Saturday, December 29, 2012

Santa's Striper

As most people know, Santa is a VERY busy guy this time of year! I mean think about it...Constant reviewing of the naughty and nice list, supervising the gift building in his newly remodeled 20,000 square foot work shop, firing and hiring poor performing elves, making sure his sleigh is in tip-top shape, and ensuring that his reindeer are conditioned up for their "world tour". What you may not know is that Santa has a closet addiction...Kayak Fishing!!

Santa had his trip precisely planned; hit up the nice kids in the International Date line of the Pacific Ocean first and slowly make his way West. This year was a little bit easier on Santa because the naughty list was bigger than ever. A lot of kids were disrespectful to their parents and teachers, lying, shoplifting, and blowing up their parent's phone bills with 9,000+ text messages a month! Once Santa realized that he had some unexpected down time, he strapped his Ocean Kayak Trident 13, Werner Camano paddle, and his cow striper gear to the back of his sleigh for a little "pit stop" at the striper waters of the Chesapeake Bay region in Virginia.

Christmas came and went and it was time for Santa to get out striper fishing. Santa is no stranger to doing his "homework" on fishing either. He pulled up reports from Kayak Kevin, Rob Choi's, and his own backlogged reports to formulate his game plan. Santa only had a couple of hours to fish so he needed to make the most of it.

With the reindeer all fat and happy at the launch, Santa set off in search of the cow stripers. Santa used two rods; one weighted eel and one free-lined eel. Not long before the top end of the incoming tide, Santa's free-lined eel got smacked. Ho Ho Ho, FISH ON!! After an intense drag ripping battle, Santa was rewarded with this feisty 40" striper.

Unfortunately, that is the only action that Santa had that night. Clear skies with high pressure was nice to fish in, but did not encourage much feeding. All in all, Santa had a smile on his face as he paddled back to his anxious reindeer. He looks forward to the end of Christmas so he can sneak out on the water. If there is one thing Santa despises more than naughty kids, it's a SKUNK. That didn't happen that night, so it was a win! Santa will have to wait another year before he can saddle up in his kayak again. At least he can day dream of the fierce striper fight as he prepares the North Pole for 2013. Until next time...

~See ya on the water!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Cow Tipping in the Chesapeake


All the recent hoopla in the Chesapeake Bay region of big cow stripers has had me chomping at the bit to get in on the action. Our last trip out to Plantation Light yielded miles and miles of paddling but resulted in zero fish. Needless to say, I was bound and determined to nail one of those big ole' cows out my kayak!

Like I said before, those imprompteau trips can be the best. Watching the weather bringing nonstop rain didn't stop the urge to get back in the driver's seat. I called up friend and fishing partner Joe Underwood (PhillyJoe) and basically said, "It's raining, who cares, LETS GO!"

We hit the striper grounds with high hopes and positive attitudes. Excitement slowly warmed me every time my Werner Camano hit the water as the intense anticipation grew for what might be in store. The name of the game was to soak eels; one on a weighted line, and one on a free line. Kayak Kevin's website has a great "how to" on big striper fishing. Click on this link. With bait clickers engaged, it became another game of patience for the big un's. It didn't take long for the first clicker to start burning. Joe was first on the board with a nice 33", followed up by a nice 38" a short time later. Warning, this is a picture heavy post...

33" Striper

38" Striper

In less than one hour, Joe had 2 respectable fish on the board. Like the competitor that I am, I didn't want to be outdone. I would not have been too pleased to get a skunk after this. Just as I had hoped, I felt a giant "thud" on my free lined eel, "Fish On"! As the fish starts giving me a sleigh ride, the clicker on my weighted eel in my rear road holder starts screaming. "I GOT A DOUBLE, Wahoo!!" After what seemed like an eternity, I land my first fish and basically pin it down with my legs to keep it from flopping out the kayak. My attention goes to the rod with my screaming clicker. I engaged the reel, and SET the hook hard! Time for sleigh ride number 2! When it was all said and done, I had two big stripers in my lap! The one on the left is 38" and the one on the right is 42"



Bait clickers were screaming and drags were burning all night long! One of the awesome parts of the night was hooking up with a fish 20 feet away from Joe as he hooks up. We're basically laughing and saying, "This is great!" Joe lands a 38" and I land a 32".

