Saturday, July 22, 2017

Update, July 2017

The story continues to be more of what "is not biting", rather than a happy brag on what I'm catching. Monday July 3, I spend 3 hours drowning squid and soft crab in deep water of Tangier Sound.  Tide is coming in, everything is right- except there is not one croaker to be found.  I hear tales of nice catches of keeper spot, but they are biting on bloodworms only, and I'm not holding any.  At 7 pm just at high tide, I move to north side of South Marsh and drift eastward across the large creek mouth, tossing my popping cork with a Gulp white mullet behind it, hoping to nail a big speck or maybe a red drum.  At the same time, I'm drifting soft crab across the 4-5 foot flat.  At about 8pm, WHAM! Rockfish attacks the crab and puts on a nice show in the shallow water.  I won this battle, and he goes in the cooler.  AT least I don't go home empty handed.

Fast forward, Friday July 14.  Surely, the croaker must arrived by now.  No dice.  My buddy Dan and I brave the 90F+ heat at 3 pm, frying in my boat in deep water.  Oh, and its rough too, so options limited.  Three hours of this fruitless effort, we head for protected water behind Deal Island to catch the fall of tide from peak high.  We enter Laws Thorofare through the north end harbor, and I show Dan my historically favorite deep hole fishing spots back in "the Gut".  We anchor in an absolutely spectacular place, deep water with a ripple  from a cut-through feeding into it.  We aren't there 5 minutes, and I grow concerned about the storm clods that have quickly mounted just to our west.  Dan has cell signal, so I get him to pull up the radar of the area.  When I see the radar image, I advise Dan that we have to leave RIGHT NOW!  He heeds my caution and concern, and we motor as fast as possible back to the ramp at Wenona.  Boat back on the trailer, it looks as though the storm has passed off to the north.  Boat back to the yard, things looking scary again.  We unload the essentials, I unhook, and prepare to meet Dan at his house for dinner.  As I leave my fish camp, there is water blowing across Deal Island Road, being blown by the sudden 40-60 mph winds that came seemingly out nowhere.  This water is from Tangier Sound, as it's not even raining yet.  That's how quickly things can change .  We watch the storm unfold from the safety of Dan's House, 10 feet away from Tangier Sound, in Chance.  It was an amazing sight, and I am so glad we got off the water when we did.

Next day I take my daughter Kara and her boy friend TJ out.  One of the local charter captains was kind enough to post pics of his coolers full of Spot.  So, I know that if I can locate him, I stand a reasonably good chance of catching some or at least know where he has been catching them.  West side of the channel, between bouys 12 and 14, and in 17 ft of water.  We drift near where he is anchored.  The wind and tide are opposed, so we are almost standing still.  I don't have blood worms, but I have fish bites, soft crab, and squid.  In three hours we manage to put 2 really nice kingfish (13.5-14") in the cooler, as well as one nice Spot.  Just before the 1830 peak high tide, we move to a nice little pocket behind Little Deal Island, exactly where I had caught a nice rockfish earlier in the summer under almost the same conditions.  We anchor and soon it is game on.  I think we caught probably 8-10 nice but small rockfish in pretty short order, all on soft crab.  The kids are happy we caught some fish, and so am I.  I still would like to know where the hardhead are.  The only plus about their absence is that it has really pushed my to get better at catching some other species.  Until next time, probably in 2 weeks,....

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Late June re-cap

First things first- a very brief detail on what I caught last week.  This would be June 17.  I caught some nice but windy (or course) weather, the right tide, and one free day, and I didn't waste it.  I kept things pretty basic and fished on the back side of Deal Island.  Target species: Rockfish and Speckled trout.  A blistering south wind made it necessary to find some protected shallow water, challenging on the south side of the island.  I spent 2-3 hours throwing soft crab, only to be frustrated.  Last move was back toward the dock. On the way back I found a protected little pool, and since the tide was now high, figured I would give it a shot.  Boom!! The 22-inch rock put up a nice thrashing fight in 4 feet of water.  After following this with a few smaller fish, the day was done. 

Next up, the family joins me for fishing June 22 and 24.  This time we dodged really crappy rainy and windy weather, and late day low tides.  June 22 with Von and Darko yielded a few small rockfish and lots of skates and rays.  June 24 I fished with my daughter Kara and her bf TJ.  This was in the Manokin at high tide, middle of the day and hot hot hot. Kara caught a nice 15" speckled trout, and TJ put 2 really nice big white perch in the cooler.  I can't count how many small rock they caught and threw back. 

