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!

 

 

Winter Stripers

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The water was glassy and I had winter stripers on my mind.

I got to the last day of January and realized I hadn’t been on the water yet in 2017. So I took the second half of the day off and decided to go after fish I knew would be fat and full of fight.

And I wanted to grill some fresh fish.

It was a mid-60’s day with no wind and it had been warm for a few days. Definitely a no-brainer to go kayak fishing.

I started fishing around 3:00 and it wasn’t long before I had my first fish of the year; it fought hard but turned out to be a foul-hooked white catfish; probably three pounds or so. I didn’t take a pic and thought, uh oh.

After jigging a spoon a short time later another fish was on. (feature photo) The fish was barely hooked, but I managed to swing it into the kayak without losing tension. It was just over 20″, and a perfect eating fish. So he went into the cooler. I fished a little while longer without another bite and decided to move around a bit.

After watching the sonar a while, I came over what looked to be a school of crappie. The vertical column of fish, I thought was unmistakable. I back-pedaled to stay right on top of the marks and dropped the spoon. It was struck hard instantly, but the fish broke off after a few seconds. I dropped back down and jigged again awhile without another bite. The fish had been feeding all day I could tell. They were lethargic, but it was mid-afternoon. I figured it would pick back up towards sunset.

After trying a couple other spots and marking very little, I again came over good lines on my unit. I dropped the lure and it was smacked on the drop again. This time the fish held though, and I fought it for close to two or three minutes before it was boat side. I hadn’t brought a net, I rarely do anymore (I prefer the fish grippers) but today, with fish again hitting only one of two treble hooks, I missed it. I lost a nice 24+” class fish within a foot of my arm.

It happens, but I was shaking.

I dropped right back down though and after a few moments I was on again. After another decent fight I had another winter striper at the side of the yak. I swung it in as it looked short, and once measured it was just shy of a keeper at 19″.

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I snapped a pic a tossed this one back in and dropped back down. Again, a fish hit the lure on the drop, but after another lengthy fight, and sighting another 24″ class fish barely hooked, I lost tension at the boat missing with the lip-grippers. It was then I decided to go back to bringing a net. You just don’t reach your hand into a striped bass’s mouth with treble hooks in play. And winter stripers are so full of piss and vinegar they fight as hard in the boat as they do on the line.

I was again shaking but dropped back down regardless. And after another few jigs of the spoon I had another strike.

I knew I had another nice striper on. I fought it just like I had all the others and soon had it too at the side of the kayak. It was a good one and just like the rest, only one of the hooks on one treble hook held it to my line.

But this time the lip-grippers found their mark and I pulled the second keeper in. It was 24″ and close to six pounds after weighing it later.

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Not long after I put that one on ice a stiff south wind hit the lake and vertical fishing was out. I paddled back towards the launch and snapped a close-to-sunset pic before heading out and cleaning fish.

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Photos of Late..

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I’ve got a rain here in Cary today today, so I’m working on woodworking projects, but I decided to share a few pics I’ve taken lately. The Sagittarius piece is the companion piece for my Stepfather, the Scorpio was a birthday gift for my fellow Scorpio Mom.

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I got out Saturday afternoon for a Surf n’ Turf attempt. However the fish weren’t biting, and the deer are still pretty darn scarce in my neck of the woods around Jordan Lake at least. EHD is still hampering numbers badly. But it was a beautiful day and evening nonetheless.

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This is a spot on the lower half of Gaston Lake. I’ve always thought the chain was really cool so I took a pic.

Below are just some random shots I thought were kind of neat. Sort of work-in-progress pics.

And the mill in progress…

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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.

Best Striped Bass Topwater Bite of All Time!

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Striped bass and largemouth bass were slam knocking the chug bug out of the water this morning for almost 3 hours!

It was literally the best topwater bite I’ve ever seen. And I’ve had years of throwing Poprs, Buzzbaits, Jitterbugs etc…you name it. There was sufficient cloud cover and the wind stayed down til I left.

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The fish were so keyed up they were knocking the bait out of the water almost a foot at times, and doing it repeatedly. I’ve never seen anything like it. Then they were coming back for it and engulfing it. I had stripers jumping like largemouth, It was incredible.

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Fish after fish til the clouds broke and the sun came out. I probably caught 10 – 15 bass, biggest around 3 lbs, 8 striped bass (all skinny but 3 at 24″) and 2 white bass. Both whites swiped at the bait and hooked themselves on the outside of their body. It’s a big bait for a white for crying out loud.

I left the lake a little after 9 and was home and cleaned the fish by 11…That’s what I call a meat run.

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Gaston Lake Citation Striped Bass

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It’s tough to fish Gaston Lake on a holiday weekend.

It’s even tougher after you spring a leak in your boat after treating it an unkind manner. I decided to hit Gaston Lake for several days and knew it would be tough to fish much at all. So I went with the attitude of just rolling with the park tanners and taking what I could get as far as fishing. I caught a few dink bass and stripers Friday afternoon before the masses hit the lake. But nothing of any size, and thunderstorms ran me off the lake early too.

