Sunday, April 29, 2012

Schoolie Time at University HRBT

It has been what seemed like an eternity since my Trident 13 got to play in the light line of the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel (HRBT). Lately my schedule has been jammed packed with work, class, mid-terms and research papers, and FishGNO conference calls. So when the stars align and I find a night that's free with nice weather, I take advantage of it and go fishing.  The bad part of such short notice adventures like this is that I normally find myself going out alone. Wednesday rolls around with no class, no homework, and nice weather. It’s time to go have fun in the salt. I ask a couple of my friends and I get the expected response, "not tonight".  If you have had the chance to read my previous post's then you know there is one person who fishes just like me, PhillyJoe. On Wednesday morning I text Joe my plan for doing some late afternoon flounder fishing followed up with searching for light line schoolie stripers.  Just as most invites go with Joe, he's game! Before we met we both figured it was a good idea to soak some minnow traps to try and get some live bait for flounder snacks.  I dropped in my trap about 5 minutes from work during my lunch break. Just as you would hope, the trap was filled with bull minnows after a 30 minute soak. SWEET!

Bucket full of Bulls

I meet Joe at the launch and we toss around a few ideas about our strategy for the day.  The plan was to do some wind/current controlled drifts with both live bait and Berkley Gulps.  My live bait rig was a Carolina rig with a 1oz egg sinker, double octopus hooks on a 40lb mono leader.  The Gulp rig was a 1/2oz jig head on 30lb PowerPro with a 20lb fluorocarbon leader, tipped with a 4” Gulp mullet.  The light W/SW winds paired with the tailing end of the outgoing tide provided the right speed to drift and cover water.

It didn’t take long to find out that the blue crab were the most interested in our live bait presentations.  I should have brought a bucket with me because the half dozen crabs would have been a nice little dinner. For those couple of hours I caught over a dozen croaker between 6”-10”, and a 14” flounder. No big flatties like we hoped, but I didn’t have to worry about the skunk like a received the last time I was at the HRBT.

Wednesday evening did provide us with what we hoped…Schoolie Stripers! Over 3 hours during the incoming tide yielded double digit catches for both Joe and I!  I caught 10 schoolies that night ranged from 20”-26 ½” and plenty of hickory shad. I wanted to have a little bit of fun so I sized down a little bit on my tackle. I used my 7’ Hurricane Med. LT rod with Penn Fierce 2000 spooled with 20lb PowerPro and a 20lb fluorocarbon leader. My bait of choice that night was a 4” chartreuse Twister tail. I was saying to Joe, “If it ain’t chartreuse, it ain’t no use!”  I did learn one thing about digital cameras that night though.  They don’t put the SD card back in themselves after you take it out. DOAH! No hero shots tonight for this guy. I brought out the Olympus Stylus with no memory card. High five for me!!  Oh well, that just gives me an excuse to come back again soon. I did get plenty of footage with my GoPro Hero2.

Friday night comes and once again I hear a familiar sound…It’s the HRBT calling my name.  “Richie, come and fish me!” Who am I to say no to such a demand? I get on the horn with PhillyJoe and he is already on the road headed the launch.  Just like the Black Eyed Peas song goes, “Tonight’s gonna be a good night!” I get on the water and announce over my presence over VHF. I paddle out to go meet up with PhillyJoe and Todd Ferrante.  On the way there a wave pushes me harder than I thought it would and gets me too close to a pilling. See, I mounted my Hawg Trough on the side of my boat with YakAttack brackets.  I’m currently experimenting where on the boat I want to mount the board. The pilling gave my Hawg Trough the one two punch and snapped the end of my board off.  I guess I won’t mount it there.

The action started out fast and furious that night.  The first light that I pulled up to had fish patiently waiting for me.  The first fish of the night was a solid 24” striper!

The fish were up high in the light line and then as the night went on the fish went deep.  You had to be patient because the school would come up high for a minute or so then go deep.  This kept up for the rest of the night. You had to be pinpoint accurate with your casts.  When you saw the fish you had to make the perfect cast otherwise the hickory shad and bluefish were all over it.  You could see school after school of hickory shad running up and down the light line all night long.  The night ended around 2am with all of us bringing in double digit catches.  I caught around 20 hickory shad, 3 bluefish, and 12-14 stripers.  The biggest fish of the night went 27 ¼”!

