On Thursday night I loaded everything I'd need for the weekend and headed to bed. With my alarm set for 3:15am I was restless with excitement and anticipation and found it difficult to fall asleep and I woke up several times throughout the night. At the designated time on Friday morning the alarm on my phone began ringing and I popped out of bed. With everything loaded all I needed to do was get dressed and head out.
3:30am I was Southbound and heading towards what I'm thinking will be the best weekend I've had in a long time. A quick stop for Coffee at a 7-11 and now I was completely set. Audio book playing and the drive would fly right by. Around 4:45am I sent a text to my buddy Zach to see what time he was planning on leaving to prefish (don't worry I used Google voice input). He was on track to leave his house around 5:00am.
Through another local website I'd gotten in touch with Martin who's plans to fish were very similar to mine so we decided to fish together. I gave him a call as I was crossing the HRBT to let him know when I'd be at our predetermined launch at Wise Point. He and a friend of his, Jimmy, were going to be at the launch about an hour after I get there. We agreed that I would stay and fish near the launch until they showed up. The rest of the drive was uneventful and I crossed the CBBT onto the Eastern Shore around 7:00am. I pulled into the Wise Point Ramp and saw the $10 launch fee for day use and had to but a U-Turn and head out to the Citgo station up the street for some cash for the Launch.
When I arrived back at Wise Point the U.S. Fish and Wildlife guy was there talking to people about the location before they launched. He came over directed me where to park while I loaded and unloaded then pointed me in the right direction to park for the remainder of the day. He was a very nice older man who was well informed about the area. He told me where I should try and fish and where to avoid. With the winds forecast for NE at 15-20 for the day he also told me where I could hide from the wind and the waves.
If you've never launched at Wise Point, you launch into a canal between the Eastern Shore and Raccoon Island. With winds blowing from the North East it was funneling the wind straight down the canal. From the launch we were experiencing 1-2' waves with rouge waves up to 3'. I was very hesitant to go very far from the launch with the winds., but decided to do it anyhow. I'd rather try it during prefishing and I'm glad I did. I started out with a paddle down the canal with the wind to my back. I'm guessing I went somewhere between ¼ & ½ mile before I turned around and decided to see what it was like paddling into the wind. Wow that was tough. My phone was blowing up the whole so I decided to tuck in behind the wall protecting the Southern side of the ramp. Out of the wind I watched a group of about 10-15 members of a Touring Kayak Class warming up on the ramp. I checked out my phone, returned a couple calls and texts then the touring group started to launch. We chatted for a few minutes as they all waited on the whole group to launch, I let them know it was quite breezy and off they went.
With my drift anchor in the water I was slowed down enough to actually fish the Eastern Shore side of the canal without too much difficulty. I did have to back paddle myself closer to the grass from time to time. Casting up current and jigging a Chartreuse 4” Gulp Swimming Mullet back towards me I managed a 12” flounder within a few casts. Cast after cast I was feeling bumps and bringing my Gulp up tailless. Small Bluefish were everywhere. My wallet can attest to this after I lost tail after tail. I got tired of donating $0.70 Gulp to the Bluefish and grabbed my rod rigged up with a ½ Oz Bucktail with a Gotcha 4” White with Pink Tail grub trailer. I opted to see if anything was out deeper. The edge of this canal was 2-3' at low tide but the middle was 18-22' deep. Hoping something larger was holding on the drop off I cast my bucktail to the middle and jigged it back up the side. First cast and it was on, I landed a 14” Croaker. This was my biggest Croaker on a plastic and on my yak. With the skunk 2 fish behind me I decided to to back and try my gulp again, and again I kept losing the tails so I decided to move on out and go find Martin and Jimmy.
Off I went, drift anchor up and full force of the wind blowing me down the canal. I kept looking back up in creeks but was unable to see Jimmy or Martin so I figured they decided to head down closer to Fisherman's Island. What a mistake that was for me to go down there. The wind pushed me right to the Eastern Shore side of Fisherman's Inlet and then I decided I wanted to try fishing around Fisherman's Island. Wow, that was a mistake. Paddling with the wind and waves slamming me broadside, I was about halfway across the inlet when I was going up and down 3' rollers taking the caps over the side and drenching my seat. I decided it halfway was a long way to still paddle so I pointed my bow into the wind and waves and started paddling.
