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.


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