And he said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men." Matthew 4:19

Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Look Back at 2011

It's New Year's Eve, so with the year coming to a close, I figured it was time to have a look back at some of this year's fishing highlights, as I certainly did have a memorable year from a fishing standpoint.  So let's go down down Memory Lane (or River) together, shall we?

First, some appropriate accompanying music, of course:
Auld Lang Syne

It started out in February, when I was invited last minute, to be part of a fishing charter for striped bass, out of Virginia Beach.  A long day ended with me catching the biggest fish on the boat -- a beautiful citation cow, 42 pounds (44 when it was still fresh).  A hell of a fight that gave me something to remember for a long time.  And over 20 pounds of beautiful fillets provided delicious dinners for a while.  My freezer was happy, because I love rockfish!  The year had started off great!

There was no way I was going to let the deckhand clean my fish!  I wanted to show it off at home, first!  Biggest  fish I've ever caught.  A nice way to start the angling year.
When springtime finally came, it was time to hit the upper river for kayak fishing again.  Usually the time for bowfin, bass and catfish, it's a nice way to "break back in" to fishing after a long, cold winter.  But gizzard shad were all I caught this spring, so no photos of anything worth posting here.  As always, however, it was nice just to be back on the water after not being able to for several months.  Early spring is a great time for fishing the lake, here, too.  And that provides easy opportunities to go fishing with Clayton -- something we both enjoy on a cool, spring evening.  Even if he did throw goose poop at me.

The only new thing worthy of note that occurred, was in May when I drove to nearby Smithfield, and took advantage of their "new" kayak launch on the Pagan River.  A day without catching any fish was still memorable, for the beauty and scenery of the area.  I need to go back there again, this next spring, and more often.
Easy to get in and out, the Pagan River kayak launch makes kayaking easy for everyone.  Now I just have to learn the river, and where the fish are....
June brought the opportunity to go to upstate New York --- the Finger Lakes region, outside Ithaca on Cayuga Lake.  So I took Parke and Sheldon up for a short week/long weekend, where we got to relive old, favorite memories from years ago, and fish all the time.  We had a blast, and had some priceless quality time together.  Hopefully we can go again, this year, too.  Parke was the fisherman of the week, and we certainly caught enough yellow perch to feed the family, but there were enough other fish to add excitement to the trip, too -- including attempts at large trout and pike....  Maybe next time.
Parke and Ted with a stringer of fish from an afternoon of rowing around the lake shore.  I took my kayak up there, and thoroughly enjoyed kayak fishing, too.  I will always take my kayak from now on....  It's such a beautiful area.
Fishing the lakes around Suffolk didn't prove very fruitful for me, but Parke certainly had his share of success, catching a personal best 6.5 lb. largemouth from his kayak, in addition to several others up to 5 lbs., and a couple of small stripers, too.  No photos posted here, however, because I wasn't with him for those....  (Maybe that will give him motivation to go with me more often.)

