Monday, October 29, 2012

A Rare Mid-week Fix

     Seeing as how I live two hours from the Salt and have to work a 9-5, a spontaneous midweek fishing trip rarely, if ever happen for me. That being the case, when I see the opportunity for a midweek fix, I jump on it. My buddy Ramsey was in town for a concert last Tuesday, and I had taken the next day off to recuperate, so naturally the best cure for a hangover was some time on the water.

We left Richmond around 8:30 in hopes of spending a beautiful day on the water, and maybe bending a rod. The Speckled Trout bite has really been picking up with the water temperature dropping, so after a quick stop at Oceans East 2, we were off to Rudee to meet Billy and hit the water.

     We paddled away from the ramp with plans to troll around until the tide started moving some. I hadn't made it more than 100 yards when I had a strike and the rod bent over and started bouncing-FISH ON! I knew right away it was a good sized Speck by the head shakes he was giving me. He quickly surfaced and began thrashing and splashing around behind me. Luckily, both trebble hooks on my MirrOlure MirOdine had planted firmly in the fished face, and after a short fight I  landed the feisty trout.

A Healthy 18" Speckled Trout

I continued trolling for a while, but it was unproductive in the dead low tide. Billy had picked up a small trout and a couple small pups bouncing bottom, so Ramsey and I headed over to see if we could get him on a fish. The tide was just starting to move back in and it wasn't long before Ramsey had a solid hit on his jighead and drove the hook home. Not being a kayak fisherman, he did a great job of fighting and landing the fish.

 Ramsey's 16" Puppy Drum

We kept at it drifting around the same grassline, and after another half hour or so, Alex had a strong hit. This fish looked bigger, and I thought he had a good trout, but after a moment he landed an 18.25" puppy drum. He was stoked to finally have caught a slot red- the waters have been teeming with 10-16" pups all summer, but the slot fish have been few and far between.

     The rest of the day was slow. I landed two dink Specks around 12" while trolling the incoming, Billy caught a few Specks, a couple Blues, and a Croaker. We headed in around 7:00, happy to have spent a beautiful day on the water with good friends- having caught fish was just a bonus.

The End of a Season

     Tournament season is always a blast- traveling, fishing hard, seeing old friends and making new ones, and measuring how you stack up against Kayak Fisherman from up and down the East Coast. It can also be costly, time/life consuming and stressful for the same reasons, so when October comes around, and the NCKFA host their annual Oak Island Classic, there is almost a sense of relief that my tournament season is over with and it's back to "fun fishing."

     We headed down to Southport, NC Friday afternoon with no time to prefish before the Captin's Meeting, but being fairly familiar with the area we planned to fish, Kam, Billy, and I weren't too worried. The Classic had a great turnout this year, and the club actually had to scramble to find a larger venue to host the tournament that could accommodate the 175 registered anglers.

 Photo Credit: Rapid Transit Video

 It's great to see Kayak Fishing Tournaments growing and the support they receive from not only the anglers, but from the Sponsors and local communities where they are hosted. I was especially pleased to see that Malibu Kayaks had stepped up to sponsor the Redfish Division with a 2012 Stealth 14, and the team would be well represented by fellow Pro Staff members Nathan Wiles, Mike Eady, and
Team Malibu member Tim Norris.

Photo Credit: Rapid Transit Video

     The weather was rough with winds blowing 20-25 mph all day, which made fishing challenging to say the least, but at least the tides were in our favor. Kam picked up a solid Flounder early in the day to get things rolling.

 Kam's 16" Flounder

A little later, she hooked into a smaller Speck while trolling. Unfortunately, our lines got crossed somehow- while untangling them, the wind was blowing me and Kam apart, and her line, with the fish still on, came in my boat and the fish spit the hook- that meant she couldn't turn it in, since she hadn't landed it, but she was a good sport about it.

 Billy had a handful of blowups on topwater early in the morning, but never managed to hook up. He kept fishing hard, and midday he picked up a good Speckled Trout as the tide was moving out.

 Billy's 15" Speckled Trout

 I had struggled to find the fish all day, and when I did, I couldn't seem to keep them on the hook. One thing after another seemed to go wrong, and like a poker player on tilt, I just couldn't seem to clear my head and get back on track. Billy found a school of Puppy Drum feeding along an oyster bed at a creek mouth, and called me over. By the time I got there, he had landed 3 up to 18".

