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.