Trolling a blue & chrome Rat'L Trap and a Chartreuse Swimming Mullet I worked my way under the bridge. Hit, fish on, grab the rod, damn fish off. Drop the rod back in the holder and within a couple strokes, Bam fish on, grab the rod, damn fish off. This happened 3-4 times when I finally realized that every time I stopped to try and catch a small blue that was biting the tail off the mullet I lost more than I had gained in the previous two attempts to paddle. I tucked my head and just started stroking it out, ignoring the hit after hit I was getting on my swimming mullet. Finally all the hits stopped and I realized that I wasn't out of the fish, I more than likely had no gulp left on my hook. Sure enough, when I pulled up on the beach on the eastern shore side to take a break and stretch for a few there was nothing but about ½” of Gulp left on my jig head.
Somewhat rested I hopped back in the yak and paddled around the point where the bridge meets the Eastern Shore and began donating more gulp to the numerous blues. Here I managed another flounder, this one coming in at about 10”. While I was tucked around this corner I decided to call Martin, after talking we realized he must have been back in a creek out of sight of the canal because I'd passed him on my way down. With the words flounder and trolling rolling off my tongue Martin decided to head my way. By this point I'd had enough with the wind. I started paddling back up the canal, due North East into a 20 knot NE Wind....let me tell you there were times that I was paddling as hard as I could and I think I was actually going backwards.
I ran into Martin just south of the mouth of the canal, informed him how bad the paddle back up had been so far and he opted to turn around. Off he went in his Peddle kayak leaving me to regain the 100 yards or so I'd lost while I was talking to him. Again I just tucked my head into the wind and started grinding out the paddle. I finally came across Jimmy who was fishing a channel marker, I'd learned my lesson talking to Martin and kept the conversation with Jimmy short before I paddled off towards the first creek.
What seemed like hours later I finally made it to the first creek and tucked in and out of the wind. What a relief that was. Jimmy had passed me by this point and was 100 yards or so ahead of me when I came up on Martin, who was wedged into some grass just kicked back fishing.
“Man, I can't even begin to tell you how tired my legs are after peddling that far in that wind” I hear Martin yell through the howling gusts at me.
“Really, ^&(*&$#*(%&*$% you, I don't want to hear &^($&@#%&*(@# about how tired your legs are as you peddled here” we had a good laugh at that and continued to fish. The whole way back to the launch it was windy canal, duck into a creek to fish and rest, rinse repeat.
Exhausted, sore shoulder, not enough beer, swearing I was going to find a place out of the wind to fish on Saturday and only 3 fish to show for my prefishing I loaded up the Kayak and headed back to Norfolk to clean up and attend the Captain's Meeting. Driving back I hear a horn honk as I'm crossing the CBBT and see a Hummer with two yaks on top pass me and wave. I end up following them all they way back until they turned off at the Red Roof Inn. Just minutes later I pulled into the Quality Suites Lake Wright for my first time.
This is the only place I can really complain about the logistics and administration of the event. Zach was back from his prefishing wearing the stripe, so we both told our stories of the day and drowned or aches and pains in a few beers. We were in line within minutes of them opening up to check in registered anglers for the Captain's Meeting. After about 5 minutes it is our turn to check in and we're informed dinner tickets and T-shirts will be given out on Saturday. OK, off we go, with zero guidance as to what is in our goodie bag. Apparently our “identifier” was a brown zip tie, glad someone told me that, so I didn't accidentally lose it or throw it away.
Fresh beers in hand, Zach and I head back down to the Tournament area and start looking at the vendors and raffle prizes. About an hour later we notice people are now being given their T-Shirts and Dinner tickets. Off to the registration table we go questioning our lack of T-Shirt. Apparently someone changed the plan and Dinner Tickets and T-Shirts were being given out now.
“Can we get ours” We politely asked and were very promptly told the only way to get them was to go through the line again. Are you F'ing Kidding me? The line is now 50 people deep and I have to wait in it because you were unable to give me a shirt when I arrived on time? It wasn't like I was early and asked someone to let me check in so I didn't have to wait. I was on time and now I had to waste an hour of my time in line just to get what they could have given me when I first checked in.
T-Shirt, dinner ticket and NAME TAG (another thing they didn't give us and even failed to tell us we had coming) in hand we dash back to the room for another ice cold beer. Quietly waiting at our seat enjoying our ice cold beverages the 7pm time for the Captain's meeting comes and goes without a word. Off to the room for another beer, 7:30 is now come and gone. Finally someone makes an announcement. “People are still on the way, traffic is bad at the HRBT and people are running late” Really? Seriously? When is the traffic NOT bad at the HRBT on a Friday night during rush hour.
Finally, 1½ hours late the captain's meeting is started, well now I've was a good boy and was there on time, what do I get for my efforts? I miss half the captain's meeting running back and forth to the bathroom because apparently after passing the time drinking beer for 4½ hours I have the bladder of a squirrel and find myself running back and forth to the bathroom. Eh, may as well grab another beer while I'm out here.
