Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A Cobia Story

Maybe I should be embarrassed to say how many times I've sat, anchored up, chumming for hours on end or how many miles I've paddled around searching without success.  But perhaps that's also a testament to how difficult it can be to find, hook, and land a kayak cobia in our waters.  This is the sixth year I've been chasing Virginia cobia from a kayak and if I had to guess, there are over fifteen trips that I have not written about because there wasn't much to share.  The long drives back to Richmond let me reflect on what I learned each time, which I kept to myself.

From Buckroe and Grandview, Bluefish Rock, CBBT, to Sandbridge and The Humps, I've seen and chased, helped friends land theirs, and swallowed disappointment after disappointment.  I've tossed bucktails and lively eels in front of monsters only to be rejected.  The amount of money I've spent on chum makes my stomach churn.  Charter trips on boats were fun and helped me understand the fish, but that personal satisfaction of finding them on my own and going toe to toe my way has been a burning desire a long time. 

Last week, that desire was met with an enjoyable 38"er followed by a shit-eating grin.  But the thing is, that desire came back by the time I got to shore.  And it came back burning hotter than before.  By the time the next weekend came around, I made sure everything at home was in good order for me to go on another hunt for Mr. Brown.  

The wind was not in our favor but Jeff and I trekked out anyway.  I resisted the urge to bring sheepshead and spadefish gear knowing I would probably be tempted to cut into my cobia searching.  We kept our eyes peeled the entire time.  At one point, I looked back to see a little 2 footer following just a few feet behind my stern.  I tossed the RonZ but he disappeared.  A few minutes later he was back there again so I tossed a live eel but he disappeared again.  Not too long after that, I found what I was looking for.  Actually about 7 or 8 of what I was looking for.  Before I could react two of the bigger ones came right at me and tucked themselves under the kayak.  Four maybe five of the others were following close behind and one of them ate the eel.  As soon as it hit, it dove straight down then spun me around while peeling off a good bit of line. 

I was already in between piling sets and I tried to keep it that way while regaining as much line as I could.  As the fight went on, it ended up between the two bridges and I finally let out a smile.  The rest of the fight was a vertical tug of war with impressive run after run.  I pulled him up to the surface a couple of times only for it to explode, haul ass back down, and show that power I was hoping to feel.  

After about 13 minutes (I hit record about 10 seconds after the hookset) it was getting tired.  Shortly after, I grabbed the leader, saw that the hook was in a good spot and took the hammer to the dome... a lot.  

Once I got him on deck and saw the spikes on it's back twitching, I hammered some more for good measure. 

Last weeks 38"er made me ecstatic, but this 51"er was more of what I had in mind as the top part of my iceberg illusion.  All that time, sacrifice, disappointment, failure along with the persistence, hard work and dedication mentioned at the beginning is what nobody sees.  I guess only I will really understand the size of that struggle below the surface, but let me tell ya, it feels pretty damn good to show off the tip of this iceberg.  I know it's not a giant, but I couldn't be more happy.

The twisted part is... 
As soon as I started paddling back, I wanted more.  
There it was right in my lap... 
what I've been wanting for so long... 
and all I can think about is when can I get back out again for another.  

Study Of A Hall Pass

Found this on Moldy Chum and had to share.   I can relate to every single word.

The Study Of A Hall Pass from Dustin Miller on Vimeo.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Two Trophy Sheepshead, Spades, Togs, and a Keeper Cobia

A dim glow was slowly creeping across the eastern sky when my kayak set free from the beach.  The water was black and glassy and the glide was silky smooth.  I looked up at the stars, smiled, and whispered gratitude.  When I looked back down, my bow was cutting through thick bioluminescence creating Tron-like streaks on the water.  Each stroke of my Werner Kalliste sent clouds of electric blue swirling by and like the other times I've sat on an expansive touch-sensitive light-up body of water, I was reminded of what it feels like to be a child... giddy... full of wonder and amazement. 

The surreal Life-Of-Pi-esque scene, minus the gazillion jellyfish and jumping whale, faded as color spread and reflected on the mirror finish. 

I dropped my sheepshead rig in four or five spots before the sun was clear of the horizon.  Not too long afterwards, I got my first bite.  The strange yet familiar grinding with a sudden weight triggered that instinctual swing and urgent need to gain line.  Plunges of my rod tip preluded the high friction exiting of said line.  We exchanged possession of that length a few times while I kicked and pushed to get away from the big CBBT pilings.  When its rage wore off, I realized the hook was only holding on to a tiny sliver at the tip of it's lip.  I turned the fish so I could tuck my foot under it's pelvic fin, pinned it against the side of my kayak and pushed up as I pulled on the leader.  It measured right at 24".  

24" Release Citation Sheepshead
About 20 minutes later, I replayed the previous sequence much to my delight.  The 25"er had better hook placement on it though. 

25" Release Citation Sheepshead

It was 7:18 and I doubled up on my goal of getting a release citation sheepshead.  Since the bite was hot, I stuck around the area hoping for a third.  However, my patience ran out quickly thinking about the other goals I had for the day.  I had been wanting to make a print of a spadefish for a while, but haven't had a chance to bring one home.  After a quick paddle to different spot, the first drop down with clam brought on the rod-vibrating fight of a 10" spadefish.  Second drop down produced similar. Then, after 15 minutes of no action, I decided it was time to move on.  I checked off goal number two, as one of the spades went on ice destined to be inked.

The final goal of the day was to give it a good shot for cobia.  The sun was getting high enough to possibly see them.  Keeping a keen eye on the surface, I tried to cover as much water as possible in my Ultra 4.7.  However, when I got to one of my favorite spots, I had to drop a fiddler crab down just to see if anyone was home.

Anyone else remember Beetlejuice from Howard Stern?

After four togs up to about 15" I pulled myself away to resume the cobia hunt.  After a good long paddle, I saw what I was hoping for; silly brown clown circling a piling.  It wasn't very big, but I was definitely still going to take a shot.  It was swimming counter clockwise and I tossed a RonZ past the piling to the right side just as fish came around on the left.  I swam it near the surface and he charged as soon as he saw it.  He hit it but didn't eat.  I bounced it and he started chasing.  It was getting fairly close to the kayak and I was running out of line.  I dipped the rod down, thinking I was going to have to open the bail to let the lure drop, but then he grabbed it hard and I slammed it home.  Up until this point, I had only hooked up to cobia on friends' boats and charters.  I've seen plenty from a kayak, including some monsters, but for various reasons (sometimes beyond my control and sometimes my fault) I just never got a hook up.  So, I took my time and enjoyed this fight.  He immediately took some line, came up to the surface and thrashed, circled around and made a run back toward the pilings.  I was able to turn him and then he sounded.  For a smallish cobia, it definitely had some attitude; which I wanted all gone from him when it came time to bring it on the kayak.  I let him take as many runs as he wanted.  Eventually, he stayed relatively calm and I noticed the hook placement was good.  I grabbed the leader and slowly pulled him up.  

I quickly measured him at 38" and decided to keep it.  Knowing how strong they are and their destructive nature if it were to thrash in my lap, I took the hammer to the dome.  

I could have ended the trip at 7 in the morning and the 2hr drive home would have still been all smiles.  But with two release citation sheepies, spades, togs, and a keeper cobia under the hatch... you could say I was cheezin pretty hard. 

I made it back to shore by 2pm to get back home by 5pm as promised.  Cherry on top of it all was taking the kids to their first baseball game.  

That celebratory beer though...


Hopefully I'll be back out soon to upgrade that kayak cobia.

In the meantime, fish prints it is...

Video of the sheepies and cobia coming soon.