Sunday, September 14, 2014

Breaking in the New Toy

Fisherman are no different than little kids...

Kids like to play with their new toys when they get them, and

fisherman like to play with new toys after, well...when they get them!!


The new lime camo Old Town Predator 13 is one awesome looking kayak! Everybody knows it handles great in the ponds, rivers, and lakes...but how does she do offshore? Well, there is only one way to find out! 

I decided to break her in for a few hours before the Sunday football games. The gulf had 2-3' swells, steady easterly wind, and surf that was a wee little sporty. It wasn't ideal conditions, but I wanted to see how the Predator handled it. 

Just as I imagined, I punched through a few small sets of surf and it was off to the troll. I got to the 40' range and started my course. It didn't take long before the duster rigged cigar minnow was in the mouth of a hungry king.

This guy measure 29" at the fork. I thought about keeping him but I didn't

 feel like cleaning fish on football sunday.

I kept up the troll and picked up a couple more smaller kings.

The water was fairly choppy and it was getting late in the day, so I headed back to the beach. On

 the way back in, BANG!!

 This king was not small! He may not be a true "smoker", but this guy put my 

reel to the test with metal burning runs.

Right after I released this fish, both of my batteries died on my cameras. My replacement batteries are hanging out in Davey Jones locker from a few weeks ago. Oh well! I ended the day with 3 king mackerel and 2 spanish mackerel. I caught the spanish back to back after the nice king. 

So, the Old Town Predator 13 in the surf and wide open problem! It is a big boat, but it handled the swells and waves with ease. Any water that entered the cockpit was quickly drained out in the multiple scuppers. I was impressed! This kayak is going to see the gulf a lot more in the future! Stay tuned...

~See ya on the water!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Quickie in the Gulf

Ever since the last time I was in the gulf, my mind has not been the same. I had constant thoughts of smokin' drags, gin clear water, and pods of bait getting busted's been mental torture!


Just for the hell of it, I checked my Fishweather app while having a "cold one" one night. I almost wanted it to be crappy out so I could take care of personal stuff. Anyways, the weather forecast looked more appealing than the latest nudey magazine. Aww crap, time to pack the truck for the next morning's quickie in the gulf.

I launched bright and early and headed out to catch a few live baits. I added a half dozen live bait to the quiver and rigged up my trolling rigs. It didn't take 15 minutes before my drag was burning. I grabbed the rod, engaged the lever on my Thunnus reel, and hooked up. Just as I felt heavy weight, POP! I must have had a kink in the wire leader because that broke like 4lb mono. Later on fishy!

I added a new duster setup using Tactical Anglers clips and I was back in action. 

It didn't take long before the drag was getting smoked again.  Yeah buddy!

It was awesome landing my first mackerel! In all honesty, the length of the fish does not measure up to the runs that this fished gave me. The fight was totally different compared what I'm used to. The fight was fast, intense, and I wanted it to happen again! Guess what, it did!

I was headed to a bottom spot but the macks kept trying to slow me down...not like I was complaining. I got to the spot and could see baitfish along with some snapper suspended off the bottom. I put the trolling rods away and grabbed the rod with a rigged weightless circle hook and started throwing chunks of cut bait.


I threw out my chunked circle hook into the mix...

 Watch it slowly sink...

Wait for it...

Just above the left paddle blade you can see the suspended snapper, about 10 feet down.

 Wait for it...

Wait for it...


HOLY CRAP do these fish fight! Straight up CHAOS the minute I came tight. I thought the drag on my Stradic FJ 5000 was smoked down, I guess not! It felt like there was a monster truck hooked to the end of my line!



 After a quick photo op and release of the beautiful red snapper, it was time to get back in the ring.


King Macks...Red Snapper...I'm in Angling Heaven!

I was having so much fun that I lost track of time.
I said that I was only going to fish the morning for a few hours.

Well, it was time to head back in.

On the troll back to the launch was the ever so familiar "ZINGGGGG!"



Shortly after catching the nice king mackerel, my battery in my camera died. 

I ended up catching a few more kings along the way

I made it back to launch with a smile, a smell of fish, and more

knowledge of the local gulf species. It's going to happen again soon...VERY SOON!

~See ya on the water!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Labor Day Plans

 Plan A: Surf launch into the Gulf for kings, snapper, cobia, etc

Plan B: Try for speckled trout at a couple spots I scoped out from "internet scouting"

I decided on the morning of Labor Day that it would be a good day to get on the water. Being hell bent on getting as much time offshore as possible, I loaded up and headed off to the beach. Red flag conditions with 11+ mph winds yielded strong surf with fairly large waves. Long story short, this was not the day to do a solo surf launch. Time for Plan B.

