I've referenced his nickname, "Captain Tipsy". I think I've even promoted him to Admiral, because of the battleship-sized kayak he now commands. I tell the story of when we both first went hull up on a cold, January Saturday, many years ago, The Origin of Captain Tipsy....; but I never did explain what happened that earned Mike his nickname and original promotion. I haven't gone fishing in almost a week, and may not for at least a few more days,... so why not tell it now....
It was early on in my kayak fishing career, seven plus years ago, and I had just bought a new, short SOK (Sit-On-Kayak) for myself, to go along with the SINK (Sit-in-Kayak) I had gotten for Susan for her birthday earlier in the year. By the way, there's a reason I gave their acronyms here.... Keep reading....
It was a beautiful late summer weekend, and the family was enjoying a perfect day on the beach. We had gone all the way down to the Point at Buxton, and everyone was enjoying an idyllic beach day.
The Point at Buxton is one of the wonders of the East Coast, in my opinion. It is one of the most eastern places along the east coast, and consequently, is where the Gulf Stream that moves from South to North, and the Labrador Current, which moves from North to South, meet. This conjunction of currents, with the Barrier Islands that are the OBX, and the spit of land that is Cape Hatteras, make this spot one of the best places for fishing on the East Coast. (I would say the world, but I don't want more people there....) Due to the number of shipwrecks that have occurred here, it is also known as "the Graveyard of the Atlantic". Play foreboding music here.....
|The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is as much an image of the Outer Banks, as anything. You drive right by it on your way to the Point at Buxton.|
I took my family down there one day, and with everybody happy doing their own thing, I launched my kayak. I launched it from the southside of the Point, through the smaller waves, and started fishing once I was beyond the waves, in the quieter waters on the left side of the image above. When fishing open ocean waters like this, I don't use a stringer, I carry a net bag, and keep any keeper fish in the bag, on my lap. I've seen too many big sharks around here to "troll" for them....
While I'm jigging for fish, I'm catching taylor blue fish, some flounder, and even a spanish mackerel: but nothing that was a keeper yet. I carry light tackle, and only enough that I need on that trip, when I'm in the ocean. After all, one big wave, and you flip. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
So I cast my jig again, and I'm jigging, when all of the sudden something different takes it... something bigger. My kayak is getting pulled around, and this may have been my very first Nantucket Sleigh Ride I ever experienced kayak fishing. Whatever I was fighting was bigger than the blues, small flounder and spanish mackerel that I had been catching. I reeled, and let it run... reeled and let it run. Finally I saw the fish as it started coming towards the surface of the clear, green water. It was a shark. But this was no dogfish. This was a broad shouldered Sandbar Shark: a shark about 3 1/2 feet long, with real teeth -- something I was not prepared to handle on my kayak. I had no pliers to grab the jig. Shoot, I didn't even have a net.
|The Sandbar shark is a small but vicious shark to catch on your fishing rod -- even more so on light tackle. The one I caught was about 3 1/2 feet long, and fought like a baby Mako. At least it felt like that on the light tackle I had on my kayak.|
|Parke caught a small 3 foot Sandbar shark last year on Boys Weekend. He released it after this shot, to swim away safely.|
The shark was tired out, but I still wasn't going to grab it and bring it into my kayak to unhook it. With a mouth full of small razor blades, I didn't feel like losing a finger to him, and then bleeding like a stuck pig to attract a nine foot bull shark.... I was in a dilemma. I finally decided I would paddle back to shore and unhook him from the beach where I had more equipment. Besides, it might be cool to show the kids what I caught.
I headed back to the beach, and though there aren't big waves on the south side of the Point, there are waves. I had to be careful. Riding one small wave in, the shark had rested long enough and recovered its strength back from our battle. While I and the kayak went towards the beach, he decided to go the other way, and my line snapped. Oh well, I thought. Maybe that's best. He lived to see another day, and I had a heck of a story for everyone. It was a blast.
Later that afternoon, Mike called from Suffolk. They were coming down, and I told him to bring his kayak, and some light tackle. Boy did I have a story for him, and tomorrow I wanted to do it again, with him....
Sure enough, the next day our family headed south to Buxton and the Point again, and Mike and his family joined us.
He told me he had stopped at Red Drum Tackle Shop in Buxton, and spent close to $100 on a new rod and reel combo, and some gear. He was excited to use it. We got a small cooler with some beers, and carried that, too.
