Tuesday, April 8, 2014

2013 - A Year in Review

2013 ended up being my most amazing year from the kayak I have ever had.  I got picked up for a third consecutive year on the Hurricane Kayaks Fishing Team, and added some other amazing sponsors to my quiver.  Werner Paddles, Astral Buoyancy, and Egret Baits brought me on board and for that I am extremely grateful.  On the fishing front, I was lucky to get into my personal best Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass, and in Salt, I just killed it.

Here is my journey in the salt:

Spring 2013...
Even though I got some amazing fishing for Flounder, Speckled Trout, Bull Reds, and Chomper Bluefish in, it was nothing compared to the rest of the year.  I came within an 1/8" of Citation on my Red and a 1/4" of Citation on my Bluefish so it wasn't all bad.  My tournament season started with a charity event for the victims of the Boston Marathon.  With the allure of Bull Reds, I decided to forgo the Captains meeting.  Wouldn't you know it, that day I Caught a bull and a scoring flounder which would have put me on top for both big fish and overall winner had I played.  Oh well!

Summer...
I started off with a solid 2nd place podium visit on the Outer Banks inaugural Finatic Kayak Fishing tournament.  There was one dink flounder caught, and I lost a solid 18" flattie boatside which would have placed 1st.  Still, a podium visit is a win!

My first citation came over halfway through the year with a Sheepie right under 25"
Photo Credit - Jay Brooks
Next came the Tidewater Club Challenge.   Of the 8+ boat clubs and our Kayak Club, we took home the top spot (and crazy ridiculous national bragging rights) with a win that was the highest total points in tournament history.  We beat 2nd place by almost double the total points.  Did I mention that we were the only club without motors?!?!

Back-to-Back-to-Back Sheepies (all over 25" and 10#)
L to R (William Ragulsky, Rob Choi, Jay Brooks)
Photo Credit - Joe Underwood

1st Place 2013 Tidewater Club Chalange
Werner Paddles Tidewater Team
L - R (Drew Camp, William Ragulsky, Rob Choi, Mark Lozier, Richie Bekolay)
Photo Credit - Mark Lozier

Fall...
The Fall was insane.  I got my personal best Cobia, topping that mark by over 25".  Thanks to Rob Choi for all he did and his amazing support.
61 1/4 lb Cobia
Photo Credit - Rob Choi
After the Cobe, I was able to spend some time right off the breakers chasing the fall run Bulls with Matt Anderson, Seth Goodrich, and Alex Britland.  The first day with Matt, I caught over 5 reds exceeding 40", with a 47" release citation.  The following day with Seth and Alex we had a tougher time finding the bulls, but Alex managed a 48", and I got my 2nd red citation and went 4-4 on Bull Red trips with a 50".
50" Personal Best Bull Red
I also started loading up with the citation Speckled Trout with fish up to 27".
During the 2013 Oak Island Classic, I decided to fish both inshore and offshore.  Day one offshore saw some amazing flounder, spanish, king, and red catches, while I only managed keeper black sea bass, and blacktip sharks up to 6'.  Day two I spent inshore catching 3 fish.  A Red in the 20's, a flounder near there, and a Speck at 15" for a second place slam finish putting me less than an inch from my NC tournament nemesis and friend Bob Danton.

2nd Place Slam, Oak Island Classic
Winter...
I spent all winter chasing my white rabbit (30" speck).  My desire to join the "Dirty Thirty" club found me on the water all hours of the night during both the workweek and weekend.  Everything else to include putting quality time for Tautog and Big Stripers took a back seat.  Even though I am not a member of the Dirty Thirty Club just yet, I managed to get my Personal Best at 29".
29" Speck
Photo Credit - Matt Greschak

With 2014 upon us, I am stoked for what the season will hold.  I know it will be an amazing year, thanks to the amazing people I got to fish with and get to know in 2013.  To quote "Crazy" Alberto Knie, I got to share the tides with Great Friends.  

Thanks Tommy Dewitt, Rob Choi, Seth and Kamaron Goodrich, Alex Britland, Lee Williams, Joe Underwood, Kayak Kevin Whitley, Richie Bekolay, Mark Lozier, Matt Tate, Matt Greschak, Bob Danton, Jonathan Grady, James Short, Dan Smullen, Drew Camp, and others that really made 2013 a year to remember!




