Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Striper Revenge, Monday Nov 18th, by Alexi

     So after the debacle of the surf launch; the embarrassment of being laughed at by thousands of fish; the humbling experience of looking at the weigh in lists of tackle shops a mile long;  after all that and more, I decided to stick with a plan made over a week ago: to fish the a sedges on Monday evening with KGB.  DESPITE the forecast for approx. 15 mph winds we went ahead (between 6 and 8 p.m. the wind was actually more like 0 mph).  DESPITE the fact that the bite was obviously on sand-eels in the surf, we launched our kayaks in the bay!  Against all odds, and despite all of the whole damn internet telling us that if we want to catch fish we needed to do do something else.  I guess we (I) just really like fishing the bay with my kayak.  I also hate crowds, so that might be another reason I didn't want to fish out front.  So here it is:

My fish for the great Sand Eel Blitz of 2013
15 lbs, 33"

apparently a guy at the launch was making fun
of all of my gear and asked where I was going to put the fish....

     It wasn't easy to come by.  We started fishing just before sunset.  We hit all of our usual spots where fish were caught in the past.  Up and down Snake Ditch.  "Weakfish Point."  Unsure about the wind, since the forecast was so far off from the reality, we decided to head west, knowing that if and when the wind picked up, at least it would blow us back to the launch.  Around many turns, and through Horsefoot Slough (where I had caught a keeper exactly a month ago) we travelled out to Oyster Creek Channel, (the area we call Seal Island.)  It was here that I caught my biggest fish of the spring.  There were no boats.   I was surprised.  I was surprised because the past few trips out there there had always been at least one one boat drifting along the banks.  This time we had it all to ourselves.  I went straight out into about 20 feet of water.  It was slack tide, and there was a nice rip forming just in front of Seal Island where the incoming and outgoing waters were trying to do battle.  This meant some standing waves.  I was unsure if I was getting hits on my eel, or the water and current and (now) wind were just strong enough to take line on my baitrunner.  I tightened up on the drag a little.  Still getting tugs, then nothing a few more times, and a few recasts to check my eel, I hear the line go...., I pick up my rod....., and I feel the telltale weight of a fish.   I'm using a relatively new rod, A Shimano Teramar with an Avet SXJ.
     The rod has a ton of sensitivity in the top half.  I could feel every little head jerk the fish was making, and I wasn't used to this.  Also, it took me a few moments to feel out the size of the fish.  I hollered to KGB "Hooked up!"
He said, "nothing."
 I said, "HOOKED UP"
 I hollered " NO,  I HAVE A FISH, AND IT"S BIG!"

 I think that's when he realized what I was shouting about.

I let it take a few runs once I felt the weight, which was probably a good idea, as it was barely hooked.

Though the Teramar is sensitive, it has a good backbone, and the Avet is just a powerhorse.

We spent a little longer at Seal Island, then moved on to the Sedge House where KGB had a short on his eel, then let the wind which had picked up  carry us back to the launch.

All in all, we followed the plan we had made, and had a successful trip, (though still not the off the hook trip we were hoping for,) the weather was much more pleasant than predicted and we both caught fish!!!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

"It's a damn FOOD CHAIN!" By: Steve Evans

      Most of the time we'd plan a fishing trip about a week in advance, but sometimes an unusual coincidence of sea conditions, weather, and season is imperative: FISH NOW!. Weather predictions are sketchy when projected beyond about three days, so we cannot know exactly when the perfect conditions for an ocean launch will arrive. I work most weekends and plan fishing during the week since I have the good fortune of being able to schedule my work around fishing, and I dislike fishing in a crowd. So my Saturday and Sunday were taken by non-fishing plans and fishing mate Alexi was in the same boat.

      A window of time opened up when ocean-launch kayak fishing conditions would be ideal, And the word was: loads of striped bass feasting on sand eels ocean side of island beach. We had to go. We figured there was time since it was a very early morning bite, we'd fish three hours from dawn to around 8 or 9 and go home with giant striped bass to rub in everyone's face.
This is what perfect conditions look like.