We carried our kayaks to the south side shore, and put them in the wash. The beer strapped to the bow of Mike's yak. I launched and paddled out. The tiny 1 foot high waves were easy to cut through on this side, as opposed to the 4 foot waves towards the east, and it was no problem. I quickly went beyond the small breakers and turned and watched Mike behind me. He got in his kayak and started paddling.
Now, I will never recommend a "Pelican" brand kayak, for one simple reason. They don't "track" well -- meaning, it is hard to keep one going in a straight line. Mike paddled, and was a little wobbly coming out. The rounded bottom of his Carolina blue Pelican didn't help that problem, either. The problem was, that he went off line a little, and was no longer bow forward towards the waves. Towards him came a giant tidal wave, a tsunami all the way from the south Pacific, and he was the USS Poseidon.
|Mike was about to make a sequel to the original Poseidon Adventure. And his remake of the movie has lasted a whole lot longer in story telling circles than this one ever did....|
There are a breed of fishermen who come to the Point of Hatteras to do one thing: fish for large "biter" sharks. They will go to the cleaning stations of the charter fleets, and get bloody tuna heads to use as bait, and fish for large sharks using these. They use heavy duty, shorter rods (maybe six feet long, like you use on a charter boat to catch marlin) and massive reels. The thick braided line is necessary, so that a shark of over 100 pounds won't break your line. Last year on our Boys Weekend, we saw one young man fight an 8 foot hammerhead shark for a long time, before the shark finally broke the line and swam off. Big sharks are all over the Point, and when bloody fish heads are in the water, there may be even more....
|Okay, the tuna heads the shark fishermen use may not be this big, but you can see how this bloody delicacy could attract a large shark, or 20....|
Mike quickly forgot about his gear, grabbed his kayak, and started paddling back to the shore. Meanwhile I was doing the most important thing I could do -- save the beer that was floating around and away from the cooler that had gotten separated from his yak. And I was trying not to laugh so hard that I fell off my kayak. He made it back to shore and thought about rejoining me, but the thrill was gone -- as was his gear.
I paddled in and joined him with the cooler and recovered beer. There was a look of both shock and relief on his face, as we cracked open a not-so-cold-anymore one, and toasted his survival of the ordeal. We decided to bag the kayaking, and went back to join the families... and fish from the shore for the rest of the day. I believe that was the first and last time Mike ever tried kayaking in the ocean, though he has kayaked in the sound and other inshore (i.e. waveless) waters....
I must admit, I am still amazed that the little wave tipped him, and I asked what happened, as we lounged in beach chairs with another cold beer. He just never got his center of balance and gravity, and it didn't take much to tip him over. And then, of course, once he had tipped, there was no way he could crawl back in to continue -- even if he did still have his gear. His $100 gear, that was now resting in Davey Jones' locker, never to be seen again, without ever having even been cast once....
As this event was within a year and a half of our previous tipping adventure together, I realized it was him -- not me -- that was the problem, so he earned his nickname; and I vowed to never again be with him on the same small boat, canoe or kayak. After all, "fool me once..."
A silver "Sharpee" pen later was used to name his kayak, and Mike has proudly kept the moniker ever since. Of course, now it is his son who is far more stable and balanced, who uses that kayak, while Mike upgraded to the large and more stable Sit On Kayak he now uses -- in calm waters. And, in Mike's defense, I don't think he has tipped again since. At least that he's confided to me. Actually the last time somebody tipped it was our buddy Jerry -- in my kayak, with my gear, dag gone him! But he's still a novice, so he's just Ensign Tipsy. And he did it in very shallow water where we were able to recover my rods, while laughing at him, too, much to his chagrin....
|Fishing rod floats like these, can save your equipment should you ever tip or drop a rod in the water. I use them now on my kayak fishing rods, though I have yet to have to have needed them.|
|Jerry sent me this image of his 18" speckled trout from Monday. His biggest yet in our stretch of the river, though he says he missed several more. He also finally got a large "battleship" type kayak, so that he couldn't tip again easily.|
P.S.: You knew I couldn't let Jerry catch a trout and me not try. So a few days later, I went out one evening; the weather was idyllic -- the first hints of the coming autumn in the air. The current was moving strongly, and swirls were everywhere. Jumping mullet were joined by shad, houndfish,... and trout. Before the 90 minutes of fishing was over, I had caught a nice fat 15" gray trout (weakfish) and a healthy 18" speckled trout. Tonight I'll be eating some delicious (and healthy) broiled trout. Yum.
|A perfect evening on the water... until the breeze died, and the gnats, flies and "no-see-ums" got to be too bad. But I was ready to go home by then, anyway. (Next time, I'll wear bug spray.) Fish ON!|