, it wasn't my favorite type of fishing, but I'm very glad I got to try it.  I definitely can't complaint about the amount and quality of meat I brought home.  But honestly, I probably won't go again unless I win another trip for free or if a friend with a boat invites me for some help with gas.

Big thank you goes out to Pirates of Lynnhaven who put the gift certificate up as a tournament prize last year.  Here's the link to the day I won it.  This trip was a great chance for me to peek into a totally different side of fishing that I otherwise would have never tried.  

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Cats, Sunnies, a Long Paddle and some Flounder

As kind as he was about sharing one of his speckled trout spots with me, I had to help Matt Anderson when he decided to try for catfish up my way.  5 o'clock couldn't come soon enough and I bolted from my office chair to meet him at the launch.  He had been out earlier with Dan Smullen and had a 29" blue cat for an online tournament he was hoping to win.  When we got to the water, I realized the water was higher than I thought it would be.  It was not a problem as far as the paddle goes, but for the spot I like to fish, it was a few feet higher than I like.  We still got into some fish just as the sun was setting.  I managed 4 or 5 with the biggest blue cat going ~31" and the biggest flathead going ~27"...nothing huge but still a good time.  Matt went on to win the tourney with the fish he caught earlier. 

The next day I went looking for crawdads in the creek down the street.  I was hoping to use some for bait, but they were nowhere to be found.  But I did find something else.  I went back home, grabbed my flyrod and had a good time sight casting to these little guys.

Red Breasted Sunfish (note the elongated ear flap)
Gotta love those colors

Planning my next trip got me excited.  Everything was packed and ready for the 3am departure.  All antsy and excited, I felt like a little kid.  Tossing and turning, thoughts of what could happen... oh the possibilities.  

The Eastern Shore greeted me with an amazing sunrise and light winds.  Long story short, I looked for bull reds, chummed for cobia,  and dropped clam bits for spades and sheeps.  I saw none and caught none.  An extremely long paddle in some new areas yielded small grey trout, sand perch, croaker and black sea bass... disappointing to say the least but at least I tried and learned a little about the new location.  My last ditch effort just before sunset had me jigging for flounder near the launch area.  That saved the day... 21", 20", 16" and 14".  

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Flounder Print with Short Video

I kept an 18.5" flounder last Thursday and finally got around to making some prints of it.

After painting the eyes and doing a little touch up here and there, here's what the final print might look like.  

Click for bigger image

There are also samples of other prints in the Artwork section of the website.

Monday, June 11, 2012

First Sheepie of the Year

As soon as I set the hook, I knew.  It was heavy and I cranked as fast as I could knowing the jaw-clenching drag run was coming... and it most definitely did.  All the line I gained in the beginning was back under water and as hard as I tried to keep it away from the piling, it was still strong enough to get where it wanted.  I felt my line rubbing but luckily I was ready with the one arm paddle action.  I made two hard sweeps and got in position to give a good yank on the rod.  I turned his head and started gaining line... only for it to go on another awe inspiring run.  This time it didn't get back to the pilings, but I was still nervous about how much damage my line sustained the last time.  When I got it near the surface, my suspicions were confirmed in the form of a shredded leader.  And of course, in true sheepshead fashion, it got it's head pointed back down and as the tail started kicking I loosened up the drag just in time.  Two more heart stopping runs ensued and I could have sworn I was going to lose that fish.  But somehow I ended up landing my first sheepshead of 2012.

First Citation of the year, too.

Bubba is a tough fighter, but when you play rough, sometimes you lose a tooth.

You'll notice the color difference in the first two pictures.  The longer they stay out of water, the more faded the colors will get.  Please make sure, especially in the warmer months, to get them back in the water quickly and revive them thoroughly before releasing them.  It's pretty amazing to watch their colors come right back and vibrant.

I also caught a 25" black drum that fought well, but after the last fight, definitely seemed a bit on the wussy side.  There are few fish in our neck of the woods that will get your adrenaline rushing like a big ol' sheepshead.

Tidbits of what I used:  Bait, mole crabs (although other crustaceans will work as well, including fiddler crabs).  Rig, 2/0 Owner cutting point hook on dropper loop (1/0-3/0 will work).  3-4 oz sinker (sometimes more depending on current), 40lb leader, 30lb braid (most people use heavier braid and leader and it's recommended).  Stout yet sensitive rod and quality reel with smooth drag is crucial.  Noodley rods will not get a good hook set and you will not have enough power to turn the fish during the fight.  A drag that stutters will also end in disappointment.  

Side note:  Thanks goes out to Kevin, Lee and Jay for confirming our hunch earlier in the week.  Unfortunately, as luck would have it, Jay dropped two.  I'm sure they will be out for retribution soon.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

ARC Demo Day

It was nonstop moving and helping once things got going.  I had a great time sharing my love for Ocean Kayak and hanging out with Kevin and the other pro staffers.  Here's a quick, silly little video of about 30 fun filled minutes compressed to about 2.

Talking about kayaking and fishing for hours... gotta love it!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Slow Night at the HRBT

The flounder bite was definitely slower than the last time I was out.
I had two little dinks and a mess of these...

I managed one decent 18.5" flounder and that was it.  After going up and down the light line with very little activity, I skedaddled a little before 11:00pm.  Sometimes that's just the way it goes.  I'm sure it'll pick back up soon.  

It was still a beautiful night.  I kept the flounder and a 13" croaker.  Hope to have some prints soon.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sketch: Tarpon Study

I decided to start getting back into what I actually went to school for (and paid VCU a lot of money for) art/illustration.  And since I don't have a worth while fishing report to share this week, I figured I would at least share a little sketch I did recently.  

Hope to get back into painting soon 
(after I get a fish to pull my kayak around)