      I couldn't wait so pretty much right after work Saturday, I was getting ready and heading out. Meanwhile Alexi, with the help of the internet, was gathering an armada of obsessive-compulsive kayak fishing nuts to stage the largest surf-launch the world would ever see.... sadly only one person would show up.

      At 10:30 pm, Saturday night, I was standing at Winter Anchorage, the bay side launch at Island Beach, There were anglers everywhere through the park and trucks in every lot, but the sedge island canoe and kayak access was empty, quiet, and the bay was flat and still.

      Whenever I go ahead of Alexi I always burn out my mind, and eat all my food and use all of my energy before he gets there, and when he gets there he's like..... "wow! conditions are great! I'm gonna catch a big striped bass! Can I get an eel?" and then I'm like.... " I used all the eels, and there's no fish anyway. fishing is stupid, let's go home and drink."

      So I was planning on doing the same thing Saturday night, wasting myself on fishing bay side, when two guys beached their kayaks there and we talked for a while. These guys, Ron and Rich, are two sedge island old timers and talking with them for an hour was an education, I mean these guys have a decade for every year I have fishing Island Beach, so I listened very closely to the things they said. "It's a damn FOOD CHAIN!!!" said Rich.

      (Richard King is a wildlife photographer specializing in the Barnegat estuary and when he told me this I remembered instantly a work of his which I had seen which shows all of the Barnegat forage fish. I had previously used this image to identify the stomach contents of some fish I cleaned.)

      After a long chat with these guys, who hadn't had any fish at all, I decided not to waste my energy on the bay, I would sleep in my truck until it was time for the ocean. Alexi arrived some time in the middle of the night and threw an eel at the sod banks while I slept, no fish though.

      We readied the boats and met Greg at the Island Beach Motor Lodge, he was the only kayaker who showed for the surf-launch armada, sometime before 6 am. I think the tide was high, and there was a fisherman every two-hundred feet in both directions so we asked permission before launching.
      This was my first time using the Ocean Kayak Drifter I bought recently so setup was a little different, this boat isn't outfitted to accept my tackle crate and so I just grabbed the eels and some boxes of lures, the eels were the important thing, or so I thought.

      It was overcast when we launched but visibility was good, we paddled straight out to a depth around thirty some feet. Fog moved in fast and I said to Alexi "Soon we won't see the beach" and then "There goes the beach."

      Boats were everywhere and I was getting uncomfortable, I know how difficult it is to spot kayaks from big boats with a small swell on the water and this fog limited visibility to a hundred yards or less which means captains spend more time looking at their electronics and not at the water, add to that that it's a weekend so there are lots more boats and an increase in the percentage of inexperienced boaters and likely at least a few boaters who are just plain stupid. A boat stopped very close to us and the captain called out to us that he hadn't seen us 'til he was very close "Be careful!" he shouted. He wasn't being rude just trying to help which I appreciated. I thought we'd have to head in. The three of us stayed close together and moved closer to the surf zone where there were few boats and a couple more kayakers and some guys trolling from stand up paddle boards, safety in numbers. We fished close to shore as the fog started to lift. While we were there we saw two big skiffs nearly collide.

        All the while Alexi was watching his sonar and he kept saying "Hold on!" and "Here we go!" and "I"M MARKING A LOT OF FISH!" But nothing was happening. We did see a boat bring up a fish. My VHF radio was tuned to 78 and the chatter was mostly from the bathing beach area, guys trolling white shads, some guys jigging, some trolling umbrellas of small tubes all catching tons bass.

      Next, all around, there were fish breaking everywhere, chasing sand eels at the surface, some right next to my boat. Greg hooked a hickory shad on a teaser. Alexi and I were fishing live eels from rod holders and casting lures, Alexi trolled a tube and worm, I was casting hogys and sluggos. I heard a shout and saw Greg was hooked up. Definitely not a hickory shad, a nice bass, his first keeper for the season and I think he said first ever from the kayak, or maybe first keeper from a kayak, anyway a special fish. He got it on an SP minnow.