The lack of croaker is really concerning.  Looks like 2nd year in a row they will be a no-show through June.  This is seriously a bummer, and downright disturbing to me.  I remember how back in the '80's they were scarce, but back then we had plenty of sea trout.  Sigh,......

Sunday, June 11, 2017

More shallow water action- Memorial Day, and June 9-10, 2017

Quick recap of Memorial Day first.  It was cool and rainy, like most of our spring. I got the boat out once- on Memorial Day, with my buddy Dan.  It was a bright sunny day, rather warm, and we launched at noon.  We fished the waters all around South Marsh Island, using soft crab exclusively. Two rock and two speckled trout, but nothing to brag about.

Fast forward to June 9.  Opting for a change of scenery, I thought we would fish the shallow waters of the Manokin River, looking for speckled trout.  I've heard in years past that a lot of specks are caught here in the spring.  Dan was once again my co-pilot.  We launched at 2pm, just preceding the peak high tide (at Chance).  I knew there was a creek just north of Rumbley, which actually cut back behind Rumbley.  My thinking was that this would be a good place to fish on a falling tide, as the bait fish should be pouring out of the creek, with rockfish and trout ready to ambush them.  Turned out to be a pretty good calculation, as we turned 3 hours of fishing into a pretty good meal. I absolutely love sea trout and speckled trout, so I was thrilled that we could take home 2 decent trout.  Dan caught the larger at 17", mine was 15",  We threw a fair number of sub-14" trout back, in addition to countless small rock.  The next day, I figured we would get out a little earlier and catch some more of that first part of tide, since day before we had started catching them immediately.  Well, as most fishermen know- no two days are the same. The fishing was far slower than the day before.  Notable is that the water was also 3+ degrees warmer, jumping from 73.5 to 76.5 F.  Still we managed to put a 15" trout and a nice white perch into the cooler after releasing a bunch of schoolie rock, so no skunk. Pic is a proud Dan displaying his first keeper speckled trout on June 9.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Shallow water rockfish and magic Fridays- 5/19/17

There is just something magic about Fridays- can I get an "Amen"?  It's typically the end of a long week, and also the gateway to the weekend- that in itself is cause for celebration.  And for me- this was the 2nd Friday in a row where I simply "got it done".  So like many other folks, I'm at work in my office on a Friday morning.  I got the bulk of my work done early, and now I'm looking out the window of my cubicle, amazed at the sun, which has been rather scarce lately.  And finally, the wind had laid down too.  As is typical of many springs here on Delmarva, the wind has blown consistently for over a month, and rain has soaked us almost every weekend.  Coupled with some technical issues with my boat trailer, which I corrected, I had managed to get out fishing on my boat so far- exactly one time. Tic-toc, tic-toc, about 11:15 AM and I simply can't take it anymore.  That's it- the half day was now declared.

I was on the island by 1:30, and had the boat in the water at Wenona by 3:30 (waiting for the tide to flip). A short cruise later (3-4 miles) and I am anchored off the north end of South Marsh Island.  I had previously outfitted my trip with large trolling rigs, until one of my neighbors advised me to put them away, go get my bait rigs and buy some soft crabs- which I did.  After cutting up the first crab and hooking pieces to the bottom rig with 2 ozs of weight, I threw it toward the shore, maybe 15-20 feet away.  I was in about 7 feet of water, just right.  I know that the rockfish cruise this shore looking to ambush bait fish, particularly after the falling tide had just kicked them all out of the creeks, nooks and crannies that spanned the island. After less than 5 minutes I had my first strike and it was game on.  I could see how the fish were going to bite today- picking up the bait and slowly cruising with it, providing me ample opportunity to power-set the hook.  I was hoping for speckled trout but I'll settle for rockfish as a nice consolation.  This pattern went on for probably an hour and a half, it never slowed.  I put some nice fish in the cooler, threw many more back overboard, and then I noticed it,... Yes, the clear signs of a distant storm forming west of the Chesapeake Bay.  It was an all too familiar sight, and I knew my time was probably short.  Turning on my marine VHF I picked up the NOAA weather station, and they were reporting a really vicious storm threatening the mouth of the Potomac. Great, exactly due west of where I was sitting.  By this time, the storm was visibly growing on the horizon.  Next, I pulled up a radar app on my phone, nearly amazed that I had any signal at my location (usually I don't).  Wow- that was one focused, tight and ugly storm- and it was definitely headed my direction.  Having been smacked by a waterspout a decade before, I had learned my lesson and knew it was time to bail.  And my timing was good- I had enough time to zip back, trailer the boat, get the boat back to the yard and unloaded, and call my wife, just before,.... BOOM!!! The storm hit, and it was a doozy. Until next time.  I'll likely be looking for rockfish, speckled trout, or maybe a drum. Hoping the croaker arrive soon too.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Crossing an item off my bucket list- Spring Gobbler, 2017

