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

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Captain Tipsy: and Why We Buy Cheap Fishing Gear.

With the two year anniversary of my blog having recently past, I've had reason to look back and review some of my posts.  I've written some posts I'd forgotten about, quite frankly, and they're pretty good.  I also realized that I never told one story on my number one kayak fishing buddy, Mike.

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.....
This satellite image shows the Point of Hatteras Island, near the town of Buxton.  It's where the iconic lighthouse of Hatteras is located, and also happens to be one of the best places to surf fish on the East Coast.  You can see from this image, how the waters turn; and that attracts bait fish... and that attracts bigger fish....
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.
Recognizing that the sands are constantly shifting, this image more accurately portrays the  Point from a fishing standpoint:  The Atlantic Ocean, with its waves, pounds the East/North side, while the West/South side is quieter with smaller waves (but still good fishing).  By the way, when the drum or stripers are running, you want to be right at the point of the Point, itself... at the cross currents.  That is where the "conga line" style fishing occurs in the Spring and Fall.
Now that I've gotten you up to speed, let's continue with the story....

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.
Mike, years ago, before he bought his yellow battleship, sitting in his blue "Cap'n Tipsy" kayak on a later, happier occasion, on calmer, inshore waters.  Another view of a similar kayak, is the one of me fishing on the header of my blog.  His is identical to that SINK.
After parking our trucks together on the Point, and getting the wives and kids settled and happy, he and I decided to head out for some fishing.

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....
 Okay, we hadn't named his kayak yet, and the wave was only about a foot tall, like all the rest.  But for some reason, that was big enough....  Mike started to teeter... Then he overcorrected and went the other way, teetering some more, but even more.  One last overcorrection is all it took.  I watched in horror, fascination and humor, as Mike tipped past the point of no return, and suddenly had capsized, falling out of the kayak.  He tried to climb back in, and kicked to get back inside the yak, but again, flipped, this time the other way.  Meanwhile, the kayak filled up with more water each time he tipped over.  What he then quickly realized was that we were already in about a dozen feet of water or more, and he couldn't touch bottom.  He tried to flip over his kayak, to empty it, but unable to push off anything, he could get no leverage.  Meanwhile his kayak was filling up with more water.  He went underwater for a moment, to think about retrieving his gear, and that's when we saw them.  All around us were long, thick, yellow braided lines leading from the south shores, into the waters around us.  There were several of them leading to the shore, where several fishermen were now watching something far more entertaining than anything else going on at the moment.

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.
Speaking of Jerry, now that we're heading into the middle of September, we're entering the best three months of kayak fishing.  The larger trout are starting to move in our waters, as witnessed by Jerry last Monday.  The puppy drum are fat and happy -- there may yet even still be a keeper or two we may catch... and, as I mentioned before, we're less than a month away from the fall striped bass season.
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.  
 So to all of you anglers in the plastic navy, be safe, stay upright, and enjoy this finest season of kayak fishing we are entering.  Keep those bows perpendicular to the waves and wakes....  And until next time,

Fish On!


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!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Heading up to "Guinea-Bunkport" For the Labor Day Weekend Show....

First things first:  This past weekend marked the 2 year anniversary of "Angling Participles".  Happy Birthday to me.  And here's to many more good stories to post....  I've lost track of the number of countries, but I know it's at least 90 and counting, with Algeria and the French Island of Reunion being my two most recent that I've noticed.  And as the top 10 most read posts are pretty much the same as last year's, there's no need to restate them.   And total views by readers is in the 5 digits.  So I may not be Drudge Report or Huffington Post (to appease both my right wing and left wing readers), but they don't fish....

Okay, moving on.

"Guinea-Bunkport":  The stretch of beach along the mouth of the York River, that the Douglas Family dominates with their cottages.  A play on Kennebunkport, the city in Maine where President George H.W. Bush had a summer home that the whole Bush family would visit.  Similar to Hyannis Port, MA, home of the famous Kennedy Compound.  Mark came up with the term.  It's clever.  I'll grant him that.

Now, we can proceed.  But first, click this link to learn a little something about brother Jimmy Buffett, and listen to this wonderful, classic song.  Jimmy Buffett: Come Monday

