Friday, July 4, 2014

Spring Drummin'

     It's no secret that the Puppy Drum have been plentiful the last couple years, and can be found in creek mouths, grass lines, oyster bars, and flats all over the Tidewater area. I haven't gotten out nearly as much as I would have liked this Spring, but I've been able to squeeze in a few trips to get my fix...

The fishing always heats up in Rudee first, so naturally I started my spring drum fishing there....along with every other fisherman in Va Beach. Even with all the boat traffic and other kayak fisherman, the fishing was hot, and Puppy Drum were being caught everywhere. One day in particular, I helped my Dad load up his new PA12 and we met up with William Ragulsky, Rob Choi, and Jeff Lockhart to see if we could bend a rod.

Photo Credit: William Ragulsky
Pop's had a blast playing his personal best Redfish @ 22"

     We found fish along the shorelines, with small schools moving back and forth in search of an easy meal. Slowly bouncing dark colored soft plastics seemed to do the trick, and the action was steady. Once the tide dropped out, we all moved over to the island to take a "break", and eat some lunch. I quoted break because nobody ever really stopped fishing, and a few more decent fish were pulled even in a slack current.

Killing time waiting for the tide to turn.

 No matter how many you've caught, fishing for drum never gets old. Whether sight casting, tossing lures, or live baiting; Puppy Drum, Over Slots or Bull Reds- their drag peeling runs and head shakes will put your tackle to the test and leave your forearm sore. The tug is a drug and although I had gotten my fix, I couldn't help but fiend for more so I made the drive down the following weekend to get see if I could bend a rod again. Turns out, the bite was a little slower, but I still managed to catch a land a few decent fish.

 This Pup was a little smaller and skinnier than the others we were catching, so I decided it must have been the runt of its litter, and thus needed to be blackened and pan seared. Turns out it hand a 3/8oz jighead stuck through its stomach. It had healed around the hook and a mass of tissue had grown around the sharp end to prevent any further pucture of organs. Very Cool! I always check  the stomachs of the fish I catch to see what they've been feeding on. 

     It was 5 grueling weeks before I made my way back to the Tidewater area to chase drum in the kayak. By now, the water had warmed up a little, so Billy and I decided we would see if we could find some fish on the flats in Lynnhaven Inlet. We started the morning with a solid game plan, and we were going to stick with it and see where how we did. The wind was calm but with the cloudy skies, sight casting opportunities would be harder to come by.

We made our way to the first flat on our list, and in 10 minutes, Billy was hooked up with a nice 21" Redfish. He caught one more there and I lost one boatside, but after 30 more minutes with no action, we decided to move on. The water was dropping out quickly and we wanted to check another flat before it was too late. I was able to spot a couple fish right away as we made our way to the second spot, but not until I was on top of them and they were spooked. After making a few cast here and there, we decided to keep moving and head way back to a spot we hadn't fished in a while. 

     By the time we arrived, tide had turned and was coming back in now, which didn't have me feeling oober confident, since I prefer to target Redfish on an outgoing and fish the choke points and ambush spots. Nevertheless, we started working the shorelines and made our way to a small creek mouth with oyster mounds out front, and we quickly found a bite.

 What happened next, we didn't expect...Billy and I spent the next couple hours throwing a variety of baits and hooking up to Redfish every couple cast. This particular spot we were fishing always seems to hold a couple fish, but had never produced a day like this one. I had forgotten my Park n' Pole, so we were both using Billy's and fishing side by side. We could have doubled up if we wanted but we were taking turns casting as to not hook each other, and plucking out fish after fish. My favorite strike of the day came after watching a school of bait get crushed-accept for actual sight casting, there is nothing like knowing the fish is there, making the perfect cast, and knowing that the strike is gonna come any second. This healthy 25.5" Redfish put up a great fight after crushing a Egret Baits Voodoo Mullet.

        The Drum aren't going anywhere, but my attention will soon turn to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel it's bountiful fishery. Sheepshead, Spadefish, and Triggerfish, and Flounder are up for grabs, along with the occasional Black Drum. While the prizes can be many, fishing the CBBT structure is dangerous and not for beginners, so plaease keep that in mind as the summer fishing season heats up. I will try to keep the reports coming more regularly. Tight Lines!

