The window was small; an afternoon and the next day. I launched at 4:15pm. I set into get-there gear and the trident 15 loaded with more water than I need for an overnighter, is unstoppable in the face of an incoming current with that weight. I arrive in the area; I slow down and shift into hunt mode. All senses sharp and aware, I breath deep through my nose to detect any fishy crabbiness, I listen for the slight thump of as distant car stereo, but it comes from the water. The most sensitive and active of all, my eyes scan with precision picking up the slight color differences and ripples on the rolling water surface. I start to see areas where sand had been freshly kicked up in the 5 foot water, and I go into stalking mode, they are around…… or it could be rays. I follow the sand trail up current and it leads toward the shoreline. With the sun at my back I stand up and see a line of copper backs slowly pushing toward the sand. I sit back down, shimmy to the nose of my boat, and turn the bow cam on, then the stern cam. Im setup in position a little further back, in case the fish pulls me into the breaker zone. I make one cast and set it right in front of the school, when they are in that schooling wall of death mode, they are competitive, and when the bait is put right in front of them, the hit is usually immediate. All I do is set the reel in gear tighten up the line and a 45 inch red attacked it. The first run pulled my closer in as he sprinted with the rest of the school paralleling the shoreline. Big fish zoom around me as I close in on the one pulling me every time I lean back with my rod. I land em and set up the yakattack panfish for myself shot stills. I also set up a third video camera on the yakattack dog bone. This one added an up angle shot of me, and then I can position it pointing toward the water for the release shot. I was still in the fish as I released that one. I quickly find a group that was not spooked and cast in. hook up and fight one for about 2 mins before pulling the hook and striping the swims shad. I didn’t even sweat that loss; I just retied and was ready, because I was in ‘em!! I has stirred up the area during the 2nd fight and wanted to give the school a few min to recover. I paddled out to deeper water to find a live bait to troll around while looking for them. I couldn’t find any after a while and dropped the heavy swims had to troll. I barely get a few feet before that rod is bent over, I grab for it and it comes slack. I jig a few times, reel up and cast right back. I reel through and feel my jig bouncing on a few backs. I reel back up cast again and don’t let it sink to far by reeling the stopping, then reeling then wham "got ya that time fish!!" This one was the fighting size, 43 inches with beautiful multi body and tail spots. I took my time setting up the shots while I leave the fish in the water with a lip gripper. I head back to the shallow water as I’m trolling in, I start to see some boils of sand and the trolling line goes down. The heavy head shakes and the strong pull told me this one was bigger at 49 inches. Again, I take my time, get my shots, properly release the red and start looking for them again. I move in and don’t see them so I move back out and I see a disturbance on the surface, but it is between me and the sun that is getting very low making seeing any color imposable. As I approached the disturbance, boils erupted on the surface all around me, I jumped them. I make a cast way to the outside of the boils, make a few turns and hook up to a 44"er. I troll my way back to the spot I saw them first. I trolled, zig zaging across the current down to the deeper water and back to the shallow water, I didn’t run into them here but I just wanted to cover that area. It was getting close to sunset and I started toward a camp site. I saw two swim by me, backs out of the water. I followed them as they appear and then disappear and appear a few yards away. I follow them to the school. Fish are all around in 4to 6 foot of water. Scattered boils appear seeming everywhere, I cast but I can’t a bead on any fish direction or concentration. I eventually I am out of the fish and they move forward. I troll forward and hook up to a 43"er the sun sets and I am still in em, I move forward and jump ‘em again and again can’t get my casting lure in front of one. They are boiling all around me and since I can see em I decided to just troll right through them. I figured I would spook the ones I run over, but others would fill in and circle around to find my bait. I start my troll, I plow through the school and I get a smile on my face. As my bait began to move through the school I started giggling, I knew it was coming….. pow!! Bowed up!! This one was a 45"er and that was it for me. I paddled to a camp for the night hoping to find them again the next day. I wake up and move out, back to the same area and I don’t see evidence. Joe Underwood shows up and we troll around. Joe hooks up to a big one, while I try to get a bead on the direction of the school, but I could never find them or see any boils. The winds come up and we head in this week brings this year’s count of 40+ inch reds at 19, and they are still showing up. Hopefully we will get another shot at paddling around the eastern shore for a shot to GET ON’EM!!
