Tuesday, July 26, 2011

James River Blues

I am a bit delayed in posting this due to other obligations.  Anyway, last week I got a message from Rob Choi that he was taking his buddy Dorian out for Dorian's first adventure on a kayak and wanted to know if I wanted to join.  Having had little luck so far this year I figured it was worth it to go out and see what we could get into.  We arrived at the launch in 105 degree heat and proceeded to get our gear ready.  After some minor setbacks with gear malfunctions, we finally got to the river and were ready to go.  Rob gave Dorian a crash course in kayak technique and away we went.  Despite my lack of significant fish thus far this year, I was more hopeful that Dorian would hook up with something nice.  On the paddle out, Dorian pointed out one of the benefits of kayak fishing and that is the peaceful tranquility while being in such a beautiful area.  Thanks to him, we noticed what a beautiful sunset it was.

While paddling down we took a moment out for some photo op's before setting up in our first location.

We got set up in our first location and little action was happening.  We moved a few times before hearing that tell tale sound of a clicker going off as I look over and see Rob doubled over.  Well at least one of us got a fish.  The fish ended up being a mid 30's flathead.  A bit later, Rob is doubled up again, but he loses this fish at the boat.  Another nice fish though.  Then I hooked into a small blue cat.

It wasn't the big fish that I wanted but it was a fish nonetheless and I was happy to get a little slime.  Then it happened.  Dorian hooked up.  Now I am happy because when you take a newbie out on the water, the most important thing is to get them hooked up.  Dorian lands a nice little channel cat (it was getting dark and I couldn't get a look at it but there are pics up over at www.angling-addict.com).  

Finally I hear the clicker on one of my rods go off and I wait.  Then it goes off again and I wait.  Finally it goes off and starts screaming.  I engage the spool and the fight is on.  This is not the biggest fight I have ever had from a cat, but it was a good fight nonetheless.  After getting the fish to the boat only to be splashed by a tail slap a few times, I finally wear out the fish and get him beside the boat.  This is what I caught.

This blue cat measured in at 30" and was a blast.  After about 30 minutes of no action, we began our paddle back.  When we got to the shallows, we noticed tons of blue cats, flathead's, and a few big carp looming near the boulders.

Despite the 100 degree temps and bathwater warm water, the evening was great.  I am especially glad that Dorian was able to get his first fish from a kayak and hope that he will do it again soon.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Finally got dinner.......Rudee Inlet 7/17

After taking my son to his baseball practice, I decided to take a little jaunt out in Rudee Inlet.  The original plan was to hit Lynnhaven Inlet, but I ran into my buddy Joe who had just spent the day there and after his bleak report, I decided to change my venue.   I find my way over to the launch and get my gear out and ready in record time.  Once on the water, I throw out a line with a bucktail and gulp and troll my way out into the inlet.  In no time the rod doubles over and the fight is on.  Drag pulling, boat twisting and turning, and finally after an epic battle, I land this:

I thought I had a good size flounder but it ended up being a croaker.  How did this little fish put up that much fight?  I continued on my voyage.  

On my way out to the bridge and metal bulkhead, I run across a different kind of pirate boat.  

I am sure kids all around would love to ride on this boat, but the sounds of Capt. Morgan across the loudspeaker gave me a bit of a headache.  

I keep paddling and find my spot out by the bulkhead only to find out that when rigging the Commander120's anchor trolley, I missed one terribly important piece.....the cleat.  Oops.  Well thank goodness the current wasn't ripping and I could survive with the foot cleat.  As I was plopping my bucktail/gulp appetizer in and out of the water, I saw one charter coming in from what looked like a successful day on the water with what appears to be 9 marlin flags.

There appeared to be parade of the charters coming back in from their day's adventures.

If you are wondering why there are all these photos of the boats, and no fish porn, it is because there were no fish in that area to be caught.  After putting in some time at the bulkhead, I head back into the inlet in hopes of finding something to bend my rod.  As I was paddling back, I ran across this boat and had to take a photo.  

After that, I paddled up into the inlet.  Ran across Mike M. and chatted with him for a bit.  Seemed that he and I were tied with one fish each.  Then paddled back up to the docks and tossed a line or two and called it a day.  This is what my cooler looked like at the end of the day.

