Tuesday, November 5, 2019

2019 Squirrel Camp wrap-up, and perhaps last 2019 rockfishing?

Background: I still hunt (and fish) with my college buddies, some of whom lived on my dorm floor freshman year at WVU.  If you look back a few months in my blog, I had them down to Deal Island to fish this past summer.  Anyway, one of these guys (Pat) has a small primitive cabin deep in the mountains of southwestern Virginia (Bath County).  The WVU guys have been squirrel hunting here each October for 36 consecutive years.  Basically, it kicks off the Fall hunting season for most of us, as we have historically done this in early October.  Due to climate change, we have now pushed this back, and this year we held it the final weekend of  October.  It's a super long drive for me (7+ hours), so there were many years a while back while I was raising kids where I was less a regular, and more of an infrequent drop-in.  The routine is that we arrive on Thursday and hang out + set up camp, Friday and Saturday we hunt squirrels, and Sunday we break camp and everyone scatters.  This year I took my Deal Island fishing buddy Peter with me, his inaugural Squirrel Camp. 

Day 1 came early, up by 5 to cook a bacon and egg breakfast and get our gear straight.  The forecast for the day was cool but sunny and calm winds- a perfect recipe for squirrel hunting.  Everybody goes to different spots that they like, and I keep it simple by hunting a ridge and piece of forest I am now well familiar with, located just over the border into West Virginia in the George Washington National Forest, 6 miles in off the nearest road, and just off of the maintained but unpaved forest road.  We were in the woods by 6:30, and we had to wait for enough daylight to see where we were going.  So, my hunting day started between 7-7:15 AM.  And, diving into a thick, steep, and dry terrain with my 16 gauge Remington 1100- got my limit of 6 squirrels by 930 am. 

Day 2 of Squirrel Camp was a completely different scene. It had rained the night before, with a warm front accompanying.  It was a tough hunt with far fewer squirrels out feeding, but I got my limit by noon. Like last year, one victim was eating dinner when I took him. This one has a hickory nut in its mouth, in contrast to the squirrel with an acorn last year.

Each day, we all clean our own squirrels to bring home.  Our meals consist of food that we bring in and prepare, and for the last 5 years I have put on a seafood feast for the fellas.   This year, it was fried oysters, fried soft crabs, and blackened rockfish.

Speaking of rockfish,... I got out on Dan's boat the following weekend (Nov 2).  We started early, launching at 6:45 AM and before the sun had come up.  The forecast was for <5mph winds, but that wasn't how it played out. In fact, we spent much of the morning looking for clean water.  And, due to the NW winds  blowing for days, there was almost no more tide left to go out.  Nonetheless, we caught fish on the west side of Smith Island, just off the rock jetties.  Pearl and green plastic did the trick in shallow water.  Water temp was 58F.  One keeper out of probably 30-40 fish, which we worked hard to catch.  No birds working fish were to be seen in the deeper water, so assuming that may come later.  And right now, it looks like we may not catch a break from the wind for the next 10 days, which really sucks.  Maybe something will change.  Until then, this is #dealislandrandy.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Great Fall Fishing for Rock, Oct 12, 2019

Launched from Wenona 1015 AM on Saturday, Oct 12 2019 amidst a freak flood caused by an offshore Nor'easter combined with full moon that pushed a ridiculous amount of water into the mid-Atlantic region.  The pier/walkway at the boat ramp was under 3 inches of water when we departed, 8 inches when we returned after high tide.  We didn't plan on this, or the lack of true tide changes associated with it.  In fact, we were counting on the regular and dramatic outgoing tide, which never really happened.  What we did receive as planned was a gorgeous sunny October day that started out rather cool but soon had us peeled down to our t-shirts and shorts.  Water temp was 67F.

We headed over to the west side of Smith Island, returning as we had vowed last Spring to cast lures along the numerous rock jetties that are now installed and protecting that side of the island.  What I like about these jetties is that they hold nice deep water (normally 6-7 ft) their entire length, and when I first scouted them, I know they would hold fish later in the year.  And so they did.

