All Out Kayak Fishing

Your definitative source for Fresh and Saltwater Kayak Fishing in the Chesapeake Bay and Coastal Carolinas


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RED DAWN

In a conversation this morning the 80’s movie “Red Dawn” was appropriately referenced being election day and all.  While the movie referenced societal rifts the nation is currently facing, my mind couldn’t help but wonder.  It went back to the recent past… reminiscing on drummin’ down in Nawth Cackalacki (that’s North Carolina for you northern folk).

reddawn

A True Carolinian Red Dawn 

 

On one trip early in the fall, I met up with two of North Carolina’s finest kayak anglers Joey Sullivan and Bob Danton.  A 4 hour drive south with no sleep the night prior found me in the parking lot off a launch on the Neuse River getting rigged and ready.  With hot reports, Bob, Joey, and I launched and got to the drum grounds, greeted by the crisp saltiness of the air and not a boat in sight.  Our hopes were high and we were feeling confident, right up to the point where we started hearing the roar of the morning armada.  It was as if we were in a war zone, and if you think about it we actually were.  Before the sun even rose over the horizon, there were well over 30 boats surrounding the exact spot that we had laid claim.  For those who have fished with me, you know that this is not something I am comfortable with.  I started to get fidgety and my mood fowled.  In between the sounds of outboards starting up and roaring off and popping corks clacking in the thick morning air, one could hear me muttering in disbelief under my breath.

The sun had started to rise higher in the air as I decided to paddle out to some deeper water.  I passed one boat and as I looked back, I saw them bowed up to a Neuse River Redfish.  It was the first positive sign I had seen all morning.  As I drifted out I was mesmerized by the ferociousness of these Carolina Drum.  As I reached the spot I wanted to work, I made a blind cast with the standard fare (a DOA Airhead under a Popping Cork), not expecting anything to happen.  Well it was one of those moments I had experienced many times before, one where your mind is out of the game and something happens that jars you back to reality.  That jarring action was a 45″ Redfish that hit my bait in-between the time it took for the bait to hit the water and the cork to follow.

red-fight

Going For a Ride  Photo-Robert Danton

I could hear the excitement of my fishing buddies as I brought this bruiser in the kayak.  Every once in a while I saw rigs landing in my direction as my friends did their best to get bowed up.  Unfortunately this was the sole hook up of the day.  One according to local reports we were extremely lucky to even get a shot at.

neuse-red

A 45″ Neuse River Redfish

While we tried and tried for hours after this fish, chasing schools of bunker and making hundreds of blind casts, our trip was essentially over, but the story doesn’t end here.

49

East 49th Street Launch

 

Between my Neuse trip and my next time chasing Drum, the VA bite was SOLID, with many people including some good friends catching their firsts and increasing their personal bests.  Hell, my buddy Jay Brooks won the 2016 TKAA Redfish Division with a VA Citation Drum.  For me, I decided to forgo what I rightly perceived to be insanity at the CBBT and wait for the NCKFA Oak Island Classic.  Just days before the Classic was slated to begin, the NC Crew were slaying drum from the surf and from the kayak.  I had just picked up an Ocean Kayak Ultra 4.7, and finished rigging when the unthinkable became the inevitable.  Hurricane Matthew was bearing down on the east coast, causing extreme damage from FL to NC.  At this point I felt kinda dumb for putting my entire fall drum season in one basket.  I began to reminisce on my Neuse River drum, resigned to the fact that I would have to wait until spring to get on another fish of any real quality.

Fortunately, Oak Island didn’t fare as bad as I would have thought so my plans for the following weekend were set.  It was time to get Drum Dumb!  At the launch early Friday morning, I was shocked to see what I did.  Dunes – GONE.  Sand plowed to the side or roads just like during blizzards back in Colorado.  Ocean water so tannic and fresh from all the flood water exiting the Cape Fear River you could have drank it.  Oh well, 5.5 hours and 300 miles down, Something was going to happen!

