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Friday, December 29, 2017

2017 Fishing/Hunting Wrap-up

In re-cap, 2017 has proved to be a great year for me both fishing and hunting.  I killed a few deer (which you’ll read about below) and my freezer is full of venison. I killed my first turkey back in April, and that was an awesome experience I’ll never forget.  Fishing, well- it was completely different than any year preceding it.  The bottom fishing in Tangier Sound which I had come to know and love, and become a master at, had dried up.  Yeah, there were a few fish to be caught, but really nothing worth spending lots of time pursuing.  So, I was forced to completely change my game.  And throughout the year, I learned a lot.  I started to become good at casting for and catching speckled trout, which behave completely different than the sea trout I caught years ago by the scores.  I also became better at catching rockfish by casting.  In all this, I discovered many new spots, found a new fishing buddy, learned a lot of new techniques, can came to trust some new gear, lures, and tackle.  In fact, I’m slowly having to re-equip myself with rods and reels, as the trash I formerly used for bottom fishing didn’t work so well casting.  I fished a lot more up into the Fall than in the past, as the fishing really just started to get really good in September.  I plan to explore this more next year. 

My last reported fishing venture on Nov. 12, 2017 would prove to be the final fruitful outing of the year.  The following weekend I would travel to West Virginia to initiate my efforts with deer season.  Lots of guys spread their deer season from September through January.  There are many opportunities, with different seasons for bow, shotgun, muzzleloader, and my favorite- rifle.  For me, right now I like to compress this to about 2 weeks total, and using my favorite weapon, rifle.  Maybe this will change in the future, but for right now this works for me.

Monday Nov. 20, I was ushered out to a really nice stand that my friend Pat lets me hunt on his land in south central WV.  I’ve done this the last couple of years and loved it.  I really only have 2 days to hunt, with the Wednesday before Thanksgiving being my travel day for the 8 hour ride back home to Delaware.  Nov. 20 proved to be a nice cool morning, just below freezing and conducive to deer moving to feed.  At 0740, a nice doe walks in to the food plot about 100 yrds below my stand.  I had sighted in my Remington 30-06 the day before and trusted it to be within 2 inches of where I pointed my scope, so as soon as the deer came broadside into my cross-hairs, BLAM !! deer # 1 down, and it turned out later to be a spike buck.  I stayed in my stand just in case any additional deer were following it.  Exactly 35 minutes later, at 0815, a nice spike buck came walking up the exact trail I had used 2 hours earlier to get to my stand.  BOOM !!! The 35 yard shot was too tempting.  I am allowed to take two deer here, so as quickly as it had started, my hunt was over.  I spent the remaining time there skinning, butchering, and processing the deer.




After Thanksgiving and a few days at home with the family, it is off to my camp at Deal Island to close out the year hunting deer in Maryland.  Again I’m using my Remington 30-06 semi-automatic, a rifle I have killed many deer with.  This hunt would prove to require a lot more patience than needed for WV.  My basic plan is to start hunting on Monday and hunt all week (until Friday) if necessary.  I skip the 2nd week, returning to work instead.  There is always a 2-day season in early January if I need it, and I usually do- but not this year.  Monday morning comes, and it is cool, still, and extremely foggy after I hit the woods.  I’m hunting on public land, so hunting in the fog always spooks me a little bit.  I try a spot I’ve hunted many times, but have had success at only in the evenings.  However, I’m playing the wind and I feel it’s the correct call.  Right at day break I see a nice deer emerge from the fod at about 150+ yards and walking toward me.  It’s now seriously foggy, and I can’t even ID whether doe or buck.  It never presents a good shot at the vitals, so I hold off on taking a shot.  Next thing I know this deer has done a 180 and I never saw it again.  Next day, same morning scenario except the forecasted breeze has changed direction and so I’m set up in a different spot, one that I’ve not yet had success in but one in which I feel has great potential, right along the marsh and with unpicked corn in the field in front of it.  I had heard two bucks sparring right before dawn, so I’m pretty excited.  I see this large ghost emerge out of the fog, a nice buck walking toward me and because I am so anxious I fire.  It is so foggy I cannot even see whether or not I hit the deer.  I didn’t.  Every once in a while I take a shot that I really wish I could get back, and this was one of them.  If only I had waited another 30 seconds,… I would see another deer for three more days.