No bait on the boat today.  We cast various iterations of bass assassins and storm lures, 4-5 inches w/ and w/o paddle tails (I prefer the paddle tail), either pearl or chartreuse, or some combination of the two- and threaded onto either 3/8 or 1/2 oz jig head (white or chartreuse).  Dan had monofilament leaders with swivels rigged onto the ends of his braided line, while I use simple 30 lb braided line (I prefer Spiderwire).  I like Dan's rigs , but at the end of the day I don't think it mattered in catching fish.  We fished a good long while, catching probably 40-50 fish, all rock except for one keeper speckled trout (15 1/2").  Almost all of the rock were 15-18 1/2", except of course for the one keeper that got away (I swear I had this joker right up to the side of the boat before he shook his broad shoulders, spit the hook out, laughed, and swam away).  Had we had a good outgoing tide I think we would have done much better, but the tide was nearly still, even  1/2 hours after high tide.

Candy has designated next weekend as "No Fishing", and the following weekend is squirrel camp.  So, I'm hopeful to get out maybe one or two more times, provided the weather cooperates.  Until next time, #dealislandrandy

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Almost too windy to fish. Almost,.... Oct 5, 2019

The wind was forecaster to be around 12-13 mph out of the NE.  I felt that if that held true, we could get out for some shoreline casting if we put some land between the boat and the wind.  To that extent, Artie and I launched out of Wenona right at high tide.  The wind had been howling for days, and I could see by the water level at the ramp that it had blown a lot of water out of the bay.  And the water that was left was a mess- completely dirtied up by the wind and waves.  And we quickly found that the true wind was more on the order of 20-25 mph, which didn't make for friendly casting conditions in shallow (3-5 ft) water.  Keeping the boat positioned was of course a never-ending task.  Water temps varied from 72 to 68F.

We stayed true to our commitment to cast lures and kept the bait in the cooler.  Tossing 4-5 paddletails, mostly white or green with a touch of pink, we were able to score some fish once the tide started rolling out.  We fished the jetty outside the harbor and picked up one, but most of the rock were around the protected side of Little Deal Island.  Crossing Tangier Sound was out of the question, so we were seriously limited.  

We didn't hook up with any of the specs we were hoping for, but we did catch a fair number of small rock.  The two nicest, around 16-17" were right near the end of our time at 12:15pm, but by that time I was beat and we called it a day.  Hoping to get out a few more times before it is all over.  The weather had been so unbelievably cooperative all summer long, and I'm really hoping for some similar cooperation into the Fall.  Until next time, #dealislandrandy.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

End of Summer Rockfish Crush

So, fast-forward exactly 3 weeks from the last time I fished.  Friday, Sep 20, 2019- totally dedicated to Dan's birthday weekend.  We launched out of Wenona at 3pm, stocked heavily with soft-crabs, which can be especially tricky to find this late in the season and especially with a major tournament being held.  We headed to the islands, back to my new (2019) secret spot.  I stil can't exactly time the tide there, but I'm close enough.  All I know is that it goes slack very briefly, and then rushes the other way with quickly accelerating ferocity.  And you need to time it to catch the first 90 minutes of that newly moving tide- ebb tide works best.

We got Thundertruck in exactly the right position to provide for the 5-10 mph southerly breeze and the tide change.  Water temp was noted at about 74F, perfect.  We caught the last 10 minutes of incoming tide, then a very brief slack. Just enough time to get rods rigged, bait cut, and the tunes rolling.  And then, it happened.  We caught a few small fish at first, and then it was rockfish city like it was nobody's business.  Dan, Mark, and I had our collective 6 allowed keepers in less than 30 minutes, mixed in with a couple of keeper (15, 16") speckled trout (which I just fried up tonight for dinner- YUM!!).  We spent the next hour catching many, many rock, including probably an equal number of keepers which we of course released.  One noteworthy observation- a lot of skinny rockfish, not all but enough that we noticed.  I started to see this in early August, and I'm not sure why.