This is where the YakAttack Panfish Portrait comes in handy.

The rest of the night kept on the same pace. I caught a couple more fish but Joe had the hot hand for the night. He was hookin up left and right. Joe would mark a fish on his fishfinder, reel up or down to it, then hook up seconds later, it was great!! He landed multiple fish over 30" including a really nice release citation 44". We ended the night with a total of 14 fish between 29" and 44". Congrats Joe on getting your citation striper!



44" release citation

Watching Joe land that 44" stud just drove me even harder to get back out again and try for that citation class striper before 2012 is in the history books. We headed back out a few nights later praying to have the same results. The bite was not as fast and furious as we hoped, but the night was not a bust either. I picked up a 36" right away.

The evening was capped off on a high note as I achieved the goal in which I sought after. Not only did I manage to get my first release citation striper, I got 2 in the same night. It was a blessing to land a really nice 44.25" and a 45" fatty!

44.25" Release Citation

My face says it all! 2nd citation of the night.

45" Cow release citation

If one thing is for certain, the cows are hungry in the Chesapeake Bay! These fish are strong and obviously put up a huge fight. Remember, the water temperature is cold and very dangerous! Use the buddy system and take every safety precaution during this time of year. It does not take long for hypothermia to set in once you enter the cold water. These fish are a great challenge, but not worth risking your life over! Be safe, good luck, and Happy Holidays!

~See ya on the water!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Back in the Saddle

After almost a month long absence from my kayak due to my annual hunting trip in Wisconsin, it was once again time to board my Trident 13. This time of year has the big stripers making their way down the Chesapeake Bay, perfect for us Virginia based anglers! I joined up with Joe Underwood, Matt Anderson, and Chuck Wrenn in search of the big ole' rockfish. We headed out to Plantation Light to drift with the sea of boats that all had the same idea. We were all hoping to have the same results that friend Rob Choi and crew had.

Playing the waiting game...

Unfortunately our 7 mile long adventure yielded zero hook-ups. We watched some boats land some nice stripers, but it was not our day. The positive outlook that I took away from this was that this was my first cow striper outing of the winter. To me, the best is yet to come...

Later in the week had Joe Underwood and I heading to the Elizabeth River for an after work speckled trout hunt. Anybody that lives around this region knows that the Elizabeth has some BIG trout in the winter months. Joe has already racked up a little pile of trout citations in the last month so we knew that we had a good chance at hopefully getting another one...or 4!

It didn't take long to get into the nice specks. The name of the game tonight was SLOW! If your presentation wasn't super slow, you would probably go home hanging your head. Joe was the first one of the night to score another citation trout with this 24.25", to be only followed up with nice 25".

24.25" speck

25" release citation speckled trout

I was getting a little aggravated that Joe was catching more trout than I did, not to mention he just added two more flippin' citations! It was time to step up my game a little bit! I changed tactics up and immediately got positive results. I picked up a few nice fish before I hooked into something with a little more weight. My grin went into a little smile after landing this nice 24.5" release citation trout.

24.5" release citation speckled trout.

Watching the awesome meteor shower display had me making many wishes, some detailing fishing. I paddled back to the same spot that I just landed my previous citation hoping for the same "luck". Not 5 casts later, there was a hook set that was followed up by a loud zing in the drag! Now this fish felt good! The fight was not difficult until I turned on my head lamp and tried to bring the fish up from the bottom. Joe actually reeled in his line to come watch me fight this fish. My 2000 series reel was getting a workout! Finally after many drag rippin runs, I landed a 30" monster speckled trout! The pictures don't do this fish any justice.

What a beast!

It was just one of those nights; a clear night with an amazing galaxy display, combined with multiple trophy class speckled trout!  Needless to say we had a good drive back home. Next on the to-do list is to nail a big ole' striper! After all, I did make a lot of wishes during that meteor shower...