 Billy's 18" Redfsh

      Time was getting short, so he moved out to the channel in search of a Flounder to finish out his slam. Kam and I didn't mind, and we slid right into his spot. Kam tossed out a live finger mullet under a cork, and it wasn't long before it got inhaled by a Redfish.

Hooked Up!

Kam's 16" Redfish

It took a few mintues longer, but I finally got a solid bite on my jighead and got that skunk off my back. I needed that....
16.5" Redfish

We headed back towards the ramp knowing that we had done our best given the conditions and were lucky just to be fishing. Billy's puppy drum actually took 4th place and he went home with his second 4th place finish in as many weeks. Despite the weather, some great fish were caught. Congratulations to all the winners! 

1st place winners
Photo Credit: Rapid Transit Video


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Fishin' for Charity

    The Tidewater Kayak Anglers Association hosted their 8th Annual Kayak Fish for Charity Tournament on the last weekend in September, with a record 275 registered anglers coming out to raise funds for Heroes on the Water and Project Healing Waters. I hadn't had any time to prefish for this one, but being that we would be fishing my "home waters", I wasn't very worried about it and felt confident we could find fish. Although we had caught Bull Reds a couple weeks previous, the weather wasn't looking great, so I figured Kam and I should stay inshore and fish the slam. The difficult part was deciding where to fish- the usual spots were sure to be slam packed full of other fisherman, and parking was sure to bean issue, as well as access to the water at launch time.

     At the captains meeting Friday, I still didn't have a solid game plan, but after some careful deliberation, the decision was made to go fish Fort Monroe, and a game plan was laid down. When we woke up the next morning, I had a text from my from buddy William Ragulsky, saying he and Matt Greschak had decide to change up their plans and join us. We had a strong team assembled, and even though we had pick the one spot none of us had ever fished before, we were all feeling good about the day. We were at the ramp a little late and after getting unloaded, I had to figure out where to park the trailer. It was 7:15 by the time we left the ramp, but that didn't bother Kam or I, and we headed out in high spirits.

      Billy and Matt were ready to roll at 6:25 when it was legal, and by the time we caught up with them, they had already found smaller Reds, but had to paddle back to the ramp- rules stated the first picture on everyone's camera had to be of them at the launch with their ruler. Luckily, its wasn't far and they wouldn't lose but 15 minutes of fishing time. Kam and I started fishing the same area where they had found fish, and I hooked up with a small redfish on my first cast. It came unbuttoned at the boat, but with the numbers of 14"-18" reds in the water, I knew there were more to be caught. Our focus for the first couple hours of the morning was Speckled Trout, but we weren't find them anywhere. Instead we caught puppy drum after puppy drum, but being 14-16" we knew they wouldn't be competitive. Persistence paid off, and eventually I hooked into a stronger fish and landed a healthy 18" pup.

     I didn't expect this fish would place, but I figured it was a good start to a slam, and moved on still in search of Specks. Kam stayed there and kept at it working a popping cork and jig head combo and cut mullet on a Carolina rig. It paid off and she hooked up with 2 good fish at the same time. After carefully fighting both fish to the boat simultaneously, she scooped both fish into the net.

A healthy 17" Redfish

 A solid 17.25" Flounder

     The rain had been on and off all morning, and we had been periodically taking shelter under the bridge when the rain got too strong and too cold. I decided to make the best of it and on my second drink past the pilings, I got a bite. It fought like a bigger fish, but when it surfaced I could see it wasn't very much longer than the 14" minimum.

     Billy and Matt had headed off in search of Speckled Trout earlier in the morning, and we decided to go looking for them. Me and Kam both had a couple decent fish and if we could find a Speck we might have a chance at this thing. I figured we should troll and see if we could cover some ground and hopefully locate fish, then fish the school. We hadn't paddle more than a 1/4 mile when my rod started bouncing from the tell tale head shakes of a Trout. I hoped it would make 14" but came up short by a 1/2". As soon as I released my fish, Kam hooked while up bouncing bottom. Her fish was bigger and putting up a little fight, but she quickly landed her much needed Speck.