Mark Patterson and some of the NCKFA diehards met me on the beach and off we went.  Bait was difficult to come by and was really the key to  a successful day.  While I was working a custom made Trouble hook sabiki rig, I heard the excitement and commotion that only comes when a big fish is on the other end of one’s line.  This fish just happened to be Mark’s first of many on the day.

patterson

I ended up getting on a few fish, with some decent size but not the numbers I had experienced in the past.

ragu

A 41″ Drum… A First for MY Ultra

The following day I had decided it was in our best interest to grab some frozen bait just incase live bait became scarce.  As I woke up, I was met by an ever increasing number of NCKFA faithful, as well as my recently relocated friends – The Goodrich’s.  Seth, Kam, and I got rigged and ready.  I just knew it was going to be a good day!  While the kayak fleet was off looking for bait, we had posted up off my favorite strand of beach and the action hit a fevered pace.

ragsred

My First of Day Two, and my Lucky PaddleVA Hat

Seth quickly followed with his best day drum fishing ever.  Multiple citations and plenty of hard fighting 38-40 inchers too!

seth-fight

Fighting a Red Off the Old Town Predator MX

sethdrum

One of Many

The real goal though was to get Kamaron hooked up.  After a few hooks that just couldn’t find their target, Kam got the right one that fought like a champ.  her first Bull Redfish was also good for a North Carolina Citation.  Her face describes the excitement that Seth and I had at that moment.  We both wouldn’t have enjoyed the day as much as we did had Kam not got Bowed UP!

kamdrum

 

The following few days were spent at casa de Patterson, and learning some new inshore water that Oak Island had to offer.

 

In recollection of it all, I guess Seth, Kam, the NCKFA crew, and I were the real Wolverines this fall.


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Tutorial: Chasing Gators in the Cold

This post was originally published on Coastal Kayak Fishing (sister site) on 12/4/2014

29 1/4″ Speckled Trout caught on a Paul Brown Fat Boy

Let me start this out by saying that I love Kayak Fishing.  Its in my blood, whether its fishing open water for monster fish, long paddles to wrecks and reefs, or working the flats for your inshore slam species.

For the past two years, I have been chasing a 30″ Speckled Trout.  This number is stuck in my head because, in my mind a 30″ Speck is considered a true trophy anywhere you can find them.  I have probibly had a few fish at that 10 lb mark, but not the “dirty thirty”.  In this chase, two things have become apparent though.  First, I have become what my friends call the stereotypical Speck fisherman.  Come the fall, Gators consume all of my free time.  Second, I have become pretty damn good at finding, and getting the big girls to bite when most people can’t.  With that out of the way, I will first start off with the areas I target.

Locations:

In the fall and winter, when these fish become lathargic, I fish where I can find any amount of baitfish.  This generally equates to warmer water which are typically shallower flats.  Now when most people think of a flat, they think of an area with a set depth.  This is not always the case.  On these flats, even a 3-6″ depression is enough for these fish to feel comfortable and ambush their prey.  I also focus on grass lines, submerged structure, and choke points.  For you hunters or military folk, think of a place that you would set up an ambush.

The next type of area I focus on is what I consider an intermedate area… Dropoffs.  These big specks dont want to expend a lot of energy chasing down their prey, so if the current is sweeping bait off a flat or over a ledge, you can bet that youll find a speck or two waiting for an easy meal.

The final area is the depths.  These areas are sanctuarys for fish in the winter because they can find the most consistant water temperatures here.  Mainly, these fish will be suspended, and tougher to target, unless you have the right tools.

Other considerations can be made given the time of day you are chasing these fish.  For example, at night I enjoy fishing dock lights and light lines.  These are areas where something as simple as light can create artifical structure that hold prediator and prey alike.