Monday, March 3, 2014

Breaking the Doldrums of Winter

2014 has brought upon a number of changes.  This year, the goal is to spend more time behind the lens, while still getting a chance to be in front of it.  This past weekend was my first test, and I was pleasantly rewarded.  Here is a story six years in the making.

Spring brings upon us subtle little changes that break the doldrums of winter.  Whether it be an increase in wildlife, or buds starting to form and open on the trees, or the yellow perch spawn.  With this winter being a particularly rough one on the east coast, things are a bit behind.  Historically, the perch spawn in SE Virginia around the end of February, and the spawn is usually over by the first major lunar cycle in March.  With all of this being said, I ended up getting a late start in my kayak fishing this winter and feared that I missed the run.  Rest assured though, the fish are in prespawn so that gives you another few weeks to get on them.



For the past six years, my goal has been to catch a release citation yellow perch.  Ive felt the feeling of failure when Ive seen others attain this achievement, while Ive been just short.  This year started the same.  I got a call a week ago from my buddy Tommy saying that he got his paper perch.  I was extremely happy, but it brought upon feelings that I was so accustomed to.  I was going to change that the following weekend, I brought Jim Short and Tommy Dewitt along with me, and we did some work.  It all started with a Pickerel coming in at 20"...


Then a bonus Largemouth...


And finally...


My Citation Perch.

Tommy and Jim also got in on the action with perch approaching 12".  It was nice having two good friends on the water with me to celebrate this long awaited milestone!




Thursday, September 19, 2013

Sheepshead – Dissected

For the longest time, looking at people like Kayak Kevin Whitley, Rob Choi, and Lee Williams catch monster Sheepshead (let alone any Sheepshead) haunted me.  Seeing footage of these extremely violent fights in close quarters with amazing fish were all I focused on for almost two seasons.  Fortunately, my first two monster fish both came in over 11 lbs and both came on the same day, in conditions that I had no right fishing in.  From that day on, I have refined my skills, and am confident sharing what I have learned.  I will break it down from bait and rigs, to techniques and conditions in which I post consistent catches.

Bait Selection:
Although Sheepshead can be caught on a large variety of baits, they have mouths designed for feeding on crustaceans.  My favorite baits are as follows in order or seasonal precedence.

            Mole Crabs (Sand Fleas) 


    • For me, the availability of these baits in the surf is what kicks my sheepie fishing into overdrive.  I prefer freshly caught and live baits, but have had success on dead and frozen baits.  To catch them, I look at the surf zone, and if I see little bubbles in the sand as the water recedes, I focus my attention there.  I look for baits between the tide line and the small little shelf that generally occurs a few feet into the breakers.  I will dig through the sand with my hands until I feel them, at which point, I use either a clam rake, or a half a aluminum minnow trap to scoop and shift through the sand to sort out the baits.  I store them in containers with easy drainage so the ammonia in their urine doesn’t kill them.  If possible, I will catch them at night when they are all throughout the surf, keeping them cool until im ready to fish.  I will fish them on either dropper loop rigs, or Carolina rigged, depending on the conditions.                                                                                                                                                     


            Fiddler Crabs 

21 Dozen Fiddlers in a Yeti Tundra 35

    • Im sure that in many of your favorite marshes you see these little critters scurrying around the banks on a low tide.  I start to use these baits with the mole crabs and have found over the past few years that as the summer moves on, I have better catches on crabs.  In Virginia, you can spend upwards of $4 a dozen at tackle shops, consistently wondering if there will be any in stock when you want them, or you can catch them yourself.  I focus on low tide cycles in areas I have seen them in the past, and can easily move along the shore after them.  If they are concentrated in open sections, I will throw a cast net at them and quickly collect them from under the net.  I will also walk through marsh grass, grabbing them as I spot them.  If there is sea grass in the areas you are looking that collects in clumps along the shore, they will generally hide underneath.  To keep them alive, keep them cool, moist and provide them a place to hide.  This summer I kept 22 dozen alive in a Yeti Tundra 35 for over 24 hours adding moist sea grass an crumpled up cardboard.  The cardboard, or better yet cardboard egg crate gives them a place to hide so they don’t kill one another.  Keeping them cool in conditions like this will let you keep them for a few weeks.  As they die, remove the dead ones and place a slice or two of bread for food.  I like to fish these on dropper loop rigs.


