Saturday, December 10, 2016

Letter to Sir Esox Masquinongy

Dear Sir Esox, Monsieur Muskellunge, if I may just call you Musky,

Without question your reputation precedes you.  Many anglers consider you The Don of the freshwater sport fishing world and your "fish of 10,000 casts" moniker seems well deserved.  General consensus is that you're a bad futhamucka and I have admired you for many years without realizing how close you actually were.  

Last year I went looking for you on the New River and only caught several glimpses as you followed my lure. You reminded me of my friend the Cobia.  You're both very curious and willing to follow my offerings but sometimes you just lose interest.  And don't take this the wrong way but you guys act just like cats.  Not catfish; not trying to insult you; I mean cats.  You guys will show interest in something, slowly follow it, stalk it, get ready to pounce and attack, but then if it doesn't get scared or try to get away you don't care anymore.  I guess it's just not fun for you if they're just sitting there.  For example, there is a cat toy that is a feather on a string attached to short wand.  If you put that feather in front of a cat, it'll just roll it's eyes at you.  But if you twitch it right and make it act as if it's trying the get away, it gets destroyed.  Yeah, that's you.  It's like you take pleasure in scaring the crap out of the little fish, making it freak out, swim for it's life, all the while knowing you're just going to come with a burst of speed like a goddamn tiger and chomp down on it's sorry ass.  You're a sadistic predator and I know you give zerofux.  Ain't no shame in your game and that's one of the reasons I was so delighted to make your acquaintance last week.

When I found out that I could find you in the upper James River I went all stage-five-clinger mode and google earth'd the ever loving satellite view out of your neighborhood.  I'm not afraid to admit it.  I stalked the shit out of you.  It put me an hour closer to home than the New River and there's something special about the fact that the same water from the upper James leads to Richmond, my home town, and hundreds of miles later, down to the Chesapeake where I chase all my favorite saltwater species.  It kinda of brings you and Cobia a little closer in my mind.  

What's different about you though, is that it's much more of a mental game.  Throwing huge lures all day is no joke.  Cast after cast after cast, while making sure the lure is doing what it's supposed to, it's easy to start second guessing yourself.  There were creeks dumping into the river, nice rocky drop offs and all the other things you like to hang around, but I started to wonder if you're even in the area.  The wind was pushing me down the river way too fast, the sandwich from earlier wasn't cutting it, I was dreading the 2.5 hour drive back home, the cold was punishing my feet, but still I kept casting.  And casting.  And casting.  I tried to maintain focus but it did become dreadfully monotonous.  Until the moment came.  On my 6th trip (2nd to the James), you surprised the hell out of me and I fooled you into chomping on my 10" glidebait.  

The sudden shock of your weight on the line, the head shakes, the streaking side to side, spinning me around a bit, your violent thrashing near the kayak, I thank you for the thrill I was hoping for.  

All 41" of you, with that emerald iridescence on your back (that doesn't show up well in photos), the attitude, them teeth, I couldn't have asked for a finer specimen for my 1st musky and the experience was definitely an affirmation of your reputation.
On a side note, you've obviously been eating pretty damn good.  You had quite the dunlap going. 
Your belly dun lap over my fingers

I plan to be back in your neighborhood in the near future.
Don't be shy.

Until next time,


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The New Tridents are Here!

Having been a part of the design counsel for the new 2017 versions, I am very proud to announce the arrival of the revamped Ocean Kayak Trident Series.  The legendary hull remains the same but the topside has some major upgrades.

Friday, September 30, 2016

How to Revive and Release Big Reds (VIDEO)

The crew has been on the big red drum this fall at the CBBT.  Jay Brooks got a 47"er that won the red drum division of the 12th Annual TKAA charity tournament.  And of course Drum Jesus, Kayak Kevin, has been on 'em.  

We've noticed a disturbing trend though.  Many people haven't been reviving the fish correctly before releasing them.  They are old fish that are protected by law and deserve our respect so watch this video before going after them.  Let's do it right, homies.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Skinny Sweetwater Sightfishing (Video)

After chasing an open water salt specie for a while, I decided to switch it up and check out some skinny sweetwater areas.

