As tomorrow is Thanksgiving, I’m taking some time this morning to look back at my past year. Wow, I’ve done a lot. First off I am thankful that with all my adventures I’m still alive and kicking. Things could’ve gone completely different somewhere and well, lets just not think about that.
I started this year doing very little fishing, but did a lot of reading. In that reading, I stumbled across what was to become my biggest kayak fishing addiction yet. www.yakangler.com. I read posts for a couple days and realized this was a site I wanted to participate in. So at the end of February I registered my YA account and I’m still going strong. As of this minute I’ve posted 986 times on the forum. I know I can talk a lot, but really, how did I come up with 986 different posts.
In March I started posting about hitting Occoquan for some shad and pre spawn bass, a guy from YakAngler sent me a message about trying to hook up and fish together. It would take us months before we finally went fishing for the first time but oh the stories I’ll write about later.
Just before the Shad showed up in the rivers I read something about this crazy event called a Boondoggle. The name alone intrigued me, but much less than the concept of 300+ kayak anglers converging on one location to hang out, have some beers, some good times and catch some fish. I was working one evening covering a shift when I tuned into Redfish Chuck’s show on www.kayakfishingradio.com to hear him announce the location of the Columbus Day 2013 Boondoggle. Big Lagoon State Park, Perdido Key Florida (right next to Pensacola Naval Air Station). Oh I’m going to this I thought and started figuring out how to convince my wife to let me go. I called my buddy Roland, asked if he was interested, which of course he was, and we both asked our wives. With permission granted I watched and waited for the day registration opened up. Two weeks later it did and I did. Now to get Roland a Kayak so he wasn’t stuck in my extra OK Frenzy.
Reading and reading got me more and more pumped up to fish, as soon as I started reading reports of the Shad arriving in the Occoquan I loaded up the yak and headed out. This was when I got to see my first Northern Snakehead as well. I was working the footpath on the Occoquan river and a bass boat was nearby working the water discharge from the quarry. I watched one guy pull in 3 18-20” snakeheads within 5 minutes. I knew that would be my target species as the weather warmed up.
Shad season was good to me, I spent many hours out on the water C&Ring a lot of nice shad. But I wanted bigger fish. I planned to target some Stripers out by the bay bridge during the Maryland Trophy season but the day I’d picked to go was blown out with high winds and rough waters. Looking back now I can’t remember what I did instead, but I know I fished somewhere.
In the beginning of May I attempted, thanks to my brother’s suggestion, a new style of fishing called “Jug Fishing”. I bought the required materials and made 20 “Jugs” a very interesting way of fishing. Kinda cool feeling a 5lb catfish directly attached to the other end of a line. We’ll be trying it again this year.
By the end of may I had my first co-worker addicted to kayak fishing. We couldn’t have picked a colder, wetter day in May, but we went and he caught his first fish from a kayak, first fish on an artificial lure and first largemouth bass. Not a bad day of firsts, but he was definitely hooked, he ended up buying his own kayak about a month later.
On the last day of May I made my first venture into Pohick Bay, where I’d end up spending the majority of my summer fishing. Bass were off the beds and hungry. I lost count of fish. I saw snakeheads but couldn’t figure out how to get them to bite. This was how I would spend the rest of my summer. All but a couple trips would be back into the creek at Pohick Bay targeting bass and snakehead in the grass beds with topwater.
Mid June I finally met up with Zach, the guy I’d been trying to fish with for months. We paddled back into Pohick Bay, then pushed our kayaks across a mud flat to get back into the creek. We saw more snakeheads that we could count. And caught a bunch of nice Largemouth bass. Getting off the water I said “You know what Northern Virginia is missing, A kayak fishing club” He quickly agreed and we made plans to create a facebook group just for that purpose.
Father’s Day was an incredible day for me. The night before I asked my two daughters (15 and 17) if either one of them wanted to go fishing with me. “How early would we have to get up” the youngest one said. She groaned when I told her about 4:45, but she decided she’d go with me anyhow. It ended up being a stellar day. One that I will never forget. The smile on her face as a 3lb (ish) Largemouth crushed her buzzbait after a short fight she hoisted it up and posed for the picture.