still smilin on the 6th one, a 45"er
5TH WEEK OF MAY Counting on the "Dome"
47'er to start the week
This week looked to have a decent window to get out on the water; the forecast was for south winds to around 10 knots. What we have noticed in over the years is a phenomenon we call the “Eastern Shore Dome”. So many times we have left the Southside in 15 mph south winds, and arrived on the E-shore to dead calm winds. My theory is the sun warms up the narrow eastern shore peninsula; the heat creates an updraft that pulls the wind up and over the land, creating a dome of calm wind around the e-shore. With the forecast a steady south wind and air temps pushing 90*, I was counting on the dome effect to allow some clean sighting conditions in the middle of the day. And that was exactly what happened windy at night and the morning, dropping out for the mid day, and blowing its butt off in the afternoon. The first day made it out for the late afternoon slack. I caught a croaker and sent em down with a circle hook, cast out my swim bait and started paddling around. I stopped paddling and slowed down and felt a thump, I look back and the croaker rod is bowing up. I landed the pretty 47 incher and used my yakattack mount to take a self shot. I never saw a school or any other reds. I kept going till 6 and started to a camp spot. Three miles away and into to the 2.2 knot current. Luckily the strong south wind gave me a push. The next day I trolled around and saw nothing. Later I changed targets, kinda, and headed into the creeks for some lil reds. This action was as good as it gets, they had a gauntlet of death in that creek, anything moving through that water was dying to the crunchers of a lil red drum. As my gulp got torn up from the red on every cast, I left it be, even dangling off the jig head. Then without a bait at all, just a bare jig head. If it was moving in that water, it was going to be killed. The bare hook action was so hot that I had time to change out my camera batteries and set up for a video. I headed back to my campsite, against the current again, with a little more time to relax. I even went through some yoga flows on the beach for the first time. And it was so needed to open up my muscles from the previous two days of paddling, and stretched me out for the next day, when Alex and Lee where coming over. I paddle out and start catching bait as Lee and Alex paddle up. We set out on the slow troll and keep out eyes open. Alex was along the shore breakers and comes tight on a red, fights it to his boat and breaks his 40lb leader. Lee and I use 65lb to 80lb leader. We paddle around now that we know a few might be around. Lee is 50 yards ahead of me. I see him turn, then I see the big blob of copper. A school of rays is brown; a school of reds is copper. But depending on the light, can look the same. Lee is color blind, he usually never can see a school of reds from far out. He stood up and I said “that’s them right?” I got more excited that Lee sighted this school that the fight that was about ready to happen. I was so happy that Lee found them! We called up Alex before it was bombs away time. We got in-line and sent in the swim baits, I make a perfect cast and hook up instantly, Lee right after, then Alex and he breaks off another. I reel up my croaker rod and continue to fight then I see my other line I forgot about and Lee is heading right into it. I’m ready to cut that line but Lee gets mine off him but gets spiderweb’ed in his other two lines. The danger here is if a fish grabs that other bait, whatever it’s wrapped around is breaking and going in the water. The first thing to clear is your head. Lee was clear there. He had both lines wrapped around rods, camera and the crate. Lee just starts cutting lines then lands his fish, a 45 incher. Mine was a 42 incher, and to me, a 42-43 inch red drum is the most exhilarating fight you can get, seem like that is the age where they are at their peak of athleticism. The winds came up and we heading into the creeks. The action was nowhere near what it was the day before. Lee and Alex had to head in I wanted to see if the action would turn on. It never did, not like I left it the previous day. I did have a nice hook up and run, and then it was using the current against me. I thought, that’s not a red, then I got em up and saw the 20” baby black drum. I paddled back in 18mph winds. I hope I can get weeks like this through my drum hunt this year, camping and fishing for a hard fighting bull of the bay. I love red drum and love to GET ON’EM!!