My ninja, Wayne Tu stuck a nice bass on a frog and I managed to sight cast to a decent bowfin.

As fun as it was, I suspect it will be time to go back and play with our bigger brinier friends soon.  Hope to see you all out there.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Consolation Citation Cobia

After 3 months of major adulting, I was finally able to get away.  The combination of buying a new house, trying to sell the old one, office life, and of course daddy life kept me off the water for what felt like an eternity.  However the window of opportunity came just in time for me to look for cobia before the season closed. 

Machine gun fire from the near by military base set the tone for the day as I launched the Ultra 4.7 into glassy conditions under the CBBT.  It felt like a search and destroy mission since it was the last chance I was going to have to bring home a keeper cobia before the season closes.  Plus it was my third trip in less than 3 weeks so I was feeling a little vindictive.  The first trip involved a ridiculous amount of paddling, not seeing a single fish, and a sour Asian.  On the 2nd trip I did manage a mid 30"er (minimum is 40" to keep).  I knew it would be short but I casted anyway.  It was fun regardless, especially since I hadn't fought a fish in so long.  And as WillyRags says, "It's still a VA kayak cobia."

Huge thanks to William Ragulsky for the kickass action photos

Later that same day, I had a mid 40" cobia thrash on an eel but not take it all the way.  I circled back around and it came straight to the stern of my kayak then streaked off to grab my eel.  Splashing on the surface, the cobia ripped the eel right off the hook before I could put it into free spool and let him get it all the way in its mouth.

Big thanks to Action Hat.  At least I got some cool footage.

I saw 4 others that day but they either got stung earlier or just weren't hungry.  It gave me hope for the third trip though having seen good numbers.  Again I paddled a lot and covered a lot of water while watching charter captains hook up over and over again in their towers.  I saw 5-6 fish, messed up casts on a couple and just simply got rejected on the others.  Third time wasn't the charm.

Johnson Outdoors (mother company of Ocean Kayak and Old Town) sent me a new Predator PDL pedal drive kayak and two days later I had an opportunity to get out of work.  So naturally, still having brown on my mind, I took the new plastic down to the beach.  It took a bit to get used to pedaling instead of paddling, and also took a bit to find the first pair of cobes circling a piling.  The live eel got inhaled and I was immediately grateful that I could pull the brute away from the piling while back pedaling and reversing out.  Then after a short sleigh ride going side to side and spinning, it became a vertical tug of war.

With it being a day after season closed, I had the opportunity to test out an in-water measuring technique I've been wanting to try on cobia.  After grabbing the leader, I tail looped it then lip gripped it.  I had a tape measure attached to the mouth end of the lip gripper that also had a rope coming off the handle.  I passed the rope around the YakAttack screwball / dogbone camera mount toward the bow to pull the head of the fish toward that direction.  I then stretched the measuring tape toward the tail that I was able to pull to the surface with the tail-loop.  If I couldn't put the hammer to it, I was glad it went an inch over the 50" minimum for a release citation.  

After getting the measurement, I took the tail loop off and pulled it up to get a better look at it.

After releasing it, I found another to give me that adrenaline rush.  Unfortunately, about 7-8 minutes into the fight, after bringing it yak side 3 or 4 times, he made another run, twisted, and spit the hook.  
But that was ok.  
Well maybe I screamed a bad word several times 
but since it wasn't any bigger than the one before,
at least I don't think anyway,
 I got over it pretty quick.  

Didn't see another the rest of the day,
still wishing I had some for the grill,
but I'm all smiles about a Virginia release citation cobia.

Review of the Predator PDL,
 specifically from a paddler's perspective
coming in the near future
unless I decide to try to upgrade my personal best cobia. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

A First to Call My Own

I looked over just in time to see his kayak turn abruptly.  He started to spin and that's when I realized this was the first time he hooked a fish on the yak that was big enough to really move him around. The smile on his face said it all.

During the infancy of my fishing addiction, my dad took me out to the end of a rock jetty in Glen Cove, NY. on many occasions.  He used to sling big chunks of bunker out and wait while I learned to cast, have patience, and eventually catch all the taylor blues I ever wanted on spoons or popping corks.  Over 25 years later, I turned the table and put him on sizable bluefish he hadn't seen since those days.

