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.