~See ya on the water!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Switchin Gears

Hurricane Sandy packed more than high winds and a ton of rain. She also brought cool weather and change to my fishing plans. Even though I have been on the saltwater craze ever since I moved to Virginia, my roots still take me back to the heavenly sweet water! Yeah I have been catching good numbers of speckled trout this summer and fall, but the bass and pickerel still need some lovin too. I think it's time to switch gears!
With Sandy dropping the water temps and the overall local trout bite, I decided it was a good time to focus on some of the freshwater species that I grew up to love. Having a few hours left of daylight led me to my "local lake" in search of whatever wanted a late afternoon snack. I was hoping for some big bass that this place in known for, but I would be happy with anything. It didn't take long to find a perch that though he was King Kong.

As light faded, so did my chances at nailing a big ole' bucketmouth. It was the feisty chain pickerel that were feeding today.  These fish were nailing my shallow running crankbait pretty consistently throughout the afternoon. These rascals remind me of the violent northern pike from my "hometown" Wisconsin waters.
Gotta love the boatside strikes!

Hungry 23" Chain Pickerel

These guys just look mean!

I ended up catching a King Kong perch and 5 pickerel between 14" and 23". Honestly, it felt really good being out on a secluded lake. I love watching the wood ducks come out of their oak roosts, turtles sliding off logs, and eagles circling the treetops of the woods. I know it won't be long until Grandma Bucketmouth decides to grace her presence in my Ocean Kayak. Have I ever said that I love this time of year???
~See ya on the water!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Mission Accomplished

I just stared in udder bewilderment. A huge sense of joy and accomplishment flooded over me head to toe as I let out a shout that could be heard by St. Peter at the pearly gates. I can't seem to take my eyes of it. The moment that I have been waiting for all year long has finally arrived. I can finally say that I.....

As the usual conversation between Rob Choi and I is about fishing, it always seems to end with planning our next time on the water. Although I was not focused on fishing this time while chatting with Rob, but thinking about sitting in a tree stand to arrow my next deer. It's driving me crazy to watch my good friend Joe Underwood arrow deer after deer, nice buck after nice buck. I already have one deer in the freezer, but Joe is managing the heard in the entire county alone. It only took one little sentence from Rob to change my mindset..."I'm thinking about going after a paper trout, you wanna go?"

It didn't take long to run home on my lunch break to load up all of my gear to get ready for the impromptu trip. These are the type of outings that I love. No planning, just spur of the moment decisions. We weren't just going to hopefully catch some fish. We both had our mind on the same thing. We were on a mission to nail our citation trout for 2012!

The scenery at the launch was out of a Field & Stream magazine; Fading light, leaves blowing off the trees, a slight ripple on the surface of the bay, and the feeling of good things to come. We had a couple of admirers staring at our Ocean Kayaks, both heavily rigged with dual GoPro cameras, YakAttack accessories, and Werner Camano paddles. We looked like a two man team with a purpose! After a short conversation, it was off to conquer what we set out to do. It took 5 minutes of chucking my Skitter Walk to entice an aggressive 21" speckled trout. A couple of minutes later I picked up a nice 22".


22" Speckled Trout

Within the first half an hour, both Rob and each had 5 trout on top water before the tide started to slow down. As the tide slowed, so did the fish. We knew where the fish were which was the nice part. The bad part was waiting for the tide to turn and start moving again.  The bite picked up and remained consistent once the tide started moving out. We were catching one after another with multiple fish going over 20". Watching Rob's headlamp shining on a splashing fish in the water caught my attention. It looked really nice!!! I had a feeling, and I was right...Rob got his citation! This hungry 24" citation trout was doomed by top water. Congrats Rob, you deserve it!

Rob Choi with a beautiful 24" Citation Speckled Trout 

At this point in time, I was both very happy for Rob but extremely jealous as well! I mean, I have spent well over 100 hours this year going after a citation trout. I have came close many of times with fish coming off or falling less than an inch short. I've even had other fishermen catch them right next to me. For some reason, I can't seem to shake this "monkey" off my back. I just had to tell myself that the night was still young and to remain positive.