Baits and Gear:

Tactical Angler Clip

I am not freezing my behind off, fishing every waking hour for some spikes.  I am looking for the gators, and with that being said, I prefer gear that I don’t have to worry about losing the big one.  The following is gear that works well for me.

Leader – I fish with 20-30 lb Seguar Red or Blue Label, prefering the 25 lb Blue Label over all.  I only downsize my leader if I am having an issue getting the presentation I desire.

Connectors – This is a must for a quick lure change.  I tried in the past the snap section from a swivel, but have had some heartbreaking losses because of tackle failure.  Also, they are a pain to work when your hands are cold, which happens to be 80% of the time.  Because of this, I have switched over to the small Tactical Angler Clips.  These don’t seem to bother the fish, and facilitate quick and easy lure changes, even on jigs and ewg’s.  Finally, I have yet to break one, even on fish well above the advertised breaking strength.  Without these, I don’t think I would be getting the numbers of big fish i am fortunate enough to find.

 

27″ Speck Caught on a TA Crossover Stalker

Photo Credit – Joe Underwood

Topwater – Keep these handy, because you never know when you will get that magical topwater bite in some of the craziest conditions.  High pitched baits like the Mirrolure He-Dog work well for active fish, while your one knocker spooks work well for more timid fish.  Personally, I love fishing the Rapala Subwalks, and the new crossover series baits from Tactical Anglers.  The bait pictured below got me my PB topwater speck at 27″ just last week.

Tactical Angler Crossover Stalker

Soft Plastics – These can become extremely versatile baits that can quickly and easily be worked at either the top, mid, or bottom of the water column.  Again, go with the mantra of “Bigger is Better”  For me this means throwing a 5″ Power Team Lures Swinging Hammer.  I will throw this on a 1/16 or 1/8oz EWG when I am fishing the flats, or pair it up with a 1/4 to 3/4 oz jighead or bucktail when I am fishing structure in excess of 15 feet.  The Swinging Hammer has a very large paddle tail on a fairly small body profile, with an action that can be best described as thumping.

PTL Swinging Hammer on a Weighted EWG and Jig Head.

Another plastic that has found a place in my tool box is the PTL JP Hammer Shad.  I like fishing this bait around ledges and in the depths.  It mimics a prevalent baitfish this time of year, the Gudgeon.  I pair it with either a Scrounger jighead for a very tight but aggressive wobble that brings the fish in, or simply on a jig head working the depths.  This bait on the Scrounger tends to trigger very aggressive strikes, whereas a regular head tends to attract fish on the fall, simply picking up the bait and holding on to it.

Another Gator caught on a PTL Swinging Hammer

PTL JP Hammer Shad on a Scrounger and Conventional head.

 

A 26″ Speck Caught on a PTL Swinging Hammer

Photo Credit – Rob Choi

Corkeys – These baits are my baits that I absolutely will not chase big specks without.  From top to bottom, the Devil produces a very erratic and faster fall rate when worked as a twitch bait.  This is great for those intermediate and deeper areas.  The Fat Boy is a great bait for flats and intermediate areas, with a very subtle action when worked.  The large profile screams “Easy Meal” for these larger fish.  It can be worked in deeper water as long as there is minimal current, otherwise it tends to stay near the top of the column.  Finally, you have the Soft Dine (and the Soft Dine XL).  These baits are producing well on the flats and intermediate areas as well, with the XL giving me a faster fall rate.  Both have an action that would fall between the Devil and the Fat Boy.

