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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Jordan Lake Stripers

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I got out on Jordan Lake today to chase striped bass and white bass and found the fish feeding readily.

I started out jigging in about 18′ of water and hooked the only striper I kept on a piece of metal. The fish fought like a much bigger striped bass, but once I landed the 21″ specimen I knew I had a grilled dinner, so I put it on ice. All I needed at that point was a fresh lemon. This fish had a fair amount of broken lines, but it was just a striped bass.

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But after a few more minutes of jigging and no takers I could see action on the surface of the water around me. The wind was light and I had trolling gear aboard, so it wasn’t long before I started pulling hardware. I started off in 15 FOW and had marks all around.

And I was quickly rewarded for the change of tactics. Clouds had been moving in from the west, and as the afternoon progressed, the colors changed from reds to purples tinged with orange as the sun found its way to the horizon. The wind slightly changed to a WSW and it wasn’t five minutes into the pass when the leadcore rod with a sassy shad doubled over. I fought the fish while keeping the other line moving and landed another nice keeper striped bass before releasing it after a quick pic.

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After I turned around to make another pass through the area I immediately found my sonar lit up again. And after another few moments the same rod doubled over again and I fought a really nice white bass to the boat. I thought it was another striper the way it fought, but once I boat-flipped the large panfish I knew I had another cooler fish. It hit the ice and I set back out.

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There was a slight lull and I changed jig heads as I was running through the same general area. At times I would pull cranks and at times I didn’t. But after a while I decided to change colors and ran a chartreuse Bomber over shallow structure. I’d been running a white Bomber as my prop-wash bait, but it was a deep crank, so I opted for a 6′ – 8′ model and quickly found fish receptive.

This was my first striper double of the year (feature photo) and after fighting the fish to the boat, I released them after taking pics. I only planned on keeping 1 striped bass for a grilled dinner over the weekend and the white bass was a bonus. As you can clearly see, one fish was caught on a sassy shad and one was landed on a crankbait.

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I caught a few others, but released everything else. All my fish were caught in 14′ to 24′ of water and almost every fish was caught using white sassy shads on chartreuse jigheads.

Good luck!!

Wild Turkey Zombie

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So I found a wild turkey zombie on Jordan Lake yesterday.

I was out on Jordan Lake in a kayak yesterday and after a while I noticed a wild turkey feeding on insects in the sand nearby.  So I started filming.

As I approached, I noted first a respectable beard on the bird. It looked to be a 10″ beard.  Then, it became odd that he let me approach so easily. Now, if you know anything about wild turkeys you’ll know they are very, wary animals with extremely good eyesight.

I’ve never gotten so close to a turkey in my life and it almost ran into me a few times, especially when it flew almost straight into me near the end of the video. You won’t believe what this bird does. I’ve seen wildlife doing some strange things over the last few years, but this takes the cake.

I only have a few theories as to why this bird acted the way it did. 1. It was the feed! The bird might have just been unwilling to leave prime browse – doubtful. 2. His lady was nearby; it is spring – also doubtful. 3. He’d been run out of gameland by hunters scouting for the opener on April 1st. – possible, but Jordan is permit only for turkey and the woods have been pretty vacant since deer season – also doubtful 4. ZOMBIE TURKEYS!!!!!!

Seriously though, check out this crazy encounter with this wild turkey.

 

Fall Stripers & Proper Cleaning Techniques for Your Catch

The nights have begun to cool in the southeastern states, and with the cooler temperatures, striped bass are starting to feed heavily again.

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I got out on the lake after work for a few hours the other day and decided to troll the shallows during the last couple hours of light. I found fish in less than 10 feet of water and they were ready to eat. I was trolling 1 rod with a #3 in-line spinner (unweighted), and the other rod was rigged with a Carolina-rig, equipped with a 1-oz weight (that rod I barely had any line out); this setup was rigged with a #5 in-line spinner.

I found fish on one stretch of shoreline and literally caught a striper on every pass til I left at dark. There were some shorts; from 17″ – 19″, but I also landed 7 fish in between 21″ – 23″. Keeper stripers for the lake are 20″ and up (there is no slot and 4 per angler is the creel limit).

Here are a few of the keepers, (you can see all 7 if you go to Kayakwars.com, I post my fish there for a year long tournament & my name is crappinator there)

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These fish fought hard and if you could see the time stamps on the digital pics you would see every fish was caught within 3 to 7 minutes of each other! I basically had enough time to reel in the fish, net and unhook it, place it on the board and snap a few pics before either keeping it or releasing it back into the water. Then within a minute or two another striped bass was hooked; it was non-stop action for almost 2 hours. I wanted to keep 2 fish for the table, but after putting 2 in the cooler, one other fish was hooked deep and bled badly, so I kept it too.

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Now you must know striped bass are awesome table fare, but I have heard a few people complain about the meat over the years and I know why. It’s much like those who do not take the proper time with a knife with deer meat that causes the bad taste; not the meat itself.

So here is a basic tutorial on how to make the most of your catch.

First and foremost ice the fish down immediately! Then I prefer to let the fish stay on ice overnight as it is easier to handle and there is less blood. You may decide to cut the gills before throwing them in the cooler, but I don’t find it necessary. The number one reason people get a bad taste from striped bass meat is they fail to remove the dark meat. It’s really just a short strip on the fillet that you can v-notch out with a good rigid knife. See the pics below to see what I’m talking about.

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Note the absence of the red meat in the fillet in the second picture; the scraps are just above the cut.

I like to basically fillet the shoulder down to the tail, but a very wise old-timer showed me a method years ago; leave the tail attached, and it is much easier to remove the meat from the skin (this also makes scaling unnecessary). Note the skin on the cardboard in the pics above, and the tail still attached in the pic below.

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Finally, if you are not planning on eating the meat right away; I highly recommend a vacuum sealer to preserve any and all the wonderful meat you obtain from your time in the outdoors. It truly makes a world of difference in the freshness of your wild game. So get out and put a bend in your rod now, the fish are chewing!