I decided to change tactics up and try something new. I ditched the top water and opted to troll a couple of shallow running crank baits. I used a Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow and a Rapala X-Rap to invade the strike zone. I wanted my lures to provide a good thumb and swim around 3-4 feet down which was the depth I was marking baitfish. Slow trolling at night is a great way to cover water and to locate fish. I started to find a pattern right away which would prove to work out the rest of the night. Making pass after pass on a certain drop off was triggering strike after strike. After landing a couple around 20" and under, I thought my chances may be running out for the citation. Finally, BANG, big fish on!! I knew from the minute I took the rod from the holder that it was a good fish. Strong head shakes, followed up by drag burning runs. This was the moment that my heart started to beat faster and my mind went into autopilot. I have rehearsed this scenario in my head many times regarding what I would do in this situation. It all came together as the fish entered the net. Finally, a BIG trout!!! I knew the minute that I landed it, CITATION!! This big girl measured in at 25.5". I can finally say that I caught a citation trout!

25.5" Virginia Citation Speckled Trout

Sitting on Cloub 9

It all finally came together! The hard work, preparation, planning, determination, and remaining positive has paid off. I was saying to myself, "If I would have not gone with Rob and decided to go hunting instead, this would have never happened." How could this night get any better? I just caught my biggest speckled trout to date. We still had around an hour left before it was time to call it a night. What to do, go in or stay out? Obviously you keep on fishing!!

I picked up where I left off, catching fish! A few more between 18" and 20" were boated on the crank baits. Just as planned, I passed over a school of baitfish on my fish finder and slowed up the paddle speed to keep my lures in the strike zone longer...BOOM! Another big fish on! This fish felt identical to the citation that I just had caught. Not an hour after my first citation trout of the year, I land my 2nd!

25" Speckled Trout. Citation #2

Being at an all time high, I didn't want to stop. I didn't want this night to end! We fished for a little bit longer and each person picked up a few more trout but the bite had slowed down. We both lost count at 15 trout a piece for the night, all between 17" to 25.5". As time ticked away, I reflected on the night that we just experienced: Rob made the decision, threw out the invite, and was rewarded with his citation. I didn't give up, remained positive, and caught not one but two citations! This is a night that I won't ever forget! We succeeded in what we came out to do. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

~See ya on the water!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Tails Of The Troll

There is something about this time of year that get's my blood flowing! Could the it be the leaves changing colors...Maybe? Could it be the deer are chasing and the ducks are flying...Maybe? Or could it be the fact that the fish are hungry and starting to put on their feed bag for winter..Hmm, Maybe! One thing is for certain though; it's Fall and I LOVE IT!

There are things in life that just make people "tick". Though many people have crazy different passions and motivators, many possess the same that I do...The Outdoors! If I didn't have the outdoors, I would not be the person that I am today! Yes, we can enjoy the outdoors everyday of the year, but there is something special about this time of year. As Halloween approaches, so does cool temperatures and steady fish appetites! When the water temperature starts to steadily drop, the opposite happens with the fishes feeding cycle. They will feed more often and consistent throughout the day. Every living thing knows that winter is coming, and fish are no exception

After a few conversations during the week with Rob Choi, I decided to team up with him on one of his outings. Rob had planned to hit a trout hotspot early in afternoon followed up by an evening to the HRBT. With my schedule, I was only able to fish early in the day. I launched early to fish the start of the incoming tide to maximize my time on the water. I have fished this location many times and had a good idea on where and when I could pick up some trout. I decided to troll a Mirrolure and jig/plastic combo to cover some water. It took only about 5 minutes before I pegged my first trout on a Mirrolure. This 21" set the pace for the day:

There is no other confidence builder compared to the one of catching a nice fish to start off your day. You can just feel the mojo which I believe is one of the keys to catching fish! I decided that I would toss a Skitter Walk in the same area that the trout was landed in. With the tide starting to roll in, I knew the baitfish would be doing the same. Just like I planned, a fish crushed my top water. Only this time it was not a girthy trout, but an aggressive little redfish.