29″ + Speck caught on a Fat Boy

Paul Brown “Corkeys” from top to bottom:

Devil

Fat Boy

Soft Dine

Hard Baits – As far as hard baits are concerned, I will fish these any time, any place.  Definitely the most versatile baits for speckled trout in my arsenal.  I enjoy fishing the 17 and 18MR’s, 52MR’s, SSTR’s, Catch 5’s and Catch 2000’s.  All of these give you different profiles, actions, sink rates, and depending on the series, colors.  I could go on and on about how to fish these baits, but either watching a tutorial or video would give you the best idea.  Going back to when I first started Speck fishing, I recall spending hundreds of dollars on baits, and not catching a fish on them.  Thankfully, once I learned how to use them I have a stockpile for years to come.  One thing to keep in mind is that you do not need to try to impose a crankbait or jerkbait type action.  Think twitch-twitch-pause, adjusting the cadence for your conditions.  Finally, I will lump the Egret Baits Vudu Mullet in this category because it has a much more aggressive action and faster sink rate than the Corky’s.  With its articulated body, it is a great bait to cast and reel in deeper water, as well as cross current conditions.

52 MR’s

Vudu Mullet and Heavy Dine.

Trolling vs. Casting

There is noting in the world like getting a gator speck to hit a twitch bait you casted to it.  The heavy thimp from the first second is adrennaling pumping.  However, there are times when the fish are scatered and you need to work larger areas to find them.  This is where the great trolling vs. casting debate comes into play.  I for one will utilize either technique on any given outting to help maximize my catching potential.  I will troll until I find fish in an area and/or a pattern, then start casting.  One thing to keep in mind is that you are still working and searching for the fish.  You have to get the right depth, color, presentation, and area to acomplish either.  Trolling also presents the challange of line management. which increases the complexity of this method.

Other Tangables

Current – current is one of the largest tangables that you will face.  The current helps give you an idea where the fish are going to stage, and it also moves bait into and out of areas.  The general rule is to work with the current, whether it be casting straight up current working down, or fan casting to 45* to find your fish.  If you are not catching fish working with the current, do not be afraid to go against common fishing conventions and work against the current.  This method is not a top producer, but going against the current has produced fish for me when going with the current has not.

Lure speed –  I have learned that the bigger fish tend to hit on slower, less agressive presentations.  With that being said, I will start off slow, and work my way towards faster presentations.  Many times, the smaller fish will hammer faster presentations out of instinct.  These reaction strikes are due largely to competition with other, larger fish.  If you’re not catching the size specks you desire, slow down your presentation and hold on.

In closing, I hope that this gives you some insight into Gator Speckled Trout fishing.  Good Luck, go on out, and stick a pig!

28″ Speckled Trout caught on a Fat Boy


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Changes are coming.

There are some substantial changes coming down the pike.  Many of them are still to premature to discuss, but one that is occurring now involves this blog in particular.  In the coming days, all future posts will be transfered over to www.alloutkayakfishing.com.  Some of the more informational and popular posts will be moved to this site.  While Coastal Kayak Fishing will not be going away, there will no longer be any new content posted here.

Thank you for the years of readership and support.  Please bear with me until everything is up and running, but we hope to see you at All Out Kayak Fishing.

William


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Product Review – Werner Paddles Cyprus: Hooked

Here is a little review I did for Appomattox River Company on the Werner Cyprus: Hooked (High Angle) paddle.

 

Between my Kalliste and Cyprus paddles are both part of the Performance Core series.  While all of the paddles in the Werner line are great paddling paddles, the Performance Core are like paddling with a feather.  For more information, go to the Werner Paddles website.


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Springtime Striper Fishing in the Chesapeake Bay

A few weeks ago, Kayak Kevin Whitley, Virginia Marine Police Officer Ron Cagle, and I were invited to the Hampton Appomattox River Company location speak on springtime striper fishing in the lower Chesapeake Bay.

Officer Cagle was awesome, speaking to the changes in striper regulations, and rules in general if you plan on keeping any striped bass in particular.

Kevin and I presented in more of a forum type style, which was really enjoyable.  Whether you are interested in the conventional or fly fishing aspect of springtime striper fishing, Im sure you will enjoy the video.