Shortly after Father’s Day we departed for our annual family vacation. This year we rented a house in Marathon Florida, and of course I took my Kayak. We all enjoyed it, my wife even paddled away from the dock and explored the little creek we were on for an hour or so. Here is where I caught my first Kayak Redfish, Mangrove Snapper, Barracuda, ladyfish and Jack. When I caught the Redfish (about 30”, one of my 3 year old twins was sitting on the gator hatch of my kayak, the look on his face when he saw that fish was worth every cast I’d made that week).
With our Virginia Kayak Anglers’ Club (VKA) facebook group created the people started joining and we started talking about our first get together. We decided to hit Currioman Bay on the lower Potomac River and hunt for some redfish and stripers. The day was a success and everyone caught fish. Four people half who had never met before launched and spent about 10 hours and almost 8 miles paddling around catching Stripers, Croaker and White Perch, it doesn’t get much better than that.
It was in the heat of August before I caught my first Northern Snakehead. After losing two others, one jumped out of the net and straightened my hook, the other was on the stringer and shook so hard it straightened the metal hook on my stringer, that was the last trip I took one of those on. I finally managed a 29.5” snakehead, before I took the hook out of his mouth I had three clips from my stringer in his mouth. Mission accomplished.
The rest of the summer was spent hitting grass patch after grass patch in search of more bass and snakeheads. I also managed to head down to a little known pond and catch my personal best Largemouth, just ½” shy of a citation. Most trips taken were with at least one, if not more members of VKA, the club is turning out to be a great success.
Mid September we planned an ill fated trip on the Rappahannock river. The water was extremely low and the last mile was treacherous to say the least. The first 3 ½ miles we caught some incredible fish. 2 out of the 3 of us turtled our kayaks trying to maneuver the rock garden above Kelly’s Ford. Lesson learned, water must be at least 3 ½ feet deep to safely do that trip. Another lesson learned, stay with the person who knows the trip (I wasn’t the one who made that mistake, I know that stretch of river).
My Birthday weekend finally arrived and I was registered to fish the TKAA Heroes on the Water Charity Tournament down out of Norfolk Virginia. As I was warned, the weather turned out to be horrible. Winds blowing at 20-25 with gusts higher the entire weekend. We still had fun, still caught fish and a member of VKA actually placed 3rd in the Largemouth Bass division.
Two weeks later, it was Boondoggle time. In the final days before the trip I’d found Roland a sweet deal on a Malibu X-Factor completely rigged and ready to go. We loaded up and headed out. Driving through the night we arrived at Big Lagoon State Park around midday and proceeded to set up camp and drink some beers. The weekend was incredible to say the least. We fished, hung out, and made some new friends. I added Speckled Trout, Hardhead Catfish, Remora, Cobia and Spanish Mackerel to my “Caught from a Kayak” list. With the big weekend behind us, we headed home exhausted, but a the good kind of exhausted.
A couple fruitless trips out targeting stripers in the lower potomac during the rest of Oct and then some Crappie fishing at occoquan rounds out my year until now.
It was pointed out to me by DDOlson that I forgot a key point in my fishing year. I luckily managed a couple of Yak Angler Length Records this year, one of which was PROMPTLY beat and so until April I lost the American Shad Length record. I do however still hold the Northern Snakehead record, which I challenge everyone to try and beat. You can rest assured that when they are out of the mud and cruising the grass looking for a meal I will try and top my record.
Looking back at my year, I’m very blessed to have a wife and family that allows me to spend the time on the water that I do. That they will join me on the water when they can. My two little boys absolutely love fishing and the kayak, can’t wait until I buy them their own for their 5th birthday. What a phenomenal community we have as Kayak Anglers. The resources that YakAngler.com, KayakFishingRadio.com, the innovators at YakAttack.us, distributors like austinkayak.com, the charities like Heroes on the Water and all the other people, companies and organizations that dedicate their time, money and efforts to the sport of Kayak Fishing are invaluable. I can’t imagine a life without my family, this community and this sport and for that I am very thankful. Happy Thanksgiving to you all and have a safe Holiday season. Tight Lines! Life’s Short, Fish Hard.