            Clams and Shrimp – 
    • Although this is not a bait I use to target sheepies due to the large by catch from species like spot, croaker, pinfish, grouper, I have had great luck when targeting Spadefish and Triggers.  Generally, My sheepies using this bait comes on lighter rods dedicated for spades, and the fight is amazing.  The go to rig for clams is a Carolina rig.


            Blue Crabs – 
    • I use Blue Crabs in 1” chunks when I am unable to get Fiddlers.  I fish them the same way I fish with Fiddlers.


            Sea Urchins and Barnacles – 
    • I have never fished with either bait, but I know they are more popular the further south you travel.  On all the sheepies I have kept, both have been the majority of the stomach content.


The next thing to look at is the rods and rigs to use.

Rods and Reels
I prefer using a MH or H power rod that is stiff enough to set the hook through a mouthful of molar like teeth.  Another consideration is the combos ability to pull them away from the structure quickly.  I use a few combos:
1.     MH Shamano Travala S paired with a Release Reels SG spooled with 85lb test braid.  The reel has an insane line retrieval ratio along with a super smooth drag.  The rod has enough backbone to cross their eyes and pull them off the structure, and the braid gives me sense of mind when fishing alongside razor sharp barnacles.
2.     H power Diawa Procyon paired with a Shamano Calcutta 200 and 35 lb braid.  The power of the rod and smooth drag on the reel makes this a great all around bait fishing/dropping combo.
3.     MH Shamano Crucial paired with a Shamano Cronarch 200 and 35 lb braid.  Again a super strong combo, with a added bonus (super light weight).  This rig is used when Im fishing with lightweight and/or doing a lot of one handed paddling along structure.
Rigs
1.     Dropper Rig.  I use either 1 or 2 hook configurations and weight from ½ to 5 oz.  I tie mine with super high quality components.  My hooks are Owner SSW J hooks from size 2 to size 2/0 (depending on the bait size).  For line I like 20-35 lb Seaguar Red or Blue label fluorocarbon line.  The Blue label is expensive, but has amazing abrasion resistance and knot strength (I recently landed a 62 lb cobia using this line).  I like a high quality barrel swivel to connect to the main line, and at least 18” to the first hook.  If Im fishing a double hook rig, I like the bottom hook 6-8” above the weight, and the top another 14-18” above that (think about working the water column.  A single rig, I like the hook 12” above the weight. On the bottom swivel, I go with a strong but inexpensive Eagle Claw Barrel Swivel with clip for quick weight changes.  With this rig, I focus on fishing near the bottom of pilings or in rocky areas.

See a dropper loop tied here.

2.     Carolina Rig – I use 16-24” of 20 lb Seaguar Red label with a high quality barrel swivel and the same Owner hooks paired to bait size.  I use a Snell or Palomar from the line to the hook, and a Palomar or Uni to the swivel.  This rig is used when I am working the entire water column.  Ill drop to the bottom and work my way up 12-18” at a time, fishing each spot for a few minutes at a time.  If I have to go over 1 ½ ounces of weight on my egg sinker, I am using too much and switch to a dropper rig.

I have had equal success with both rigs, but tend to lose more around vertical structure with the Carolina rig (must because i'm not from Carolina!).

The bite and fight:

You will either feel weight on the line or light tap-tap.  If you feel the tap-tap and miss the hookset, don’t fret.  Keep your bait down for a few seconds and wait.  The sheepies tend to hit and crush the bait before they go back and pick up the pieces.  When in doubt (as Kayak Kevin would say) “Set the Hook”.  You will loose weights and rigs, but can also be rewarded with some amazing catches.  Also, if you keep getting stolen without feeling bites, or keep missing bites, stick with it in the same areas. You may go through a lot of bait, but if you are fishing for a sheep that you know is there and feeding, don’t move on until you catch him or he stops.  Finally, when you set the hook, cross his eyes to get a positive hookset.  He’s not a speck, and your not going to rip it out of his mouth.  Once you get the hookset, hang on for the fight of your life.

Photo Credit - Jay Brooks

Good luck out there!


Monday, July 8, 2013

BOOM!