this weeks camp
hard fightin 42"er
Lee's sighted 45"er
the double, mine 42" and Lee always with the bigger one at 45"
baby black drum
camp/fishing vessel the Trident 15 "Fifty-One Five"
3RD WEEK OF MAY Trident 15’s recovered, and a ray day turnaround
I got a message from my long time friend Rob Williams. For those who knew me in my music days, Rob was the manager of Cogan’s, our music scene center back in the day. He said he was at a local on the water restaurant and a guy he knows paddled up told him he just bought two kayaks and asked him if he wanted to paddle around. Rob sat in the kayak and started to notice how things where arranged, like the handles where moved so they weren’t poking his leg with them over the sides. When he got home he realized that was my boat. I whet by the guys house in the evening waited for the cops to show up and after about an hour, I had Lee’s and my Trident 15’s. The weather was allowing a day and half on the water. I paddle out in the afternoon as the winds drop out. Talk to some of my local friends who have been out all day and it seem the action was slow. The waters where still muddy so I started on the troll. I would paddle a bit, see a school of rays, pull my trolling line out of the water, paddle over the field of rays and start tolling again. Rays where everywhere!! I couldn’t troll so I set up on a drift with a crab out. I checked the radar and saw a storm coming, I had a few hours but I started to work my way to a camp site. The storm was on coming in, I set up my tent and the wind hit. Easily 25 mph winds howled for about a half an hour with no rain. Since I have my T15 back I was able to pack my touring bed roll and it is more comfortable than my bed. I slept better than I have in a long time. The next day Lee, and Alex Britland from Richmond paddled out as I waited for them on a shoal island fighting rays with my 5’6’ boat rod. As Alex and Lee paddled out they where trolling and they where snagging rays. Alex snagged two and had an early morning double ray fight. The biggest problem with rays is that they will take your tackle, plus they are tough to fight and will wear you out! We started looking for clear water since trolling was impossible, we where going to have to have a positive ID before casting at something. We paddled and saw rays….paddled and saw rays. Then we paddled some more, and saw so many more rays. We pretty much figured that we were not going to see and reds. Lee had to head in the afternoon, we decided to head into a creek to catch some lil reds. We where over two feet of water, we saw some color, and the freshly muddied up water. We figured it was rays, we look and its reds!!!! We have never seen big reds in this area, only reds up the 30” range so we cast in our light tackle. Lee and I both hook up and get a good eye shot of these fish, they where giants!! Lee’s rusted jig head hook breaks, I hook one but was so surprised on its size it easily shook my hook, we stopped right there and backed off of them!!! Lee had to re-rig, and I wanted the cameras on. The wind was pushing us off of the school, which was about 30 yards long, 50 to 75 fish and we had only disturbed the edge. I stayed with the school to keep a set of eyes on them, as Lee and Alex got ready. We approached the edge of the school together and made our cast. Usually the hook up is instant. But it took me and Lee 6 min to find the retrieve they wanted. Plus every time we stood up, the wind would push us backward away from the school. Finally Lee and I hook up about the same time. Alex tried to stay on the part of the school that our fights didn’t spook off. I knew mine was big I he wrestled around with me in the shallow water, and then he got to about the 5 foot depth and really turned on the fight! He got me out about 75 yards before I could finish him and had the biggest red I have has boat side. Lee had a 46”er that after watching the footage, fought like a mad man!! Mine was hooked well so I held the leader and kept the fish in the water. We got the shots of Lees, and released him as I pulled the hugely round 51.5 inch red drum in to my new kayak and the first fish was landed. Going on the tradition that Lee started when he named his drifter after the first fish landed in it. His record breaking striper, his drifter is named “fifty first” my T15 is named “fifty-one five” Lee had to head on in, Alex and I headed back to find them again. I had a notion that they would have been in the 8-10 foot water, so I was scanning out further and I saw the color. I paddled up and questioned whether they where rays and then I saw a fish. I wanted Alex to get one so stood and guided him in and he hook up. I go to the other side of the school and hit one there, I was trying not to disturb the rest of the school so we could re-find them again but mine was a 43”er and they fight crazy!! He ran all the way across the school scattering them out and down. I landed my 43”er and Alex landed a 46”er. On the hunt again we found them one more time and I pull a 50”er out of that. We might have seen them one more time but they were not going to play with us anymore. Fishing is really amazing in the way you can be having a nature day to a totally epic day when you run into em and can GET ON’EM!!