In 2013 I decided to finally try my hand at turkey hunting.  Unlike deer hunting, this is not a sport that I had opportunity to learn from my friends.  Rather, it was sort of "figure it out as you go along". I already had the basic tools. A box call my Dad had given me years before. A full camo 12 gauge Remington shotgun I had actually won by raffle. And some camo clothes.  However, I didn't understand turkey's behavior where to find them, or how to call them in to get a close shot.  This all slowly began to change through the next several years.  I began reading on-line about turkey hunting, reading articles, watching videos.  I also spend some time in the woods, under the guise of turkey hunting but hardly any threat to our local turkey population, even with a loaded shotgun.  My wife thought I was out doing anything but turkey hunting, when actually- I was trying. And I was definitely learning.

Things really opened up for me this year. It finally started to click in terms of habitat, and I made some changes to at least put myself in good proximity to turkeys, and lots of them.  First day of the January 3-day season, I managed to call another hunter right up to me. Scary thought actually, both of us armed and wearing full camo, and he didn't even see me. However, I realized I was getting better with my calling. Second day of January season, I repositioned to a more remote area, and this time managed to call some birds in to about 125 yards out- out of range but now I was hooked.

Spring season rolled around, and I got out once in April for two days.  This time I saw birds both days, and both times it was two hens and a gobbler. But again I was not able to coax them in close enough for a shot.  Then the magic day arrived- May 12.  I got out into the woods plenty early- 5:10 AM and was surprised to see the day already breaking from night.  I hastily made my way to my spot- about a 1/4 mile from where I parked. Almost immediately I was hearing gobblers in front of me, behind me, and to my left. I'm working the call pretty hard.  At 0645, I spot 2 hens and a gobbler probably 350-400 yards away- I had to see them through binoculars to know there was a gobbler in the threesome. Was it the same threesome I saw in April? Maybe,... I continued to watch these birds for the next hour and a half, and then suddenly something changed.  The hens started running my way in response to the yelp calls I was offering.  And they were yelping back as they ran, with the gobbler hot on their trail.  I kept calling, mixing in some clucks with the yelping.  And they continued right at me.  Finally, the hens are within 50 yards with the gobbler about 15-20 yards behind them, and I start to mentally prepare to take the shot.  I was in my gillie suit and pretty well camouflaged, plus I was hiding behind a small cedar tree, sitting on my camo bucket.  I knew that I would have to break my mannequin-like motionlessness, stand up and almost instantly sling some #4-shot lead at the gobbler. The hens continued closing in until they were literally 10 yards away, with the gobbler 15 yards behind them.  They were so close and I was so amped up, I knew I was shaking.  And then it happened,... It had to happen right there, not a moment sooner or later.  I stood up and raised my shotgun, previously resting in my lap but already with the safety switched off. As soon as I had the front sight on the gobbler's head, which didn't take but a split second, I pulled the trigger, and BAM! The gobbler started thrashing all around, and 10 seconds later it was all over.  I had dreamed of this moment for years, even before I started turkey hunting.  It was a great feeling, and one certainly worthy of being on my bucket list.  

Mr. Gobbler was huge.  I didn't get a weight, but he was quite a load to carry in one hand on my way back to the truck.  I can say that he had an 11 1/2 beard (which is pretty long), and a sharp spur measuring 13/16".  I think I'm hooked, and I can;t wait until next year.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Veterans Day 11/11/16, a basket of Crabs, and onto deer season

Veteran's Day,... Seems to me that Veterans simply ought to have the day off.  Maybe Donald Trump can make that happen.  So in the meantime, as a veteran of the United States Army, I gave myself the day off this year.  And what a great day it was.  November 11, and a sunny 65 degree day- that is hard to beat.

I got the jon boat out into the impoundment around 12:15 pm.  As usual, it was windy.  So, windy, one battery for the trolling motor, I didn't go far.  Turns out I didn't have to.  I picked a nice straight stretch with a wide enough area and a deep enough bottom, and set my two anchors fore and aft.  Threw my turkey neck baits all around the boat, and around 1pm it as game on.  For the most part, by the time I got one line in it was time to pull in another.  The crabs were really nice, big and heavy, and about a 50/50 male female mix.  Not being allowed to keep the females, I kept them aside in a cull basket.  The Jimmy basket was about 3/4 full by 3:30, and that was enough. 