Being the stubborn angler that I am, I wasn't about to give up on trying to get some quality pullage. Since Plan A was a total bust, I needed to stop off at the house to exchange the offshore gear for much lighter, inshore tackle. After a quick pit stop and quick turn, it was off to a nearby launch. Time for Plan B.

Expectations were fairly low in all honesty. The sun was high and hot, and the boat traffic was beyond crazy. It was Labor Day and the insanity was to be expected. Since I was a young boy, I hated dealing with jet skis while I'm fishing. For some reason they think that they can get as close as they want to any boat or kayak. Well, if I can hit you with a lure, you can bet your @$$ that it's coming your way...just saying!

I got to the salt n' peppered grass flat and tried out my new Tactical Anglers Crossover walk-the-dog style topwater lure. With my mind locked in the sun-beaten mental euphoria, my bait stopped at the same time I heard something on the surface. "Oh yeah, that's a fish!" The relentless headshake instantly screamed "speckled trout". However, this 20" class fish decided that he didn't want to be on camera and dropped off the hook as he was yanked into the boat. Oh well, at least I know they're here!

A short while later, this time on an Unfair Lures Rip-n-Slash, I felt a different type of strike. I knew right away that it was not a trout. It didn't take long before this fish went for the clouds. Yup, it was the "poor man's tarpon"...ladyfish.

 Next up was a stout speckled trout.

This guy inhaled one of my favorite "search" lures

The PowerTeam Lures Swinging Hammer swimbait has a water thumpin' tail

 that is second to none!

Seriously, this paddle tail awesome.  You have to try em!

 Having located an active grass flat loaded with bait and fish, it only made sense to throw...


Throwing topwater is my version of Xbox. 

The near couple of hours yielded numerous blow ups and fish in the boat

23" trout on topwater

With these fish located, I didn't want to spook the flat more than I had to.

Time to stakeout the kayak with the YakAttack 8' Park n' Pole and wade the flat

  There is no better way to go after big trout than to silently wade...stealthy ninja style!

Not to shabby for the first time in this body of water. Can't complain with double digit hook ups and specked trout between 20" - 23". I will say that speckled trout are some of my favorite fish to target. I fell in love with this species while fishing the grass flats of Tidewater Virginia. Plus it helped having some of the best teachers around. Next is either surf launching or going after big reds. Either way...

~See ya on the water!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Green Light for the Gulf

Take a kid and put him in front of a candy store. The biggest, baddest, most awesome candy store he's ever seen. He is thinking of one thing and one thing only...

"how in the h-e double hockey sticks am I going to get into that store?!"

 Well, I am that kid and my candy store is the Gulf of Mexico.

Uncle Sam recently relocated my family and I to the Florida panhandle to fulfill the continuous mission of the US Air Force. As you could imagine, moving a family of 3 from one state to another is no easy task. The house was filled with boxes upon boxes which meant that there was plenty of work to be had. Being the very lucky husband I am, my wife knew how bad I wanted to get out and that I just wanted to take a little break. I got the green light to join my good buddy, Marty Mood, for my first voyage into the Gulf of Mexico.

The plan was to try and catch some bait, then troll around a couple spots, and drop baits over structure. I didn't care what the plan was, I was in the gulf and that was all the mattered!

Finding bait was simple, catching them was a different story. Threadfins and cigar minnows were all around us but most of them wanted nothing to do with our sabiki rigs. We brought out plenty of frozen cigar minnows so we didn't waste a ton of time going for lock-jawed bait.

The first thing that I couldn't help to notice was how flippin' clear the water was. I was floored that I could see the bottom in 30 feet of water. We trolled to the first spot without any action on the trolling rods. Now it was time to bottom fish. I dropped a frozen cigar minnow tipped circle hook on a fishfinder rig straight to the bottom. I had bites almost instantly, but it felt pretty small. I lost a few baits before I hooked up with my first red snapper. Even though he was on the small side, he still put up a pretty good fight for the size.


The majority of the bites were little stuff and Marty made the executive decision to move on and try another spot. Instantly we could see suspended fish in 20-30 feet of water. We could not only see them on our electronics, but with our eyes as well. Mangrove snapper and small cobia were hanging out below and Marty tried to fire them up by throwing out chunks of bunker and cigar minnows.

Once the fish were feeding on the chunks, we added chunks to weightless circle hooks to mimic the chum. Problem with ultra clear water is that enticing these fish to eat your presentation can be a little bit tougher. Tough or not, it wasn't long until Marty hooked up with a strong mangrove snapper!

I was up next after Marty's snapper. This time, I hooked up with a small cobia. Too bad he wasn't 30" bigger.