She landed a healthy 15.75" Speckled Trout, catching her first inshore slam, a  solid tournament contending 50"er. I was excited for her and super proud, but all that was quickly overshadowed, as I went to reposition and my paddle blade folded over backwards. As bad as we wanted to stick around looking for bigger specks, my paddle was just barely usable and I would have to limp back to the ramp. We made our way over to Billy and Matt, gave them the good and bad news, and headed in.
     We arrived at the check-in early and were first in line to "weigh in". Kam had caught 3 solid fish and we were thinking she might win the Slam Division, and place in the Women's Division. I was hopeful that my Puppy drum might actually place after hearing talk of only smaller Redfish being caught, and we felt even better knowing that ties went to the first person to check in. There was thousands of dollars worth of prizes to be raffled off that were generously donated by the Tournament Sponsors, and a much needed dinner to be had before the results were announced, making it a long wait. As it turned out, Billy, Matt, Kam, and myself were all called in to have our pictures reviewed- we had all placed in the tournament, fishing an area that none of us had ever fished before!

 Billy was the first to get called up, taking 4th place in the Striper Division with his 17.5" fish.

Billy, being President of TKAA, was busy reviewing pictures and judging fish, so unfortunately his award had to be accepted on his behalf.

 Next up was Kam in the Women's Division, where she took 3rd place with her 17.25" Flounder.

I was super proud of her. Although her 50" slam didn't place, it was later confirmed, she was the first female in tournament history to turn one in! Way to go Babe!

   Matt was next, placing 2nd with his 20" Flounder. 

My 18" Redfish was big enough to hold on to 3rd place.


     We all headed home that night still pumped up about how well our "team" had done. There were some exceptional fisherman that fished this tournament and alot of good fish caught. It felt great to finally get called up there in front of everyone and be recognized in the 3rd largest kayak fishing tournament in the county.

     I want to thank all of the Tournament Sponsors for their support. The most amazing part of this whole story is that a group of like minded kayak fisherman and a very generous group of sponsors were able to raise $15,000 to help support wound Veterans. I can't think of a better cause to support or a better way to spend  weekend. The full list of divisions and winners can be viewed on the TKAA  website. We'll be headed south next week for the NCKFA Oak Island Classic to give it another try, so until then... Tight Lines.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Bull Ridin'

     I got a call last Saturday afternoon asking if I wanted to join some guys on a hunt for Cobia. Initial reaction was HELL YES, but I knew it might take some convincing at the home front. Luckily, I have an amazing Fiancee and was given the go ahead, despite a long list of things I needed to do around the house. The line-up would consist of Rob ChoiJustin MayerWilliam Ragulsky, Alex Britland, and myself. The alarm clock seem to turn on after about 5 minutes of sleep, but the excitement of a chance at Mr. Brown had me all fired up, and I was off to the races. As usual, Alex was running a little behind, but we made good time on the road and were able to get back on schedule. After a quick stop at Oceans East 2 for chum, eels, and bucktails, we were off to the beach to launch. Upon arriving, we all looked at the surf, and back at each other with a look of bewilderment. The surf was much higher than forecast, and it was fairly clean, so the waves were standing up peeling off the sandbar- this was going to be a sketchy surf launch for sure.
This picture must have been taken between sets, cause it was way worse than it looks. We all stood onshore watching the ocean and trying to time the sets, and wondering if this was the right decision. After lashing all our gear down and stowing our rods inside our boats, we decide it was now or never-can't stand here all day looking at it- go big or go home right? I dragged my kayak to the waters edge and waited for the next set to roll in. As soon as that 3rd wave broke and the water started to wash back out, I shoved off and jumped in without hesitation. My timing was perfect- I made it out beyond the second break  and was home free. After a few minutes everyone else made it out, and it was game on.

Priority number one was to find live bait. With the water temps dropping, schools of Menhaden have been showing up near shore, so we started looking for birds right away. Alex and I both decided to troll an eel while paddling out to deeper water. I freelined mine, while he rigged an inline weight to get it down a little deeper. It wasn't 5 minutes before Alex's rod bent over and the clicker started screaming. We were both excited, but as the fish came in fairly quickly, we both knew it wasn't this easy to catch Mr. Brown.
Turned out to be a sandbar shark about 33". Little did we know this would set the tone for the morning. We found the Bunker pods, but the sharks were thick, and we couldn't seem to keep those toothy bastards off our hooks. The first few were welcome, just to bend the rod, but the fun was short lived and they became a nuisense. Billy had the only chance of the morning at a Cobe, as one came from under the school of bunker and took his bait 10 feet from the kayak. Unfortunately, he didn't get the hook in his mouth, and took the bait with him as he swam away.