Fast forward to Friday.  I return to my favorite spot where I saw a deer Monday morning.  I’m still faithful that deer move through here in the mornings, with the right wind, and today it was right.  At 0715, a really nice spike walks out of the woods on the opposite side of me.  I watch him carefully walk the wood line toward my field of view.  I know that I can maybe hit him as he is walking, but it’s going to be a tough shot.  My good senses prevail and I choose a spot for him to walk into and wait for him to walk there.  The danger with such patience is that the deer could easily choose to re-route or disappear back into the woods all together.  Luckily, this one walked right into my scope, and I had been waiting, poised and aimed.  This deer became #3 in my harvest, and he had a really neat palmated spike.  Really for me, 3 deer are plenty. My family isn’t too keen on eating venison.  I make and share a TON of jerky, so with that, some ground for different dishes, and the tenderloins (straps), 3 is really plenty.  Also, I’d really rather have good eating deer, which means doe or younger bucks.  Anyway, the 4th one was a bruiser and I’m not going to go into much detail other than to say he had 9 points.



Sunday, November 12, 2017

November Wenona Rockfish Madness 11/12/17

I haven't been fishing as much in the last month as I would have liked.  In fact, I haven't been at all in over 2 weeks.  Sad because it can be so so good this time of year.  And today was one of those days.

My fishing buddy Dan and I launched off Wenona around 1115 AM . It was cold- in the '40's all day but the 54F water was nearly as smooth as glass, a.k.a. slick cam as they say on Deal Island.  We started off doing what I had been successful with just a few weeks prior- casting bass assassins off Little Deal Island and also off the jetty outside Wenona.  We caught a couple but soon conceded that things had changed.  The next plan was to troll swim shads around South Marsh Island, so we jetted off NW.  About half way out we noticed that birds were working small pockets of areas in the deeper water, and upon closer inspection noticed balls of bait fish with fish breaking the water.  Perfect- just what we were looking for. Low tide was at 3:15 pm, and we thought we'd now catch some rock while the tide continued to roll out.  So, mostly keeping the motor idling, we maneuvered from place to place chasing the birds who in turn were chasing the bait fish being demolished by the rockfish.  We picked our way among quite a few spot- there was not really any pattern. We caught some in 70 ft of water, some in 30, using metal jigs with and up & down motion, as I had learned from Capt. Larry Tawes. One thing for sure- we had to chase and we had to work hard for the fish we caught, maybe 30.  



This eventually slowed down by 1:45, so we decided to finish our journey to South Marsh and troll.  This proved to be a frustrating venture, as first the grass (which I had thought would be gone by now) fouled our rigs repeatedly, and then we lost a 4$ swim shad to a stump.  Since this did not bear any fish, I made the call to return to the jigging ground near Buoy 12.  Actually, we ended up stopping about 1/2 mile north of there.  The tide had slacked and fish were jumping everywhere.  Now it was really game on.  This went on in a fury for the next hour, and it just kept getting better. We probably boated 80 fish total, the majority in that last hour.  Many fish in the 17-19" range, even more 15-16" or smaller, and only one keeper at 21".  I had not pounded rock fish like that, ever.  Unfortunately, just after 4pm I knew I had to return to harbor and head home.  I'm hoping I get at least one more day like that on the water this year- maybe during Maryland deer season (rifle).  Thanks for reading.  This is #DealIslandRandy.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

October rockfish roundup, #DealIslandRandy

So, with the boat engine now repaired and running well, I've been out a couple of times.  Nine were anything to write home about, but I'll certainly write about them.  First up was Friday October 6, my fishing buddy Dan, his friend Brian, and I headed across the Manokin river out of Wenona on a gorgeous but windy afternoon.  Happy to say that the boat ran great after my repairs (water pump, thermostat, heat sensor and exhaust manifold) but it was a choppy ride, with Dan taking a piloting lesson from yours truly. After much searching, we finally found the spot at mouth of Teague Creek, where buddy Bruce had slayed the rockfish the evening before.  We anchored up on the falling tide and just after peak high, and we fished it hard. Unfortunately, not much to show but a few undersize rock, one 6" speckled trout, and one angry turtle.  Note to self- location from Wenona is just beyond the red channel marker heading up the Manokin toward St Peters Creek.  2nd note to self: this is a good 30 minute ride back to Wenona in a decent chop on my boat- we got in just at dark.  The next day I spent at the Deal Island Peninsula Project meeting on shoreline erosion, which was fine because it was too windy to boat Tangier Sound.

Oct 13 I took a trip to Mountain Grove, VA to meet up with the WVU college boys and do some serious squirrel hunting. We shot 70 squirrels among us I believe, in 2 days. Using my trusty Remington 1100 16 gauge shotgun, I only took 3 each day.  These guys are serious sharp shooters, and I got seriously schooled in the woods, but had a great time.