Summertime means hot and humid around here.  And this summer was no exception.  Unfortunately, it also meant no puppy drum this year.  We've had a couple of harsh winters that probably killed off a lot of the juveniles that stay in the waters here where we fish, so hopefully they'll recover in time for 2012.  Still, there were plenty of nice croaker to be caught, and we kept several stringers of 6 or so, to give to my father-in-law, if nothing else.  And it is always beautiful to be on the water at dusk, especially with loved ones....
Even a "bad day of fishing" is beautiful and memorable when the conditions are like this.
The 4th of July Weekend gave me the opportunity to go to Mark's cottage on the mouth of the York River, and while I took my kayak and caught some croaker and such from it, the best fish were the flounder we caught in Mark's john boat.  My personal best for the year, was a nice fat 22" summer flounder.  Interestingly enough, Mark caught an 18" winter flounder.  So we ate well that night.
Summer flounder or winter, we caught them both around July 4th Weekend.
August brought the opportunity for my 30th high school reunion, and while it didn't involve fishing, it did involve going back home to upstate Delaware, and reliving days of my youth -- including fishing with Joel.  Perhaps one of our better days fishing when we were growing up involved catching several largemouth we were encouraged to keep, due to overpopulation in the pond we fished.  And yes, Joel did look like a young Bruce Springsteen way back when.
Summer before our Senior year in high school proved to be a great time to fish with Joel.  Many fond memories of those times came back to me this August.
After the kids were back in school and settled in to their routine, I had the opportunity with Mike to go up to Fenwick Island with Ted, for a nice weekend of fishing the Delaware shore.  It had been years since I'd done so, so it was neat to get back there for the first time in decades.  While the fishing wasn't anything spectacular, it was a beautiful October weekend highlighted by all the small taylor blues you could want.
The iconic photo from our "mini" Boys Weekend up in Delaware.  Mike with a "monster blue".  Gotta love the tongue wag.
As autumn was in full swing now, it was officially striped bass season, and the speckled trout were also in the local waters in force.  While the stripers weren't in thick the way they had been in years past, I've never caught so many larger specks pushing 20 inches, as I did during a few weeks in the middle of Autumn.  Perhaps no day was better than this day, when I caught three beautiful keeper fish, and a monster oyster, to boot.
There aren't too many times I can say I limited out on Striper, while also catching a beautiful  19+" speckled trout.  But for a couple of weeks I was catching either or both.
Of course, once November came, it was time to get ready for our 25th Boys' Weekend.  Eight of us were able to go, including Joel all the way from Alaska, and wouldn't you know it, the fish really didn't cooperate the way we would have liked.  Still, it's not for the fish that we go and do this every year.  And we all had a blast -- and we certainly ate and drank well, thanks to Jeff and Mark.  But the weekend wasn't a total bust, fishing-wise, as I caught a new personal best drum, a 33"er that was as fat as any I've seen.  That, and plenty of taylor blues down on the Point made the weekend a fun one, too.
A personal best drum was the first fish I caught with my new surf rod I had just gotten.  Not a bad way to break in a new  rod, if I must say.  I hope there are plenty more -- and bigger, too....
Of course after Boys' Weekend was over, I had the opportunity to go back out kayak fishing (without Ted, Joel, or even Mike), and what happens?  But I caught the biggest striper I've caught this year in my kayak.  (I've caught larger in my kayak, just not this year.)  A fat and healthy 27.25" fish was 9 lbs., 5 oz., and was a delicious entree for a post Thanksgiving meal.

Less than an inch longer, and I would have had to throw this bad boy back, due to the unusual limits and restrictions that exist for striped bass here in the fall/winter season.  Still, I'm not complaining.  I love these fish, and am thrilled they are plentiful with healthy populations again.

In December, the opportunities to go fishing were fewer and farther between, and the fish seemed to be fewer, too.  But I did catch a few more gizzard shad (yuck), while Mike hooked into a nice fat 24" rockfish late one morning.
Mike's rockfish, caught on a yellow perch "storm" lure.  Go figure.
Then the channel seems to have "dried up", at least as far as the fish were concerned.  So on the second to last day of the year, Jerry and I launched from Bennett's Creek Restaurant, and explored that section of Bennett's Creek, all the way out to the Route 17 Bridge over the Nansemond.  No fish were caught, but it was a nice, long paddle that I had been wanting to do -- and anticipate doing again when I know the fishing would be better.  A couple of highlights were the great number of bufflehead ducks we saw, as well as an eagle soaring high above us.  It was a beautiful afternoon, and a good workout, regardless of the (lack of) fishing.
Jerry out at the mouth of Bennett's Creek.  If the equipment looks familiar, it should.  The only thing he's using that's his, are the fishing rods.  Everything else is borrowed.  Time to get your own kayak, Jerry....
Coming back into Bennett's Creek.  No fish on my stringer, but a fun ride, none-the-less.  Glad to have finally done it.
This morning, Mike and I gave it one more valiant effort to see if there was anything going on in our channel; but alas, the water was too cold, and so after less than an hour, we called it a day -- a season -- and a year.  A few oysters for a New Year's Eve appetizer made the trip worthwhile, but I must admit as I paddled around one last time, I realized it would be Springtime before I got in my kayak again, and took a moment just to take it all in, and enjoy being out on the water.

We have yet to have any snow, so far, so maybe that's a good sign for the recovering puppy drum in the area.  And while the fall Striper season wasn't as good as I could have hoped, I still caught my share, so I can't complain.