Problem with chumming is that you're pretty much ringing the dinner bell for the sharks. We were wondering what happened to the fish and the activity, but it was pretty clear when multiple 5+ foot sharks were swimming under our kayaks. Oh well, time to move on.

We saw birds working pods of bait as well as other fish busting up bait on the surface. It was pretty evident that there was plenty of action to be had. As you approached the schools of bait, you could see bonita and blue runner chasing the bait clear out of the water. I tied on a Yozuri Crystal Minnow and instantly hooked up with a fun fighting blue runner.

The bait and birds were moving farther out, but the nasty storms were moving in. We had been watching the radar all morning and we knew these storms were bad. Instead of heading farther out, we decided to troll cigar minnows on duster rigs and make our way back to the beach.

I was hooking up with cobia after cobia, but they were all between 24" - 30". You can't complain about catching a half dozen cobia from a kayak. Once we moved on from the small cobia, we saw more fish busting bait. This time it was mahi...teeny tiny mahi.

We got back to the beach without getting slammed by mother nature. It felt good having my first gulf trip under my belt. I learned a lot but still a lot to learn. Having friends and fishing partners like Marty help shorten the learning curve big time! I feel very fortunate and grateful! Marty said it best, "Today was REALLY slow for the gulf, but a slow day out here is still pretty good." Slow, haha! I can't wait to see a good day.

Well, one thing is for certain. This emerald water is going to be seeing a lot of Richie Bekolay! Be sure to check back as I'm sure it won't be too long before another adventure is logged.

~See ya on the water!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Grand Finale

Meriam-Webster defines "grand finale" as:
a very exciting or impressive ending of a performance or show.

This day was very bittersweet for me as it was my last day of fishing in Virginia since I'm moving to Florida. Feelings were mixed; ups and downs, happy and sad, excited and deflation, etc. For months I had mentally put off the inevitable "last day" of my personal fishing tour in the Chesapeake Bay. My time in Tidewater Virginia was up and I had one more chance to experience the blessings that the Bay has given me many times over!

Instead of scouring the flats in search of my favorite combination of speckled trout and redfish, it just made sense to give the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel the ole' college try. Joe Underwood, Kayak Kevin, and myself hit the complex with sheepshead and spadefish as the targets. I've landed numerous quality speckled trout and plenty of slot sized redfish, but I've yet to tangle with a quality sheepshead. As Joe knows, I would pick the flats over the bridge pretty much any day of the week. I have not spent much time going after big sheeps like many others have. You can't complain about not getting a nice sheep if you don't go after them. 

Kevin had the spadefish dialed in so we headed to that spot to start off. I would drop down a fiddler crab to the bottom for sheeps and then switch to a clam tipped jig for spades every few pilings. I alternated back and forth to break up the monotony and to cover most of the piling. It took less than an hour when I felt "weight" on my spadefish rig. As I set the hook and felt the immediate drag screaming run to the bottom, I knew it was not a spade, but a "spadefish surprise" (coined by Kayak Kevin).

Photo Credit: Joe Underwood
I felt the fish get on the other side of the piling, bad news! Instincts kicked in and I immediately put the reel in the freespool and chased the brute to the other side. Lucky enough, the fish was there as I reeled up the slack. This time, I was able to get it out in open water and away from structure. I had to go a little bit easier on the sheep since I was using a medium heavy All Pro SMG rod with my Curado spooled with 30lb braid and 20lb fluorocarbon leader. After multiple heart pounding runs, I leg swept in a 23" sheepshead.

Photo Credit: Joe Underwood
Photo Credit: Joe Underwood

After the welcomed surprise, it only made sense to go after spades. Inch for inch, pound for pound, spadefish have to be the toughest fighters out there! The jackhammer fight is pure awesomeness. Once the tide slowed down, the bite picked up!

Spades ranged from 8" - 14". Kevin got the nicest one of the day at 14". 

Joe, Kevin, and I had a blast feeding and catching spade after spade. You curse them one minute, and love them the next. Once the bite slowed down, it was time to paddle in and call it. Man, what a great way to end my time in Tidewater.

My mind was going through all the fantastic fishing memories of Virginia with every stroke of the paddle. I was wearing a smile that was hiding a little bit of sadness. I started kayak fishing in Virginia and have met some truly amazing people along the way. I will admit, part of me will always call Virginia my 2nd home.

Well, that's that! The Virginia chapter is closed as I start a new one in the Florida panhandle. I want to end this by thanking everybody that I have had the privilege to learn from during my tour in VA. I feel pretty lucky to have fished with some of the most talented anglers in the country as well as the nicest guys you could ever meet. I will make sure to pay it forward during my journey in Florida. I'm sure it won't be long before find myself paddling in the gulf. Until then...

~See ya on the water!