Friday, July 27, 2012

One Week..5 Species..Send Off To a Good Friend

When you work for Uncle Sam, one of the perks is accruing 30 days of leave per year.  Since I have been in the Air Force over 10 years now, I have managed to save up around 70 days of paid vacation time. So needless to say, taking a full work week off would not kill my vacation bank!  I had a genius plan as well...Take a week off, and fish every day! Pretty simple, but yet brilliant. To figure out where I would fish was a different story. I put in a lot of thought on where, when, and how I would successfully catch fish each and every time. That thought process consisted of reviewing ScoutLook Weather every day for weather forecasts and tide times, checking current charts, and lastly...THINKING POSITIVE!

If I wrote a detailed summary of every outing of this week, I would be able to compete with the authors of the New York Times Bestsellers list. I didn't have time to write separate posts either since it was basically eat, sleep, fish, repeat... So I will just leave out all the little details and get down to the meat and potatoes. I had two missions for the week: First one was to fish the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel (CBBT) and the second one was to hit some spots close to home and catch as many trout as I could.

Sunrise at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel

First stop of my weeklong tour was the CBBT. Since my last outing with Rob Choi and PhillyJoe, I have been constantly day dreaming of all the fish that lurk around the structure of the CBBT.  You never know what you're going to catch when you fish this place.  After checking all the forecasts and weather data, I decided that Monday would be my best chance to fish the CBBT.  The rest of the week had higher winds to match with strong currents.  Monday's current was strong, but the winds were calm.  I headed out with PhillyJoe this time to target spadefish and sheepshead.  We hit the spots that I planned on and did fairly well.  The spadefish were out again in full force!

Working schools of 20+ spades

10" Spade

Bait Stealer!

Joe's first Spade ever. 15" is a great way to start

Joe and I wore out the spades for a couple of hours. Joe's 15" was the big one of the day.  Not like we didn't have other chances at bigger fish. Both of us dropped fish just as big if not bigger. A 15" or bigger will put your gear to the test.  Hooking into these fish on my 7' medium bass rod feels like I hooked into a 40" musky! After playing around with spadefish, we headed to the first island. Not much going on here this day.  We finished off the day with some black sea bass, croaker, and trigger fish.

Fun fighting Trigger

Next stop on the kayak fishing vacation was my local speckled trout waters.  I would have to say that speckled trout are one of my favorite fish to target in Virginia.  Probably because you can catch them with different presentations, including my favorite...Top Water!! With that being said, I will sum up my trout outings into one. I planned on fishing Back River and trying some new spots.  Back River has a little bit of everything for the speckled trout angler.  You have inlets, creeks, pier pilings, flats, grass edges, etc.  The challenge for the entire week was figuring out how to beat the wind. Every morning I would sit in my truck in the driveway at 5am, sip on a cup of coffee, and check my ScoutLook app for the latest weather conditions.  That is when I would decide which launch I would use and which spot I would fish based off the wind and tidal movements. Putting in that little extra effort paid off for the week, including the Friday before. 

I fished for speckled trout last Friday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday and did not get skunked any of the trips even though the winds were 12-17 knots every day. I tried to keep things simple. Find schools of bait and try to match the hatch.  There are finger mullet everywhere! I only threw lures that had some sort of silver pattern with some little variation. I stuck with two styles of lures, top water and twitch baits.  I threw black/silver Skitter Walks and Super Spooks for top water and mullet patterned TT Mirrolures and X-Large Mirrodines. All lures worked, but I had better luck with the top water bite.   I believe top water prevailed due to the dirtiness of the water. When the wind was blowing at 15+ knots, the soft bottom churned up which produced water with poor clarity. The built in rattle chambers in the top water lures really "call" the fish with vibration and sound instead of sight. When the water was at its cleanest is when the twitch baits worked the best.  All in all, I ended the week with hooking up with 15+ speckled trout all between 15"-21.5". Not a lot of fish given the number of days, but not too bad with the given weather conditions. I also caught some aggressive little puppy drum. It's a good sign when a 10" puppy drum smashes your skitter walk. All fish caught this week were released to fight another day. Here is a week's worth of pictures:

Friday night 21"

20 3/4" on a Skitter Walk

Awesome looking fish

Little puppy drum

Skitter Walk snack

The last day of my fishing vacation ended two things.  First it was the end to my week long fishing adventure and lastly it was the last time hitting the Virginia waters with my good friend Marty Mood. This was Marty's last time to fish in Virginia since Uncle Sam decided to move him and his family to Pensacola, Florida. It's never a cool thing to have a fishing buddy move out of state.  Oh well, that's life in the military. We decided to fish between 4am-7am in 13-18 knot SW winds to send him off.  We would have not have fished this any normally, but since it was his last day here we decided to make the best of it.  It was worth it since we both caught fish over 20".