So 2011 comes to a close; and 2012 promises new beginnings.  I'm sure there will be more fishing posts; and perhaps now that the winter is upon us, I will have time to continue my grandfather's story that I began last winter.  That's just one of my goals for the new year.

I wish you joy and prosperity in 2012.  May you find happiness, love and peace every day, and may you have more than your share of opportunities to yell,

"Fish ON!"

Thanks for reading.  God Bless, and see you next time, next year.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My Grown Up Fishing Christmas Wish List (And My E-Card to All My Fishing Buds)

This is what Santa does starting December 26th.  Can't say I've ever given ice fishing a shot.   It's not cold enough around here.  And I like my fireplace when it is....  Oh well, on to the Blog Post.
As we are here at the Winter Solstice, in the last few days before Christmas, I have been reflecting on the year, and all of my friends and loved ones that I fish with from the Spring time through December.  Since I don't have all the money in the world, I've decided I would give them "virtual gifts", through my blog post, so without any further ado, here are my special gifts for the special people I fish with during the year.  I love you all, and here is to an even better, more successful 2012!  Regardless, my Christmas shopping is done!  And I don't need to wrap any of these....

This is why I like my kayak.  It's never too crowded.  Merry Christmas to all my Fishing Friends and Family! 

But first, before we get started, let me give you a link to listen to while you read the rest of this post:

My Grown Up Christmas List

(Please ignore the typos if you watch the beginning of the youtube video.  You're supposed to be reading the blog, anyway.)

On to my Wish Gift List.

To Mike:
Mike, with his first (and so far, only) rockfish of the fall -- a beautiful, fat 24"'er.  Caught on a "storm" lure.
     Mike is the best friend with whom I fish the most.  Kayak fishing, fresh water fishing, surf fishing, whatever.  Chances are fairly high, if I'm fishing, then Mike is with me.  He's been a great friend for over 25 years, and he is a competent fisherman in his own right.  He has a NC Citation for red drum, and is perhaps the guy who is the subject of more of my blog posts than anyone.  (Good thing he has thick skin and doesn't take too much seriously.)  His Christmas present is a pair of chest waders with lifts in them (or heels), and a trip this spring up into the mountains for some trout fishing.  We are way over due to do that again, my friend.  (By the way, how does it feel to officially be the shortest person in your family, now that even the kids are taller than you?  Damn those growth spurts.  I love you, man.)

To Mark:
I couldn't find any photos of Mark with a decent fish this year (zing, ouch!) so here's one of him with his favorite beverage.)
     Mark is the guy with whom I have fished for about 30 years.  Fraternity brother and dear friend, the only thing bigger than his gut is his ego -- and his heart.  In all fairness, I must state that Mark also has earned citations in fishing, too, and prides himself as being quite accomplished.   (May I point out, however, that he has been skunked the last two Boys' Weekends, and even three BW's ago, didn't catch any fish until Sunday.)  His Christmas present is a BW that is actually 3 days long -- without any other (hunting) obligations going on.  And a boat motor that actually works for your Grady White.  (Maybe then, Mark, you have a chance at catching a fish or two.  I did outfish you this year.  Oyster toads don't count.)  Heck, I'll even throw in some fishing lessons....  (That'll go over well.)   And you can come trout fishing with Mike and me, too.

To Joel:
Dr. Birdman, Joel is our resident ornithologist, so this photo seemed appropriate for him.
     Joel is my friend with whom I have fished the longest.  My best friend growing up, we've been fishing together for about 40 years, and some of my best and favorite memories are of fishing with him.  Having not shaved since his junior year in high school, and not needing a haircut since his early 30's, (yes, he's bearded and bald now), he lives in Alaska -- the fishing paradise -- and just needs to have more excuses to go fishing for salmon, halibut, cod, trout, whatever.  His Christmas present is a week with all of us up there visiting him on the Kenai Peninsula, so that he can go fishing with us for these wonderful fish.  (That may not be a present for his wife, but oh well....  You can't please everybody.  Besides, he doesn't want Rogaine.)

To Ted:
I could have used the photo of you with the nice smallmouth you caught; but being that I wasn't with you when you caught that, I figured this photo was more appropriate....
     Ted is my brother, so there's nobody with whom I've fished longer -- ever since I picked up a rod.  In fact, it was Ted who first got me into fishing when I was very young.  I've had the pleasure of spending more time with him this year than any time since we were growing up.  Fishing together in upstate New York, the Delaware shore, and the OBX, it has been a real pleasure and treat to have had this extra time with you.  My present to you, is that we are able to do this every year, from this point forward -- and, if it looks like we are going to do a "trout fishing" weekend in the spring, you come down for that, too.

