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