After a few hours, bait was running low so we decided to move out a little ways, hoping just maybe the Cobia was holding in slightly deeper water. Still we found more sharks, but they were getting bigger.
                                                                  Billy with his personal best shark @ 44"

At this point we were all getting discouraged, but we knew at the beginning of the day that we had a slim chance at spotting, much less catch a big Cobia. Just when it seemed the day was a bust, Alex hooked into something big. It was fighting much different than the sharks had, and by the time I got to him, he was on a full blown Chesapeake Bay sleigh ride. After a nearly 10 minute fight, the fish surfaced and Alex screamed out, "Bull Red!!"
                                                                       Alex's first Bull Red @ 42.5"

 Everyone scrambled to get something on bottom, knowing that these fish were schooled up, and  over the next 3.5 hours, 11 Reds were landed between 38-47.5".
                                                   Rob Choi with a 46.5" release citation. 1 of his 3 fish landed.
                                                  Justin Mayer with a 45" Red. 1 of his 3 landed that afternoon.
                                                                        My first ever Bull Red @ 43"
                                               After a second fish around 43", Alex hooked into his first ever Virginia                                                                                                 Saltwater Tournament Citation- a 46.5" Bull Red

                         Billy was the last to land a fish, but it was worth the wait. He finally got his Citation Red @ 47.5"

The bite was slowing, and the sun was getting low in the sky, so we decided it was time to call it a day. As we packed up our gear and made the short paddle back to shore, we were all still riding the high from a truly EPIC day of fishing. The intense head shakes and drag screaming runs have me dying to get back out there before they're gone. The bend in this rod says it all.....
                                                             Photo: Rob Choi

Friday, July 20, 2012

3 Guys, 3 New Personal Best- CBBT 7-14-12

 I hadn't been able to make it out to the 1st Island yet this year, and the reports of drag stripping Sheepshead and Spadefish had me itching to get out there, so when my schedule and the weather finally matched up Saturday I was excited to get out there and bend a rod. The plan was for me, and my sidekick Alex, to meet William Ragulsky at Ocean's East II just before sunrise and hit the water early, but due to some unforeseen circumstances, it was hours later before hit the water around 10:30. The bay was flat calm when we arrived on Chicks Beach to launch. After rigging our rods and making sure we had everything  ready to go, we paddled out with high hopes and an overwhelming feeling of optimism.

      It was a leisurely paddle out, and were worked various pilings that had been productive in the past, as we made our way out to deeper water. Although we had a few bites, nobody hooked up and we decided to switch gears and start looking for Spades as the current was starting to slow. The water clarity was pretty good with visibility at about 6 feet, but I wasn't seeing any fish on the pilings. Not to be discouraged, I picked out a set and dropped my line down just far enough that I couldn't see it. As I paddled one handed keeping myself in the eddy, my rod suddenly doubled over- I never felt the bite, it just bent over and started screaming!

 Immediately I was amazed at the power of this fish as I back paddled to get away from the structure covered in razor sharp barnacles, fearing he would break me off. I tightened the drag down ever so slightly and was glad I had a quality rod and reel with a super smooth drag.  After a vicious few minutes of fighting, the fish surfaced and I was elated as I swung it into the boat letting out a "WooHoo! F@ck Yeah!
                                                                        Personal Best Spade @ 17"

     As quickly as I could I got back in position and dropped again hoping to find another fish of the same quality, but got no love, so I switched to another piling in the same group and it wasn't long before I had another solid bite and set the hook into another BIG Spadefish. Again the rod doubled over and the fish began to strip line from the reel. At one point my rod, a heavy power/mod-fast action TICA, was doubled over and was bent down to the foregrip of the handle. I was worried my rod might actually break and I knew this was another GOOD fish and felt stronger than the first. Just as I though he had given in and was coming up, he went on one last drag screaming run and suddenly my rod straightened and the fish was gone. I brought up my line expecting to see my leader broken, but to my surprise I found my hook stretched open slightly and the fishes upper lip still stuck on hook, bone and all! That one really didn't want to come out of the water and was willing to tear his face off to make sure it didn't happen... Damn.