I haven't gone away for Labor Day in years....  That's why I started this blog a couple years ago. I was home, with nothing to do, so why not?  I haven't even gone away for the last few Memorial Day or Independence Day Weekends, either.  So when I was finally given the opportunity to join my buddy Mark and his family at their cottage on the mouth of the York, I happily jumped at the chance.  But first, Friday night there was a football game.  And more importantly, there were cheerleaders.  And most importantly, there was one of the captains of the cheer squad.  And I had to go watch her....  I would join Mark and his family in the morning.
Are you ready for some cheering?!  Sheldon leading a cheer for the first football game of the year.
As the evening set, the game got better...  But the cheering was always great!  Yeah, I'm a proud dad.
The cheers were fun, led by their great captains.  The football team lost a heartbreaker.   Was glad that it's football season.  That means it's late summer.  And late summer is some of the best fishing....  Oh year.  Back to the story.
The next morning, bright and early I hit the road; but not before Mark texted me and told me to stop at Bass Pro (I was already going to) and get one of these... a popper.  This had now become the way to catch puppy drum and trout in the grassy flats near the shore of the cottage and off the pier.
Attach this popper about 3 feet above your light jig with a Gulp, and you have a  great way to attract puppy drum and trout.  They worked so well, I'm going to try one on the river where we kayak fish....
When I finally crossed the Coleman Bridge and then arrived in Guinea, I unloaded my truck just as everyone was coming home from one of the Douglas' family (in)famous breakfasts.  After the hugs, kisses and greetings, it was time to launch the boat.  Unfortunately, launching the boat on its trailer through the soft sand wasn't easy, and required all six of us at the house, but we got it done -- and got a good sweat in the process.  My comment to Mark was, "I hope that was the biggest workout I have this weekend."  He laughed, and agreed.

When the boat was loaded with fishing gear, we headed out for the shallows, inlets, and grassy shores near by.  Several small pups, a small speckled trout, and even a small striper were caught by us with our light rods and "poppers", but then it was time to cross the river to go flounder fishing.

All summer long, I have been asking Mark how the flounder fishing was where we go.  "There are none there," was his reply.  "They haven't arrived yet".  "Nobody's catching any", had been his responses.

Have you gone yet?  I asked.

"No.  My uncle goes there, and says they haven't caught any.  They're not there".

"Well, they're just waiting for me to show up."  I had been telling him, joking when we spoke.  We'll go when I come."  I was there.

We approached the pilings in the boat, and I got my rod ready.  Mark slowed the boat down, and as we came to a stop near the pilings, I cast my jig.  And waited.  The current was moving well.  I twitched my jig once.  Waited.  Twitched it again, and my rod stayed down.

"Dangit!"  I said, "I've got a snag."

Then I felt a head shake.  It was a fish.  A flounder, I could tell.

"Mark, get the f(iretr)ucking net!  This is a fish."  I kept reeling in, and then saw the green water turn brown as a doormat flounder came near the surface.  "Get the f(iretr)ucking net!"  Mark complied.

A minute later we were high-fiving, with a beautiful flounder meal awaiting us in the cooler.
This flounder was no fluke.  I knew I was going to catch him all summer long.  I just needed to get to the pilings and cast once.  Almost 24 inches long, it was bigger than the one I caught here last year.
One more photo of the biggest flounder I've caught in at least several years.  This "Doormat"  (or is it a "placemat", Janie?) was going to go very well with the fine Italian Pinot Grigio I brought -- specifically for him alone....  It was not all for naught.

"Mark, does your uncle love you?"  I asked.  "Because either he's been lying to you, or he doesn't know how to fish."

"Oh, he knows how to fish," he responded, defensively.  (All Douglas's fish and hunt very well.)  I looked at him, eyebrows raised.  The alternative wasn't any better in my opinion, I laughed.

"Well, he doesn't fish as close to the pilings as we are."

Okay, Mark.  (Smirk.)

We fished a while longer, and Mark caught a few fish... but oyster toads don't count, so no, he really didn't.  Of course, I caught one, too.  And mine was a "citation" toad....  Man they're nasty.  But Mark is still the oyster toad king.
Fortunately the 2 boats fishing near us, only saw us catch these guys... and not the large flounder that was safely in the cooler.  We finally had enough, and crossed the river back to the other side, back to the family.
As we came up to the 500' pier that the "3D" brothers have, everyone was on the end, sunbathing or under the canopy, or fishing, or enjoying a beverage.

"Goose," I said, "I think we need to buzz the tower".
"Okay, Mav", said Mark.  We had earned it.  I took the flounder out of the cooler, and we zoomed the boat by and up to the pier.  No coffee was spilled, but there were a lot of oohs and aahs at the fish.

Top Gun Fly By parody

We then popped for pups along the pilings there, catching a few more, and then joined everyone on the pier.

Saying my hellos to all the family, and a kiss for his mom, we then enjoyed a cold beverage or two, ourselves, while farther down the pier, some of the oysters that they had farmed now for more than a year, were being put to good use -- on the charcoal grill.  And they were delicious!  Especially with a little sharp cheese and sauce...
After eating more than my share of these delicious and surprisingly salty oysters, I'm the one that felt like a toad, or pig, at least.  
There was activity all up and down that pier.  Labrador Retrievers, golf carts, kids fishing, men fishing, girls sunbathing, women talking under the canopy.  It was a typical Douglas weekend on the river.  And when one of the little cousins caught a little pup "popping" his plug, I had to take a picture of him, of course.  Hayden outfishes most of the adults around there.
Proud of his fish?  You bet he is!  There was no shortage of small  pups around the docks and pilings... a very good sign of things to come in a couple years, hopefully, when these fish reach "keeper size", so we can blacken some.
Before we left the pier for the evening, however, I had to catch a bigger pup than Hayden.  So I did.  Just another inch or two, and this guy would have been legal to keep.  So close....  But not quite.
Red drum are a beautiful fish, shimmering with colors.  I can't wait until all these guys are 18-26" long, so we can keep  a couple to blacken.  YUM.  Especially with a nice Russian River Pinot Noir.  Now I'm drooling.
When evening finally came, we returned to the cottage, while his wife made a delicious seafood alfredo dish, with whole grain pasta.  It was tremendous.  And we drank my Russian River Pinot Noir with that.  The flounder would be for tomorrow night.