lee's 47 incher
alex 46 incher
hard fighten 43"er
lee on a ray
2ND WEEK OF MAY Re-connecting, hot rods and a nature day
My goal this year was to spend more time camping on my days off and shoot for a potential DVD by attempting to follow the reds as they move into their summer hunting grounds, up into the bay. Because of the distance to where these reds might be, the Trident 15 that got stolen was going to be the vehicle to this goal. I camped on one-nighters in my Trident 13 last year, but this week I loaded it down to attempt a three day, two night trip. The first day I saw Joe Underwood and hung with him. We worked one area for a while with no action. We were just about to make a move, when a rod finally went down, and we stayed right in that area. Drifting and trolling in and out of them. I had an interesting thing happen, I could smell them. I smelled a rotten crab fishy smell. The last time I smelled it was with the big red I caught at the ending of the #2 DVD. I couldn’t use the release footage of that fish because, he was pooping out what use to be crab like a hose. When I smelled that smell, one of us would hook up. Joe was the hot rod of the day landing six; I landed two and lost two. One I lost when the handle of the reel started to loosen up, and the fish was able to shake the hook. The other, I sometimes have a tendency to thumb the spool. The braid buried itself and snap!! The 50lb braid gave way. The winds came up in the afternoon and I headed to find a camp for the night. The next day, we had a crew!! Lee, Mike P, Rob Choi, Richey Bekolay, the outer banks kayaking admiral Rob Alderman came up. They started off early on the other side of the area from where I paddled from. They jumped some fish but didn’t get one on. I started trolling on my way to them and I hook up. I land the 42”er get some blurry timer shots and released him. I call Bob and tell em, I didn’t have my cameras on yet. I pitch out the lure I was trolling with, as I am turning to put the rod in the rod holder, a red grabs it before it hits the bottom. I set the hook “Damn, cameras aren’t on!” I loosen up the drag set it in the rod holder, shimmy up to the bow, set up my camera, and scoot back to set up the stern cam. This is not the first time I’ve done this. And every time the red just chills out when the pressure is off. I regain the fight and land the 40 incher. These small big reds are actually harder to deal with than the 50 inch beast reds in the kayak. He fought relentlessly; he would not hold still for a picture and eventually released himself. Lee called saying him and Mike where launching. I called Rob to tell em about the second one and my crab rod goes down. I land the third red all about the same size, 40 to 43 inches as the guys get to the area. But of course that is when the bite there was over. We all started trolling, Rob was out in front. His rod goes down and this fish is running back toward the rest of us. Rob Alderman was between me and Rob; I chucked my swimshad just off the side of Alderman’s kayak and instantly hook up. The fish burns toward Alderman and my line goes slack. I thought the fish had dropped the lure, I reel up and the line jumps tight, the fish had run way behind me. I yell “The school is behind us, and I land the 44”er, my last of the day. We trolled around, all spread out, with all of those lures in the water; one of us would have hooked up if the reds where in the area. I’ve known Alderman for years but this was the first time I’ve got to fish with him. I hope he gets up here more. The next day, Lee and Damien where coming over, I paddled to the same area, and the Maryland guys who had been fishing with us the last two days, where out trolling. I got into the right depth and set out my trolling bait. I see one of the guys and he hooks up. I troll the area with nothing. He was the hot rod landing three. Damien and his buddy stayed out, me and Lee headed in. We saw one of the bald eagles on a big fish on the marsh. We paddled up to see it and it was a 47 inch striper. It looked fresh, the eagle has eaten out an eye but the fish still had color. Then the tail moved. It had just washed up on the marsh. I tried to see it would revive, but it was past that point, so I did a dissection to see what it had eaten, two large menhaden. We back off to let the eagle get back to it. Rob paddled up and had is big camera and went in for the shots. Hopefully Rob would get close enough to jump the eagle back up so he would fly back to the striper. The pictures are great: angling-addict.com I really need a week like this, I’ve had some bad luck and some financial down falls which have effectively postponed the next DVDs for a few years. But the good news is I can continue on fish and filming for the DVDs as well as the free YouTube videos. I found this week that I needed to get out and camp. It’s been three years since I have toured and that’s the longest I’ve gone since I’ve been kayaking. I might not be able to tour anymore but I can satisfy that need by just getting a few overnighters and two days out there this year, and I can at least do that with my Tident 13. The one major thing I cant take because of the inside space is my foam egg-crate style sleeping mat. I just cant find space for it in the T13 I was a reconnecting week for me, sleeping on a beach was the need, catching some reds was the target, got to see Underwood be the hot rod for a second time, got to be the hot rod the next day and the good old nature day on the e-shore. I just need to be out there, and it’s always good to GET ON’EM!