 

Video courtesy of Kayak Kevin

Below you will find some information I came up with to aid the kayak fly angler.  I hope you enjoy it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Down in good ole’ Delacroix (2016 Adventure Fishing World Championships)

Like many people, life gets in the way of a lot of the cool things we like to do.  The end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016 has been on exception.  So when 4pm on the 5th of April came around, I departed a cold and blustery Norfolk, Virginia on a trip that will always have a special place in my memory.

After meeting with my partner Joe at his house in North Carolina, we quickly load up his truck and start our journey south.  14 hours and almost 900 miles later we found our home for the next 4 nights at the Delacroix Lodge.

Photo – Delacroix Lodge
The “cabins” are nicer than you would expect for being so deep in the Louisiana Bayou.  They have twin bunks, cable TV, a full bathroom, and a decent little kitchenette.  At $150 a night they are a bit pricey, but beat any other alternative on the island.  This was our second year staying at the lodge and you can bet that when I make my next trip down, it will be where I will continue to stay.  Another consideration about the area is the necessity for both a Basic and Saltwater license.  At $5.00 and $17.50 respectively for a day licence, anything under 3 days this is your best option.  If you are going 4 or more days, the $90 seasonal option will be your best bet.  With that being said, we opted for 3 days from Thursday to Saturday, and enjoyed warm showers, cold beers, and amazing “Adult Grilled Cheese”sandwiches made by fellow competitors and friends Kris and Mark Lozier.  
On Thursday, before the sun rose my internal alarm was sounding loudly.  Some Community Coffee got the day going and we were off.  Launching right down the road at Sweetwater Marina put us on the water quickly and safely.  Joe and I launched with Mark and Kris for a trip to the “Graveyard”.
Photo – Amy Angelopoulos
Not far into the trip, we started finding Redfish blowing out from under us.  I paddle a bit further to find a spot I am comfortable with, chuck a watermelon Aqua Dream spoon and proceed to hook up with my first, and largest fish of the trip at 29″.
First Redfish of the Trip
Photo – Mark Lozier

While this was the only fish to come out of the graveyard for us, we worked our way further up the bayou looking for spots to mark in the GPS.  I found an area with some wood structure on a flat adjacent to deeper water.  This held reds, with schools surrounding the structure.  It didn’t take to long to hook up to another red on the same watermelon spoon, so that went back into the box and I proceeded to catch more reds on copper spoons, inline spinnerbaits, Egret Baits vudu shrimp, and Power Team Lures swinging hammers rigged weightless.  I was feeling good marking spots, catching fish, and working new areas with friends.

One of many day 1 fatties
Some well fed drum

As our day ended, I was not ready to stop.  Back at the lodge, I loaded the kayak on wheels and proceeded to fish the north side of Delacroix Highway.  Lots of gators, nutria, and gar made it more of a scenic paddle until I got to a spot that held lots of reds and Speckled Trout.  My first cast with a copper spoon produced a solid thump and a massive run (in which I ended up loosing the fish to a broken Tactical Angler Clip).

a 50lb clip broke, but at least my knots held

I was struck with utter shock and disbelief at the fact that I finally managed to break a clip.  I quickly regrouped and got on a few speckled trout that fought extremely hard for their size.

Some feisty little trout.

 After an amazing dinner cooked by my teammate, it was off to sleep to prepare for day two.  In the morning, we decided to do something a little different.  We were off to either Shell Beach to fish Lake Borgne and see the old spanish fort, or over to Hopedale.  Shell Beach was blown out, so going to a spot that I have seen thousands of times in what I consider the best Fly Fishing video of all times was an amazing experience for me.

Big ass gator

Joe and the Loziers ended up finding some decent numbers of specks, while I ended up with a skunk.  It’s ok though because you can guarantee that I will be back to Hopedale one day to find some Bulls on Top!  Dinner that night was made by fellow Virginia anglers Amy and Andy and consisted of some amazing carnitas tacos and the best dirty rice I think ive ever eaten.