With the winds picking up much stronger than forecasted, I decided to stick with trolling. The Mirrolure and jig/plastic combo is a great match because you can have 2 different presentations going at once. I decided to venture to a windblown shoreline to cover the mouth a cove knowing that fish stage out in front. Just as predicted, the fish were there and hungry.  Chalk another fish on the Mirrolure. One thing I have to add though... If there is one thing that drives me nuts, it's a guy stealing your spot once you catch a fish. Look over my shoulder, this guy motored up and anchored as I landed this fish. I tried to be sneaky, it didn't work.

19" Speck

I met up with Rob Choi not long after releasing the trout. Joining along with him were both his cousin and friend who were eager to get into some fish. In short order, it takes no time before we hook up again. I drop a nice fish trolling a Mirrolure followed up by a strike on the other rod. This time, a Marsh Works jig tipped with a Bass Assassin triggered the hit. Trolling is proving to be the ticket!

Starboard rod with a bend

18" Speck

Speck Release

One thing many trout fisherman know is when the bite is on, IT'S ON! It seemed like we were getting hook ups one after another. Soon after I released my trout, Rob's rod doubles over! This has the making to be a great day!

Rob Choi with an 18" trout

The afternoon was filled with fish posing for the camera, swings and misses, and NICE fish coming off at the boat. Not long after Rob showed up was when I had to call it a day. It would have been nice to fish the rest of the incoming tide, but I had a family date at Busch Gardens. I ended the trip catching 7 trout between 17" and 21", and two little redfish around 15". This was a typical fall day, with steady action.

There is nothing like a good day of early fall fishing! Autumn is here, and so are the fish. I am still in search of that citation speck! I will get it soon, I know it! I'm counting down the minutes until I get to chase after these feeding trout again.  In the mean time, I can just stare off into the bay and think about my next day on the water chasing after Mr. Big.

~See ya on the water!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Light Line Stripers

Opening day of the fall striper season in the Chesapeake Bay region of Virginia is one of those days that many mark on their calendar. Some mark it for their opportunity to fill their freezer with the coveted striper filets, and some mark this day as a reminder to stay far away from all the craziness and hooligans that can overwhelm the light line at the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel (HRBT).

21" Opening Day Striper

I have been out a few times already this fall season and caught my 2 fish limit every time in fairly short order. To me, it's not just going out and catching a couple of stripers to take home. More than that, I love the "pursuit" or the "hunt" of the schoolie stripers that are soaking in the light line waiting for their next meal to cruise by. Like a mind reader, friend an Ocean Kayak Pro Staffer Rob Choi gives me a call mid week suggesting a short notice light line trip after work. "I was already thinking of that myself!"

It's no secret that the HRBT holds fish, especially in the cooler months of the fall and winter seasons. There are a lot of fish holding here throughout the bridge complex for a long time. Still, every time that I come out of the tunnel on I-64, I pray that I don't see any boats fishing the light line. Who am I kidding, it's striper season!

We launched with high hopes in tearing up the stripers like we have in the past. The only bad part was that we were not the only ones thinking that. It seemed like half of the Hampton Roads boat owners felt the same way. Long story short, there were a ton of boats out on this night. The fish were there, but very finicky and deep with all the boat traffic and fishing pressure. Matt Anderson joined us in the search of the schoolies. It wasn't until the night wore on until we started to pick up some fish.  We worked multiple lights picking up fish here and there. I had to call it a night around 11pm so I could make it work at 7am without being a zombie. I already had a 21" and a 22" for the freezer but I still wanted to feel the tug of something a little bigger. Not until I decided to call it a night was when I saw the "small logs" laying in the shadows. In short order, I picked up a healthy 26" and a 28.25" striper.

22" (Photo Credit: Rob Choi)

28.25" (Photo Credit: Rob Choi)

 I considered my night to be so so. I caught 7 stripers between 17" and 28.25", a couple dozen grey trout, and a dozen or so blues. Definitely was not those "40 fish a night frenzies", but still a good time either way. I can't complain fishing in nice weather with good people! One thing I know about Rob, he's crazy! This guy stayed out way past midnight to fish the next tide cycle so that his drive from Richmond was worthwhile. Was it worth it or not??? Make sure to check out to find out! Be safe out there and get on em!

~See ya on the water!