Then it was time for football.  The Alabama Crimson Tide v. Michigan Wolverines?  Well, we watched that for a minute, but the Tide was rolling the maize and blue, so we went to the game that mattered for Mark's family:  Clemson v. Auburn.  Their daughter goes to Clemson and was at the Georgia Dome watching the game.  The Orange and White was on everybody in the family as we sat down to watch the game.  And I'm realizing, it was coincidently on me, too, in the photo above.  (But by gametime I had changed into khaki shorts.  It was a happy evening when Clemson held on to beat the Tigers, or I honestly think I would have had to leave early....  Then it was off to bed.

The next morning, I had a light breakfast of scrambled eggs with a homemade bean salsa (delicious), and then was told, we were going to his mother's for breakfast.  There, it was a delicious meal for those not concerned about their weight.  French toast so sweet that you dare not add syrup, and bacon and sausage so abundant, I think they counted on three pieces for each of the 20 that were there.  I knew I wasn't going to eat again until dinner.

So we loaded up the boat and hit the water again.  Once again, we caught a lot of small fish, but there was something different today,

As we rode along the river, we could see a change in the water... a red tide had come into the river.  That's never good, as it chases the fish away, or they die.
It wasn't Alabama's Crimson Tide that had just steamrolled the University of Michigan, that rolled up and into the York River....
But it was a red tide... an algae bloom that sucks the life out of the river.  Fish swim away, or they die.  And the tide went to the flounder fishery.... Dang it.
We drove the boat all over, looking for moving currents, green water, and "holes", but we caught nothing but more small pups.  (I'm not complaining, mind you, for reasons I've already stated, but we were hoping for more flounder to accompany the one we had.)

When we finally called it a day, we returned to the cottage.  We could only hope that the tides and current would wash the red tide away before tomorrow's fishing.

Time to enjoy another bottle of wine and prepare the flounder!  But first we sat on the deck, enjoying a nice glass of wine, while watching a thunderstorm roll down the York... Very peaceful.

How to prepare that fish:  Fried?  Heck no!  Not this beauty!  He's too big to justify frying.  So Mark sprinkled some paprika and red cayenne, a little garlic, lemon slices, and we put the fillets on the broiler pan coated with olive oil, and broiled that baby.  With salad and a little left over pasta, the Pinot Grigio, and all I can say was YUM.  It was worth the wait.

A night of good conversation ensued, while more rain fell softly, and we went to bed by 11.

The next day, it was more of the same.  Fortunately, the rain had moved on, for now, however.  We took the boat out and about, but unfortunately, the red tide was still here, there, and everywhere we went.  We'd caught enough small pups to hold us for a while, so we finally called it quits and went back to the cottage.  I got out to drive his truck over to the ramp to bring the boat in.  We did, and then it was time to clean.  And clean we did!  Boat, motor, house, laundry -- and of course, ALL of our fishing equipment.  That cottage and everything else was spotless by the time we left.

I was getting ready to leave, however, when I felt bad for Mark.  Once again, I had out fished him.  I caught the big flounder, and the biggest (albeit, still not legal) puppy drum of the weekend... and he was in danger of becoming just a good boat captain.  A familiar face whom you recognize on the street, but don't know from where... in fishing circles....  Kind of like one of those "That Guy" actors, like Hank Azaria.  Where somebody points him out, and you go, "Oh yeah, I know him... what'd he do?"  Just not the lead character who is the hero of the day, by catching the food for the tribe....

 I'm sure Mark will recover.  He always does....

After saying my goodbyes, it was time to hit the road.  First day of school was tomorrow, and I had to get home to get things ready for that.  But I wondered when I'd be returning here again.  It's always peaceful, and the fishing (at least for me, ha ha) is always fun and productive.  It wouldn't be anytime too soon, however.  I knew that.  Football games and obligations would keep the Douglas' away for a while, and I had obligations as well.  And this being the peak of Hurricane Season, you never know what's going to happen on the East Coast that will affect the fishing -- let alone, wreak havoc.  Sure enough, Tropical Storms Leslie and Michael had both formed....  Here's to hoping they cause no damage.

Until next time, whenever that may be...

Fish ON!

P.S.  I'm sure by now you're wondering what Hank Azaria looks like.  He's this "That guy".
Voices on "the Simpsons" and countless movie/t.v. appearances, Hank Azaria is one of the quintessential "That Guy" actors, in my opinion.  He probably is a better fisherman than Mark, though.  But definitely NOT a better boat captain...
I love you, Mark!  Just kidding....  (Please invite me again....  Pretty please.... I'll hand over my fishing rod to you, if I catch another big fish....)