Kayak-In Camping

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photo: Scott Kroggel

My good friend, Scott Kroggel and I decided to do some kayak-in camping Friday night.

I escaped society a few hours before he did and went ahead to find a spot and gather firewood. I launched at Ebeneezer boat ramp on Jordan Lake around 4pm and cruised across Beaver Creek towards an area I had in mind.

We weren’t really going to fish, but I knew with cooling temperatures the fish would be shallow, especially in the evening, so I made sure to bring a few dozen crappie minnows along.

After unloading gear and gathering plenty of dry wood for the night’s fire, I sent a minnow soaring across the water on a float. The water was calm, as winds were light and out of the east, and after a few moments the bobber plunged under the water’s surface and I had the first fish on. The small largemouth bass fought hard, and was returned to the lake after a quick photograph.

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That bass was followed by another a few minutes later…

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Then, there was a lull in the bite and I decided to do a little exploring. I always enjoy figuring out what sorts of inhabitants use the same woods I do.

It’s good to see tracks from whitetail deer all around the lake again. EHD seems to be backing off from central NC’s deer herd. I hope for good. The sunset was really nice.

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It wasn’t long after the sun dove beyond the horizon that I started fishing again. I brought a red light-up bobber and soon enough it was dancing wildly across the water.

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From that point on, schools of crappie came through every five or ten minutes and while most were small, there were some slabs….

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photo: Scott Kroggel
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photo: Scott Kroggel
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photo: Scott Kroggel

Scott is becoming quite the photographer, and he spent a good portion of the evening perfecting his craft. Some of these pics are really cool.

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photo: Scott Kroggel
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photo: Scott Kroggel
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Jordan Lake Bassin’

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I had a couple hours after work the other day and decided to hit Jordan Lake for the last hour bite.

The weather has been back and forth, but I’d been noticing north winds on the lake when I drive to work in the mornings, and with days getting shorter, I figured I could find some shallow fish. Didn’t have much time, and I would be in the yak, so I opted to leave the stripers alone and go after largemouth bass instead.

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I found them feeding almost straight off after getting to a place that’s always been productive for me this time of year. I saw a small pod of threadfin-shad busting the water, actually leaping out, and after throwing a small crankbait, I was hooked up.

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The fish weren’t full-on busting, but at times small pockets of surface busting cropped up and I was able to take advantage. The fish were mostly small, until I had the double-hookup (feature photo). Those bass were the biggest of the outing; it was just a fluke they were caught paired. I wish I could explain the excitement of this sort of phenomena occurring on freshwater lakes to non-anglers. It’s easy to get flustered and make mistakes, but if you calm yourself and focus, you can catch fish after fish til you leave; really non-stop action.

I caught everything on a small crankbait and a small spoon and had to really burn the baits to get bit. After trolling a bit when the fish seemed inactive, and only getting a few more bites, I headed to the ramp.

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Late Summer Striped Bass Fishing

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Late Summer Striped bass fishing can be very tough.

But Captain Stu called me yesterday around 3pm and said he was ‘trailering his boat and headed to the lake’. I took a quick look at the barometer and it was dropping. There was weather around, the south-westerly wind was light, and it was nice and cloudy…we got on the water around 4pm and decided to run around and look for bait.

Normally, this time of year on our area freshwater impoundments, we are headed towards turnover as the thermocline (if its present) starts to bring the low-oxygenated water from the lower layer of the lake to the top. The stripers are as skinny as they’ll be, as they’ve been chasing bait all summer, trying to stay alive, with an incredibly sped-up metabolism. They just feel like crap, they start to scatter, and they can be very difficult, even when and if found, to get to bite any kind of hardware. Throw in fishing on a lake recovering from a massive kill and, well you get it. I didn’t have much for expectations.

But we caught fish. We started out in deep water, but found no bait, then as we moved shallower we found 15-18 feet of water to be the zone. We pulled spoons and crankbaits over marks and bait for almost an hour without so much as a tail-slap, then when approaching a point a channel catfish doubled over the first rod. Stu fought it and it looked like dead weight. I figured we’d treble-hooked it. But then it started fighting, we thought it was a striper, but it was just a 2 or 3 lbr. I noticed the wind had picked up and thought that was what had triggered the strike and that ended up proving out the remainder of the afternoon. Our strikes came at times when drizzle started or the wind changed. So as we bounced cranks over another point, during a light shower, a decent largemouth pulled a rod down as I was working the deck. Stu got that one too, maybe 2 or 3 lbs again, but it fought him good.

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He likes to run with 6.5’ poles with 10lb test to get more bites. I’ve been warning him about trolling with that light of line……A few minutes later two rods rolled over and the rod I had been working on, to remove a spoon and add another crankbait started bouncing wildly. I knew it. I boat flipped the 17’’er on the troll to help Stu, which appeared to have a bigger fish, but he lost it. Shucks.

