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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
I ended up getting on a few fish, with some decent size but not the numbers I had experienced in the past.
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.
Seth quickly followed with his best day drum fishing ever. Multiple citations and plenty of hard fighting 38-40 inchers too!
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!
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.