I took the crabs home the next day and was very happy to have my favorite crab eating buddy help me attempt to demolish them- my 88 year-old neighbor Miss Pat.  We put a pretty good dent in them too.  We have a great arrangement- I supply the crabs and she brings a few beers.

Fast forward to the following weekend, at which point I started my 17-day vacation.  Making a stop at WVU to watch a football game, I headed to Elkview, West Virginia.  My buddy from college has welcomed me the last couple of years to come hunt the opening couple of days of deer season on his property. The first morning was cold and crisp, around 28 degrees.  As I sat in the stand that morning I was treated to a decent buck cutting across the hillside just in front of me.  And fortunately for that buck, I quickly raised my 30-06, got him in the cross-hairs of my scope and without any hesitation pulled the trigger and,..... missed. Unbelievable.  It was an inexcusable terrible shot.  I rushed it and I did everything wrong.  He bolted and I never got another opportunity at that or any other buck in 2016.  Luckily, later that day around 4pm I spotted a nice doe far down the hill from my stand.  It was a decently long shot (~125 yrds?) and through many tree limbs, but I had killed one there the year before and felt that if I took my time I could repeat the success.  Well, time was something I had plenty of with this deer.  She kept her body behind a tree for at least 15 minutes, but I knew exactly which was she was headed.  She took two more steps which put her lungs directly in my cross-hairs.  This time I was plenty ready and very prepared.  I pulled the trigger and the shot sailed true.  Score- meet for the freezer!  The next day was perfect, and colder, but no deer were seen.  My time there was over.

After returning home for Thanksgiving, frying the turkey etc, I next departed on the 27th for Deal Island.  Plan A was to hunt the week and return home Saturday Dec 3.  I saw a small doe on Monday morning but passed on a shot as she was really small.  Tuesday and Wednesday were warm, up to 70 degrees Wednesday, and no deer were moving or feeding. I did not see another deer until Thursday morning..  So, Day 4, wanting another deer, when I saw one I immediately took the opportunity for the harvest.  If it's brown it's down was my mantra at this point.  In hindsight, I wished I had let this one go too.  But I didn't, and deer #2 is now in the freezer too.  Having to return to work, the family, and the real world, I won't get another chance until the two-day season in January.  Until then!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

October 29, 2016- Rockfish

I finally found a spare day in between my business traveling and everything else going on in my life to get the boat out again on Tangier Sound.  This late in the year, you never know when it might be your last shot.  As I crossed the Deal Island bridge on a sunny and relatively warm Saturday morning, the winds were completely calm- a.k.a. "slick cam". Two and a half hours later at target launch time 1030, it was blowing 15-20 mph out of the southwest.  This was indeed forecasted, but it was supposed to be a little bit later and a little less intense.  As I exited Wenona harbor and had a look at Tangier Sound, I made a judgement call not to proceed across to South Marsh Island, where I had caught plenty of fish 2 weeks prior.  As it turned out, this was a very good decision which I'll get to in a bit.

Plan B was to cut back behind Little Deal Island (a.k.a. Lil' Island) and troll the endless banks around Lil' Island and the back of Deal Island.  With high tide at 1:45, there was at least plenty of water to troll my swim shads.  It wasn't until about an hour later and well into the troll on back side of Deal Island that I finally had my first fish.  I had a couple of hits before that, and was puzzled as to why they let go.  Anyway, fish# 1 was around 18".  Heading back toward my old croaker hole in Law's Thorofare, I hung another fish, the first keeper at 20", right at the mouth of the creek drawing out of the back end of Pinky's.  Focusing on this area for several more passes, I caught two more fish, the larger being about 19".  Heading back toward port, I hung the last fish not far from here, and this one was the largest at 21". 

I was astounded to find deep pockets in the trough that comes out of the Thorofare, and was equally surprised to see fish stacked up in them, suspended just above the bottom.  I got my jig rigs out and worked it for a few minutes, but the increasing winds and narrow channel to work in made this very difficult.  I'll try this again however.  I never did get to use my new top water popping cork rigs, but I've got these ready for future use.  Anyway, I was planning to troll all the way back to port.  However, winds had picked up by this time to 20-25 mph, and I was dealing with 3-4 foot seas in the shallow water of the Manokin River.  This was no fun, so I concluded fishing efforts and focused on just trying to stay dry the rest of the  way back in.  Once I got back behind Lil' Island, I was protected from the S-SW winds. I can't wait to do this some more.  I've never been a big fan of trolling, but there is something cathartic about it, something very relaxing.  All i need now is more time.  Time, precious time,....