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.