Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Can't Get Enough

"When you experience the feeling that you knew so well, yet you have been so longing can't get enough of it!"

It didn't take long to fill the "on the water" void since all of the craziness of traveling has pretty much passed. The awesome thing is that my kick-ass wife, Amanda Kaye, joins me in our Old Town kayaks whenever our schedules and Mother Nature allow. It now feels weird when she doesn't accompany me. I love having a dedicated fishing partner and it's even more amazing when your fishing partner is your best friend and wife!

Some like fishing solo and some like having a small Navy go out in force. There are days when I like going alone and then there are days when I love some company. Needless to say I will always go fishing when I can, whether I'm solo or not.

With having a month-long red snapper season, you have to get after it while you can. It's got to the point that I drag my kayak to work and pray that the wind lays down in the afternoons so I can sneak in a quick offshore session after work. Recently I brought everything to work and 4 times in a row I never fished since the forecast would go straight to hell and keep me from launching. On one promising afternoon, I finally got a 3 hour window and took full advantage.

The conditions were right and everything was working out. I caught plenty of cigar minnows, sardines, and hardtails to cover my livebait. I also had pre-cut frozen bobo meat to rain down on the reef. Not long after catching bait, I saw bonitos crushing baitfish. Obviously I wanted to catch a couple for fun and for added snapper snacks. 

It took no time to get bobos in the fish bag. I could have kept catching them, but my daylight window was closing and I needed to get to the reef. I decided to troll a frozen cigar minnow and within 15 minutes had a screaming reel. I was pretty stoked to see that it was a good spanish mackerel.

Damn salty lens cover
As time ticks by, I finally get to the reef with a little less than 1 hour of snapper fishing time left before I needed to head back to the beach. The reef was loaded with fish high in the water column. The annoying part was it was a lot of trigger fish. It was a chore to get baits passed these things!

I could see red snapper below the dozen-plus trigger fish so I cut up frozen cigar minnows and tossed some handfuls over the side. The raining fish chunks got the snapper fired up! I caught a smaller, yet keeper sized snapper and he immediately went into the "Fish Tomb". I saw 3 good sized snapper among all the fish and had my sights on them since I only needed one more to get my limit. I previously threw out the appetizer, now it was time for the main course...fresh cut bonito! I cut some up, threw it out, and watched my Humminbird Helix light up.

The passing seconds felt like an eternity as I was watching good sized snapper pick off the falling bonito chunks. As my bobo tipped circle hook fell out of sight, my line started ripping on!

Landing a good sized snapper to finish off the limit (and the evening) was the icing on the cake. It always feels good when an impromptu plan comes together like how you drew it up in your head.

 After my last-minute evening trip, I went out the first morning that I had to opportunity. This day was not nearly as action packed as the previous trip. The weather was HOT and the bite was NOT! I caught my limit of snapper and that was it. Nothing on the troll which was weird. 

Going back to having my wife as my main fishing partner, it was time to upgrade her kayak and get her the latest boat in the PDL driven family...the Old Town Topwater 120 PDL. I already took it out in the surf and this boat handled great without any issues. I'll have a write up about the new machine once we put it to the test during a full day on the water, 

As the Florida red snapper season nears it's latest stages, the urge to get on the water when the opportunity arises is only getting stronger. Having a couple of extra days off for the upcoming FREEDOM DAY (4th of July) and a friendly looking forecast, we might just have to set the alarms and load the gear to get back after it. Have a Happy 4th of July and enjoy your FREEDOM hotdogs washed down with some FREEDOM beers! Remember...freedom isn't free! God Bless America!

Until next time...See ya on the Water!

Monday, June 17, 2019

Father's Day Red Snapper

"Blowing the dust off...back from the dead...knocking the rust off...getting back on the horse...whatever you want to call it, the long periods of absence from boarding the cockpit of my Old Town Predators are over, Thank God!"

The last 26 months have been a whirlwind of craziness, insanity, and madness mixed with a little bit of uncertainty. Out of those 26 months, I have been home for 5 of them...5! Between numerous temporary duty trips and a year long deployment, kayak fishing and writing about it was an afterthought. 

Fast forward until now, my family and I weathered the storm and we finally have started to feel a little bit of normalcy again. Along with that, the drive and desire to get back to the "old kayak fishing me" has been non-stop, and I love it!

My wife, Amanda Kaye, and I recently scouted out a couple of new bottom spots with the month long Florida red snapper season on the horizon. A couple of the spots were duds but the last one was loaded with fish! Triggers and red snapper were swimming everywhere. It didn't take long to get some good pullage!