Ive not been able to get out nearly as much as usual, so I thought, with everything going on why not make it a bender.  I had the evening of the 3rd and all day on the 5th, 6th, and 7th of July to fish.  I fished whenever I could, risking heat exhaustion, failing classes, and overexertion for this.  Would I do it again?  Hell yes!

July 3rd - Got on some solid topwater bass in the evening with Tommy.  Heres a few pics.



Tommy took this awesome pic!

July 5th - After a long day of school work on the 4th, now was the time do get it done.  Jay Brooks met me on the water and we ended up really working for some fish but got some quality.  Jay is an amazing Cameraman and hooked it up with one of my favorite pics on this posting.


Not the smartest decision.
Found some of these...
...and these.  Biggest @ just under 25".
photo: Jay Brooks
After an 8 hour day on the water, I grabbed a bite to eat, and went back after some topwater bass.  Had 5 dinks to hand.

July 6th - The goal was to get Tommy on some Sheepies and Spades.  We met up with Brandon Westfall and made some $$$.

It all started with the three of us getting on some decent spades.
Hooked Up

First Spade Ever!
Then a Sheepie

2nd paper in two days - 24.5"
Then the three of us hit some togs

DeWitt's First Tog


First tog of 2013
And I finished it up with some triggers to give me my first CBBT Slam.  It was a great time on the water and I was stoked to see Tommy get his first Spade and Tog.

July 7th - I met Rob Choi and Matt Tate bright and early.  My goal was a sheepie hat trick, but the fish gods didn't want to see that happen, so we got on some small spades and triggers instead.

a solid lil' seabass

My big trigger of the day

Matt with a solid trigger
All three of us found the triggers, and got some nice fish.  Not at the top of our list, but sometimes you just have to adapt, improvise, and overcome.

I paddled my brans out to get off the water to meet up with Jim Short.  The goal was some topwater bass. We had a few blowups, but noting to write home about.  I was able to get this shot though. It was a nice way to end what was a great weekend, with some great fish, and awesome friends!




Monday, June 3, 2013

My Lucky New Hat!


So, a few months ago I was named to the Werner Paddles Fishing Team.  Needless to say, I am still on cloud 9, and coupled with Hurricane Kayaks, I work for the two best companies in paddlesports, period.

Some folks may laugh at fishing superstition, but I am extremely superstitious.  I believe in the Banana myth, and wont have anything related to Bananas before I hit the water.  I have a lot of fishing superstitions, and recently I added new one (a good one) to the long list.  Shortly after my appointment to the Werner team, I received my team hat in the mail.  For many people, it is just a ball cap, but to me it meant more.  It meant that I was finally a part an amazing company I had coveted from the beginning of my pro staff days.  It also signaled an internal trigger for me to step my game up.  Even though I may have had some hiccups in trips since that fateful day, I will say that every day on the water was rewarded me in some way, shape, or form.  Below are some brief descriptions of some of those days, the days that my lucky new hat brought me.

Tourney Time - 6-1-13

A last minute decision was made to fish the Fanatic Kayak tournament out of Nags Head in the Outer Banks.  The wind wasn't so lucky, but my first fish of the day was.
First fish of the day
I tried to upgrade, but all that wanted to play were lil' rats.  I met up a bit later with my buddy Matt, and after a 17" red, we left to chase some flounder.

While looking for flounder, I hooked up with more rats.  With time running short, I decided to troll my way in and hooked up to a 15-17" flounder.  I would normally post a pic, but of course, my hatred of flounder was renewed, and he got off at the boat.

Only one 8" flounder was caught, and my mistake without a doubt cost me first in the flounder division.  My first fish was good enough to snag me 2nd place Redfish in my first Saltwater event of the year.

Notice the Hat
This tournament benefitted Project Purple.  This is an amazing charity.  Please check them out, as this benefits and supports our future!


