Monday, July 27, 2015

Summer Skunk, By Alexi

     A lot of fishing is planning.  And if plans work, that's great, and if a plan doesn't come through, that's fine too.  But to start a day with no plan at all, that's just not right.

     I only knew that I had some free time and hadn't been out for over a week.  I didn't know where or when or what the tides would be doing where or when the wind would blow or any of the one million things I usually think of when planning a trip.  I only knew I wanted to go.
gazebo launch

    I didn't start fishing until 4 p.m.  Sometimes in my quest for fishing areas with little boat traffic I think I sacrifice going to areas with a higher likelihood of holding fish.  (I can only second guess myself now, there is no other way to analyze a failed fishing trip.)
     I launched way back at Shell Bay Blvd in N. Wildwood (again).  It was high tide, and my plan was to drift out through the creeks to the bridges.  But as I quickly found out, it was a neap tide, and the water just wasn't moving.  A few casts for schoolie stripers along the sod-banks, (the bait is schooling up nicely back there and I was really surprised I didn't have any shoolie action)  and then I was yearning for deeper water for fluke.
between the bridges

    In the larger channels, still very little current, and what little there was was countered by the wind.  So I sat still most of the time, unable to conjure up any drift at all for fluking.

   One short fluke off at the side.  No bass.  A sunset.

sunset, still some wind

    And then, of course the wind that was blowing against me all evening, which I was hoping would blow me back to the launch died down completely at sunset.
    As I paddled back in the dark, in mere inches of water, I spooked a ray that jumped straight up, clear out of water and practically into my boat.  It scared the shit out of me.  So, since I was no longer fishing,  I left my headlamp on and enjoyed the scenery for the end of my trip.

Sun down, wind gone

Thursday, July 16, 2015

My Duke of Fluke 2015 experience: Wildwood, NJ - by Alexi

     My plan was solid.  I hadn't had much luck pre-fishing closer to the inlet, so I was going to fish further back.  I launched at Shell Bay blvd.   That's all of the way in the back.  Waaaayyy back, behind Stone Harbor.  I drifted the creeks towards the toll bridge until slack tide, then fished the incoming back to my car.

Shell Bay Blvd Launch

    I was trying to avoid a lot of boat traffic, as last time I did this tournament it was pretty heavy between the bridges.  As you can see from the picture above, I found a spot on a beautiful Saturday without a boat in sight.  (A great accomplishment unto itself) For bait I had Killies and gulp.  Two rods going the whole time.  One could not have begged the god Poseidon for better weather.  Winds were less than 5mph most of the day, and the sky was partly cloudy.   

     I was into the short fluke as soon as I hit the creek.  I also had a few oddball catches:

I spent slack tide between the two bridges .  It was un-productive.   However, as the incoming tide picked up I had steady fast action.  I could barely drop my killie in the water without a fish hitting it.  I hadn't lost single fish, and I don't use a net, AND I caught my only keeper Fluke of the day.  A grand total of 19".   So, I didn't win anything, but I did a lot better than I had two years ago when I last participated in the Duke of Fluke.
one of many short fluke

    Despite my apparent (and consistent) failure, I still maintain that the Duke Of Fluke tournament is one of the best kayak fishing tournaments I've participated in, mostly because of the truck of beer, and the party atmosphere that follows the event.


the weigh-in line

Friday, July 10, 2015

Two new areas explored, by Alexi

 JUNE 30

    The past two trips I've been fishing new areas.    I wanted to get some supplies from Sterling Harbor Bait and Tackle in Wildwood, so I decided to fish close to the shop.  I asked the owner, Cathy, where the closest launch was.  She directed me via a helpful map to the west end of Burk Ave.  My question did not really set up too many parameters, and unfortunately led me to a place I probably will never launch from again, but am also not unhappy that I tried it out.  What I usually seek in fishing from my kayak are relative amounts of solitude and nature.  Kayak fishing is in many ways an escape from the city for me.  Although I caught consistent fish, AND even though this area is a no wake zone, I found it difficult to get into my "world" as there were many distractions of all kinds. Just to name a few; A boat that is a bar with what appeared to be frat boys on it (AKA the party boat), two kids in a kayak practically playing bumper cars with me,  several waverunners,  and giant sightseeing boats, along with people cleaning their yachts.