Once red snapper opened and the both of us had a shot to get out when the weather cooperated, we didn't hesitate to get after it. Fathers Day was our first time out during the season and I couldn't have thought of a better way to spend the day. We hit a new spot out of the gate and caught a couple small snapper and triggers. It didn't take long to make the call to head back to the spot that produced on the last trip. 

Photo Credit: Amanda Bekolay

Photo Credit: Amanda Bekolay

I got on the reef and marked our little friends all up and down the water column. I had some cut up bonito and old cigar minnows so I made it rain! Just as the dinner bell rang, we had fish everywhere. Triggers were everywhere but a few big snapper pushed them out of the way. Amanda Kaye hooked up to a STUD...and she got owned! This fish wanted to get away more than OJ driving a white Bronco!

We decided to keep the first 4 legal snapper since it was our first trip out of the year and our time is limited. Amanda had the hot hand of the day as she was hooking into fish left and right! Numerous triggers and red snapper graced us with their presence.

With a 2 man limit of red snapper and day full of laughs and smiles, we headed back to the beach. On the way back in, I couldn't help to think that I have been gone away for 20 months since May 2017. A person doesn't realize how much "life" occurs until you're gone. Sharing your passion with your partner in crime in indescribable. We could only think of one way to reminisce of our first day of red snapper season...Fish Whistle IPAs at the Pier Bar!

Until next time...See ya on the water!

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Back At It...FINALLY!

You know it's been TOO LONG when you can't remember the last time you came to grips with your swimming slimy friends. Not being able to remember the last fish you caught or even the last trip you took is something that I'm not used to. I guess that is what a 12 month deployment and multiple other short trips will do to ya. 

I'm fortunate enough to live in an amazing area and to be surrounded by good people. Once I finished a couple of projects around the house after returning home from Afghanistan, I joined Benton Parrott for an early morning session in our neck of the woods.

Benton Parrott

Tropical Storm Gordon decided to dump a metric $#IT ton of rain on our stomping grounds a couple of days prior. Along with that, the trusty weather man was a little off by the winds that were forecasted. Between the wind and the water conditions, we figured the bite might be a little tough to come by. At this point, I didn't just felt good to be on the water again.

We tried to get on a trout bite first thing in the morning but nobody appeared to be home. If they were, they were not hungry. After we logged the goose-egg for trout, we went after bull reds to hopefully jump-start the morning.

It didn't take long before a pissed off bull blew up my Skitterwalk without coming tight. That blowup gave us a little pep in our step as Benton knew it was just a matter of time. A short while later...BOOM...this time it came tight.

The jackhammer headshakes and line-ripping runs that a low 30" class redfish provides is fun as hell on medium tackle! It has been 15 plus months since the last time I felt that rush...and I loved every second of it. 

Photo Credit: Benton Parrott

Photo Credit: Benton Parrott

Once the feisty little bull swam off in the chocolate milk-ish water, we got back after it for a short time before the tide slacked. We managed to get a couple more blow ups but to no avail. The winds started to pick up so we called it a day.

The feeling that I had all morning is indescribable. It's always fun to get out on the water. To break the "almost a year and a half absence" was long overdue and much needed.

"Back at it...FINALLY!"

~See ya on the water!

Monday, June 4, 2018

Light at the End of the Tunnel...

"292 days, 7,008 hours, 420,480 minutes, and 25,228,800 seconds...but hey, who's counting?"

How do you put a price on time? Can you? Everything is worth something, everything has value. You can put a price tag on most things, but you truly can't put a price on time. It's one of those things that once it's past, you can never get back.

The value of time comes into perspective when you're removed from your normal life and living a life of unpredictability and uncertainty. Life as a deployed active duty service member is just that, you walk away from everything you love and cherish and answer a calling that is bigger than yourself. It can be exciting yet unnerving all at the same time. There comes a moment while you're away that you think back on the days, hours, minutes, and even seconds that you missed from your "normal" life; holidays, birthdays, kid's chorus concerts at school, even walking the dogs.

As I write this, I have been away for 292 days, 7,008 hours, 420,480 minutes, and 25,228,800 seconds...but hey, who's counting? Numerous holidays, birthdays, bbqs, and retirements have come and gone. This is the life of a deployed service member. On paper it sounds insane, in reality both the deployed member and family know and accept the sacrifice because our country has asked us to do so.

Photo Credit: Polish Pumper

The infamous "light at the end of the tunnel" is a real thing! With every page-flip of the calendar, the light becomes a little brighter. You start to think about seeing your family again for the first time in ages, the first place you want to go to eat, the first beer you're going to drink, and for people like us...the first time your kayak glides through the water again.