To Parke:
Not a big, impressive fish, until you realize that was your first fresh water striper.  And it impressed me.
     My older son.  I don't get to spend as much time with you as I used to, but the time we spend fishing, I cherish.  Whether it is upstate New York, the OBX, or the lakes and rivers around here, I absolutely love being with you, and sharing moments together fishing.  You have been with me during some of my coolest fishing moments (like when I caught that 31" drum in my kayak), and it is so neat, now that I no longer need to "tend to you" when we're fishing (like when you were two years old, catching 4 lb. bass).  You are fully capable on your own, now, and it is neat to see the young man you are becoming.  My present to you, is more quality time.  That we both make the effort to continue a tradition between Father and Son, that will go on for generations....  Even Father, Son, ... and Grandson?  (One day.  I'm not in that much of a hurry for that.  Take your time, still, and finish that education.  Then you can worry about finding the right girl.)

To Sheldon:
You caught the biggest perch up on Cayuga, beginning with this one.  And when it was raining,  it was you and Uncle Ted, determined to keep fishing, regardless of the conditions.
     My daughter.  I didn't get to fish with you that often this year.  Part of that is because you are a 15 year old caught up in all that teen-aged girls do, I get that.  But if there is one thing I know about you, is that I don't care how "girly-girl" you appear on the outside, there is that fishergirl side of you that loves the feel of a fishing rod when a nice fish is pulling on the other side.  Camouflage and pink go together with you, as do perfume and fish guts.  And I mean that as a compliment.  Your present, in addition to more quality time, is a prayer that you always have the love of nature and God's creation, that you have for all things "designer label".  After all, HE is the ultimate "Designer", and his works are the most beautiful of all.  You are my favorite daughter, you know.

To Clayton:
The simple joys of even catching smaller fish, are never lost  with Clayton.  You may not want to touch the fish, but you have no problem picking up goosepoop and throwing that at me.  Go figure.
     My special son:  You have taught me so much.  And when we go fishing down by the lake, the joy that you exude when you catch a fish (even if you won't touch it), or see a swan, or turtle, or any other animal, makes me remember the child-like wonder that I used to have.  And helps me regain it again, at least for a little while.  My gift to you would be that you maintain that innocence and joy of life, while gaining more independence in your life -- that you may experience more in this life.  I will always be here for you, and I love you for who you are.  Never forget that.

To Randy:
Inside our igloo we made last winter.  Another year will not pass without us fishing together, again.  I promise.
To my best friend, with whom I did NOT go fishing this year:  Part of that is my fault, I know.  But my wish for this next year, is that you are able to get away and fish.  Maybe in the spring for trout, maybe in the summer for puppy drum -- and definitely in the fall for BW!  It has been too long, and you are too good a friend to not enjoy being near the water with.  I love you, man, and I appreciate all that you do!

To Jerry:
An "action shot" of Jerry:  which was quite rare this past BW.  Unless by action, you meant sleeping, lounging or napping.
 Jerry, my gift to you, God willing, is that you get sick and tired of seeing me.  We need to fish more, together; you need to get your own #@$%&^*+ kayak!  And maybe, just maybe, I'll see you during the week, too.  'Nuff said.

This photo seemed appropriate, because I never see you during the year!
Jeff, dude.  You live five miles away from me, maybe, and I only see you on Boys' Weekend!  That's just wrong!  My wish for you is more freedom in 2012, where we can enjoy each other, and you're not just cooking.  (Though I'm never going to complain about your cooking, or food preparation.  You are the best!)  But seriously, dude.  I miss you, man.

And lastly, to Jeff J., Johnny, Frank, Dennis,Michael D., and all the other people I enjoy fishing with through the years, and didn't get the chance to this year, my wish for next year, is more quality time fishing, and enjoying your presence, with each and every one of you.  May you have a blessed and joyous Christmas, and may 2012 be a great, wonderful, and prosperous year for us all!  Until next time, for each and every one of you....  May you all say,

"Fish ON!"