P.S.- I did manage to get out with Ric Burnley and do a little boat fishing this spring too. We went out looking for Cobia and Bull Reds....

Monday, April 7, 2014

First Trips in the Trident

     Those of you who know me, know that I have been paddling a Malibu Kayak for years, but I felt it was time for a change. My kayak fishing expeditions have evolved over the years from shorter days in calmer water, into extremely long days where covering 8-10+ miles is the norm. That being the case, it is only natural that my choice in fishing vessel has also evolved. I knew exactly what I was looking for, and luckily I have the most comprehensive paddlesports shop in the county, in my backyard. I reached out to Appomattox River Company, and they took care of me as if I were family. They pride themselves on that family atmosphere, impeccable customer service, and in having the worlds largest selection of canoes and kayaks in one place. Like I said, I knew exactly what I wanted, and ARC had a Ocean Kayak Trident 13  with my name all over it!

     Alex, our buddy Ryan, and I hit the river the following Saturday in search of trophy Smallmouth bass. Rob Choi and Jeff Lockhart planned to meet us on the water as well. We fished the river hard, but the cold front was moving in quicker than we anticipated and it proved very difficult to find a bite. By the time we got off the water, the rain had set in and was beginning to change over to sleet. I didn't really care if we caught anything, I was just happy to be out on the water with a few buddies, paddling my new Trident. That being said, I don't want you to think I got the skunk...

I did manage to catch one 16" Largemouth Bass.

     It would be another two weeks before I could get the Trident 13 out on the water again, and I was dying to get back in the saddle. This trip wasn't planned, and the forecast was for rain all day, but the annual Shad run in Richmond had started and the fish were biting. So naturally, when Rob sent me a text saying that he was getting ready to launch, and Billy Ragulsky, called minutes later saying he was heading up, I rushed to get things done around the house so I could hit the river with the guys, and get bowed up.

Every year, both Hickory and American Shad make their way up the James River to spawn, and while they might only be baitfish, they put up a hell of a fight, and can be caught on light conventional tackle as well as the fly rod. The Hickory Shad are much more plentiful and the average fish will measure around 16". They are by far the more acrobatic of the species and have earned the nickname Poor Mans Tarpon. The American Shad are true brutes. These fish weigh 3lbs on average, and will put your tackle to the test with drag screaming runs.

      It took a little longer than expected to get myself in gear, pick up Alex, and get to the river, so we missed Rob. He had found the fish biting and spent a couple hours tearing 'em up before heading in for the day. Check out his report at Billy, Alex, and I launched in the rain, but it went unnoticed, overshadowed by the child-like excitement of the first Shad trip of the season. I anchored up on my spot and hooked into a fish on my second cast, and I knew it was gonna be a good afternoon. We stayed in the same area all afternoon, and subsequently stayed in the fish, hooking up every few casts.

Alex caught his first Hickory Shad on the fly rod. He gets giddy like a kid on Christmas when he's hooked up, especially if it's a first. This time was no different and that one fish made his day. Billy caught his share of fish, including a nice Hickory on the fly to end the day. The highlight of my day came a couple hours into the day. I made a cast towards the shoreline, to the same general area I had been finding fish, and wasn't surprised to get a bite. After coming tight and gaining a few feet of line, my rod bent over and my drag started screaming. Every time I would get the fish halfway back to the kayak, it would take off for the shoreline and my drag would make sweet, sweet music. This senario repeated itself 4 times before I could even get a glance at the fish. 

photo credit: William Ragulsky
These pictures don't do her justice. This fish is a true trophies of the Shad Run.

photo credit: William Ragulsky
This was the biggest American Shad that I have ever caught, measuring in over 20" and had to be pushing 4 1/2 lbs. She, along with all of the other Shad I caught were released to complete their spawning rituals. If you've never fished for Shad, give it a try. I promise, once you catch one, you'll be looking forward to the spawning run every year. If your looking for a fun fishing tournament to get you started before the summer season gets going, 2014 Shad Shootout is on April 12th at Anncarrows Landing. This is a charity tournament benefiting the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and is open to all. Come on out, have some fun, bend a rod, and help out a good cause.