Saturday we fished various places throughout the day.  There was a lot more exploration of other places, including the Manokin where I caught a few nice perch, and Sharkfin Shoal where I caught a keeper rock as soon as we pulled up and anchored.  I'm looking forward to cooler weather and tossing lures at the rock fish.  So many new places I want to try.  Until next time, #dealislandrandy

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Last day of August, 2019- Mid-day Rockfish bonanza

All summer long I have been catching rockfish in shallow at my new spot around one of the Tangier Sound islands.  All these trips, I've tended to go toward late afternoon since it is more comfortable than mid-day, and the tide has been favorable at that time.  This day, the tide was best starting just shy of 1pm.  This was the first opportunity I've had to fish with my oldest son Brooks in a couple of years, so I was really hoping to put him on some fish.  To seal the deal, I also invited my buddy Peter, who seems to be sort of a charm when it comes to putting fish on the line.

We launched Wenona on a hot and sunny day around 12:30 and got to our spot around 1pm.  The tide was still coming in around arrival, but just barely.  I was hoping to catch it a little earlier but this is how it played out.  Using soft crab, 2/0 hooks and 1 oz of weight- we quickly caught 6 small fish- each one a different species: Spot, Kingfish, Sea bass, flounder, Croaker, and Rockfish.  The tide slacked and it was nothing for about 15 minutes, which is typical for this place.  Then everything changed, and fast.  As the tide went out, the rockfish turned on with a fury, and in about 90 minutes time we caught no less than 75 fish.  I've never caught so many 17-18 inch rockfish in all my life (legal limit is 19")- it was fun and frustrating all at the same time.  And just like that, it was all over.  A final observation is that the water temp, which had been 86.5F two weeks prior, had cooled down to about 80.5F.

I'll wrap this up with a couple of pics I took during the 2019 Deal Island Skipjack Races.  I was blessed to be aboard The Kathryn, the most awesome skipjack of the fleet- thanks Dawn and David.  Until next time, 


Aug 17- dog days of August Videoblog

I decided to try something different and make this update a video blog.  Welcome any feedback.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Still catching fish- August 9-10, 2019

Got two fishing trips in over the weekend, but neither turned out as planned.  Sometimes you just have to roll with it.

Friday 8/9 we were supposed to take a charter to the Target Ship and night fish.  Unfortunately, the captain cancelled at 3PM due to weather.  Not to be dissuaded, we launched out of Scott's Cove in Dan's boat (Mark and Artie included). Storms were indeed popping up everywhere upon launch, and we made a safe play straight up to catch the first part of the incoming tide on the east side of South Marsh Island.  The little creek exiting the island and flowing south to north produced rockfish, but they were indeed small, not what we were after.

After the immediate local threat of thunderstorms had passed (we were checking radar, comparing it to the skies), we made a major move to Holland Island to fish some really shallow water.  Not my choice of locales, but as a passenger I went with it just the same.  Our next and final major move brought us back to the south side of Spring Island, which lies just ENE of Holland Island.  There is a cut which divides the island in half, and we focused on the south sides of this cut.  And here is where we picked up 3 keeper rockfish, and one keeper speckled trout.  I've gotta come back here again, I need to explore it deeper, especially to see if that cut has any depth to it.

Saturday was another day full of surprises.  I had to be back at the ramp at 530 in order to meet my wife- we were attending a birthday party at 6pm.  Mark, Dana, and I intended to launch Wenona at 2PM sharp, head to my secret hotspot, load up on rock, and roll out.  Well, we encountered an obstacle which I'm not going to go into, except that it delayed our launch a painful 45 minutes, which likely cost us the sweet part of the outgoing tide.  When we finally got there (my boat), the tide was barely moving, hadn't flipped yet.  If you've been following my blog this summer, this place is completely tide-dependent, and sometimes the bite only lasts 30 minutes.  So, we missed that part.  On the other end, I had already declared that we had a hard stop at 5PM, and not wanting to break my promise to wifey, held to it.  And as you probably could guess, the bite was just turning on as we packed up to leave.  Heartbroken, I pulled anchor while the fish were full-on biting.  We caught a lot of fish in our short time there, but no keepers EXCEPT for 5 10" croakers, which I know will make my daughter happy (croaker is the only fish she will eat).  

Until next time, this is #dealislandrandy