Looks impressive until you see how little the cooler is.  Ok so people keep wondering how this one little fish is dinner.  Well he will be broiled with some onion and margarine and then flaked over a salad.  I never said he was going to be a hearty dinner.  :)  

Monday, July 4, 2011

Safety Post #2 - Boaters and other potential issues

I wrote the post about safety during storms, but after a few recent encounters, I thought I would follow that up with a post about how to stay safe when you are the little man on the water.

Kayaks are great for getting around to various skinny water locations, as well as a thrill when on open water in the hunt for more exotic species of fish.  However, there is no denying that if you are paddling around a kayak in an area with powerboats, you are the little fish in a big pond.  There are a few things you need to keep in mind to minimize your risk.

  • Make yourself visible.  During the day, you can do this by flying a bright colored flag a few feet above your kayak.  I use a YakAttack VISICarbon Pro safety flag and light (www.yakattack.us). This flag is great because it is a bright safety orange flag that is designed to not produce drag thus not impeding your efficiency on the water while keeping you nice and visible.  As you can see in the photo below, the orange flag is very visible and stands out well.  Also there is SOLAS (Survival Of Life At Sea) reflective tape behind the flag which adds to the visibility.  The coast guard states that you must have a visible signal device on hand that you can shine at an oncoming boater in the event that you need to signal them.  To me this is not enough.  At night I wear a head lamp that I can direct at a boater, however I also have the light on my VISICarbon Pro which produces 360 degrees of light and has one of the highest visible ranges of any light on the market. One addition I plan to make (though I dont have it yet) is to add a signal light to my PFD, this will help make me visible in the unfortunate event that I become separated from my kayak.  

  • Be aware.  Being the small fish in a big pond means that you need to be vigilant about knowing your surroundings.  Always try to stay one step ahead of the danger that exists.  This means looking around you to see if a boat in the distance is coming your way full throttle and if so, prepare an exit plan.  This also means to know the patterns in your area.  For instance, I know that at dusk the channels of most waterways will be congested with boaters and people on PWC's trying to get in before dark.  I stay away from the main channels during this time.  Same thing at sunrise.  There is a lot of traffic heading out at that time.  There are other peak times as well but they may vary depending on your location.  Be mindful of these times and try to stay clear of main channels.  Another part of being aware comes into play when paddling near a shore fishing location.  An 8oz pyramid sinker can be as deadly as a bullet if you get hit by one and it is your job to insure that you are a proper distance away from the shore fishermen and do not encroach on their turf.  You may argue that you have a right to be there just as much as they do, however you are not casting your lead where they are standing, but they are casting where you are.  Keep a safe distance.  
  • Have the proper safety gear.  The USCG requires that you have at minimum the following items:  A PFD on board, A visible signal device (can be as simple as a signal mirror), and an audible signal device (whistle).  The PFD should not just be kept onboard, but should be worn at all times.  To comply with USCG reg's there is a great little safety whistle that you can pick up at most outdoors stores that has a whistle, signal mirror and a dry storage compartment (pictured below).  However, keep in mind that this is only the minimum.  Other items you should consider carrying include (but are not limited to) a hand held marine radio, a flag and light (as mentioned above), PFD safety light, safety knife, signal flares, a cell phone, and a handheld GPS.

  • Make an exit plan.  This sounds crazy but you should always have a plan in the event that you have to move quickly.  It is better to figure this out when you arrive at a location rather than when you need to get moving.  Typically if I am in a main waterway, I tend to try to stay on the shoreside of any channels.  That way I just keep it in my head that if I have to move, I just need to head toward shore.  
  • Keep your head clear.  What this means is don't drink or do any mind altering drugs while on the water.  I know this will cause a round of boo's from several weekend water warriors who like to get out and have a good time inclusive of their favorite malt beverage.  However, if you don't have a clear head, you may not be able to make the quick decisions needed to get you out of a potentially dangerous situation.  Just like with driving, you may do just fine with a few drinks, but when it goes bad, it can go horribly bad and you are the small guy out there.  Chances are, it will go terribly bad for you.  Save the drinks for the bar after you are done and are telling the tales of the day to anyone who will listen.  
  • Keep your rolodex handy.  Not really, but at the same time you should have the numbers of the various emergency contacts on hand and if you see someone doing something dangerous, don't hesitate to call the proper authorities.  The last time I was on the water, I had two men who appeared to be intentionally casting at my fishing partner and me.  They were casting double bottom rigs as hard as they could right at us then reeling back in as fast as they could, then doing it all over again.  We moved on to another spot but in hindsight, I wish that I would have called the authorities.  We were far out of normal casting range but they were trying their hardest to get to us.  If they did that to us, they would do it to someone else.  
This post is not intended to scare anyone off the water because it can be very easy to have a safe and enjoyable time on your kayak.  However, it is important to keep your head straight so you can continue to have those enjoyable times.  