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But we had our first target fish. After that the bite died, we ran through the area a few more times, but we had plenty of time. We hit another spot, fully intending to return, and hit a crappie straight off, but then fished that area another hour without a bite. After checking a few other areas, but finding no bait, we returned to the first location and dropped lines. Stu hit the same run on his gps and doubled over one of his ’light outfits’. I grabbed the rod and looked at him and smiled. The fish was pulling drag going for another county and wildly shaking its head. I tried to hand him the rod, but within five or six seconds, before he grabbed it, I felt the line snap. It was a big fish. Of course we debated it a bit.

He’s right on one hand, on many occasions; I have found that a lighter rod and line, on the troll or casting, will out-perform a stronger setup, as far as strikes, but on the troll, with other lines in the water, if a big fish bites a light setup, the only real option is to reel everything in and dead-boat the fish. But we didn’t have time for that. The fish broke us off so fast we didn’t have time to think of that. We pulled around a little longer and noted the wind die down, bait started coming up and the water column had obviously dimmed considerably. We pulled in the gear and hit a spot I know that will often give busting action when protected from the wind, and the breeze was right. We only had a few more minutes, but we found bait up top and within a few minutes noted surface crashing about 50 yards from our position. Stu managed one more bass out of that commotion, while I was jerking a skitterwalk that walked its walk with impunity. It was another schoolie which was quickly released. We called it a day, grateful for the handful of fish which consisted of four species, and trailered the boat in the dark. 

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Tagged Striped Bass on the Cape fear

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Photo: Scott Kroggel

I got out on the Cape Fear river over the holiday with a good friend and caught my first two tagged striped bass.

As long as I’ve chased these fish, its amazing these are the first ones with tags I’ve ever come across. And two of them in the same day was quite the treat. I found stripers feeding readily as soon as I arrived at the first location. Shad were breaching the water trying to escape the aggressively feeding fish. I could see the linesiders thrashing the surface of the water, but my first hookup was a big largemouth bass.

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My buddy Scott Kroggel was along for his first river trip in his brand new kayak. Scott is a very talented artist, musician and photographer and he took several beautiful photographs during our outing. Below is a pic I snapped of him a few weeks ago on his maiden voyage with his new yak.

The river was a little high and the water was slightly stained, but I had success at first with a chugbug by jerking it across the surface. Fortunately, there was abundant cloud cover, wind was almost non-existent, and the river water was cool enough for the fish to be active. It was one of those perfect days.

Soon enough, I landed the first striper.

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The fish was quickly released, as they are still protected on the Cape Fear, and after a few more casts I hooked the first tagger, a red tagged fish close to 25″. These fish are worth $100 bucks to the NCWRC.

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After a couple pics it was also returned to the river. And the fish just kept biting; more stripers, a few white bass, a gar and then I caught a few carp for good measure…

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Photo: Scott Kroggel

This guy inhaled a small crankbait, which was a challenge to remove safely for the fish. But he seemed to swim away unharmed. Luckily, the tiny bait hung short of his gills.

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The white bass wanted the little crankbait too.

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The carp prefer sweet corn.

We moved to a different area and I found the yellow tagger. I was fishing directly beneath a spillway and my buddy took a couple really cool pictures. I couldn’t believe my luck. This fish is worth $5 bucks and a NCWRC marine fisheries hat. Once again, after a couple quick photos the striper was returned to the water to go about his business mostly unscathed and a little bit smarter for his trouble.

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Photo: Scott Kroggel

 

 

 

Roanoke River April 2017

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Saturday, a good friend and I decided to launch on the Roanoke River in search of river-running striped bass.

We set out in Williamston NC and headed upriver. The current always seems to be strong there, but that day the water was clear compared to my previous trips. We’d planned to travel to Plymouth, but the shad report was good where we were, and with decent water clarity, we opted to go ahead and fish. We didn’t leave early by any means either and weren’t on the water til nearly 1:00.

We threw shad darts in white and chartreuse from the bank and had chasers nibbling as well, but they wouldn’t commit. So I tied mine on with a 1/2 oz trolling weight and let out plenty of line once we’d launched. The water was fairly deep, so I put out another line with a white sassy shad and a chartreuse jighead and headed hard into the current.

I wasn’t two-hundred yards up the river before I hooked my first shad of the year on the troll. It put up a great fight and I snapped a pic once I landed it.

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I continued upriver and it wasn’t long before a striped bass hit the sassy shad. It also put up a great fight and the current had me turned quickly. I thought I’d lose the other line and lures to the bottom of the river, but I was lucky and pulled them in after landing the striper. I took a quick pic and released it. I didn’t measure the fish, but I didn’t plan on keeping any unless they were at least 20″. It may have been a legal 18″ fish, but I decided to let the first one go.

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Shawn and I continued upriver again and after a while of fighting the current we found a great spot to try cut bait. We tied Carolina rigs and sent out baits into eddies and currents, but found no more striped bass. We did find a great bend in the river that gave us action until we left however. We caught plenty of catfish. They were the whitest channel catfish I’d ever seen. The fish were suspended in deep water, almost 40′, and we anchored on the point nearby and fan-casted the area.

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We caught several of these guys and released all of them. Then, we tried to search further upriver and trolled a ways again. But the boat traffic was heavy and we soon started running out of time. So we headed back to the area that gave the most action and that’s when Shawn hooked into the big gar (feature photo). I’d had two on prior to his hookup, but each fish came unbuttoned before I could get them to the boat.