It's like a little kid in October thinking about opening presents on Christmas morning. You would never imagine that a grown adult could get so excited for something like "the firsts"  even though it's still so far away. That's the beauty of having loves and passions. It may be in the distant future, but it never leaves you...ever. Reading online articles from Kayak Angler Magazine and keeping up with killer blogs like Rob Choi's, Angling Addict, have kept the fire burning throughout the duration of the long hiatus.

One minute you're lacing up the boots, donning your body armor, loading your weapons, and the other minute you get lost in your mental wonderland watching the sunrise behind your topwater lure "walking the dog" in anticipation of a blowup from a hungry speckled trout .

Photo Credit: Marty Mood

One of the toughest parts of being deployed is staying focused on the task at hand while balancing out the mental field trips. Staying grounded in your beliefs and values is what provides the inner strength to cross the finish line while holding your head high. Meanwhile, I will continue to dream about the moment I get to hug and kiss my wife and daughter again, take the dogs for a walk, and slide my kayak into water as the sun peeks above the horizon. Until then...

~See ya on the Water!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Pensacola Bay Bull Reds

There are many times where I wished I could pick just one hobby and stick with it! Not saying there is anything wrong with that, but seriously...what fun would that be? I'm wired to be in-sync with all of the seasons; I fish all year round, hunt turkeys in spring, bowhunt whitetails throughout fall, and whack some waterfowl throughout fall and winter.

With the duck decoys stacked in the back of the shed and the deer hunting gear organized and tucked away until next fall, it was finally time again to dust off the lonely fishing rods and give them the well deserved  "bend" that they have been waiting for.

A last minute decision to head out to the infamous Pensacola Bay bull red stomping grounds got me all sorts of excited. I quickly finished my plate at the dinner table like a good boy should, and then bolted out the door. In no time, I was bouncing from light to light, looking for a hungry bull. It didn't take long...

It was a race against the clock. A major wind shift from the north was due to hit the area in any time, packing sustained winds over 25mph with gusts well over 30mph. Stiff winds and relentless salty spray coming off my bow made it tough to sight fish. The fish were not abundant like I was hoping for, but the ones that I found were hungry! 

In less than 2 hours of fishing, I hooked 6 fish between 35" and 39 1/4". I got off the water just in the nick of time. The wind quickly shifted to the north and started throwing white capped waves all over the rocky shore. I was a wet and a little chilled, but still smiling from the recent adventure.

It was a great start to 2017! Cheers to a fun yet safe fishing season, or should I say "seasons".

Until next time...stay fishy my friends.

See ya on the water!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Sight Casting Monster Tarpon

Landing a huge tarpon last year left me wanting more...

Those that have ever chased tarpon out of a kayak know how insane of a challenge it is. If you do come tight with a "poon", everything has to go right, and I mean everything! These fish will expose the slightest flaw and will make you pay for it.

For 2016, I started chasing these fish earlier this summer. I wish I could have made it out more times than I have, but the times I have been out have been productive, kinda anyways. I have hooked up and jumped numerous tarpon, 6 to be exact. Every time has yielded the same result; a hooked up fish jumps like hell and spits the hook following up with profanities exiting the angler's mouth.

This trip started out no different. I wasn't on the water for more than 15 minutes when I spotted the first fish of the night. A quick cast and I was hooked up...only for him the snap my 80 braid on the second jump. The fish must have landed on the braid and cut it like a tight rubber band, whipping the line back in my direction.

Feeling pretty optimistic, I reloaded the artillery and went back on the hunt. A few more fish were spotted but quickly disappeared. I spotted another fish that gave me a great shot, and I made it count. A couple solid hooksets drove the hook into the concrete mouth and it was time for a ride.

This had to be the most exhausting 20 minutes of my life! The huge tarpon only jumped twice, then went on run after run.

The cool part is that my homie, Marty Mood, was rolling his GoPro. The bad part was the only other camera that I had was a corroded Olympus that is a pain to use.

As we were setting up for the hero shot, the fish shook it's head and slipped my grip as the hook was out of it's mouth. No grip n' grin pictures.

Words can't describe the rush that a huge tarpon gives the kayak angler. Wrapping hands around it's jaws makes you realize how massive these fish are and just how much power they possess. Thank you Marty Mood for rolling the GoPro! Until next time...

See ya on the water!


Rods: Shimano Teramar XX HVY, 8'
Reels: Shimano Spheros SW 6000
Line: 80lb Power Pro, 100 lb Fluorocarbon leader
Lures: Hogy Lures and Berkley 6" Swimbaits
Kayak: Old Town Predator PDL
Paddle: Werner Paddles 240cm "Hooked" Cyprus
Apparel: Kokatat
PFD: Kokatat Bahia Predator
Accessories: YakAttack Geartrac, YakAttack VisiCarbon Pro, YakAttack BlackPak

For more information on the Gear Used, please click on the logos located on the right side of the page.