Fort Fisher Plundering

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photo: Doug McNay

Three members of my family hit the grass flats at Fort Fisher, NC this past weekend.

My brother, mother and myself launched our kayaks from the beach side as the tide was starting to come in. We made our way across a waterway and soon found ourselves surrounded by big, blue sky and light-green grass-lined banks that stretched in all directions.

We tried throwing skitterwalks on top for a little while, but no one hooked up. However, we could see that bait and fish were present. My brother started throwing spinnerbaits and mirrorlures, while I resorted to fresh shrimp rigged on a carolina-rig with a 1oz weight.

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Joey and Mom started into a few channels, still using artificials, and I posted up on a set of small islands of grass. I cut the shrimp into tiny offerings and lobbed a cast at the middle of the triple-chain to my right. It wasn’t a few seconds and fish were biting. I almost never fish with live or dead bait in freshwater, but when hitting these remote salty areas, I like to up my chances on blue-bird days. I’ve learned over the years these types of days can be difficult, as far as angling, and the effort to reach the destinations is extreme, so I will gladly take the ego-punch and defer to more reliable means to fill a cooler, and have a blast in the process.

The first area provided a few small croakers, but seemed void of any larger predator fish, so I broke my grass knot and moved further into the marsh. I never take an anchor in there anymore, the grass is easily tied into a knot around a kayak handle, which makes for a silent-makeshift-anchor, and less gear in the boat. It can be a little itchy sometimes, but its easily dealt with when you find yourself out of the wind, motionless, and catching fish.

I moved as quietly as I could through the many channels and found another spot that looked really active. Bait was present, some mullet were breaching the surface, and I could see swirls that looked to be drum. It was another area with many features, rather than an even-lined channel. I tied to the left side of an island, with another island to my back, and a channel cutting through straight ahead.

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One cast to the point just before the channel, and within a moment, my rod was bouncing wildly. Drag peeled off the 7′ outfit, and I knew I had a drum on. The fish fought for several minutes, darting across the water in spurts, before I saw it was not a red drum, but a large-shouldered black drum. It’s dark vertical lines gave it’s identity away. These fish fight and taste almost exactly like their cousins the redfish, except they have bigger shoulders and a taller profile.

After boat-flipping the fish, I unhooked it quickly and put it on ice. And after another cast to the same spot, another drum quickly inhaled the bait. The same process was repeated and I had a second fish-taco-supplier aboard my craft. I casted again a few times, but both fish had put up quite a ruckus, so the area filled with pinfish, the dreaded bait-stealers. I figured the area could use a rest, so I went to find my family.

They were at the end of the channel section we had entered and posted up on two opposing points. Joey had caught a nice keeper redfish, and a few rats, and Mom had also resorted to shrimp, but had found the pinfish that came in on me. We tried that area a while, and Joey caught a keeper flounder, but the wind picked up and I talked them into going back to the area I had left to rest.

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I got Mom to get into a spot across from the point where I’d caught the black drum, and I positioned myself across from her, on the other side of the point. She threw her bait in and was immediately hooked up. Something was really giving her a tustle, and Joey paddled to her to assist. I was sure it was a big red drum, but after a little while they determined it was a big stingray.

She was a little disappointed, but we told her to throw back in there. From then on, she kinda kicked our butts. I mean, Joey and I still caught more fish, but she repeatedly hooked up and landed red rum, black drum, pinfish, and croakers. It was really fun to watch her fight all those underwater denizens, especially since we were celebrating our birthdays. And she loves fresh fish as much as we do.

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Soon, the water started to rush out on us though, and we had to retreat quickly to avoid being stranded in the marsh. But we had a great day and two coolers full of fish! So we opted to head home and join other family members in celebration. It was a great weekend.

Love the family and grass-flats!

 

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Had Another Front Page on Ncangler this week!

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My buddy Scott and I hit Jordan Lake again on Sunday for the afternoon, and the fish were really active.

The weather was crazy, with the tropical system quickly passing to our west, the winds were up and down, cloudy one minute, sunny and humid the next. But, the bite was on.

I was trolling KVD 1.0’S all afternoon and caught a ton of fish. Lots of perch, (including a double) largemouth bass, crappie and even a catfish, however, most were smallish.  But after we paddled across the lake, when the wind reached a point from the southeast that pushed the waves to white-capping (trying to escape) we found an area virtually unaffected by the weather and saw a couple bald eagles retreating to a tree approximately 200 yards from our position. Scott loves photographing birds and so we split up for a bit.

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photo: Scott Kroggel
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photo: Scott Kroggel

He got photographs of eagles and egrets, while I tried to figure out how to fish that side of the lake. After an hour or so, the wind lightened and we were drifting back across the lake, and over a hump; that’s when the bigger bass, maybe 3 pounds plus, hit the slightly moving tiny crankbait. It doubled the rod over and started shaking its head so violently, I was sure it was a striped bass. The fight lasted probably 4 or 5 minutes too, this bass was a really hardy character, which allowed Mr. Kroggel to get some really cool pics….

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photo: Scott Kroggel
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photo: Scott Kroggel

….which led to the front page on Ncangler.com Monday morning. I even had a violently-ill crappie stick a hook in my finger for this effort!! The audacity of that pound for pound superior fighting fish! Actually, I boat flipped it green and paid the price lol.

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photo: Scott Kroggel

Anyhow, I was really happy my friend was able to receive some validation, only a few months after starting to perfect a new craft. And great fishing made it that much better. To many more adventures…

It was a perfect Sunday.

 

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

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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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

 

 

 

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.

Yep, I caught Stripers on a Skitterwalk

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So with the nights cooling off I’ve gotten back on the water for stripers a few times over the last few weeks.

Last Saturday morning I hit a lake and found fish eating a ChugBug steady until 9am. The fish were knocking the bait out of the water repeatedly. It was incredible. Literally the best topwater bite on freshwater I’ve ever experienced. Never had so many fish come back to a bait they’d knocked 10″ out of the water so many times. That post with pics is here.

So I went back one day after work and the bite was non-existent in great conditions. It was cloudy, the wind was down and shad came to the surface in many schools a few hours before sunset; but the small baitfish were unmolested. Not a single fish surfaced that afternoon and I finally resorted to a Texas rig to catch one very small largemouth bass. The area was devoid of life. The water is still really warm for striped bass in the afternoons.

So this am I decided to hit the Cape Fear river and try my luck there. This proved to be a great decision.

Literally non stop action til about 8:00am.

I starting catching fish in the dark…

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It’s a little unnerving in a river, by yourself, yanking a topwater bait across the water towards the yak in the dark when a fish unloads on it. The sound was violent and water sprayed me all morning. But that’s what getting up at 5am is for… And they kept hitting the ChugBug. Even some nice ones….Biggest one, the Skitterwalk fish, was almost 26″ and not too skinny for a late summer fish, probably 8 pounds.

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I lost a few too. Last weekend not a single fish came unbuttoned, and there were a lot of bass mixed in. This am no bass at all and I had 1 good fish come unglued at the boat. I couldn’t complain though…When the bite slowed at one point, I remembered I had tied a white Skitterwalk on one rod. I had never hooked a freshwater striped bass on one so I chucked it out in a lull.

First few pops…and this comes on board after quite a tussle…Sometimes a quick change of baits is all you need.

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The bite died at almost exactly 8:00. I tried to find other biting fish but the area closed for business just like that. As often in late Summer you will see fish bite great for about an hour or two but can shut down quickly in shallow water.

I had other things on the agenda for today so I headed out at 9:00.

Man what a morning.