The view across the Bayou from Sweetwater Marina

As Saturday came around, things changed big time.  Unlike other events, the Adventure Fishing World Championship is unique in the fact that it challenges you as a paddler, navigator, planner, and angler.  Some more information about last year’s event can be found in my post from 2015.   Much like last year, every team received their map sheets and scorecard.  At 7am, teams were allowed to open their maps and launch.  Joe and I opted to relax, finalize our plans, and proceed with fishing the tournament.  Unlike previous years, every team was given a token in which they had to keep on them the entire time.  You could catch 4 fish before you go to any CP, with a photo of you in your yak being the proof you made the course.  If you only have proof of hitting 2 points, you could only score two fish.  Furthermore, you had to go to the manned double checkpoint in order to get the special token to score a double fish.  We were the last team out of the gate and decided to proceed to our first (and only) double checkpoint.  Checkpoint 1was our double, and our first target.  The plan was to bang out a fish quick, and work the course in one big circle.  Things change though and soon came the first obstacle.

Photo – AMONGSTiT
About 3/4 or a mile away from CP 1, we ran over reds.  Quietly but frantically, I told Joe “cast…CAST!!!”  He got the strike, and quickly slammed our first, and largest of the day at 26.5″
Fish #1
Joe with a fat multi-spotted redfish!
We were feeling good.  In just over an hour we had a good fish on board.  Just a bit further up the shoreline we found these fish in, I casted a spoon into a cut and landed a 22.5″ red.
Fish #2
In only in 1:30 we managed to make it near our CP, and had 49 points.  We paddled looking for a few more fish, then went to the checkpoint at about 0900.  Almost immediately upon receiving our double token, I saw a mid 20″ red tailing.  I make a beautiful cast with a spoon.  On cue I feel “tap”, and slam the hook home.  Unfortunately, the hook didn’t purchase and the spoon wizzed behind me.  It wasn’t the end of the world at the time, but as minutes – then hours passed without as much as a follow, the early missed fish was becoming a monumental mistake that we didn’t feel we could overcome.  We hit all the areas within a mile radius of the CP that we knew held fish, with no luck coming our way.
Around 1230, we had all but given up.  We were both in horrible moods knowing that our tournament was all but over.  Beaten and battered, we paddled towards CP1 when like a ray of sunshine focusing on a pot of gold I saw 3 reds tailing towards me.  We quickly staked out and I casted the old trusty watermelon spoon to the fish.  I felt “tap…THUMP”.  This time the hook got purchase in the grill of this gangsta ass redfish.  The fight was less than a minute, but felt like it was over an hour.  I get the fish in the boat, sweep my legs over it, and started shaking uncontrollably.  
25.75″ double points!
Finally!!!
Photo – Joe M.
I was so happy and relieved that my eyes started to well (and I expected tears of joy that never came).  Joe’s attitude improved and instead of silence, we were chatting it up on the way to our next checkpoint.  Again, happiness quickly subsided as we realized that we had over 4 miles to go to reach our next checkpoint.  The thought quickly turned to “can we reach 2 more points to even qualify”.  4.34 miles later, we reach CP 5 at 1400.  We were excited, but didn’t spend any time fishing as we had to get moving to the next point.  
Checkpoint 5 at 1411

On the way to CP 4, we were discussing our plan.  It was along the lines of “as long as we can make it to CP 4 by 1500, the tournament is ours for the taking.  We can finish from here.”

Joe was not as optimistic.

Checkpoint 4 – 1.5 miles and 29 minutes later
Checkpoint 3 – 1.3 miles and 25 minutes later

After hitting 3 checkpoints in just under an hour and 2.8 miles, we perked up knowing we had a chance.  From here it just meant catching 2 more fish and making it to the check in by 1700.  I had found some productive areas pre fishing Thursday night, and we proceeded to those spots first.  Not long into fishing, I got slammed by a nice speck at the side of the kayak.  It was a fish that would have put us 5 places higher, but like last year, we had lost a fish at the end of the day in the back.  It was a tough pill to swallow, and I still feel like slamming my head against a brick wall 4 days later.  We felt like we had a chance to break the top 10 with 3 fish, so we decided that since we were going to finish, getting all 5 checkpoints would be extremely satisfying for ourselves.

