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

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Of Trucks, Trains, Transportation, Trout, "Trolling" and ... Tacos??

Yesterday I finally had the opportunity to go out kayak fishing with Jerry around the Western Freeway Bridge over the Elizabeth River between Portsmouth and Norfolk.  We've wanted to get out there for more than a month now, but tides, timing and weather have not been in our favor until yesterday.  I wanted a high tide early in the morning, so that we could fish the outgoing tide.  I also wanted to get out there early, because this is a major stretch of water for Hampton Roads, and is used frequently by both commercial ships, as well as recreational boaters.  Marine terminals, such as that for A.P. Maersk nearby, can be very busy when ships are loading/unloading cargo to be delivered by trucks and trains to cities around the country.  I wanted to be fishing this "big water" when it was quiet... not when I would have to worry about ships and boat wakes threatening to tip me over.  And noise and high sun also don't help the fishing.

I got to Jerry's a little after 7 a.m., and Mr. "I-Want-To-Leave-Early-Because-I-Have-Things-To-Do-Later" hadn't even finished loading his kayak and fishing gear on his truck.  AND, he still had to go online and update/buy a new Virginia fishing license.  So, it was 8 a.m. before we finally launched from a client's house who lives 15 minutes away from Jerry.

Compared to the "skinny" shallow water I'm used to fishing, this water was much wider and deeper -- okay for Jerry with his 12' Field & Stream Sit-On, but had there been waves, my 10' Sit-In kayak can get swamped more easily. Especially because this is a major commercial highway for marine traffic. Fortunately the winds were calm, and the boat traffic was light.

We paddled downstream toward the bridge, and saw the channel I wanted to fish.  But first, as a boat sped by, I told Jerry if one of us was tipped that the other should gather whatever gear he could, while the tipper stayed with his kayak.

With heavier jig heads to reach the bottom, we fished the pilings and bulwarks along the shore and bridge -- hoping to catch a flounder or two.  Nothing.  The current was starting to move along a little stronger, so we drifted  and paddled down further to an area I had heard that was good for speckled trout.
The Western Freeway connects North Suffolk, Portsmouth and Norfolk together.  This section of the Elizabeth River here  is surrounded by commercial businesses of all sizes -- including A P Maersk.  The first channel we fished is visible in this shot, as the main opening under the bridge.  Not visible is the beautiful neighborhood from which we launched -- basically directly under where this shot was taken.  The area we fished for trout was off to the left of this shot.
When we arrived to the section I had heard about, a father and two sons were already fishing nearby in a boat.  I watched them catch a couple of small fish before they moved on.  Meanwhile Jerry and I still hadn't caught squat.  We each tried different areas around the point we were near, and I noticed another boat had pulled up and was fishing near a line of crabpots.  Knowing that crabbers often put their pots near a channel, I paddled over within a hundred yards of the boater.  But unlike him (he was fishing for trout by casting down current, and twitching his lure back up toward him, I cast up current, and did my normal "trout" retrieve -- slow, with twitching.

A hit.  Fish on.  I brought it in and was pleased to see a 13" speckled trout.  I carefully tried to show Jerry, who was too far away to see, and then gently released the fish back into the water.  I cast again, and almost immediately was rewarded with another strike.  This time I brought in a beautiful, fat 16 incher.  I put him on my stringer, and finally got Jerry's attention.  I signaled for him to come over to me, and told him to use his lighter jig head with the soft shad tail like I was using.  Meanwhile the boater pulled away, frustrated at no signs of fish.

No sooner did Jerry come over and do as I say, when I'm rewarded with another 16 incher.  On my stringer he went, as I noticed yet another boat pull up near the point.  This one had a guy and girl, both about 25 or so, with rods and "popping corks".  Both were in bathing suits, and Jerry made the comment to me, "There's the perfect woman."

"What do you mean," I asked.

"She looks good in a bikini and loves to fish."