Hickory Shad...Little bugger

26" striper


Another nice schoolie

25" Schoolie Striper

Biggie of the night. Fat 27 1/4"

Nights like these are what keep me coming back to the HRBT.  You have some nights that are off and you can’t buy a bite.  Then there are the nights that you start nailing the fish the minute you get on the water.  The best part to me about the HRBT is that it’s not far from my house, and that any given night you can have immediate action. As spring rolls along, so will the fishing.  With flounder, speckled trout, and redfish moving in, trips to the HRBT will not be as frequent as they were in late fall.  No matter what though, I will still always find time to make those spontaneous outings.

~See ya on the water!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Walking the Dog on Easter Weekend

There are two types of fishing excursions; planned and unplanned.  Most of the time, the unplanned trips are the ones that can stick out in your memory bank.  My Easter weekend started out like most other family guys would start.  After work on Friday, I met my wife at the grocery store to do a little Easter dinner shopping. We also once again took on the role of the “Easter Bunny” making sure that our daughter has plenty of opportunities to make new cavities with the plethora of delicious sweets! Saturday was spent at Busch Gardens riding the coasters and making sure the girls had fun.  Once the fun in sun at the theme park was over, it was time to visit my friend/co-worker in the hospital.  This week my friend Les was diagnosed with an evil disease named cancer.  Doctors found it in his stomach and are taking no chances.  He was admitted immediately to Portsmouth Naval Medical Center for his long process of treatment and recovery. I figured since I was going to see him Saturday evening that it would be fitting to tote along the Trident 13 so I could get an hour or two at the Elizabeth River.  I’m already all the way in Portsmouth, why wouldn’t I bring the yak?
I met our friend Bobby at the hospital so we could hang out with Les. It sucks seeing your buddy hooked up to bags of fluid and confined to a floor in a hospital.  One thing though, if there is one person who can come out swinging and defeat this monster, it’s Les!  After our visit, it was off to the Elizabeth River for some night time speckled trout action.
I hit the water around 9pm and planned on fishing until 11pm or so.  This night was a lot nicer than the last time I was out.  It was in the upper 50s with no wind, clear skies, and a strong incoming tide!   It was time to take the dog for walk. I figured I would try top water to entice blow ups from some hungry specs.  I started working a flooded shoreline with a dark Mirromullet.  About 5 minutes into it, I get my first blow up.  The fish missed it, but at least I had possible taker.  I rounded a point and casted parallel to the grass edge when I noticed another kayaker.  I was concentrating on the other kayaker when it seemed like my bait triggered a landmine!  The minute I heard the explosion, I felt dead weight.  I love top water action because that’s when instinct took over, not because of the sound but because of the weight.  I got in a good hook set and now it’s “FISH ON!”  I battled this fish pretty good for what seemed like minutes.  I get it to about 5 feet from the boat when the fish makes a solid deep run…and comes un-buttoned!  Crap, my drag was smoked all the way down!  This time it was my mistake, I didn’t back the drag off any.  My old musky fishing skills should have taken over but I took this fish for granted.  I would love to say I had a citation on, but I never saw the fish.  I could tell that this fish was heavy and had a good set of shoulders.  Oh well, that’s fishing.
The remaining hour left in my budgeted fishing plan had the same action.  Many blow ups, but smaller fish.  One fish decided that he was a patriot missile.  Less than 10 feet from the boat a 15” spec shoots out of the water about 2 feet in the air with a mouth full of Mirromullet.  Nothing makes your heart skip a couple of beats when you get a serious blow up that you can see at night.  I ended the night with a half dozen specs that ranged from 12” – 17”.  All the fish were released to spend the next day Easter egg hunting with their families. I hated leaving the fish biting but I promised myself that I would not be a zombie on Easter Sunday. Here is the 17":

Most planned fishing trips include fishing partners and a game plan strategy. The little unexpected trips can sometimes be the most relaxing and rewarding because most of the time it’s just you, the water, and hopefully the fish.  On a night with a bright moon, flat water, and kamikaze trout, it can be hard to beat.  Yes I did not boat a ton of big fish, but I had a relaxing time on the water counting my blessings that God has given me.   I’m blessed with good friends, a loving family, and the ability to fish at will.  I’m also inspired by the drive and will power of other people.  Les is going to defeat this cancer because he is strong and will not let it get the best of him.  He has the thoughts and prayers of many on his side, along with the constant care from the big guy upstairs!  Get well soon Les!
Happy Easter Everyone.
See ya on the water!