40 incher did not want his picture taken
4TH WEEK OF APRIL
Finding the warm water
This week had its share of inaccurate weather forecast, muddy water and colder winds. We all had our eyes set on a day early this week and the forecast read good enough to bring Rob Choi down from Richmond and Richey Bekolay over from Hampton. The day comes and the forecast is changed dramatically. Cold winds and clouds have kept the water temps down. Plus, the lunar high tides had the water visibility down to chocolate milk level and it was cloudy, no sight casting possibilities. We paddle out to the shoal area, set up on anchor and drop baits. I eventually take a nap; the only action was Rob with a brief shark hook up. The sun pops out and we paddle around to get an eye on the area. Then the wind picks up… up to 20 knots!! Rob and Richey anchor off and drop baits I head on in. The next calm day, Lee and I head out. We headed to clear water but that was cold. Saw my buddy Kendal, he had been looking for the striper, when I saw him he held up his arms, the universal signal for “aint seen nothin!!” Then I had to start thinkin, it was mid day, and outgoing tide, where would the warmest water be?? Coming out of the marshes. Lee and I started our paddle. We started to find some 60* water and 5 foot of depth and started looking. The water was still a bit murky from the high tide earlier in the week, so we set out the trolling rigs and kept paddling. Lee had a tug on his line, thinking it was just the bottom and no visual signs we had run over them, we kept paddling. Then Lees rod went down and he had one on. I cast to the boils of the stirred up school but nothing grabbed a hold. Lee landed his 45”er and as is the tradition of the Lee back in the day hooking stripers over and over again while taking pictures, I toss a crab in the water while I’m shooting Lee. As soon as we are done, my rod bounces and bows over tight! “Here I go!!” I say as grab for the rod. I land Lees fish’s brother, another 45”er. While shooting that fish we had drifted out of the desirable water depth. On the way back in was saw a kayaker that we had seen in the shallows earlier, we saw him spinning, he had a fish on. We started paddling toward him and it was Joe Underwood with a red. I grabbed his camera to shoot him some pics and of course, I have a crab down and it comes tight! While I’m fighting mine lee hooks up. I land the little one of the day at 43”, I boga grip him off to the side of the boat, to keep him breathing in the water while we shoot pics. Lee lands his 46”er. While I’m shooting lees fish, Joe hooks up to a 38” striper. As the water is dropping we keep resetting in the ‘paddle’ depth. Some time passed between actions then as we are paddling lees line come tight. This one was a big 49”er. Then the last one of the day was Underwood’s 50”er. A great day turned rough when I got home to find my new trident 15 and lees trident 15 had been stolen. This has altered my plans for the year and I will be staying close to home and taking on a second job. Gonna have to sacrifice a year to paying back my debts, so I can get back to making DVDs and pushing my boundaries in my kayak. We will still be able to GET ON’EM!!
Lee full AFTCO ninja style 45" red
lee's 46"er on deck
lee's 46 incher
the smallest of the day, my 43"er
lee's 49 incher
the beggest of the day, Joe Underwood's 50"er
lee with the 46"er and my 43"er the smallest of the day
3RD WEEK OF APRIL
Starting the search.
1st fish of the year
My first week of full fishing of the season was full of windy days, but I was able to get out for one of them. I searched, my fly fishing buddy Kendal searched, and an e-shore local searched, and we didn’t see anything all day, we had plenty of clarity and high sun, I was limited by the occasional blast of hour long winds, and the incoming current. So I couldn’t paddle a lot. Kendal is in a small boat and was able to cover more ground, still nothin. During one of the wind hours I headed back into a creek. The water was so clear I could see into the deeper holes, and I saw nothing. I finally found a deep hole that I couldn’t see into. I set up and made some casts. My line came tight; I was surprised to have a fish on. I landed the 15 inch red and realized I haven’t held a fish since December. I thanked the red for being my first fish of the year and he tail splashed me when he took off. I paddled back out again when the winds dropped, it was late afternoon and I had a water temp of 70* draining out of the mud marshes. Over all, during the day I had water temp reading of 56* to 70*. That night, reds where caught on the shoals. So they are around, I just hope I get a window this week.