Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Bumping and Grinding Bucketmouths

The early spring months treated us a little different this year compared to years past. March and early April were filled with high winds and cold fronts keeping the water temperature down. Finally, old Ma' Nature has finally listened to the fishermen's prayers because it's official...spring is here! Not only do us anglers feel the swing in the temperature, big ole' bucketmouths feel it too! These fish wasted no time in adjusting to the change. The early pre spawn feeding and staging pattern quickly swapped over to bed making with a little bumping and grinding. "Bow-chicka-bow-wow!"

I paid close attention to the location of the first areas with beds from last year and used that "data" to determine the first spots I was going to check out. My first trip in search of bedding bass was more like a scouting trip than anything.  I only had a couple of hours to fish after work so I couldn't afford to waste time. Wouldn't ya know it, these beds were in the same exact spots as last year. Fish are no different than any other living thing, they're creatures of habit. This "recon" trip was a good one. 3 fish were landed between 16" and 19". I didn't get pictures of the 19" due to technical difficulties, but here is a plump 18".

The next outing was a double header; first stop was at Joe Underwood's lake of choice followed up by my lake of choice. Joe could only fish the first part of the day so we headed to his lake first. Joe had a well thought out game plan that had me interested from the start; hit some lay downs and ledges early, then look for beds as the sun peaked.

The bite didn't pick up until a couple of hours after sunrise. Joe had the hot hand of the morning landing 3 to my 1. I was able to land a couple of fish up to 16". One thing that I noticed was Joe's lake was a little bit later in the spawning cycle. We found a few beds, but most of these beds were vacant. Joe landed the big fish of the morning with a chunky 18" (pictured below). Check out "Hooked Up" (link) for his report.  

Round 2 in this bassin doubleheader was at the lake I fished earlier in the week. I used the early part of the outting to cover half of the lake standing up and staring down into every square foot of shallow shoreline cover looking for beds. Some were found, but most were in the area that I had previously searched out earlier in the week. Not only did I find more beds than I saw before, most of them had some good sized fish on top of them. Each fish landed took a little bit of work. Some wanted to see the buffet of finesse baits and 30 minutes of enticing before they would actually pick it up to remove it from the bed. Maybe it's home field advantage, but this lake was more generous than the first. 3 more were landed between 17" and 19.25". The 19.25" was pretty heated when a weightless wacky rigged Senko decided to do the Harlem Shake in her king sized bed.

19.25"...Not a fan of the Harlem Shake

Even though this is a great time of year to get on some quality bass, I'm hearing the call of the salt water species. There are so many options that are right around the corner. Soon, the bass rods will be put down and the heavy artillery will be drawn out for the migration of the big red drum. If the work schedule and the weather can work together, it might not be a bad idea to give one more shot to interrupt the "mojo" of some bumping and grinding bucketmouths.  In the famous words of Lionel Richie, "All night long!"

~See ya on the water!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


If you're a salt water angler in the mid-Atlantic region, you've heard about the mystique of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel "CBBT". For the kayak angler, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Guys like Kayak Kevin and Rob Choi have made this place famous with their catches of trophy sheepshead, taugtog, bull reds, black drum, etc. So needless to say, its guys like them that we have to blame for our reckless pursuit for some of the Chesapeake Bay's most challenging creatures.

With spring weather knocking on the door, it only made sense to change the mindset. Tautog has been on my mind nonstop since having many conversations with the "tog tamer" Rob Choi. He has such a passion for these fish which he naturally shares. One thing he doesn't share is his spots. It's like getting a secret recipe from your grandmother which doesn't come easily, if ever. Rightfully so for this style of fishing, you have to just get out there and earn your stripes.

The conditions were decent, but not ideal. The winds were forecasted to be light until mid day before they were supposed to pick up. Either way, I was going toggin and nothing was stopping me.

The fishing was tough the whole day! Spot after spot, piling after piling all yielded the same result...Nada! The wind started to pick up and so did the thought of making the paddle back to dry land. "Tap Tap", instincts kicked in as the hook was set into the first tog of the day. She was only 13 1/2", but a fish none of the less. She was tagged and released immediately so I could get my line back in the water. It was not long after when I felt the same bite once again, this time it was a better fish.

17" Tautog

This fish put up an awesome fight for the size! I instantly thought of what a brawl with a tog over 20" would be like. I honestly contemplated keeping this fish because of the quality of table fare I had in my hands. It didn't take long to decide that a tag, photo, and release was the way to go. For some reason, I believe that releasing legal fish instead of keep them all will bring blessings for the future. It's sort of like giving back to nature.

The wind got really bad soon after the release. White caps popped out of nowhere which made the decision easy for me. Anybody that has ventured out to the CBBT knows that a strong southeast wind sucks! As you can imagine, the paddle back was long and wet. Even so, the lessons learned ran through my head along with the feeling of optimism for the next time out at the complex. Until then...

~See ya on the water!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Taggin Trophy Trout

With the recent Kayak Bass Fishing tournaments now a figment of my imagination, it was once again time to play around with the toothy critters of the salt. Since we don't have many options in the lower end of the Chesapeake Bay this time of year, I decided to give the speckled trout of the Elizabeth River the good ole' college try before the cold weather moves out. Not only was I anxious to feel the head shakin' explosion of a gator trout, I was even more pumped to inject a tag into one! See, this is my first year as a member of the Virginia Game Fish Tagging Program (link). As if I needed another reason to go fishing in the salt...

Joe Underwood and I got a late start due to traffic, but that didn't slow us down any. I decided to fish pretty shallow based on the warming water and incoming tide. That was a smart move because the fish thought the same thing. I started to get short strikes almost immediately on a 5" salt water assasin. They were coming up short one after another which really started to tick me off. I swapped out the covert jig and plastic for a heavily armed Mirrolure. I figured, "Ha, two can play this game...Bite this short and see what happens!"

A half dozen casts into my new tactic and WABAM, fish on! "Haha, look who's in control now!" I was pretty stoked to insert a tag into a healthy 17" trout for my first tagged fish for the state of Virginia. My trusty black & gold Mirrolure proved to be the ticket tonight. The best part was the fish kept getting bigger as the night wore on. I caught 10 fish with 4 of them going over 23".

The highlight of the evening was when I was being a "smart a$$" to Joe. He was 20 feet away from me and I said, "I'm going to switch to top water but I'm gonna catch one more fish on the Mirrolure real quick". The next cast, twitch...twitch...BANG! Joe was shocked as the big trout thrashed all over the surface. Not only was this my first night tagging, it was the first time I tagged a citation sized fish. This big girl went 25 1/2".

It was great to see so many healthy fish of quality size during this time of year. The Elizabeth River gets pounded on a regular basis so I felt pretty good being able to check off my first citation class fish of the year. I have many goals that I want to accomplish with the remaining months of 2013. Tagging A LOT of speckled trout is one, and catching numerous citation species is another. Like I've said before, "A man without goals is a man wandering around aimlessly". That's not acceptable in my book!

~See ya on the water!