Friday, June 28, 2013

All Roads Lead To Snake Ditch (June 24, 2013) By Alexi

    Occasionally we do seemingly normal things in regards to fishing expeditions.  Or, at least, that's what it felt like when we were loading the Kayaks at 3:30 A.M. last Monday morning.  As we drove into the sunrise, full of anticipation, we had that "now this is what real fishermen do" moment.
Fishermen at first light at the L jetty in Deal
Our heads full of memories of when we were kids and our dads would wake us up really early to go fishing.  Because normal people fish at first light, not in the middle of the night (like we usually try to do.)
    We were trying a new spot.  We wanted to surf launch near Deal and snag n drop bunker for big bass.  Just as we pulled up to look at the ocean we saw The Average Angler getting into his truck and pulling away.  We looked and drove and looked and drove, and did not see any birds or bunker.  We decided to go check out Sandy Hook as neither of us had ever fished there before.
Lighthouse at Sandy Hook 
We were not very impressed.  Of course not knowing where the structure was, and not seeing bait in the bay, it really just looked like a lot of paddling against the wind.  We drove more.  We checked out some spots along the Nevasink, but really had no plan, and very little little information on the area.  We jumped on the Garden State Parkway and headed south to good old Barnegat Bay.
     The water was a little stained, but not as bad as it had been before.  It was a little weedy, but not unfishable.  As I trolled a tube-n-worm through Snake Ditch I hooked up with a fish that felt strange.  Unlike a bass or a blue or a fluke.  Minutes later Steve caught a Triggerfish.
(Grey) Triggerfish
I switched to a small bass assassin and caught several short bass throughout the day.
One of many short bass
Steve and I ventured into the inlet where he caught a (just) keeper fluke.  There were LOTS of people paddling and boating through Snake Ditch.  It's summer and daytime, at least there were no waverunners. As we headed back I hooked another short bass by the launch.  I was a little surprised that we didn't get any bluefish as I knew that they were around.
     There was a wall of clouds across the bay and we could see the rain.  We started loading the car.  The rain got closer.  Then the wind picked up.  There were two other kayakers loading their vehicles.  Then, just as we were almost done getting our things in the truck, the hail started.  We were forced to abandon the task of putting the kayaks on the car, and take shelter in the truck.  The wind (reportedly 60mph) was coming from the West across the open water of the Bay and nailing us.  The kayaks were flying around, hitting our truck.  A kayak on another car ripped one of the straps and was flailing around, and on of the guys in a sedan said he felt his car move.  We thought the back window of Steve's truck was going to get blown out by the hail, or a duck, or a bass, but in the end it was fine.  As soon as the storm had started it stopped and we got out of there.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Story Behind Steve's Fluke or, first day of Summer.

     The fishing trip started out like any other.  Someone, (in this case it was my wife's visiting father,) made a comment on how we take a ton of crap with us.  Well, we weren't sure if we were going to go overnight or not, so we put the kitchen sink into the back of Steve's truck.  We had a plan.  It was to launch somewhere on the West side of Barnegat Bay and paddle to the BB and or BI buoys and catch fluke and weakfish.  It was really a vague idea of a plan since it was all new to us.  We didn't know where to launch, or really where those buoys were.  Our research was in no way thorough.
     As any regular readers of this blog may have realized, we usually stop at every tackle shop and spend a million dollars before fishing.  We stopped at Bob Kislin's, a kayak shop in Tom's River, to get a new plug for KGB's kayak since it had disappeared.  Steve was saying that they only had crappy bucktails there, and that they never have exactly what we want.  They had the plug, and they had Gulp and some bucktails, but they didn't have the size braid I wanted for my new Stradic 3000. They had a 3000, but only 40# braid, so they got close...  I didn't get the reel, even though I was tempted.  I really did know exactly what it was I wanted.  I have the perfect rod for a 3000 with  20# braid.
     From there we went to find the new launch.  The water was chocolate and weedy with white caps.  There was no discussion.  We left immediately.  An hour later we were in Seaside Park.  At Grumpy's I asked about a Stradic or Sargosa 3000, and they had one, but it was quite a bit more expensive than the one at Kislin's.   I decided to wait.
     On the subject of Tackle shops: We talked with Ray and got some info about where the bunker and bass were out front and immediately the gears in my mind started churning.  Ray was trying to convince these other customers that they were buying the wrong thing, but they persisted and said that their "Machine" wasn't big enough for bigger hooks.  That seems like a fair thing, but why surf fish with small "machines?"  I guess if it's what you got you have to.  As we were leaving we heard Grumpy say that they didn't want those hooks, but unlike Ray who was willing to let them get what they wanted, Grumpy literally grabbed it out of their hands and put it back behind the counter.  We really should have stuck around for the rest of that interaction just for the imminent entertainment.
    One more stop at Betty and Nicks.  I know it sounds crazy, but one shop has bullet head bucktails, the other has ball bearing swivels, it's these little differences makes us stop and delays fishing indefinitely.  So I asked at Betty and Nicks if they had a Stradic 3000, and of course immediately got the argument that it was too small and that I needed the 4000 which they had.  I waited.  The truth is that though you can get good advice from tackle shops, sometimes it is impossible for them to know exactly what kind of fishing you're doing and where.
    Finally we got to the launch.
going to Alaska

