The usual conversation between Rob Choi and me is about fishing and it always seems to end with planning our next time on the water. I was not focused on fishing this time while chatting with Rob, but thinking about sitting in a tree stand to arrow my next deer. It's driving me crazy to watch my good friend Joe Underwood arrow deer after deer, nice buck after nice buck. I already have one deer in the freezer, but Joe is managing the heard in the entire county, alone. It only took one little sentence from Rob to change my mindset: "I'm thinking about going after a paper trout, you wanna go?"
It didn't take long to run home on my lunch break and load up all of my gear to get ready for the impromptu trip. These are the type of outings that I love; no planning, just spur of the moment decisions. We weren't just going to hopefully catch some fish. We both had our mind on the same thing - we were on a mission to nail our citation trout for 2012!
The scenery at the launch was out of Field & Stream magazine; fading light, leaves blowing off the trees, a slight ripple on the surface of the bay, and the feeling of good things to come. We had a couple of admirers staring at our Ocean Kayaks, both heavily rigged with dual GoPro cameras, YakAttack accessories, and Werner “Camano” paddles. We looked like a two-man team with a purpose! After a short conversation, it was off to conquer what we set out to do. It took five minutes of chucking my Rapala “Skitter Walk®” to entice an aggressive 21" speckled trout, followed up by a nice 22" fish.
Within the first half an hour, both Rob and each had five trout on top water before the tide started to slow down. As the tide slowed, so did the fishing. The nice part was that we knew where the fish were. The bad part was waiting for the tide to turn and start moving again. The bite picked up and remained consistent once the tide started moving out. We were catching one after another, with multiple fish over 20". Watching Rob's headlamp shining on a splashing fish in the water caught my attention. It looked really nice! I had a feeling, and I was right... Rob got his citation! This hungry 24" citation trout was doomed by top water. Congrats, Rob, you deserve it!
At this point, I was very happy for Rob but extremely jealous as well! I have spent well over 100 hours this year going after a citation trout. I have come close many times, with fish coming off or falling less than an inch short. I've even had other fishermen catch them right next to me. For some reason, I can't seem to shake this "monkey" off my back. I just had to tell myself that the night was still young and to remain positive.
I decided to change tactics up and try something new. I ditched the top water and opted to troll a couple of shallow-running crank baits. I used a Yo-Zuri “Crystal Minnow” and a Rapala “X-Rap” to invade the strike zone. I wanted my lures to provide a good thumb and swim around 3’-4’ down, which was where I was marking baitfish. Slow trolling at night is a great way to cover water and to locate fish. I started to find a pattern right away which would prove to work out the rest of the night. Making pass after pass on a certain drop off was triggering strike after strike. After landing a couple trout 20" and under, I thought my chances may be running out for the citation. Finally - BANG, big fish on! I knew from the minute I took the rod from the holder that it was a good fish. Strong head shakes, followed up by drag burning runs. This was the moment that my heart started to beat faster and my mind went into autopilot. I have rehearsed this scenario in my head many times regarding what I would do in this situation. It all came together as the fish entered the net. Finally, a BIG trout! I knew the minute that I landed it: CITATION! This big girl measured in at 25.5". I can finally say that I caught a citation trout!
It all finally came together! The hard work, preparation, planning, determination, and remaining positive paid off. I was saying to myself, "If I would have not gone with Rob and decided to go hunting instead, this would have never happened." How could this night get any better? I just caught my biggest speckled trout to date. We still had around an hour left before it was time to call it a night. What to do - go in or stay out? Obviously, you keep on fishing!
I picked up where I left off: catching fish! A few more between 18" and 20" were boated on the crank baits. Just as planned, I passed over a school of baitfish on my fish finder and slowed up the paddle speed to keep my lures in the strike zone longer, and BOOM! Another big fish on! This fish felt identical to the citation that I just had caught. Not an hour after my first citation trout of the year, I land my second! Here’s a nice 25” trout:
Being at an all time high, I didn't want to stop. I didn't want this night to end! We fished for a little bit longer and each person picked up a few more trout but the bite had slowed down. We both lost count at 15 trout each for the night, all between 17" - 25.5". As time ticked away, I reflected on the night that we just experienced: Rob made the decision, threw out the invite, and was rewarded with his citation. I didn't give up, remained positive, and caught not one but two citations! This is a night that I will never forget! We succeeded in what we came out to do - Mission Accomplished!
See ya on the water!
About the Author: Richie Bekolay is diehard kayak fisherman and outdoorsman that resides in Newport News, Virginia. Originally from southeastern Wisconsin, his fishing roots started very early in life as he spent most of his free time pursuing the popular freshwater species with his true passion being the mighty musky. Currently serving in the Air Force, Richie has expanded his skill set from the sweet water to the salt of the Chesapeake Bay. He’s an accomplished tournament angler with most recently a 1st place win for the “Slam” division in the 2012 Tidewater Kayak Anglers Association Kayak Fish For Charity Tournament (3rd largest kayak fishing event in the country) and an 8th place finish in the 2012 IFA Kayak Fishing Tour Atlantic Division Angler of the Year race. Richie is also a prostaff member with Ocean Kayak and Werner Paddles. Don't be surprised if you're on the water or at an outdoors event and run into him and his "Cheesehead" accent. You can follow his fish tales in his blog; Hook, Line, & Sinker at hooklinesinker1.blogspot.com.