Sunday, August 10, 2014

Grand Finale

Meriam-Webster defines "grand finale" as:
a very exciting or impressive ending of a performance or show.

This day was very bittersweet for me as it was my last day of fishing in Virginia since I'm moving to Florida. Feelings were mixed; ups and downs, happy and sad, excited and deflation, etc. For months I had mentally put off the inevitable "last day" of my personal fishing tour in the Chesapeake Bay. My time in Tidewater Virginia was up and I had one more chance to experience the blessings that the Bay has given me many times over!

Instead of scouring the flats in search of my favorite combination of speckled trout and redfish, it just made sense to give the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel the ole' college try. Joe Underwood, Kayak Kevin, and myself hit the complex with sheepshead and spadefish as the targets. I've landed numerous quality speckled trout and plenty of slot sized redfish, but I've yet to tangle with a quality sheepshead. As Joe knows, I would pick the flats over the bridge pretty much any day of the week. I have not spent much time going after big sheeps like many others have. You can't complain about not getting a nice sheep if you don't go after them. 

Kevin had the spadefish dialed in so we headed to that spot to start off. I would drop down a fiddler crab to the bottom for sheeps and then switch to a clam tipped jig for spades every few pilings. I alternated back and forth to break up the monotony and to cover most of the piling. It took less than an hour when I felt "weight" on my spadefish rig. As I set the hook and felt the immediate drag screaming run to the bottom, I knew it was not a spade, but a "spadefish surprise" (coined by Kayak Kevin).

Photo Credit: Joe Underwood
I felt the fish get on the other side of the piling, bad news! Instincts kicked in and I immediately put the reel in the freespool and chased the brute to the other side. Lucky enough, the fish was there as I reeled up the slack. This time, I was able to get it out in open water and away from structure. I had to go a little bit easier on the sheep since I was using a medium heavy All Pro SMG rod with my Curado spooled with 30lb braid and 20lb fluorocarbon leader. After multiple heart pounding runs, I leg swept in a 23" sheepshead.

Photo Credit: Joe Underwood
Photo Credit: Joe Underwood

After the welcomed surprise, it only made sense to go after spades. Inch for inch, pound for pound, spadefish have to be the toughest fighters out there! The jackhammer fight is pure awesomeness. Once the tide slowed down, the bite picked up!

Spades ranged from 8" - 14". Kevin got the nicest one of the day at 14". 

Joe, Kevin, and I had a blast feeding and catching spade after spade. You curse them one minute, and love them the next. Once the bite slowed down, it was time to paddle in and call it. Man, what a great way to end my time in Tidewater.

My mind was going through all the fantastic fishing memories of Virginia with every stroke of the paddle. I was wearing a smile that was hiding a little bit of sadness. I started kayak fishing in Virginia and have met some truly amazing people along the way. I will admit, part of me will always call Virginia my 2nd home.

Well, that's that! The Virginia chapter is closed as I start a new one in the Florida panhandle. I want to end this by thanking everybody that I have had the privilege to learn from during my tour in VA. I feel pretty lucky to have fished with some of the most talented anglers in the country as well as the nicest guys you could ever meet. I will make sure to pay it forward during my journey in Florida. I'm sure it won't be long before find myself paddling in the gulf. Until then...

~See ya on the water!