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!

Monday, October 1, 2012

A Day to Remember

"And the winner of the Hobie Pro Angler 12 with a length of 54.25 inches is..."

Let's go back in time one week. The Saturday before the 2012 TKAA Kayak Fish For Charity Tournament had me kind of nervous. It was really weird to be this nervous one week before the tournament. I mean c'mon, I have fished other tournaments before, but this one was different. Not only was there over 285 fishermen, it was in my own back yard. I'm going to give an abbreviated summary of my tournament experience.

Since I have the "luxury" for working for Uncle Sam, I decided that it wanted to take a week of paid leave before the event to prepare for this huge tournament. I tossed many different ideas in my head on where to fish, when to fish the spots, what would be the best tide/weather mix, etc. After a weekend of tossing around different options, I finally decided on a plan. Trout all day Monday and Tuesday, flounder on Wednesday, and trout on Thursday and Friday morning. I knew I would run into reds on the way so I was really not too worried about strictly going after them.

Now I'm not going to sit here and give a play by play of every single day. What I will do is boil it all down to is this: I went through the week of hard fishing, and I mean hard! I woke up every day between 4 and 5 in the morning, rain or shine. I packed a lunch every single day, and fished until my "drop dead" time of 3 in the afternoon. My goal was to narrow down dozens of ideas into one structured game plan. Picture a football coach going through 100 plays and shaving game day down into his proven top 15. What I did was exhaust many ideas and formulated to what I believed was a "recipe for winning".

Finally tournament day is here. I was privileged enough to share some pre-fishing time and tournament day with my good friend and fishing partner Joe Underwood (PhillyJoe). We got to the launch an hour early to get our kayaks set up, check over our gear for last minutes tweaks, and shoot the breeze for a bit over some coffee to take the pre-game jitters away. Once it was safe light, it was on! We headed out with a purpose and did not deviate what so ever. We hit our three trout spots and both had our trout in no time. I ended up with 10 specks between 16" and 21.25" with three going over 20".

Nice trout on top water

Tournament Trout

Joe caught 9 trout up to 19". Just like in our script, it was time to leave the trout biting as the incoming tide went slack so we could head over to the flounder location. The rough part though was the weather! The rain was enough to make any other trip a complete bust. That's one of the many reasons that I love my Ocean Kayak Trident 13. The rod pod is not just for fishing rods. Not only did I store extra rods, I also packed a small cooler, fishing tackle, and most importantly my Columbia rain gear to keep me dry on a day like this.

Just as planned, we launched out of Willoughby mid-day to some nasty wind and rain! It didn't take more than 15 minutes of jigging the pilings to get my first flounder of the day that went over 18". I thought that we were going to wear them out after nailing one right away. I was wrong; it was not until 5 minutes before my "drop dead" time until I hit another flounder that was bigger than the other that went 18.5". Before that I caught a hand full of little reds up to 14.5". Hey, they were tournament eligible!

Cool looking little redfish

18.5" flounder

All that leads up to the most stressing hours that I can remember. I knew I had a decent slam, but I didn't know how it would fare. I "weighed" in at 3pm just in case somebody came in with the same size slam. The deadline was 4pm, but a tie goes to the individual that entered his catch in first. One of the most unnerving times was standing in line to wait to have your photos reviewed. After confirming my 54.25" total, it became the dreaded "waiting game".

The raffle came and went, all the other categories were announced, and it finally came down to my 40 hours of pre-fishing and eight hours of game day. I was having many thoughts going through my head, all at one time. The last time I was this nervous was the day I got off the bus for basic training for the Air Force. After the 4th and 3rd places were announced without my name being included I thought, "Holy crap, I might win this."  When the length of the 2nd place winner was called was when it hit me. That was not my confirmed length, YES!

"And the winner of the Hobie Pro Angler 12 with a length of 54.25 is Richie Bekolay!" Those are words that I will never forget. I had tunnel vision as I walked up to shake Wayne's hand and to receive my medal.

Myself with the Hobie crew

As great as this Hobie Pro Angler is, I'm an Ocean Kayak guy! I stand behind my kayak and have the utmost confidence in it when I board the cockpit. This Hobie will make somebody a very happy fisherman, but I am sticking with my Trident 13. It's my baby!

The best part of this whole experience was that I got to share it with some wonderful people. It felt great winning the tournament, but it was an even better feeling seeing the smiles on the veterans faces as they received prizes and had prizes from other winners donated to the Heroes On The Water chapters. As a current service member myself, my hat's off with a big salute to all those vets that we were so lucky to be around. The entire TKAA crew and Heroes On The Water coordinators did a remarkable job on putting on such a first class event. I only wish that everyone that may read this had been able to experience it. I'm already thinking about next year's tournament. Hmm, where am I going to fish???

See ya on the water!