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I paddled over to his position to get a few pics. Then, when I paddled off, he reeled in his other line and saw another gar take the bait at the boat. He fought that one and landed it too. That was the first gar-double I’ve ever witnessed.

The day had grown old by that point and we hadn’t found the striped bass in any numbers so we decided to call it a day and made the drive back to town. We honestly didn’t see anyone catch a fish yesterday and it was one of those afternoons when you saw the same boats running all over the place. Although, we were told the bite had been good. And I don’t doubt it, the fish don’t always know how nice a day it is. But we’d had plenty enough action to have a good time.

I advise anyone interested in this years striped bass run on the area rivers to check these shocking reports weekly. They update them pretty regularly and you can use them to plan your trips with an edge. They feature the Tar, Roanoke, Neuse and the Cape Fear.

Good luck!

 

 

Chasing White Bass

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I’ve been out a few times recently trying to see what the white bass are doing.

With the impossible-to-predict-weather we’ve seen so far this past sprinter and spring, the anadromous fishes have been off from their normal upriver spawning runs.

So I went this past Sunday on the kayak and found striped bass, white bass, crappie and more on Jordan Lake, then I took a stroll through a scenic area on the Haw River earlier this week and searched the pools and eddies for the small-but-ferocious fighters, and finally rushed to meet up with Captain Stu Dill yesterday after work to see if we could find any fish on the main lake before the weather hit.

So Sunday was awesome…

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I found and caught six species. Released all the perch, bream and smaller whites and crappie and largemouth bass, but I did release one big striper…check out the video.

 

I don’t like to keep freshwater stripers over 22″ for the table. So I usually release the bigger fish. And I’d already put a 22″er in the ice box along with the whites and crappie. So that was a great day; probably caught 30ish fish, almost all on jigs and sassy shads trolling in 20′-24′ of water.

Then, I got the itch to seek out the creek dwellers. I walked to a cool spot on the Haw River and took some pics before catching one little male, which was photo’d and quickly sent back to the river…

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The fishing was slow, but the afternoon was priceless.

Then I decided to hit the water yesterday after a half day of work with Captain Stu Dill and we worked as hard as we could. We employed a run-and-gun strategy; knowing we didn’t have a lot of time before storms would hit. Stu drove and I tied and re-tied rigs, trying to see if the fish would eat. But the rain quickly arrived and the air cooled considerably. We figured we were golden; barometer dropping, cloudy and overcast, no wind, blah,blah,blah.

We almost got skunked; if not for the hungriest white bass in the world yesterday, which also hit a small jig with a white sassy shad trailer. (feature photo) It was quickly photo’d and released as well. But the storms ran us off the water less than 2 hours after we launched, so we didn’t even get to fish any prime time.

So the moral of the story is the same as usual with spring fishing. Get out there and do it, but don’t be too disappointed when the sure thing on a spring day turns into a non-starter. Just breathe in that fresh air and enjoy the time afield and afloat.

More Winter Stripers

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Winter Stripers fight hard and are a great excuse to get out and brave the cold.

So I got out for only my second trip of the year yesterday and the bite was really hot again. I found striped bass in 15′ – 18′ feeding heavily. I went out in the kayak and targeted structure with jigs and spoons.

Needles to say, the sonar was very important yesterday as it was a bluebird, high-pressure day. All my fish were caught just off points and yesterday they were crushing the lures. I didn’t go out in the morning, it was in the 20’s and there was a north wind forecast. But I saw that the wind was supposed to switch over to an easterly around lunchtime so I couldn’t resist the trip.

I went one other time this year and found fish in the same depths, but on a totally different type of structure. That particular day the fish were barely hitting the lures, and every time I fought one to the surface it only had a single hook in it’s mouth. I hadn’t taken a net and lost several really nice ones trying to get the fish grippers in their mouths. I’d grown tired of dealing with a net in the yak, fighting with getting lures out of snags and had really gotten comfortable using the grippers, but that’s no good when they aren’t crushing the lures. And thrusting your hand into the mouth of a thrashing striper with treble hooks exposed is not something anyone with any experience with this species will do more than once.

So I brought a net yesterday and didn’t lose a single fish. Lesson learned.

I landed 7 stripers over 20″, and the best fish was a thick 25″ specimen that probably weighed between 6 and 7 pounds. It had broken lines on both sides and had gorgeous colors. I didn’t target or catch any other species, but there were some smaller fish I didn’t take pics of.

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As you can tell by the surface of the water it was fairly calm, which is the ideal condition for wintertime fishing. Whether you are using live bait and fishing vertical or using artificials; like jigs and spoons, windless days are the best. This allows you to stay on top of good marks, trees and contours around points pretty easily.

The color of the lure didn’t matter yesterday, but they did want small baits (standard for winter, go small!!). And presentation had to be perfect. If I hadn’t had the sonar on all day I wouldn’t have caught a single fish. They were really holding tight to structure and dead on the bottom. The marks were like bumps on the bottom of the lake, but they were there.

Here are the rest of the pics.

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