     Alex was next to hook up, but it was much smaller around 8". Nevertheless he was stoked to have his first Spade and went right back to work looking for another. Billy came over and we were all three fishing the same set of pilings hoping to find another reel burner. A few more small fish were landed before Billy hooked into a good one and worked it to the surface.
                                                                       Billy's Personal Best @ 15.5"

     The weather was starting to change as the south winds churned up thunderstorms and began to pick up creating a decent chop. Billy got a call from a friend fishing Lynnhaven telling us to make our way in cause the weather was getting bad over there, and we could see rain falling with thunder and the occasional flash of lightning over Oceanview, so we began our paddle back in. We weren't the only ones making a break for shore and ran into Rob Choi, Richie Bekolay, Matt Anderson, and Joe Underwood(PhillyJoe).

     We decided to make a couple drops for Sheepshead on the way in and stopped at a productive set of pilings. I made my first drop and almost immediately felt the distinctive bite of a Sheepshead and drove the hook home. This fish was heavier than any I had caught previously and no matter how hard I back paddled, he continued to drag me back towards the pilings. I finally made my way to open water, and my heart jumped into my throat when the fish surfaced and I realized this might be my first citation. He rolled on his side but I couldn't get my hand on the leader and sweep him into the boat in time before he made another run to the bottom. About half way there, my rod straighted out and again the fish was gone... This time I let out a tirade of expletives, while kicking and pounding on my kayak like a young child. Alex and Billy couldn't help but laugh at me, no matter how bad they felt for me.

     I needed a minute to collect myself and take a smoke break so I told Alex to fish that piling for a minute and Billy moved down a ways to fish. It didn't take long for Alex to get a feel for the Sheepshead's bite, and before long he was bowed up. He did a great job keeping the fish out of the structure, and leg scooped his prize into the kayak like he had done it a thousand times.

                                                                       Alex's first Sheepshead @ 21"

     After getting pictures and releasing the fish to grow larger and breed, we knew we had to get off the water before the storms caught up to us. We paddled over to Billy to find he had caught a smaller Sheepshead around 18" I believe. We made our way to shore just as it began to rain, packed up quickly and were gone by 3:00. It was a short day on the water but we had made the best of it. Billy, Alex, and I finished it out with Slurpee's to celebrate, before hitting the road for Richmond. Alex was super stoked to have caught his first Spadefish and first Sheepshead, and I was as happy as he was to have been there to help him get on the fish. It was a great day on the water with a couple of my favorite fishing buddies, and a memorable trip, everyone having accomplished catching a fish, whether Spade or Sheepshead, that was a new personal best.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

It's Been an Exciting Couple Months: Part 3- Richmond Shad Run

Every year in mid to late March, the Shad and Herring make their annual spawn run up the James River all the way to the fall line at Mayo Island in downtown Richmond. Striped Bass come up right behind them for their spawn too, so this is an exciting time for Richmonders that fish. Both Shad and Stripers can be caught from a boat or kayak, as well as from shore or the 14th Street Bridge. There are Hickory Shad and American Shad, as well as Blue Back Herring and Alewife's available, but this year the Hickories were the only available to harvest.

                                                             Paddling up from the public ramp at Ancarrow's Landing

There are times the shad are so thick, you can feel your 1/4 oz weight bumping over their backs as you retrieve your spoon. This year was no different, just early, as is the beginning of every other fishery due to our abnormally mild winter. The Shad run only last a month or so, which means every bit of free time I had for the next 4-6 week would be spent on the James. We don't call them poor mans tarpon for nothing. These fish put up a great fight on light tackle and can jump 4' out of the water- this year I had one jump clean over the yak from port to starboard.
                                                                                      photo by Rob Choi

The river also grows thick with catfish during this time. I generally anchor up, drop 2 lines off the stern with fish-finder rigs and bait, then cast gold spoons and shad darts. The action is constant during the peak of the run with Blue Cats in the 18-30" range taking your bait as soon as it settles on bottom, and shad biting every cast once you've got them dialed in.

     This year, a local kayak fisherman put together a small tournament, the MS Shad Shootout, to benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. It was a fun day on the water and great to see some fishing buddies make the drive up from the beach.
We had decent weather and the Shad were biting, but not like they had a couple weeks previous. The winner was determined by the total length of any 2 shad and 1 catfish. I ended the day just an inch and a half out of third place. Congrats guys!
                              1st place: Brian Whayland(center)  2nd place: Tom Vanderheiden(right)  3rd place: William Ragulsky(left)
     A friend of mine had never caught a Shad, or fished from a kayak, so while the fish were still biting I was able to get Matt out on the water with me. I was a little concern taking him out, since the river has a pretty strong current just below the fall line, but I gave him a brief safety lesson prior to hitting the water and he did great. He is an avid bass fisherman, competing in the FLW Tour, as a co-angler, but I think he's hooked on kayak fishing now and wants to buy older Malibu X-Factor.