Bluefish Bonanza - 5-24-2013
From left to right: Jay Brooks, Me, Lee Williams, Alex Britland
(Photo: Tommy DeWitt)
This morning, a few of us had visions of Chomper Bluefish running through our minds.  With the day off, Tommy and I got on the water early, rigged up, and waited for the others to show.  We were all focused on Bluefish, except for Jay.  After Tommy, Lee, Alex, and I all hooked up with Blues over 33", Jay changed his tune and got in on the action.  It was an amazing morning with weather in the low 80's, then a strong cold front blew through, but not until we had all reached personal bests!
Tommy's fish just under 36"
Alex's Chomper
Lee's Quick Release (I need some camera practice).
My 34" Blue - Notice the Hat!
That same week prior, I was able to fish with my fellow team member - Rob Choi, in his search for a paper blue (his best was just shy of 36"), Joe Underwood (again just shy of 36"), and Jay's wife Allie (34" I believe).
Joe's Monster!
Rob Choi's writeup @ Angling Addict
Jay Brooks' writeup @ Virginia Kayak Fisherman

April Specks and Reds

Not much to say here other than April was my best Spring fishing for specks ever, with over 40 ranging from 19-23.5"  I was able to get on some awesome fishing with some great friends!

A solid 23" - And again, notice the hat! 
Alex with a solid, overslot red.
And a fatty speck!

Seth with big fish honors @ 26"
I was also out to experience two of my friends reach new Personal Best's (Tommy w/ a 22" Speck, and Erik with a 30" Blue)

Check out Seth's account of the evening @ Bowed Up Chronicles

Bull Riding 5-27-2013

Not a lot of talk here, just Pigs!
A nice ride out!
(Photo - Tommy DeWitt)
45.75" - Again, there's the hat!
Hobie Pro, Joe Underwood
Rob's account of the day over @ Angling Addict

Mad Man Luther Cifer's (Yak Attack) son Tyler also got a Graduation Present in the form of a 42" bull as well!

I will leave you with a shot I took at the Wild River Outfitters Demo Day a few weeks back.  It was taken form our newest kayak, the Skimmer 116.  This is an awesome boat I cant wait to spend some more time in!

Hurricane Kayaks - Fornt and Center

Needless to say, I dont think I will leave home without my lucky hat anytime soon!

Monday, May 13, 2013

A New Journey For Two Of My Friends

OK, so I try to put up some stories and antidotes related to my time on the water, and this post will have some of that.  I had an amazing, fished some new water, learned more about one of my favorite fisheries (Ironically through observation and conversation more than actually fishing), and got away form the same ole grind. 

But... The focus of this weekend was to spend some time and celebrate the marriage of two great friends, Seth Goodrich and Kamaron Owens.  The ceremony and reception was great, and I wish them all the best... (of luck in their Hawaiian Offshore Charter)!

The Backdrop for their wedding (Birds were actually working a ball of bunker during their vows) 


The Happy Couple!

After the reception, I tried to get some sleep in my hotel room, but  for some reason I just couldn't.  After running to some tackle shops, I found a nice little launch I decided to try.  The tide was high, and the grass was flooded.  I didn't start finding fish until I was back in the grass.  I only got one hookup, but that was fine with me given how great the day had been.

An amazing way to end the day!
The following morning, I had to make up my mind on the events for the day.  "Do I fish for the first run of Cobia coming up the coast, or chase Reds and Sheepies on Topsail Island"?  When I looked at the wind, and easily 100 yards of breakers on the beach, I decided to take the easy way out and head to Topsail.  I arrived just as the tide started to retreat, to find light winds and lots of bait.  Unfortunately, I was a bit to far behind the tide to fish my honey holes, so my focus turned to finding fiddlers and hooking up with some convicts and Black Drum.


Best Warning Sign EVER!

Mill Creek (on the ICW)
 Once up the creek, I found a grass flat that was holding some solid fiddlers.  After a nice little chase, I got about two dozen fiddlers before I called it and hit the bridge.  Again, as my luck would have it, the current was now ripping through the ICW, and the water clarity was less than a foot.  That was not enough to deter me, and I made my drops.  On the second drop, I feel the unmistakable nibble of the Sheepshead.  I go to set the hook, and the fish was on for a few seconds before I lost it.  I continue to fish for the next hour, not just fishing for Sheeps, but also Drum, with no luck. 


Center hatch cup from the Skimmer is great for storing fiddlers!
 In the end, I learned about Cobia, False Albie, and Bonita fisheries through chatting with the guys at tackle shops and boat ramps.  Got some good intel, and I look forward to trying for all three species from the yak this year.

I have a bunch of pictures and trips to share as soon as I can get more time on the computer.

It was also a great wedding and I want to wish my friends, the Goodrich's all the best!