All in all pre-fishing day was miserable, although I did finally get to meet incredible kayak anglers like Rob Choi and Kayak Kevin. So with all that behind me, I picked up a couple to go beers from the bar and headed to our room to finally get some sleep. We sat there and talked while Zach tied flouro leader onto all his rods then lights out, 5am was coming really early.
At 5am what sounded like an air raid siren started going off in my head, oh no, that isn't my head it is my phone. I stood up walked across the room pressed the snooze button “Screw this I hit snooze” I said to Zach and Billy as I crawled back into the bed. 10 minutes later my slumber was again disturbed by that god awful sound but this time I got up. I quickly threw on pants and a shirt grabbed my keys and headed for the door. Still not 100% sure of where I was going to fish I headed towards the CBBT briefly stopping into Wawa for a breakfast sandwich, coffee, soda and water.
Cape Charles here I come I decided as I passed through the a CBBT toll booth for the 3rd time in 24 hours. Arriving to an area so blind to what is there I had to follow signs to get to the launch is not really what I'd envisioned for tournament morning, but oh well here I go. I get to the launch right around 6:30 and start unloading and rigging up. No one else here except a couple commercial guys heading to work for the day. I had the ramp to my self. Almost completely ready to go I see headlights pan across the parking lot, I glance up to see what is coming my way, and lo and behold there is the same Hummer I followed across the CBBT the night before. Well so much for having the harbor to myself, but at least it was only 3 guys.
We all talked for a few minutes then off I paddled. First working my way down some old dilapidated docks fishing the pilings with nothing but hang up and snags thanks to the wind blowing my line right into the pilings. Fed up with that I see another pier across the water from me so I start working my way towards it. As I am crossing the harbor I see one of the guys that launched after me hook up with a Belt fish. I watched as he attempted to avoid the teeth and get it unhooked. I continued across the harbor towards the other dock when I realize it isn't a dock, it is a fishing pier. So much for that plan, I skirt around the pier dragging my, I'm sure tailless by now, Gulp Swimming Mullet. Beyond the pier I start working my way out the rock Jetty towards the open bay. From where I'm looking everything looks calm out there, maybe I can get out of the harbor and fish for a little while I though. Working my way passed the end of the jetty the water dropped to 10-12' and fish were stacked up on the fish finder. Well long story short, one 13 7/8” striper and that was it. I worked those fish for at least an hour throwing everything I had at them and not a single other bite.
With the wind blowing straight down the bay I ended up staying in the harbor all day. At the worst of the morning the wind was blowing so hard in the Harbor that I took shelter behind a barge. Bored, tired of fighting the wind and with no fish worth measuring yet I threw on a double bottom rig and a couple pieces of Blood Worm Fish Bites. Within minutes I had a pinfish on the kayak, then another. Finally I had something with a little more weight and there was an 8” Spot. Well he quickly got photographed for the Spot/Croaker Slam and the Fillet Knife went to town.
Now with real bait, I hooked up a piece of spot strip and tossed it out. Seconds later my rod doubles over, raise the rod tip and start reeling, miss. A few more of these and boom fish on. 12” Red, on a piece of the fish bites of all things. Too bad, too short, the fish has to be 14” to qualify for the tournament. Out the line goes again, oh and by the way, I'm now fishing in behind the old dilapidated dock pilings that I got stuck on right after launching. I have to wait a few minutes but there's another bite. This time I pull up a nice 16” Red. Now we're talking out comes the camera and I snap a picture of this pretty two spotted fish.
Continuing to fish in the little hole I'd found for myself I kept fishing and catching many more fish, only two of which were measurable for the tournament. First was a 15” Red another nice pretty 2 spotted fish.
And I ended my day with a 19” red that put up a fight like no other 19” fish I've ever caught. I would've sworn the thing was twice its size.
Tired and wind beaten again I loaded up my kayak and headed back to the Quality Suites Lake Wright to check in. Upon arrival I filled out my score card and turned it in. Knowing I didn't even come close to qualifying for a prize. Little did I know at that point just how bad everyone had it that day.
Out of 270+ anglers, only 2 fishermen actually hit the Flounder/Trout/Red slam they were looking for. So to conclude my assessment of the tournament, it was a great time, there were a few things I would change (that could be changed) and a lot of things that I wouldn't touch. It was a great weekend of hanging out and supporting a good cause. Will I do it again next year, you bet I will, but this time I'll be prepared to paddle in Gale Force winds! I'd been forewarned about this tournament always being held when the weather was crappy and now I really know!