One or two times I did get on the water when everything looked "right", and used all the formerly successful lures for striped bass, and never got the first strike. I had no idea what was different. Why weren't the fish biting? Were they even around yet? Surely they had to be. Of course they were. And stop calling me "Shirley". (Sorry, old "Airplane" joke there.)
Anyway, with Boys' Weekend fast approaching, and my brother from Philly, and my buddy from Alaska planning on getting here a day early specifically for some kayak striper fishing, I was getting worried. Especially since I had guaranteed them that we'd catch fish. So I had to learn when and what the rockfish are hitting this year. It wasn't time to panic yet, but it was getting close. And I've never had an October where I haven't caught one... Until this year.
Or could I break the jinx.
Halloween day I had off, so after taking care of some morning chores, I grabbed my stuff and headed up to the river. It was about three hours before high tide, and the water was moving well. That was good, but we've always had better luck on an outgoing tide. Then again, this year, we hadn't. So what did I have to lose. I had an hour and a half to kill, the wind was light(er), so I donned my gear and hit the water.
I drifted in the channel, taking in the cool crisp Autumn day, and saw that I wasn't alone. A river otter was entering the channel where I was, and swam towards me, unfazed by my kayak. His nostrils snorted as he paddled, head held high; his white whiskers making him look far older than I'm sure he was. He dove, only to surface again, swimming at an angle still, towards me. Diving again, he resurfaced even closer. Then he swam under a dock and I didn't see him again. I figured he was hunting, and hoped he hadn't scared any fish. Oh well, it wasn't going to stop me from fishing.
|Seeing an otter while kayaking reminded me of when Parke and I were in a tandem kayak up in Little Tutka Bay in Alaska, and sea otters were swimming and playing all around us. It was a fond memory worth reliving. What a beautiful place.|
Whack! Fish on! This one fought harder, and it pulled me against the current. I smiled. They were back. I was back. After about a minute of enjoying the fight, I finally brought the fish to the surface and was pleased to see a very fat and healthy 22 incher. I put him on the stringer and admired both fish as they swam next to my kayak. Let's try for one more, and see if I can "upgrade" the smaller one.
|Okay, I could see them swimming.... but then again, I was wearing my polarized Costas.|
|There, that's better. Finally I had a couple of striped bass on my stringer. But could I get another, larger one???? Stay tuned. Oh yeah, I guess I've given it away with the title of this post. Oh well, keep reading.|
I fished for another half hour, paddling and drifting, casting and retrieving slowly, with no results. I heard the bald eagle family chirping somewhere behind me in the distance, but couldn't see them. I was enjoying the day. A snowy egret flew across the marsh towards me, and landed at the side of the channel within 50 feet of me. Usually skittish, the bird looked into the shallows for a meal. I couldn't believe that it landed so close to me, as herons and egrets usually take off when I get within a hundred yards. Suddenly it looked up, saw me, and took off. I guess it figured out I wasn't just a log floating along the creek, after all.
|"Oops, that wasn't an orange log floating along the channel. I'm outta here!"|
I admired him on my lap, then got the stringer and carefully attached it next to the two stripers. I got an upgrade, alright. And I didn't even have to throw one of them back! I admired the 19 inch trout swimming next to the two rocks, and knew it was a good day. But apparently I wasn't done catching "big" things to fry.
|The biggest speckled trout that we've caught in these waters was a beast to catch, a beauty to see, and would be delicious for dinner. I've never tried pecan encrusted speck before. Tonight I would.|
|A monster oyster was going to join the speck and rocks, to be part of a nice festive Halloween dinner with friends. It would be the appetizer. The oyster was almost enough for two.|
|Not a bad day at all, considering I was on the water less than 90 minutes.|
|It's not every day my kayak looks like this....|
Kayak safely back in my 4Runner, I skedaddled out of there, and made a quick stop to show off. A quick photo later and I went back home, and filleted these beauties.
|These poor buggers were the stripers' last meal. And the stripers would be my next meal.|
|The fish are ready to be "released" into a cast iron skillet, to be lightly sauteed.|
|Sitting by Clayton's "Angry Birds" pumpkin, Randy and I enjoyed a fine cigar to go with our delicious meal, and good conversation, as the kids went in and the rain began....|
Until next time,
There has been talk in the region and down to the OBX that this is the year of the Speckled Trout. Two years ago was definitely the year of the Puppy Drum. Last year was the year of the Striped Bass. So why not.... Well a few days later, I had the opportunity to fish the same tide -- it was just later in the day. I fished for an hour. No stripers. But I caught this baby: it fought like a mad bull. I was sure it was a rockfish, but was thrilled to see it wasn't.
|Two beautiful specks... And no stripers today. Oh well, I'm not complaining.|
Ok, I really need to end this post; but I just wanted to add that November is starting out very well. I went out today (Sunday) for a little more than an hour, and caught this 21" rock on my first pass through the "hot zone." Then I went and enjoyed eating him with Mike and Janie. Fish ON!
|Broiled with a little bit of Old Bay, garlic, basil, salt, pepper and then a squirt of lemon was all this guy needed to be absolutely delicious. Can't wait to get another....|
Okay, I've run out of ways to extend this post. Anyway, the trout are fighting to keep their title of "Year of the Speckled Trout". Bright and early this morning, I caught this 19 incher. It's been a good run....