My hunt for citation bluefish, which is now on it's 4th year, felt somewhat ok to leave on the back burner.  Sharing that time with the one who got me into fishing was special enough.  Plus, I had checked off a big personal milestone not long ago. 

There were five of us searching the flats of the Eastern Shore that day.  It was blowing steady at least 15 kts and the water was cloudy, but we were still super stoked for our first day out looking for the spring red drum.  The humminbird side scan unit came in handy with the bad water clarity.  It wasn't long before I had one or two blips that quickly turned into a screen full of big marks.  To say I was excited would definitely be lackluster.  But still keeping my cool, I calmly casted my 6" swimbait.

It's been three years since I achieved VA Saltwater Expert from the kayak and as I expected, my fishing time had decreased tremendously since then.  But none the less, I've been able to pick off trophies here and there.  I even managed to achieve Class 1 VA Freshwater Master Angler, which takes catching trophies of 5 different species (no time limit).  Over the years, I've caught blue catfish, flathead catfish, gar, yellow perch, and striped bass.  Recently, I added pickerel to the list so I have my eyes set on largemouth, smallmouth, and a few others for Class 2.  I've come within half an inch of both types of bass multiple times so it's really just a matter of pulling myself away from the salt long enough to put the time in.

Last year, I realized that as far as I know, no one has achieved both VA Freshwater and Saltwater Master all while fishing strictly from a kayak.  For Master Saltwater an angler has to earn 25 Citations in a minimum of 5 different species (a maximum of 1 Citation per species per year allowed) over an unlimited period of time (More info here).  At the start of this spring, I had only one more to go.  

So I casted, feeling like my lure should get crushed at any moment, but that didn't happen.  I looked back at the screen and they were definitely there.  The water was too dirty for me to see them, but I knew they were there.  Then I realized what I did wrong.  The strong wind was pushing my kayak too fast and my retrieve speed compounded the problem so the lure didn't get deep enough.  I slowed the retrieve on my next cast and sure enough, the sleigh ride ensued.  I quickly told Jeff who was following closely to cast to my left.  

Photo credit: William Ragulsky
I ended up with a very hard fighting 43", which was 3" short of citation, and Jeff ended up with one a little over 50".  Shortly after that, I found the school again, hooked up quickly and put Jeff and Willy Rags on fish as well.  

Rags with a nice 46"er 

Jeff with one about the same size. 
(Photo credit William Ragulsky)

Mission accomplished.

The one that gets me VA Saltwater Master Angler I...
... and my first Red Drum over 50"

Big thanks to my dad for starting this obsessive addiction and obviously so much more.  Also big thanks to Kayak Kevin for the additional motivation.  The citation and expert/master ratings game has been a blast.  I know many anglers, who I have great respect for, that don't play the citation or expert/master game and just for the record, I am not claiming to be a better fisherman than anyone.  Well maybe a few people.  Regardless, I'm just proud that I did play the game the best I could and am most likely the first to achieve VA Freshwater and Saltwater Master Angler (class 1) strictly as a kayak angler.  

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Fresh On the Boat

I couldn't remember the last time I took someone completely new to kayak fishing out on the water.  My way of helping yak-fish-cherry-poppers is usually just through this site, answering questions in emails, forums, social media, and the occasional seminar.  And the little gestures of gratitude, usually through a computer screen, is all I hope for in return.  I enjoy helping people.  But my time on the water is almost always reserved for myself.  I made an exception this time and at the end of the trip, I was really glad I did; not only because I helped out a friend, but I was reminded first hand of what it was like for me when I first started. 

Last year, I met Mike randomly while out having a couple of beers with friends, shooting some pool.  One topic lead to another and before we knew it, our 8-ball friends got tired of listening to us rant about fishing.  He ended up buying Kayak Kevin's old Trident 13, had a baby, found it hard to get out, enjoyed daddy life stuff, got a spork crammed into his eye by his baby, you know... stuff... 
Fast forward to me agreeing to take him out on the water and I could feel his excitement while getting the kayaks down from the roof racks.  We skipped the weekly pool tournament and decided to try our luck on the James river for the shad run.  From simple things like paddle blade shape preference and kayak space/storage management to some not-so-easy things like anchoring in current, my answers came effortlessly.  Do's and don'ts, how and where's, all got explained at the beginning along with "yes you will wish you had your waders on especially when the sun goes down" and "watch your rod tips around that tree".

