When I started kayak fishing, I didn't know the first thing about it. It was very much a learning experience of trial and error: what jigs and lures worked, where to fish, what times and tides were better for what species, and so on. The success I have eventually achieved is hard earned and appreciated. And I don't mind sharing -- well, to a point....
When Mike and his son first caught striped bass in the river near where he lived, we were thrilled because it meant we didn't have to go all the way to Norfolk or Virginia Beach to catch them. That fall, we caught several stripers as we tried different lures, during various times and tides. And I learned some awesome rockfish recipes!
|Cap'n Tipsy of the Plastic Navy, with a striper from our first year catching them in the river.|
Knowing he enjoyed fishing, I decided I would send him text photos of my catches to inspire him and encourage him. I told him to hurry up and get better, and I would take him and teach him how to kayak fish for puppy drum. I'm not saying that was the medicine he needed to recover, but two weeks later we were on our way to Virginia Beach with a couple of kayaks and fishing rods.
The morning we went, I quickly had a nice puppy drum and a black drum on my stringer. SSGT Michael Donnelly, USMC, however, was getting skunked, and not too happy about it. I'm glad there were no children present, as his words were as salty as the water below our kayaks. (Glad to know he was feeling well enough to cuss.) When he finally caught an undersize pup, he was excited until I told him it was too small and had to be released. More salt and colorful language followed.
As the morning progressed, we became separated from each other, as Michael had paddled around a bend and was probably a good half mile away from me. But when all of the sudden I heard hooting and hollering echoing in the distance, I knew what was happening. I paddled around the corner to confirm my suspicion, and was pleased to see Michael enjoying a full-fledged Nantucket sleigh ride. He was being pulled by a beautiful 24" pup. And he was officially hooked on kayak fishing. He went out and bought a couple kayaks that week, and has been a fairly regular member of our Plastic Navy when he's in town. We happily enlisted him, as every navy needs marines....
|A beautiful Lynnhaven red, caught by SSGT Donnelly, USMC|
The next summer was the year of the puppy drum. They were everywhere! And lots of them. Including our "secret holes" in northern Suffolk. Mike, Michael and I were up there fairly regularly, and I perfected my "blackened redfish" recipe, we caught so many. We learned what they liked, and when they wanted to eat; and we knew before we hit the water whether it was going to be a good day or not. Most days were. And on the days the pups weren't there, there were also always croaker and speckled trout.
One day I took my son Parke out there. It was just he and I for some more father/son bonding time. And it was one of those afternoons where I knew the conditions were close to ideal. The first hour was uneventful, so we moved to our second hole. My very first cast, I hooked what is still my biggest drum in a kayak -- a beautiful, fat 31 incher. He pulled me around the flats, and through the grasses, around in circles, and then out further into the river. Parke was laughing and yelling encouragement to me as I was pulled farther and farther away from him. When the fish finally tired, I netted it and took it to the shore where we measured it, took some photos, and revived and released it, none the worse for wear. As exciting as it was to catch the fish, I was even more thrilled that Parke was there to see the fun. It made my experience that much more real!
|Parke holding my 31" yearling, right before we released it to fight another day.|
|What's more fun that catching a big fish? Watching your son catch one!|
|A beautiful sunset and evening fishing -- highlighted by Parke's 23" pup, which he prepared and blackened, too.|
Well, I guess I'm a damn good teacher, and maybe an even better guide. All of the sudden (in a spot that I had suspected as much) Jerry hooked up, and I saw the kayak getting pulled away from the shore we had been fishing. A few minutes later, Jerry was smiling, and saying he can't wait to get out there again. A fat 24" striper helped convert him. Maybe he'll go buy his own kayak now. If he does, I've already got it named -- the "Jerry Rig". Ha ha. His fish was filleted and in his refrigerator before I even got off the water....
|Jerry holding his striper, along with a couple of trout. You're welcome, Jerry.|
I didn't catch a striper, but I also didn't care. (Well, maybe I cared a little.) I just didn't want to get off the water; but there were other things, other obligations I had to do. So reluctantly I left the water. Mike had joined me by then, so I gave him a few tips, a couple of jigs that were working that day and wished him luck, paddling to shore with a stringer full of fish.
As I've said, catching a fish is just a bonus to a beautiful way to spend some time on the water. Whether it's sharing with family... teaching your children...being with friends...being alone... or being with God. These are the reasons I fish. And if I can share the love I have for all this with others who are willing to give it a shot, well so much the better.... Until next time,