Behind Wildwood

I caught several short fluke, mostly on a new to me bait; killies, 

also 17" 

I also caught a crab pot, (untethered),
new crab pot

and made the best of the marina environment.
new launch (shittier than shitty launch)

      For the next trip I went to Scott's Bait and Tackle and picked up some more killies, my new favorite fluke bait.   I was going to launch where Steve and I launched when we went to Seven Islands and the Fish Factory in Great Bay.   It was unlaunchable, the water was too low.  I went across the wooden bridge to a small path that led down to the water.  Not ideal, but there have been worse.  What I didn't know was that just across the street was a nice and easy, pull your car up kind of beach launch.  (I would end up using this later in the day as it meant just walking across the bridge to my parked car)

far away from tourists
Great Bay Blvd Bridge

covered a lot of water

I was ready to drift pretty far.  And as is usual for me I caught many short fluke.  What was different this time was that they almost all hit on Gulp New Penny Shrimp I threw on as a lark.

smallest fluke

AND, I did drift pretty far.  The problem was that the thunderstorms were coming in before the current switched. I spent the good part of an hour paddling pretty hard against the wind, putting my rods down (in case of lightning.)  At least the current was slack.   I fished a little more when I returned to the launch, but only succeeded in getting another short.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Kayak Fishing Isn't For Everyone By, Steve

Oregon Inlet Bridge

     Fishing trips have been harder for me to plan this year with a lot of other things needing attention. In spite of the odds I've been managing at least to get a day almost every other week. Even this is probably considered decent by many with less flexible family and work responsibilities. My friend down south, Jesse, says "The only vacation I have time for is one I can have while working."

     Of course, in the moving business, it can be done, when the right job meets the correct plan, and the proper attitude. All lined up for us last week, we'd just need some OK fishing weather. I loaded my things in Philly: kayaks, tent, tools, and tackle. We loaded a one-way box truck for our customers in Richmond, Virginia. Unloaded both on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Kids walking out to fish the flat
      We got a campsite at Oregon Inlet Campground. One of those campgrounds that's more like a parking lot for RVs, but with some picnic tables and enough grass to set a couple tents. The best thing about it was the kayak launch, and the general store/ bait and tackle shop were just across the road.

"Too shallow!"
       Day 1 was a day to target puppy drum and speckled trout on the shallow flats, we covered some miles and came up empty. Fishing shallow flats has really become one of the favorite and more productive methods for us in the areas we fish (Jersey), and it is a method where the kayak is the perfect tool, fish come out of a film of water that can barely float these little plastic boats.

      Jesse likes to fish from piers, with high low rigs, bait, and colorado kool-aid (coors light). So there was a funny contrast, he just kept saying "This water is too shallow!", "We need to get out to some deep water!" or, "Why aren't there any other boats here? This must be a bad spot."

      There was no way that I was going to convince him by the results of the first day. What was worse, it was a 105 degree day, a hard day of paddling, with some wind added in for a bit of extra frustration. He said "Jesus, why do you torture yourself like this?! I feel like I just tried out for the navy seals!"
I thought "Jesus, we haven't even been out six hours". We took a late afternoon nap at the camp, I said things would really come together around sunset. But when I launched at sunset Jesse stayed on the dock to throw his cast net. I thought That was it for him with the kayak, we'd probably end up fishing off a pier the next day.

Lost rigs.
      I didn't catch anything around sunset, I didn't even fish long. The wind had got up to 20 and it was blowing the same direction as the incoming tide, time to head in. In the mean time Jesse had managed 3 hickory shad, two baby flounder, a baby lookdown, a few green crabs, a blue crab, a croaker, and half a shrimp cocktail with the cast net.

      Taking an inexperienced  friend kayak fishing is a little like being a guide- I usually bring most or all of the gear, and most or all of the plan- but since I'm not a guide I expect to have at least a little bit of my kind of fun. My kind of fun, I'm beginning to find out, isn't very much fun for the uninitiated, or at least I've grown slightly numb to the variety of disappointments, frustrations and exhaustions that seem insurmountable to the otherwise eager candidate. Jesse is a durable man, it was not lack of will, fortitude, or grit that confounded his appreciation of this method of fishing, but rather his preference that fishing should be relaxing and paired with a cold light beer. I don't fault him that, but I wasn't going up onto some damn pier...

      So we went under one instead.

      Actually under a bridge. Several sources indicated that there were some sheepshead hanging around the bridge pilings near the inlet so I approximated slack tide for the next day as best I could, being unfamiliar to the area. I explained "riding the tide" and how the bridge is "Just over there" and managed to get Jesse back onto the Drifter (he calls the boat the Stripper) for another shot.

Jesse stuffs the stripper between the pilings
      I saw them first, and got one almost right away, Then Jesse got one and I jumped right into the same piling while he was fighting it and got my second. We ended up with 5 total and headed in.

      At the launch we met Jeff, a fellow kayak angler, who told us a lot about the local fisheries and seasons, together we made fun of the hobie dudes, swapped some fish stories, drained some cold beers, and peed in the grass, along with other things that build trust between strange men. Jesse couldn't remember the last time before this that he didn't have anywhere to be.
I was experiencing "Heat drunk" which is when you've been out in the sun for so long that coors light actually gets you drunk. We will definitely be back down there in the fall.

Jesse and Jeff