Everything went without a hitch and he expressed his gratitude several times during the trip. However, my real reward was getting to watch the pure elation on his face after landing two new-to-him species. They weren't the biggest fish, but to him, it was a big deal; which in turn was a big deal to me.  Every time he hooked up, I shared his excitement.  Helping him get to the spot, building his confidence on the water, and watching him accomplish what he wanted far exceeded the joy of catching my own fish that day.  He let out an enthusiastic "I LOVE THIS $%^*!" which he knows is usually my line. 

The ready-to-spawn male hickory shad dripped fish porn on our decks (sorry no pics) then became cut bait.  The white perch was an added surprise to him and served as live bait.  We were hoping for big catfish or stripers but like I told him it would, it got pretty cold later in the evening.  Plus, the lack of action from the bigger fish had me craving a drink back at the ol' watering hole.  After a couple of medium sized cats, we packed it up and swung by the bar to share our fishy smell with the pool junkies.  We toasted to a kickass time, and like that feeling of the first chug after a long hot day of working in the yard, that beer was really freakin' good.  The cherry on top is that an hour later, it was my birthday. 

Mike, thanks for a great time on the water and reminding me that this sport I love so much is not always about catching the fish.  Cheers, buddy.

P.S. for those of who might be wondering...
No, I don't plan on becoming a guide.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Pickerel in the Mist

It had been nearly three months since my paddle pushed through the water.  The forced hiatus, which may have allowed me to focus on many "grown-up" things, still felt like an eternity.  

Jeff Lockhart and I met Drew Camp and his dad, Chip, in their neck of the woods in search of bass and pickerel.  Even though it was wet and chilly, a perma-grin remained plastered on my face as I felt my kayak glide.  And my cheeks didn't get any rest for awhile because my first fish of the day was a trophy pickerel.

Afterwards, we caught several more pickerel but the bass were tough to come by.  I had a few little ones but that was it.  My best luck came on a spinnerbait, husky jerk, and square bill.  

Bass Dorsal

Pickerel eye markings and gill plate
Being able to check a citation off the list with my first trophy pickerel felt pretty awesome especially while juggling daddy-life, office duties, and trying to get a house ready to put on the market.  

'Til next time, hope you all get on the water, and hopefully it won't be too long before I get out too.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

2015 Recap and Compilation Video

I know.  It's almost March and I'm just now getting to look back on the last year.  That proverbial struggle is very real.  Unfortunately for the fishing side of my life, the trend will continue in 2016.  It was the least I had fished in many years, but 2015 still had some great moments.

I continued to fish many of my favorite locales but also tried several new areas, including a couple new spots on the Eastern Shore, the upper James, as well as the beautiful New River.

Checking off a new specie always makes the highlight reel, except when the cameras aren't rolling and the fish flops out before a proper shot.  None the less, I was stoked for my first bowfin at 23".  I had 4 follows on my first musky trip as well, which I will count as a successful endeavor.  The notoriously difficult VA kayak cobia was also checked off the list, twice.

Although I never promote the awards, it is still rewarding that this site won the Kayak Anglers Choice Awards Blog of the Year.  I somehow managed to place 3rd for Angler of the year and last year's compilation, Nothing But Love, won 3rd place Online Video of the Year.   I was very tempted to put up a gif of Ron Burgundy saying "I'm kind of a big deal.  People know me", but I'll just say thank you to the people who really follow along.  I really do appreciate it.

For 2016, I have one citation left to get Saltwater Master Angler and one citation left to get Freshwater Master Angler.  For saltwater, it has to be an accumulation of 25 trophies with only one specie per year counting toward the total.  For freshwater, it has to be 5 trophies of different species (flathead, bluecat, yellow perch, and gar so far).  Even though I have a lot on my plate this year as far as work, daddy life, and much more, I look forward to chasing these goals.  However, even more so, I can't wait to get back out on the water with my friends and family, perhaps make some new friends, and continue to keep the smiles coming...