                                                                                   Matt's first kayak catch!

     The Stripers come up and feed hard on the Shad and Herring while staging for their own spawn, and can be caught on livebait, cutbait, and artificials. The potential for a citation is always there, with fish over 40" consistently being caught from boats and the bridge. This was the first year that I set out specifically targeting the Stripers, but I had been given a few pointers by a fishing buddies who had caught 20 or so fish the day previous, and I felt confident I could get on 'em. I used a Sabiki rig to catch some small Hickories, and after double and triple checking to be sure they weren't Herring or Alewife, I hooked the fish in a manner similiar to how you would bridal a bait for Marlin, going in ahead of the dorsal, just under the skin on the back, and out just behind the head. I only had one bait, after giving a couple to my buddy, but one was all it took, and within 15 minutes my clicker started screaming. I could tell right away that this wasn't a catfish, and quickly got a glimpse of the fish. He was no giant, but I was still stoked.
                                                                             My first hometown Striper @ 27"

That was the only Striper we picked up that day, and I wasn't able to get back out after them before the bite slowed. The Shad made their way back downstream and the Striper fell in right behind them, so my attention has turned back to the Salt. With good reports of Flounder, Trout, and Redfish, as well as Bluefish and big Croaker, I'm itching to get down to the inlets and tear 'em up. Until then... Tight lines!

Friday, April 27, 2012

It's Been an Exciting Couple Months: Part 2- Stepping My Game Up

The first kayak I bought was a Malibu Stealth 12. I had paddled a couple other boats, but I was impressed with the layout of the Stealth. Over the next few years I acquired 3 more Malibu Kayaks, consisting on another Stealth 12, a Stealth 14, and an X-factor. I stand behind these boats and truly believe they are one of the best fishing kayaks available on the market. That being said, when I decided I wanted to look for sponsorship and join a pro staff, I wanted to do it for the right reason- to represent a brand that I believed in, and naturally Malibu Kayaks Pro Staff was top of my list. I contacted Tony Hart, the new Pro Staff coordinator, introduced myself and filled out the application. I had a couple good friends put in a good word for me,  and a couple weeks later, I was offered, and gladly accepted a spot on the Malibu Kayaks Pro Staff!

 I am lucky to be part of this great group of fisherman, and  to have the chance to work with Malibu to better their brand and the sport of kayak fishing. I'm going to make the most of this opportunity look forward to becoming even more involved in the kayak fishing community.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

It's Been an Exciting Couple Months: Part 1- Fishing in Paradise 3/12/12 - 3/21/12

     I've been putting off  writing a couple post for way too long now- sorry guys. The last couple months have been super busy- work has me out of town 1 week a month with no end in sight. Aside from that, there have been a couple major events in my life, but as usual I squeezed fishing in wherever possible. I can't remember all the details , so the following is one of a couple brief posts to get me caught up:

     A  couple days after my last post, my girlfriend Kamaron and I flew out to St. Thomas for her oldest brother's wedding. We had made plans to get the a week early to we could enjoy and explore the island and all it had to offer. Top of the list was fishing, so before we left I had booked us a guided kayak fishing trip for the Silver King, as well as a spearfishing trip, and an offshore fishing charter! I packed a few things to take with me...

Our fishing guide for the week was Capt. Rick of Swashbucklin' Tours. He is a great guy, very knowledgeable, and was able to accommodate the kayak fishing, spearfishing, and offshore fishing that Kam and I wanted to do. The plan as to target resident tarpon in a salt pond surrounded by mangroves. We met up with Capt. Rick early and hit the water with bait busting and birds diving on them 20 or 30 at a time.

Tarpon were rolling and jumping everywhere, and a couple were pushing 80 lbs. We fished the incoming tide in the front near the inlet, then followed the birds back to the pond.

Those boats belong to local fisherman, who keep them anchored in this protected pond. Fish were everywhere, but they didn't like anything we tossed at them. Kam and I fished hard for 5 hours, with only one short strike.