Fishing started off slow.  There was a hard wind from the South (again) and the incoming supermoon max tide made it a tough paddle to Snake Ditch.  I had mentioned, but not convinced the team that we should go chase Bunker around the ocean at first light tomorrow A.M.  So we still didn't have a solid plan.

one of over 20 shorts
the magic hour

    By 8 p.m. I had caught at least 10 small bass on a die dapper bass assassin swim shad on a 1/2 ounce bullet head jig.
     As an aside, when I first hear of things like "you should crush your barbs" and " you shouldn't use treble hooks" I thought that these rules didn't apply to me because at the time I didn't catch that many fish at all.  But I remember them, and now I fully agree.  It is important to properly and carefully release fish, and there are many resources to learn how online.  Suffice it to say, it is easier with single hooks and crushed barbs.
     I also had two keeper fluke.  KGB was not hooking up at all, and Steve's evening was also slow so he went to paddle to Seal Island.  Just when I started hooking up Steve was also getting into fish on his way there on Tube-n-worm.  We kept in radio contact, and it wasn't long before Steve headed back to Snake Ditch because a group of loud teen-agers blasting bad country radio music had shown up at the other spot.
   Upon returning to snake ditch Steve managed to catch his biggest fluke to date on a pink fin-s type lure that is actually a Zoom "Salty Super Fluke."
KGB is persistent

While Steve and I were setting up camp KGB hooked into a 20 some inch bass on Tune-n-worm by weakfish point.  We decided that it wasn't worth it to pack and unpack the truck and the gear in the middle of the night just on the off chance that there would bunker at some surf spot, so we stayed at Snake Ditch.

Best camping spot, hidden by trees and brush

     We all agreed it was the best night we've spent out there as far as sleeping goes.  KGB was first up, and he drifted out to the inlet for some fluking.  I noticed tons of bait at weakfish point so I decide to head up the ditch.  As soon as I hit some deeper water I started catching short bass on the 31/2 inch bass assassin.   This lasted until we left around noon.   Steve switched to the same lure I had and he also started hooking up.  He also landed the largest piece of debris any of us have ever seen, and it was on his light set-up, a Stradic 2500.  So I say poo poo to the tackle shops that think light spinning gear can't hold up!  If we've learned nothing else this Spring, it's small baits and match the hatch, and for that you need a light set-up, not giant surf-fishing gear.
Steve and his log

        And so we were just getting ready to peacefully troll back to the launch so that I wouldn't be too late to work, when this happens....
Where this wave-runner is going, along the bank, is where all of the most sensitive life forms are living


     Steve advised the three wave-runners that they weren't allowed back there because it was a wildlife preserve.   As if in second grade, they said "Your'e not allowed back here either" and sped off at top speed.  Not to get too involved into this gripe, but....

1. Wave-runners have jets that destroy lots of small life.
2. They aren't allowed back there, but the signs aren't up yet, they're still at the launch in a pile since Sandy.
3. They were going way too fast through an area where there have been divers and swimmers recently
4. They were rude

   We called the park office and the coast guard.  It was a better option than snag and drop wave-runner which would have been easy since they were literally within ten feet of us. We can only hope that the Coast Guard harassed them.

  All in all this trip was a 10 in my book.  I almost had a slam, I had a bluefish, over 20 bass and two keeper fluke.  The only thing missing is the elusive weakfish.

Friday, June 21, 2013

A Personal Record: My Biggest Fluke. By: Steve Evans

Didn't get too much sleep in the tent last night so I'm gonna keep this post short and sweet. Caught at night in the sedge islands on a bubblegum fluke this summer flounder of 25 inches represents my personal best to date.

