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

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Buzzards, New Fishing Buddies, Channel Bass and Beer

I've been emailing back and forth with a friend (the father of one of my daughter's best friends) for a long time about "getting together and kayak fishing one evening".  Between our schedules and responsibilities it was easier said than done.  But this past week, we were finally able to coordinate a free evening together, in conjunction with a perfect evening, weather-wise.

He lives on the James River near the James River Bridge, so I was excited as this was a new stretch of water for me to try.
The James River Bridge.  

We met right after work and the first thing I noticed were a dozen turkey buzzards all sunning themselves on the beach in the late afternoon sun.  Is that a good sign or not, I wondered to myself....

"What is this, Buzzard Beach? I asked?"
Not the most beautiful bird on the planet, the Turkey Vulture does have an important clean up job.  Whether on the streets, in the woods or on the beach in this case, they pick a carcass clean quite quickly.  And the reason they have no feathers on their head is so that they can stick their head inside a carcass without worrying about getting extra messy or stuck.  There really is a purpose for everything....

I should have known better.  As we walked down to the shore, I saw the fish carcasses from his previous ventures.  The buzzards were simply cleaning up after him.  He was hoping the resident bald eagles would come clean up, but the buzzards beat them to it.  No sooner than he said that, however, when a majestic mature eagle flew right by, seeing that there was nothing but bones....  It flew on.

We prepared for launch, and the first thing I noticed was that my friend had the Hobie Mirage fishing kayak -- the Rolls Royce of kayaks, in my opinion.  It has the wonderful advantage of allowing the user to pedal instead of paddling -- or sometimes, in addition to paddling, for extra speed....
With a seat that rivals my La-Z-Boy recliner, and enough cargo space to carry equipment for a family, the Hobie is the "Aircraft Carrier" of kayaks -- compared to my little orange "Destroyer"....
It's an impressive yak, and he had it rigged perfectly for holding several rods, as well as having room for his equipment, and a cooler of cold drinks.

We launched and paddled (or pedaled) down river towards his "spot".  Enjoying the evening on the glassy river, we talked and took it all in.  It was an incoming tide, and we could already see the swirls of puppy drum coming in to feed.  My hopes were rising....

When we finally arrived at his spot, it indeed looked ideal.  A "cut through" where the water flowed through the grassy shoreline to a break in the river.  A place where predator fish would just lie in wait for bait to come by with the current.  We cast a few times, and sure enough, all of the sudden he had a fish.  A couple minutes later he brought in a fat healthy 20" red.  A couple minutes after that, I felt the tap of a hit and pulled one in, myself.  Then he caught another.  Then I caught another.  We'd already caught 4 fish (which was about what his spot was good for, he said) and hadn't even tried too hard yet.

Pausing for a drink, I asked if he'd had success further down river.  We can try, he said.  So another 5 minute paddle and I came to a spot where the grassy shore stuck out a bit.  I could see a red waiting there, I thought.  I cast.  And BAM, sure enough, I pulled in another, to the laughter and joy of my friend.  He then admitted he'd never had luck there, so was encouraged to see they were there as well.  Just then we saw another red jump about 100 yards further down, right by the shore.  I paddled over to the area and looked back.  It was a beautiful evening sky, I realized, so I paused, cast my rod and got out my camera phone for a photo.
I paused to take this shot of the evening sky and river.  That's the Aircraft Carrier, USS Hobie, on the right.
 No sooner do I take the shot, however, when I see my rod bending.  The pup had seen my jig, and taken it.  I now had my 4th pup of the evening.  My friend continued his laughing with joy, as again, as he was impressed I had caught the one we saw jump.  I released it, to go jump some more.


The colors of the 3 reds I kept, were stunning in the setting sun....
But not before my buddy pedaled over for a shot.
My 4th pup of the evening was identical to the other 3:  a healthy 3 year old 20" fish.  But this guy will get the chance to see 4 years old -- and hopefully be caught again, when he's 24" long next year....

As the sun was getting low, we paddled back to the "spot", which he said should be good for "one more fish now".  Along the way I cast again, and hooked a 12" flounder.  More laughter from us both, as I released the small flattie to grow up.  My friend said in addition to the reds and small flounder, this is a great spot for trout and striper, too, when the season is right.  I believed it.

What a beautiful, stunning sky, to highlight a perfect evening, I thought....
 We arrived at the spot, and I cast into the hole one last time, only to feel the tap of another hit.  Number 5 was on the line, to more laughter from us both.
My 5th pup will also get the chance to see his 4th birthday, as he also got released to grow some more....
 The sun had set, so we paddled back to shore in the dusk, enjoying the swirls of fish and baitfish all around us.  I could see the full advantage of his Hobie, as he was enjoying a beer while he pedaled, and I was stuck paddling....  A definite plus to the Mirage.


When we got back to his beach, we put away our equipment, I threw my kayak in the back of my truck and then we went up to his kitchen to clean the fish.  The stomach of each pup was full of fiddler crabs.  These fish had been feasting on the plentiful crabs that dotted the shoreline everywhere.
The male fiddler crab has a large, very intimidating claw that he waves on the shore line, to attract a mate and discourage other males.  The sad truth for the crab, however, is that it is all show, and not a weapon at all....  I guess for a female crab, however, bigger is better after all....
After putting the fillets in a ziploc bag, I put the carcasses in a bucket, took them down to the beach where I tossed them so that the buzzards and eagles would have breakfast the next day, as well.  Then we sat on his deck and enjoyed a nice cigar and a good beer.  I had brought him one of my homemade beers, and it really seemed appropriate for him to enjoy on this hot, productive evening of kayak fishing for puppy drum.
My son and I had made this beer early in the summer

The label really seemed appropriate after a wonderful evening of fishing for pups on a warm, sunny evening....
When it was finally time to call it a night and go home, we both vowed to do it again.  It was truly a wonderful evening, and I told him I was spoiled.  I would expect every trip to be just as beautiful and productive as tonight had been....  He laughed again.

And now that it's Striper Season, we just need some cooler weather to bring in some schools of my favorite pinstriped pals.  Until then, however, I'll happily keep catching the one-spot wonders on the James....

Until next time,

Fish ON!

P.S.  I ate some of the pups last night with some friends.  Tried a new recipe which including baking them with melted butter, lemon juice and diced onion.  Some salt, pepper, paprika and a little cajun spice added a kick.  But having had some flounder recently with Parmesan cheese baked on top, I decided to sprinkle some Asiago on top of the redfish fillets in the pan.  Wow!  I can't wait to try this recipe again -- but with rockfish next time.  :)

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