      No doubt that the bite was on sand eels, they were everywhere, the bass were going nuts. With my new boat carelessly outfitted with minimal tackle, I didn't have anything; a teaser or a soft plastic or  a small swimmer, that looked much like a sand eel, (If you're reading this you probably know, but for the benefit of those who don't, and to clarify any confusion an Eel and a Sand Eel are in fact two very different fish.) so I put on a pencil popper figuring that was the best imitation I had. I had a lot of short strikes and a few solid hits on the popper but I couldn't convert them into fish in the boat.

      Time was up, and we left with fish still swirling on the surface Alexi and I had the skunk, but it felt better that Greg, at least, got a nice striper, one bass, at least, for the kayak crew.

      Later on the online reports and the weigh in lists showed that about a million fish were caught that day, I was there at the perfect time and place, I can only speculate that I simply didn't have the right presentation. I'm still amazed that at least one dumb fish didn't hit my eel. I had good action on my popper and if I'd fished another hour or two I more than likely would have caught a bass.....  maybe. Maybe if I'd had a certain lure, an AVA or a Bass Assassin or a YO-ZURI but who knows. Greg had a good sand eel imitation with the SP minnow and a teaser but with what seemed like hundreds of bass around, he only caught one, so that can't be the whole explanation. Sometimes maybe there's so much bait in the water that the fish are hyper selective, or maybe our offerings are like a needle in a needle stack, the big boats definitely put more hooks in the water with their trolling spreads, but weren't guys catching them jigging too?

I keep hearing Rich King saying "It's a damn FOOD CHAIN!"

       That's the mental game of fishing. If you've never sat on a pile of fish and couldn't catch a single one, it will happen, and you will be haunted by the thought of it, and conjecture and superstition will plague you for days.... I wish it wasn't so. On the bright side with every experience comes knowledge and gain in imperceptible forms, which hopefully will aid us somewhere further on past where we started from... someday.  

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

2nd week of Nov.

27" Striper with Eel in mouth
Just a quick little report.  

First the good news:     It took us a while, but Saturday night we ended up finding some fish.  Nothing over 28" in the boat, but all were very close.  I think we each boated two, and had many many hits and lost fish on our eels.  There was very little water back in the Sedges, and it wasn't until the incoming tide that we started getting hits.  I marked the fish on my Humminbird, and immediately started getting hits.  I feel more and more confident about being able to read and interpret the information my fishfinder is giving me.

And now the bad news:     COLD AND WINDY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

     Two things, like pop rocks and Coke-a-Cola, that when combined together make it extremely difficult to fish from a kayak.  Steve tried it on  Monday night.  When I joined him on Tuesday evening he was frozen solid.  I held him over the fire to thaw him out, but only the outside got crispy.  It melted, and smelled like burning plastic.  Eventually he thawed out and came to at Grumpy's.  Someone was talking to him when he came to.  I think the guy was trying to tell him a story of how his friend stepped off a sandbar, and that's why it's smart for Steve to wear his pfd.  But Steve actually thought he was still in his kayak floating in the inlet.  He told the man so much, but he wouldn't listen, he just kept talking, and talking.  It was warm in the store, but we knew that eventually we would have to leave, so we made a plan that did not include the boats....
       Instead (of kayak fishing) we tossed some eels in the Pt. Pleasant Canal for a couple of hours, then tried surf fishing for an hour and a half (really pathetic, I know).  One of the first things I think I learned about fishing is that you have to put in the time to catch fish....and this we did not do on Tuesday night.  So, it's not much of a report, because, though I packed my kayak, and all of my kayaking gear, I didn't even bother getting it wet.  

Saturday, November 9, 2013

"Paddle paddle paddle" week of Nov. 6th ....

paddle paddle paddle

Monday Nov 4th, 2013 thru Tuesday Nov 5th, 2013.

Steve arrived at the Sedges in IBSP before sunset to fish through the night.  He managed one short and one keeper, both on a Hogy eel imitation.  Both at Weakfish point. (the interesting point here is that he had real eels with him)

I arrived at 5:00 a.m.  Just in time for sunrise.  Short bass, and more short bass.
The morning was slow.

We paddled our way to all of the usual spots.  In fact, if your looking at this blog on a computer, (as opposed to a smart phone) then to the right you should see a new little map of the sedges.  We basically covered every inch of that map.

In front of the sedge house I caught a short on a live eel.