Monday, June 17, 2013

skunked at Snake ditch, fathers day

Just sleep in the damn kayak... (Haley's already a pro)

    I went out for a Fathers day snake ditch trip with Haley.  We got skunked.  The water was high and brown from all of the rain.  We started early.  She had a school dance the night before.  Like a pro, she slept in the kayak for a bit while I desperately tried to prove that my fishing stories weren't all lies!  Alas, the best we could do was enjoy the nice weather.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Snake ditch ate my Alexi

We spent the night in the Sedges probably for the last time this Spring.  Not only will the flies and the mosquitos keep us away, but the Park Ranger and tourists will as well.  Also, the season for big fish is coming to a close.   
     It was supposed to rain all night, but the rain held off 'til the morning.  We really didn't have much luck at night.  We arrived around midnight and fished until just before sunrise with just one big blue on a live eel.  We slept.  I was hoping to sleep in, and was looking forward to it because i figured the rain would mask the usual sounds that would wake me, like the infernal racket of the birds.  But the sun rose, and the birds squawked, and I rolled out of my tent.  I cast around for about an hour before Steve emerged.  I had nothing to show for my efforts.   It was shaping up to be a disappointing day.  As we travelled back up Snake ditch I saw some bass follow my lure, recast, and hooked up with a short.  I tagged it.  As the day progressed we managed to catch many short bass, a fluke and a few  blue fish.  THe fishing was slow, but steady for me, and sporadic and then awesome for Steve.  But the tale to be told is not really about the fish that we caught, but about the one that got away.....

    Never, EVER, ever do ANYTHING different than you did before.  You might think it OK to place something down in your kayak in a new spot, but it's just not OK!  In fact you can kiss it goodbye.
    A kayak is a ship.  Only it's a very small ship.  And like a ship, everything has it's place.  If just one little thing is different, it's a recipe for disaster.  Let me get to the point. I lost  my favorite reel on this trip.
      I have been extremely diligent about leashing it to my boat for over a year now.  And recently I have become a little lax in that department.  There are many lessons to be learned from what happened to me the other day.  (And that's just who we are.)  The type of people who only learn from experience.    We try to glean information from the old salts.  From those who have "been there" but in reality we are the type who can only learn from experience.  But do we truly ever learn?
     So it's not some great story, a larger than normal (as the day had been going) fish attached itself to my hook, and thus my line, and thus my rod and yanked it out of my hand.  And into the water.  And away it swam, with my wonderful, favorite setup!  (It's always your favorite gear that you lose, because that's what you're using most)  And I screamed, but no one heard.  Not even the closest person (Steve) heard my screams.  I wanted to jump in, and truly considered it for a moment, but with my pfd a dive would be impossible.  Was it a giant?  Was it my great Whale?  We will never know.  I won't even postulate on that one.  All I know is that I had my rod in my hand and as I wasn't expecting a large fish, it yanked it right out of my hand.  Which leads to another lesson.  Always be prepared to catch a big fish.
      What are we doing out there?  The record al McReynolds fish was caught on a small lure.  The new record I believe was caught on an eel.  It's spring and we have lures equally as big.  There are large fish moving through our waters.  That's why we're there.  So even though I  had been catching 20" fish all day, I should have been prepared mentally and with my gear to catch a giant fish.   I wasn't.  When I grabbed my rod, in my mind there was going to be another 2 lb fish, but alas.........
     So, it's not the greatest loss.  it's not a Van Staal or anything too fancy.  Some guys fish with super expensive gear and don't leash it.  That's their problem.  I had a simple Avet with an Ugly stick tiger lite.  For me it was the best, and I will replace the reel.  And I will continue to leash it, always...
     But there is still another story besides this tragedy to be told.  Another tragedy in a way.  The heralding in of the summer.  It's sad to have to think this way, but the spring is essentially over.  Some Signs of change are Steve's 21"fluke he caught in Snake Ditch, and the bass are getting smaller, and the bluefish angrier.   Barring anything spectacular happening in the next week, my chances of bigger fish for the spring are over.

     The wind has really been the biggest factor this spring.  We've had a blow from the south for two months.  That and the rough surf have made it difficult to surf launch to say the least.  We've done it three times and not had any luck.  I did, however, get a puffer and a sea robin
on the tube-n-worm (the small weird fish are in the ocean?).  Kind of funny.  So, if there are reports of bunker I may try to go out and beat my PB (personal best), but otherwise I probably won't be targeting large bass until october.  Time to switch gears and target doormats (large fluke).  As much as we hate it, the obsessed fisherman needs his white whale.  There are guys that go out to catch fluke and have 20 shorts to one keeper, while KGB Steve and I  rarely if ever have caught shorts and only catch 18" and over fish.
     I will miss the serenity of the sedges in the early Spring, but soon it will be cold again, and dark, and raining (or snowing), and that's when I'll be searching for a real fish...Until then I have a bigger puffer and a bigger Sea robin to catch.......