October 20, and its still 75F out, good reason to take a 1/2 day VAC and go fishing.  Dan and I headed over to South Marsh. I was certain we were going to troll up some keeper rock.  Unfortunately, the warm weather and accompanying 70F water temperatures had kept the region full of eel grass.  Our trolling rigs were quickly fouled, and we soon switched to casting bass assassins on jig heads.  Also, the forecaster 9 mph winds were more like 19 mph, we got beat.  We managed to get 4 small rock to the boat, all within a brief amount of time.  One bright point was the new Yeti cup holder Dan gave me, customized with the WV logo on one side, and my trademark Deal Island Randy on the other.  Thanks Dan- super cool and I love it !!



Lastly, my buddy Bruce called on Sat Oct 21 and invited me to launch out of Wenona with him the next day.  He had caught nearly 60 fish, and I was anxious to repeat that.  We launched at 4 pm, with only 2 1/2 hours of fishing time, but it was so gorgeous out and high tide had been at 4 PM.  We alternated between the outside of the jetty just outside Wenona harbor, and the shoreline of Little Deal Island just beyond the stumpy area.  After catching a small rock on my first cast, I thought it was going to be game-on.  Unfortunately, things fizzled after that.  We brought probably 20 fish to the boat, all undersize. Some we caught on bucktails trailing a 5-6" white Mr Twister-style plastic.  Bucks had green hair of course.

Busy the next two weekends, next time out will be November 11 if the weather cooperates.  May finally catch some crabs too.  Until next time, this is #DealIslandRandy.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Back to Rockfish, 9/23/17

With the outboard motor on my center console currently down and out, I was happy when my buddy Bruce called Saturday afternoon and asked me to go fishing with him.  The WVU football game I was watching wasn't all that interesting, and it was drop-dead gorgeous outside.  Besides, I always catch fish when I fish with Bruce.  He's a real student and technician when it comes to figuring out how and where to fish, sort of the direction I've also been going lately.

This trip was nearly a carbon copy of one we took exactly two weeks prior.  Same place in the Manokin River, same tide, same time of day.  Only two weeks later.  And, the results were nearly the same, only better.  We started casting 4" (not 5" !!) chartreuse bass assassins as soon as we got there, and we caught a couple.  It wasn't until the tide really started flowing out hard that we anchored at the mouth of that same creek, and proceeded to whack the fish all the way until dark, probably 90 minutes straight.  We caught somewhere between 30 and 40 rockfish, mostly between 15-18" (I think one was 18.5", a "heartbraker" as Bruce calls them).  And just like that, it stopped.  Pic below is of Bruce catching one of his many fish that night.



I've got a handle on the outboard woes.  Replaced the water pump and thermostat last week, only to discover the real culprit- a temperature sensor.  Hoping to be able to complete that repair next Friday and maybe get some fishing in on my own boat next weekend.  This is DealIslandRandy- see you next time !

Monday, September 18, 2017

Speckled Trout Season, 9/16/17

I've caught more speckled trout this year than in all previous years combined.  However, it was always one (or two), here and there.  This past weekend, that all changed.  I launched at 1:30 pm on the most gorgeous afternoon in the world- light winds from the west, blue skies, upper '70's. Forecasted low tide was 5:30 pm.  After fishing with my buddy Bruce the week before, I had decided to no longer use bait for the rest of this year.  It would be artificial only.

I tried a few spots prior to heading over to South Marsh Island.  I tried a few spots on the north side, first back in the coves, then finally on one point where I had seen a man and his boys catching small rock earlier (Gunbarrel Point).  

I was rotating with 3 different rods. all rigged differently- trying to find what the fish wanted.  One rod had a scented Berkley powerbait (4-inch white mullet with a chartreuse tail) on a 3/8 oz jig head with eyes.  The 2nd rod had a green similar bass assassin-like fishy of some sort, same jig head.  The 3rd rod was rigged with a small swim-shad Storm Lure.  I casted, and I casted, and I casted for 3 1/2 hours- nothing.  Then at 5pm, as if someone had flipped a switch- WHAM, fish on.  Planning on seeing a rockfish on the other end, I immediately realized the telltale fight of a speckled trout, and was delighted to land a keeper of nearly 15 inches.  Next cast- WHAM, same thing except this one came on board at over 15 inches.  Next cast- WHAM. Wow, this was getting fun, and the fish were getting bigger as #3 in 3 casts came in at 16.5 inches.  I quickly got my rig back out again in search of my fourth and last allowable fish (legal limit is 4).  Dang, my first cast in the last 4 with no strike.  OK no problem.  Next cast-WHAM!  Thought I was done only to have this fish flip off the hook as I was swinging into the boat (note -fishing by myself and with no net).  Next cast- WHAM, again, only this one vacated his spot on my line about 2/3 of the way in.  For the next half hour plus, as the tide wound down and poised to turn, I casted fruitlessly.  Finally as the tide was just getting ready to switch, fish #4 hit and gave me a good fight, measuring in at 16 inches.  Actually there were a few strikes prior to number 4, but none full force.  