Checkpoint 2 at 1605

Checkpoint 2 marked the end of our fishing, as the focus switched to making it back to the weigh-in prior to the 5pm deadline.  Well we made it back in time, washed up and reflected on our day, one in which we made it to all 5 checkpoints and covered over 16 miles!

Fellow Werner Paddles and Astral Teammate Mark Lozier with a 29.5″ Redfish on Tournament Day
Photo – Mark Lozier
Werner Paddles Pro Staff (L-R William Ragulsky, Mark Lozier, Kris Lally Lozier, Bart Swab, Jeff Herman)
Photo – Mark Lozier

At the awards ceremony we got the pleasure of watching Eric Jackson (Jackson Kayaks) doing a bootie beer.

EJ and his partner Steve Fisher ended up winning a pair of Jackson Kraken’s (which they donated to the team with the largest fish, which was caught by a 14 year old).  Very classy and very cool!

WE FINISHED!

 Team Wicked Fishah took 13th place with 100.5 points.  Not the showing we wanted, but we finished and did it as a team which is all that matters.

2016 Results
Photo – AMONSGSTiT

My fishing vacation in Louisiana was over, but I still got some good ole southern fishing in down in North Carolina.  My search for redfish came up short on Monday, but I wasn’t about to let that deter me from getting some pullage.

Fishing a lake off the NC ICW

After a few hour drive north, I stopped into Chasin’ Tails in Atlantic Beach to get the skinny.  Much like my last trip down to Atlantic Beach, good numbers of Grey Trout were being caught in some deeper water.  I armed myself with a few Hogy Epoxy jigs, set up the fish finder, and went to work.  On the way out to a deep spot I knew of, I found a little false channel with a deep depression.  I kept this area in my back pocket.

Upon reaching my spot, I spent about an hour trying to figure out a pattern.  Against rain squalls, opposing winds and currents, and nothing on the screen (let alone the end of my line) I was feeling dejected.  As I was calling it quits, I went back to the depression I found in the false channel.  I proceeded to find a mess of pinfish (to 6″), some Hogfish just under keeper size, some bait size croaker, and a few greys.  As I was going over a area with some small bottom structure I jig and feel a tap.  When I set the hook, I was thinking I got into a nice trout.  As some stronger runs occurred, I started thinking redfish.  As I got some color, my next thought was a Black Drum.  Then I saw the tail, and knew exactly what I had found…  SHEEPSHEAD!!!

I was looking at the fish each time I brought it up to the surface to see where it was hooked.  I was unable to see, so I got it in the kayak as quick as possible.  Much to my surprise, it was fair hooked.

Fair Caught Sheepshead on a Hogy Diamond Jig

This fish optimized my vacation.  lots of work just to experience the unexpected.  With perseverance though I was rewarded with memories that will stay with me the rest of my life.

Big shout out to my partner Joe (one of the toughest SOB’s I know), the Lozier’s, John Grace (without him, the AFWC IS NOT POSSIBLE), my teammates and friends at Werner Paddles, and the remaining sponsors of the AFWC (Jackson Kayak, Orion Coolers, Watershed Dry Bags, and all the other supporters).  Im already excited and looking forward to AFWC #5!


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Looking Back and Moving Forward

After a ton of drafts, I finally found my voice for this post.  One in which I feel really represents the spirit of reflection.  So with that being said, lets jump right into things.

Redfish – 2015 found multiple trophy fish in both VA and NC, lights out fishing that I will never forget, and the absolute demolishment of a personal best.