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Welcome Home Buddy!

On Independence Day weekend it is only fitting that I would get to fish with my buddy Mike.  Mike has spent the better part of the past two years stationed in Bahrain with the Navy.  He is finally back on US soil.  The outing was bitter sweet, because this is also the last time I will get to fish with him for at least a year as he is being stationed in Gulfport Mississippi.  It is with great appreciation for what they do that I thank Mike and every other soldier out there defending our nation.  However, this is not a blog about military appreciation so you are probably reading this for the fishing report of the day.

We hit the water at 8:00am and launched from Crab Creek at the Lynnhaven Inlet.  We ran into Wayne at the ramp and discussed strategies.  Wayne indicated that he was going to focus on the back side of the inlet and we were going to focus on the bridge and front part of the inlet.  With that we began to launch.  We made our way to the bridge, however the current was full on ripping through and we decided to fish the main channel of the inlet first and when the tide slowed up a bit we would hit the bridge in search of Tog, Sheepshead, and Flounder.   We began fishing the channel and had moderate luck with some flounder, but mainly were getting torn up by crabs.  After fishing a bit, we noticed that the tide was slacking up.  We headed out to the bridge.

We had our ammunition and were ready for battle. The fish stood no chance against our sharp hooks and tasty bait.

We fished the pilings for a bit but had no luck with the Tog or Sheep's.  We began to drift the outgoing tide for flounder but the best I could come up with was a bit over 15".  

While fishing for flounder, I started hearing what sounded like fish jumping right behind my boat.  Unfortunately we found out that it was not fish, but it was two very annoying shore fishermen who appeared to be intentionally trying to hit us.  We were nearly into the channel and they were heaving as hard as they can, then reeling back in as fast as possible then casting again.  They are lucky we were in good moods, or else we would have called the cops on them.  If you are out there and see them doing the same, feel free to call the cops and if I am out there and see it I will do the same and show the cops this photo. 

We decided to head back in and try the tennis courts as well as a few back coves.  Mike gave it his all but we were not getting much love from the fish.

We anchored up and took a breather and stood up for a bit.  I was able to scare up a little croaker, and then one rod doubled over.  The fight was on.  I got the fish to the top of the water and saw that it was a Ray.  Having not caught a big fish in a while, I had hoped to land this one, but it came unbuttoned.  

Mike had dropped a piece of mullet in the water and noticed that the Gudgeons were going crazy over the mullet.  He began to catch the Gudgeons by hand and ended up with about a dozen or two.  

We departed and began our trek back into the launch.  On the way back, Mike caught a nice little grunt right in the butt.  Anyone can catch a fish in it's lips, but it takes real talent to catch on in it's keister.  

After that we called it a day and headed back in.  I did get the opportunity to get a photo of Mike with one of his prized fish of the day.  

The hilarity of the day was not over though.  After Mike left to go get a new rack put on his truck, I continued loading up my gear.  As I was packing up, there were two young ladies getting ready to go paddle boarding.  As they were bending over getting their boards ready, there was a kid just coming in from a day on the water with his dad.  Watching him staring intently at the young ladies as they prepared their boards was priceless.  Unfortunately at the time, my camera was in my kayak and I was up near my car.  However, here are the ladies.

And here is the kid.  

I only wish I could have caught his pubescent gaze as he stared at them.  The funny thing is that the girls did notice and were giggling about it, but it didn't deter him from his gaze.  

All in all despite not getting much love from the fish, it was great getting back out with Mike.  I wish him luck in his new adventures in Mississippi and know that we will fish again.  I look forward to that day.