We packed it in and headed to a different bay, to hop on Capt. Rick's boat for some spearfishing. The snorkeling down there is incredible. Coral reef is everywhere and covered in fishes of all sorts. We motored out to an island a mile or so offshore and anchored just outside the reef. Kam and I both speared fish including Parrot Fish, a species of Triggerfish the locals call Bastard Old Wife, Cero Mackerel, and a Lionfish.
 We sent the fish home with Rick. Although edible, they're not highly regarded as tablefare, but he knew some locals that were living in poverty and would really appreciate the meal for their kids. We had a couple beers with Capt. Rick and confirmed our plans to go offshore a couple days later and headed back to the condo.

We met Capt. Rick a couple days later in Redhook for our offshore charter aboard the Bluefin II, on which he is the first mate under Capt. Don, who built his boat. The offshore fishing reports had been hit or miss, as it was still early in the year and the water was still a little cold, but there were Mahi Mahi, Blackfin Tuna, King Macs, and even a White Marlin caught in the week or so previous, so we headed out with high hopes.

 We trolled for a couple hours before we got our first bite, which was Kam's to land. She did a great job working the fish in, and commented how suddenly the fish felt twice as heavy, then went slack and she thought the fish had thrown the hook.
Moments later the fish surfaced, Capt. Rick gaffed it, and Kamaron had caught her first Blackfin Tuna! The additional weight she felt was a big Barracuda trying to steel her fish, luckily all it got was the tail.

We reset the lines and continued to troll the area. The bite remained slow. Although I did see a couple peanut Mahi come in and check out our spread, but they must not have liked something since they wouldn't bite. It was another couple hours before we had another bite, and finally it was my turn to sit in the chair. I
 was hoping for another Blackfin, but after a short fight I brought up a Barracuda.

That was it for the day. Shortly there after we headed back to shore, where Capt. Rick cleaned our fish and we had a chance to hand-feed large Tarpon under the docks.

     That evening our accommodations moved from St. Thomas to St. John, for the wedding. We were staying at the Westin, which had a large concrete pier and dock for their ferry. When we arrived, a charter captain was dropping his guests off at the hotel and cleaning the fish they had caught . Again there were a few large Tarpon, a bunch of snapper, and even a large grouper feeding on the scraps, which got me excited, and plans were made to fish the next night. I had the fillets from Kam's Blackfin, so the next evening I clean them up a little and trimmed some scrap off to use as bait.... that's right- I'm using tuna as cut bait, but first we ate some of the Blackfin for dinner.
 As soon as we were finished, it was down to the dock for some fishing. Immediately I started chumming with some bits of bait to get the fish fired up and feeding
 I quickly hooked into a smaller tarpon(36") I could see cruising the light line created by the dock lights. The fight lasted less than 5 seconds as he dove down, then came shooting up 3' in the air. In my excitement, I forgot to bow to the King, and he spit the hook right out at me. My heart was beating 100mph and I was all jacked up- it was AWESOME, even if I didn't land the fish. We caught around 20 snapper afterwards, mostly smaller fish, but I was supprised by how strong these little guys were.
There was one bruiser mixed in the bunch that sent my drag screaming and tried to run under the pier, but I was able to thumb the spool, get the rod tip down and turn the brute around. Unfortunately, Kam was at the bar getting a couple drinks, so I never got a picture, but he was easily twice the size of the others. I sent the fish home with an employee who was extremely grateful. I only had a couple hooks with me, and after we both had our hooks swallowed and were forced to cut them off, we called it a night.

    We only had 2 days left in paradise, and one was taken up by the reason we were there, her brother wedding. There was something very important I had to do, but the right time had not yet presented itself. The following evening I asked Kam to go for a walk on the beach so I could smoke a cigarette, since you weren't supposed to smoke anywhere on resort property.

A couple groups of people were walking down to the end of the beach, so I smoked slow to allow them time to reach the end and turn around. As she turned to take a picture of the sunset, I pulled out a ring and got down on one knee. She said YES!
                                                            I did a good job picking the ring from what I've been told...
                                                                                Me and my beautiful Fiancee!

We decided to keep the engagement a secret until after her brother's wedding, as to not steal their glory. The wedding was the next day on the beach at beautiful Maho Bay, an absolutely pristine beach with emerald green water- words just don't do it justice. The ceremony was short and sweet, but as beautiful as the surroundings, complete with steel drums, baby barracuda cruising the shoreline, and pelicans diving on bait.

We headed home the following morning to return to normal life(work), and announce the good news to our friends and family. Kam already has most of our wedding planned, which will be on the sand in Wrightsville Beach, NC and be fishing themed! I'm a very lucky man to have a lifetime fishing partner like her. Love you Kam!