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!

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