I think that the days where I could drop anchor (or drift) with some simple cut bait and reliably catch legal fish are gone, maybe forever, I'm not sure.  I'm having to invest a lot more time, with a lot more planning and thought into what I am doing, just to catch some fish.  Nothing ever stays the same, does it?

Filleted my trout the next day, took them home and cooked some for dinner. Without a doubt, speckled trout are the best tasting fish that come out of Tangier Sound.  Had hoped to fish the next day but ran into a little bit of engine trouble.  Hoping to get  this squared away soon !!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

August wrap-up, end of summer and into September

August gave me a few more fishing opportunities, but nothing remarkable.  I'll summarize it here pretty quickly.  Got out two more weekends, caught a few fish bottom fishing deep water (some decent spot, kingfish, tiny croaker and speckled trout). Also, caught plenty of small rockfish, mostly around points behind deal island, and costing me plenty of soft crabs. A venture out to Pry Island (south of South Marsh) was a bust. The point north of Rumbley at the mouth of the Manokin yielded a few fish, including a couple of nice white perch, all on bait.

Labor Day weekend was a no-go, so I'll fast forward to the following weekend, Fri Sept 8.  My buddy Bruce had nbeen telling me of all the rockfish he had been catching out of St. Peter's Creek. Intrigued, I got him to agree to take me with him.  We launched out of St. Peter's Creek, in Champ, MD (across the creek from Oriole).  I knew this boat ramp was there but had never launched there. We launched Bruce's nice new boat and headed out into the Manokin.  We ended up fishing the mouth of a creek, probably 200 yrds from where I had been fishing all summer. We were casting abotu a 4-inch bass assassin, chartreuse, on a 3/8 oz jighead (round).  WE were timed right with the outgoing tide, which was rapidly draining the marsh into the river.  We had decent depth water too
(3-4 ft +). No dice for awhile, so we moved along the marsh bank for awhile. Just at sunset, we returned to the creek mouth, and within 5 minutes it was game-on.  We caught small rock steadily for quite awhile.  Then they got a little bigger, 16-18".  Finally, Bruce landed one 21", and that would turn out to be the only keeper of the evening.  We caught a bunch more fish, even after dark and up until 8:30, but no more keepers.  Will return here again,... One thing I want to capture is the abrupt cooling spell we experienced immediately after Labor Day. Actually it had started teh week before, but set in in earnest this week.  Evenings in the mid-50's turned the bay water temps quickly to the low '70s.  Bay fishing is changing quickly.  And for the first year that I can remember, I'm glad to be done with summer, and am eagerly welcoming fall.

Weekend after Labor Day is also the Skipjack 5K, which I have run every year since it started 5 years ago.  This lightly attended race is the only one I run each year, but I love that it is held at Deal Island and will continue to run it each year.  It gets me off the couch each February and motivates me to run throughout the rest of the year.  This year, I won 1st place for all male runners.  And so what if there were only a few of us, a win is a win.


Monday, August 14, 2017

August 11, 2017 update

Still looking for that great bottom fishing- looks like it is not happening this year.  And it isn't just me. As I launched my boat on a beautiful Friday afternoon (8/11), there were only 3 other boats on the parking lot at Wenona, and none of the charter boats out fishing.  That speaks volumes.  Anyway, TJ and I launched at 2pm and headed to the west side of the channel north of Wenona, armed with bloodworms ($15/dozen foe the big ones) and softcrabs.  I was marking a lot of fish at the interface between 25 and 15 feet, so we set up a drift starting in about 17 ft.  After making a few depth adjustments, I had caught total of 4 nice Spot and one nice 13.5" kingfish, but it was slow going as this took 1.5 hrs plus.  The drift was fast as tide was racing in and the south was blasting 15+ mph straight out of the south.

The plan was to relocate back behind Deal Island for the peak high tide and the first 2 hours of falling tide at 5pm.  This has produced nice rock fish several times this summer, although the last time all fish were undersized.  Sure enough, just after high tide we started whacking rock fish.  We stuck with this and exhausted our entire dozen of soft crabs.  I don't know what the final catch was, I would estimate 20 rock, the largest were in the 15-17" range. 

I'm convinced that there is no rock fish shortage in the Chesapeake Bay as the state of MD would like for you to believe. In fact, I'm catching more rockfish than ever before.  And, I'm wondering whether this in fact doesn't have something to do with the disappearance of the Croaker.  Are they connected? Where are the Croaker? Are they being caught elsewhere?  The MD DNR fishing report indicates they are being caught near the mouth of the Potomac.  Is that true, and of so why not on the eastern shore?  Hoping to get back out soon, I have so many different things I want to try.  Also hoping for some calmer waters, as the wind has limited my options most of the summer.