Spring 2015 48.5″ Redfish
PC: Rob “RMFC” Choi

While fishing the 2015 NCKFA Oak Island Classic I was fortunate enough to experience one of the greatest NC drum run’s of the last 30 years.  Even the “Old Timers” were using words like “EPIC” to describe it.  While fishing off the beach, I caught well over 40 drum between 38-42″.

Beautiful “Pumpkin” caught off Oak Island NC

I also found a number of fish in the fall.  Plenty of trips were had with multiple drum caught, and more fish over 50″ than I had ever caught ever in my entire time saltwater fishing.  One experience comes to mind in which my bro Tex had a hunch about the location of the fish.  He casts and hooks into his PB (at the time), While I cast and hook into another PB at 51″.  Well that didn’t last long for me because on the very next cast I shatter my PB at 54″.

A 54″ Drum that comes in at over 60 lbs (L x G formula)

I also got a fight that I had been wanting for years… the coveted bull red piling fight.  The end result was a 53″ drum and a broken Trevala S rod.  Well worth the price!

Sheepshead – Words can’t describe my 2015 Sheepshead season.  Insane amounts of large fish were the norm.  During a 4 month period I only got skunked twice early in the season and once on my season ending trip.  I caught them in insane conditions making for challenging fights.  It was such a good season that I completely lost track of the number of fish over 24″, while breaking my personal best with a 26.5″ fish.

So many fish looked just like this one – insanely fat!

Conservation is key to sustain a trophy fishery.  I personally believe in releasing all breeders over 20″

CPR is rewarded time after time.

I was also blessed enough to experience many PB’s by good friends.  To include Tex and the fish that kept him sheepshead fishing.

Roland “Tex” Butler with his first citation Sheepshead

Striped Bass – If you would have told me at the beginning of the year that I would be writing about this species, I would say you were insane.  The trophy Striper fishery over the past few years has been pretty poor, but in 2015, it started off strong and kept on going through the year.

A 42″ Spring Striper

One of the highlights was a Striper-Sheepshead surprise.  This 40″ fish came on a Fiddler crab in 38 FOW… in the heat of summer.

So shocked!

 And one of my last fish of the year just happened to be my first “Official” Virginia Striper coming in at 45″.  This fish marked yet another Personal Best in 2015.

A 45″ December “eel eater”
PC- Rob Choi

Coming in as an honorable mention for 2015 was probably the toughest pound-for-pound fish I have ever caught.  The False Albacore had been a line item on a lengthy hit list for years.  After my first trip off the beach back in the day… seeing blitzing packs… and the amazing speed they possess, made them an itch that I could actually scratch.  Plenty of research, a good intel network, and lots of luck resulted in a good number of 10 to 15 lb falsies, and lots of laughs.

The first of many falsies on the day

Mr. YakAttack (Luther Cifers) with a RonZ eater

Some of the more notable absences for me in 2015 were those of the springtime chopper bluefish and sadly enough trophy speckled trout.  The blues never really were a priority for me in 2015, but will be in 2016.  After a Cold kill and loss of warm water discharge for the VA trout fishery in early 2015, gators kinda fell off my radar as well.  Both specie will find their place on my 2016 priority list.

While 2015 might not have been my “best” year kayak fishing, it certainly ranked as one of my most memorable.  In 2016 I am looking forward to the Usual Suspects of my fisheries, and some more of the less common guys such as the Fat Alberts, King Mackerel, Cobia, and if all goes well beach launched snapper and amberjacks.  I am also looking to push my paddling capabilities to my limits, with some distance and open water events that will put all my skills to the test.

Finally I would be remised if I didn’t thank some very important people.  All of whom I consider friends that push me to my limits and will be along with me on my 2016 journey.  Thanks to the one and only Wicked Pissah, Tex, RMFC, Kev, Lee, Jay, Tommy, Jeff, the ARC crew, Crumbwad, Danny, Megan, Steve, Lydia, Bryan, Luther, the cats at OE, and 2nasty.  Y’all rock, and here is to 2016!