21" on a Super Spook


Marty checking out a school of busting mullet

20" trout to send Marty away

Good luck to Marty and his family as they embark on a new chapter. I guess him moving to Pensacola gives me an excuse to fish the Gulf of Mexico. I plan on joining up again for the Regional event for the IFA Kayak tournament series in Titusville, Florida.

All in all, it was a good day and a great week! Not only did I manage to catch a few fish throughout the week, I gained priceless knowledge.  You can read magazines, internet articles, blog posts, watch all the tv shows, but the best thing you can do is get out an get the "on the water experience". I consider every time on the water as "on the job training" and a "hands on lesson", not just a few hours to go fishing. You can learn something every single time you head out if you put your mind to it. Yes, the dog days of summer are upon us. That doesn't mean that the fish cannot be caught. Change tactics up if things are not working, have an open mind, be persistent, and go get on em!

~See ya on the water!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Spades, Triggers, and Specks Oh My!

The best thing about living in the Chesapeake Bay region for a kayak fisherman is the plethora of species of fish to target.  This is really the case in the summer months in Tidewater Virginia. During this time of year you can catch flounder, speckled trout, red drum, black drum, striper, cobia, sheepshead, triggerfish, and spadefish to name a few.  The hard part though for some anglers like me is deciding what species to actually target. Heck, I would love to catch them all at the same time, but there is not enough time in a day.

With the weather finally cooperating on Thursday, I decided to head out to a couple of spots at Back River for some evening speckled trout action. I was joined by my friend Bobby on this occasion.  We headed out to east winds at 13mph with an outgoing tide.  It took a little time for the wind to die down as the sun was setting.  It didn't take long to entice some hungry specks on top water.  The evening bite was steady with strikes and fish in the boat.  All in all, I ended up with 5 trout between 16" and 21.5".


Top Water Destroyer

It wasn't a "speck-tacular" night by any means, but I would consider it a good time on the water.  What worked on this outing were a couple of different presentations:  I made controlled drifts in shallow water using the tide and wind to my advantage.  I switched between a Skitter Walk "walk the dog" lure and a "wake" bait that swims just below the surface. I slowed up my retrieve once the sun started to set.  I do this so the fish can zero in on the sound and vibration of the lure. I believe that you will get more hook ups and less strike and misses. I'm still after a summer time citation trout! I have a feeling she's just trying my patience...

Next up for the weekend was the laundry list of species at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel (CBBT). This trip I was fishing with friends PhillyJoe and Ocean Kayak pro-staffer Rob Choi. We all met at Oceans East before we headed out at sunrise.  The game plan was fairly simple...Get fiddler crabs and clams, and go after sheepshead and spadefish and anything else that was hungry! Rob had a pretty good game plan since he knows the CBBT like his own backyard.  We launched to near perfect conditions: Very light wind, partly cloudy skies, and low incoming current.

We started out by dropping fiddler crabs next to pilings, but to no avail.  Next spot was dropping clam tipped jigs for spadefish.  The spades were there, but they were finicky!  I had a couple of hook ups, but those resulted in getting broke off on the piling and coming un-buttoned.  We kept that spot in mind and headed to another spot to go hunt for some sheepshead.  The first dropped crab yielded Rob an aggressive triggerfish.  I then dropped down the same pilling to follow suit.  I barely could engage my reel by the time I had a triggerfish on the other end.  After a few drag pulling runs, I was rewarded with this guy.

17.5" Triggerfish

We continued to work different pilings looking for sheepshead but could not connect.  We ended up running into Aqua Bound pro-staffer Matt Anderson and watched him connect with a big sheepie!  You could tell the minute that he set the hook that it was something with shoulders.  Just as you know it, as he gets the citation sized sheepshead to the boat...The sheep comes unbottoned! I'm sure you can imagine what was going through Matt's mind at the time.  That is a terrible feeling, but sooner or later it will happen to all of us. We picked that spot apart and caught triggerfish, baby sea bass, small tautog, and the lovely oyster toad.

Little Trigger

Baby Sea Bass hungry for fiddlers

Oyster Toad

Time was drawing down and we decided to hit our spadefish spot on our way back to the beach.  It was just as we left them.  They were there and this time they were not as picky.  Within seconds on the first drop I had a hungry spadefish jolt the end of my line.  This time the fish did not break me off or come un-buttoned.

10 5/8" Spadefish

If you have not felt the fight of a spadefish, you don't know what you're missing.  Inch for inch, these fish fight to the death! It's amazing the strength that is stored in this fish! Not seconds after I release the fish, the wind picks up.  Not only does the wind pick up, so does the waves.  In minutes we had a storm barreling down on us and it was time to pack it in.  The paddle back was long and rough! Thank God we got off the water when we did because the weather turned fast!  Small water craft advisory with thunderstorms, 45 mph winds, and hail! We called it a day just in time to pack up and hit the road before the storm rolled in.  It was great day on the water, especially with the company of guys like Rob, Joe, and Matt.  It won't be long until I'm back again at the beach at daybreak ready to take on the summer species at the CBBT!

~See ya on the water!