Steve had continuous daytime action on topwater lures.

Rule # 201: When in a kayak, remember, things are always farther away than they look!

We paddled across the inlet to Double Creek channel, where we had never really had much luck, and the current was ripping.  (I caught two shorts there.)

---Over the radio I heard some boat chatter about another kayaker that was stuck paddling against the current by the lighthouse----
We paddled across the inlet (back to snake ditch) after sunset.  I got stuck on a sandbar, then went too far, then caught no fish in Snake Ditch even though I heard them feeding, and was throwing small profiles.  Oh well.

So, overall, we caught no fish where we usually catch fish, and caught fish where we usually don't!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Shorts, shorts, shorts, and I'm not talking about pants!

    Sometimes I am haunted by the thought that I will never again see as big a fish as I have in the past by the side of my kayak (which truth be told isn't even that big), to slide it onto my lap and regard its beauty.  I am now the master of the 20" back bay striper!
     I can say with near certainty that no-one was fishing in N.J. this time last year.  So as I look at my records I have to go back to Oct 2011.  We were fishing the sedges from land with eels back then, and my records are vague in that they say "many fish 30"-35" for all three of us, (KGB, Steve and I) from Oct 26th to Nov 7th. 
     Almost every fishing trip has a week of planning and theorizing behind it.  So, when the time comes to fish, the let-down of unfulfilled dreams is tremendous.  What would seem to a normal person as a good day on the water turns into utter failure for the crazed and demented and addicted fishermen that we are.
    To the point: I was after big fish.  I sought structure and deep water.  I used live baits.
The Report:

     On Monday Oct 28th I went on an evening trip with KGB.  Our plan was to fish until 11:00 PM, but instead we fished until 1:00 AM.  I made a beeline for the N. Jetty.
Slack tide in the inlet was 6:00 PM and sunset was around 6:00 PM, a wonderful coincidence worth taking advantage of.  I trolled tube-n-worm through Snake ditch and caught two shorts.  I could have stayed and caught more fish (and perhaps larger fish), but my thoughts were stuck on the fact there would be larger fish along the rocks.  There were a few guys fishing the pocket, a diver at the end, and several boats fishing over the rocks at the end of the N. Jetty.  It was calm, and the boat traffic was surprisingly low.  I had no problems trolling  my lure out to the end of the jetty, then at the end of the incoming drifting an eel back in.  I didn't even get a sniff.

N. Jetty
     After the sun had set I fished with eels in Oyster Creek Channel along with MANY boats.  Again, not a sniff.
     Back inside I caught a few more shorts on bass assassins, all tagged and released.  We ended the trip floating eels around in Snake Ditch.
     Not a Sniff.
A short striped bass tagged fish for the American Littoral Society

    I got to hand it to KGB, he stuck it out with the big baits and got skunked, while I couldn't help but toss small plastics and catch 20" fish.

     Two days later I was back at it, only because I could.  My confidence level was WAY too high.  For sure, I thought, this time there would be big fish around, as the boats had been nailing them out front just the day before.  Steve and I fished from about noon to 11:00 PM.  He stuck to flats fishing with a popper and was able to conjure up some shorts (and tails of larger fish).  I was determined to hit deeper water, again, with bigger lures.  This time I went straight out to Oyster Creek Channel.
     I found a school of shorts out by Seal Island.  I stopped harassing them to troll my tube in deep water.  I probably gave up on this too soon.
     I paddled to the corner of Snake Ditch where a million short bass live.  I was beginning to be bored.  I started to go through all of the free soft plastic lures that I had gotten at the tournaments recently.  First was a Chartreuse bass assassin.  I watched a fish come look at it.  Next cast I  slowed my retrieve and hooked up.   I cast it a few more times, then Steve joined me for a dinner break on the corner.  As we were sitting there, I threw on a generic version of a Mr. Twister.
Mr Twister

Something I had never used before, but others do well with out there.  I had a whole baggie full of them.  First cast, fish on. (Yet another 20 inch fish)

 Once again I ended my day at Snake Ditch drifting an eel, getting no love.   The tide was really slack, both Steve and I felt satisfied with the trip.

old Barney and a calm inlet