We both laughed.  Then we watched her get her line hung up and snagged.  Well, maybe she had a little more to learn before she was perfect.  But she was still young.  The guy caught a small trout, then helped her.

Meanwhile, Jerry was finally getting strikes, but unable to convert to a catch.  As I caught two more "shorties" that I released, the couple finally pulled away.

Another father and son pulled up, and started fishing nearby.  I cast, let my rod set for a moment, then felt a tug.  I was rewarded with a short puppy drum with 6 spots.  My first one of the season, and I gently released him, hoping to catch him again in a couple years when he would be good eating size.

I saw Jerry's rod go down, and watched him fight a nice fish.  He netted a beautiful 18" speck, and finally had something on his stringer.  I hooked a small croaker, and then just like that, the fishing died.

The clouds were starting to build around us, and the wind picked up a bit, so we decided to start working our way back.  Between the wind in our face, and the strong current, we were definitely getting a work out.

I did tell Jerry I was a little nervous about towing a couple of fish from my kayak in "bigger water".  

"Why", he asked.

"This is why,"  I answered.
This classic picture is real, not photo shopped.  It's why I don't have a "yum yum" yellow kayak... like Jerry.
Or, more recently (like last weekend)...
This 12-14' Great White trailed a "first time kayaker" off the Massachusetts shore last weekend.   The question is, was it also his last time?
Typically when I kayak fish in the ocean, I don't keep my fish on a stringer, as I feel like I'm trolling for sharks.  I carry a net bag, and keep the fish I catch in that.  Because you just never know when this might happen to a fish that you've caught....
Big A$$ Shark Takes Girl's Fish

And we all know that bull sharks love to swim up rivers, and are a deadly man eater....  I certainly don't want a shark to think I'm ringing the dinner bell for any reason, by trolling or --even worse -- being mistaken for being the meal.  Ha ha.

An hour or so later when we finally and safely made it back to the launch, we were spent.  Jerry got out of his kayak on the boat slip, and he was soaking wet and fatigued.  

"Did you get wet from the waves, or is that sweat?" I asked.

"Sweat", he responded.  I laughed.  But I wasn't too much dryer.

He got up and I told him to hold up his fish for a picture.
A sweaty, exhausted, but happy Jerry, as he held up his 18" speck.
"Dude," I said, "That is not how you hold a fish.  Do it my way," I kidded.
Jerry holding his fish closer to the camera to make it look bigger.  It didn't help too much, but it was a nice fat fish anyway.
I docked, got my stuff on the slip. and then we faced the unenviable task of carrying our kayaks all the way back to our trucks.  With jello arms, no less.  We lugged our kayaks back to our trucks, (taking several breaks this time) and called it a day.  I was exhausted, but was also looking forward to dinner, as Jerry was kind enough to give his fish to me, since he had other plans.

Having had "carnitas" at Randy's the night before, I looked at all the leftover fixings they had had, and told them tomorrow night I would make fish tacos with whatever I caught, and we would use up the rest of their sides.  I went online and found a Bobby Flay recipe that called for a "white flaky fish", and decided to go with that.  I used his recipe as a guide, but must confess I didn't stick to it all the way.  Having said that, the basics were his.
The 6 beautiful trout fillets marinading in lime juice, canola oil, chili pepper, cilantro, and chopped jalapenos, right before I quickly pan-seared them in my cast iron skillet.  Then we laid a fillet in a flour tortilla, and built our tacos from there.  They were outstanding!
Randy and Kim brought over two nice chardonnays, and we had an enjoyable evening with great food and conversation.  It was a good day, and I fell asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow.

Having said that, today, as I write this, I must confess my shoulders and upper arms have never been more sore.  I feel as if I spent two hours yesterday, doing nothing but bench press 100 pounds again and again and again.  Still, I can't wait to go back and do it again.  Especially because I've heard that there are citation sized speckled trout there, yet to be had....

Until next time,

Fish ON!



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