Saturday morning was a repeat of dinks along with a few nice blue cats. After beating my skiff up a good bit just riding around and enjoying the cool weather on the water after fishing, my friend noted a leak in the front. Like a 2” crack. I put the hammer down and got back to my truck in short order and trailered the boat.

I remembered fixing a radiator years ago with JB Weld. It held for 6 years and I figured if it could do that against heat, water and pressure it could seal a popped weld on a metal boat. So me and Pop hit the hardware store, (lucky they were open) and purchased the goods.

It takes basically 6 hours to set good so I cleaned the area and applied the weld. So fishing that day was done. The next morning I put the boat in the water but there was still a touch of water coming in, but 90% stopped. But I looked out on the water saw jet skis already circling and decided to just fix it right. I could see I needed to go another ¼” to seal the crack.

I made the additional repair and was on the water in a dry boat by 4pm. I ran straight out of the creek and hit the main lake. I knew where the fish were so just got there and dropped lines. 10 minutes into the troll one of 4 rods doubled over violently and I grabbed the rod. The fish fought like a huge striper but I hoped it wasn’t another blue cat. I fought the fish as best I could to the boat and asked Raixa to grab the net. She’d never netted a fish like this in her life, so I told her to just go lower than she thinks she should and mentally crossed my fingers….After a nervous few seconds boatside the fish was in the net and I was kinda shocked. She was 32” and 14lbs+. We both kinda freaked a bit and after a short celebration and a few pics that fish went on ice.

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I turned around and ran back thru the area and hung over another rod and this came to the boat…

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Raixa got one heckuva fight outa that fish. But I wanted her to get her first rockfish. Then after another large circle I ran thru the area again and hung over another rod. And when I grabbed the rod it was shaking so hard I thought it was probably another striper so I gave Raixa the pole again (even tho it was my turn lol). But again it was another big blue catfish. She was still stoked (and bruised) after fighting 2 big fish. We went ahead and released it and after another hour without a bite and knowing we had about an hour of light left we hit an area close to home I’d caught a few shorts at earlier in the trip.

 

When we got into the area the water was slick and I dropped 2 leadcore rods and within seconds there was busting fish off to our left, then the first rod doubled over and I gave it to Raixa again and she reeled in her first striper. It was only around 17 or 18″ so without thinking I did what I would normally do in that situation and chucked it quickly back in the drink. Duh. No pic of her first one but she was fine with it. Then another rod went over and I reeled in a smallish largemouth too. We trolled another few minutes but the bait and fish split quick-like. It was about dark too so we reeled in the lines and hit the house.

I had a nice fish to clean for a 4th of July dinner. I could already smell the lemon and Old Bay’s, and it was good.

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!

 

 

 

Triples! How to Catch Multiple Striped Bass Simultaneously from a Kayak

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So the fish are still chewing on area lakes. Water temperatures on Gaston and Kerr, as well as other lakes have the stripers feeding heavily.

The fish are schooled up in 30 plus feet of water and you can literally catch a limit with one pass; if you have the right setup.

I left the boat at the dock as I needed to log some more fish for kayak wars. So I took the Native Mariner and set out at dawn with 2 rods double-rigged with white and green bucktails. I also used white and green worms and flukes for trailers.

The first hookup was just after sunup and both rods went off simultaneously. All 3 fish were just under keeper size for the lake, but 1 rod had 2 fish and the other had the single.

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I had a few singles here and there also, but after an hour or so on the water, I had the best of my two triples for the day. One rod went off and it felt huge. While I was fighting it, and keeping myself pedaling along, the other rod went off again!

I brought the first catch in, a striper, catfish double, (that’s why it felt huge) then brought in the second rod with another striper (feature photo).

Several of the fish were well over 20 inches with one just under 25 inches and probably 6 pounds.

Only one store was open at 5:00am this morning and they were out of ice, so I didn’t have the cooler with me. So all fish were released alive as quickly as I could get them dealt with and back into the water. They seemed to be doing fine, and there were no floaters by the time I left the lake.

Summer is especially hard on stripers because their metabolism goes into overdrive. They have to eat a lot more than usual to keep weight on and if they are fought too long they will likely stress and die. So it is very important this time of year to use medium heavy tackle when playing these fish. It’s a lot of fun to fight striped bass on medium gear, but its bad for the fish when its so hot.

I was using 2 medium-heavy Ugly Sticks with bait feeder reels spooled with leadcore. I was able to stay on the fish, which stayed in 30 feet of water all morning, but had to follow the bite down. At first they were busting and feeding heavily 10 feet down. But soon I had to let out another color as the marks were showing at 15 feet. Then finally I had 3 colors out plus the bucktails, which had me catching fish 20 feet down til I left.

All fish were caught on bucktails and nothing looked at a crank bait.

The last multiple hookup was around 9:00am and the fish hit the jig 20 feet below the surface. Both fish were on the same rod so it was quite a fight. They took line repeatedly actually seeming to work together. This normally doesn’t happen with multiple hookups because you can feel them fighting each other as you reel in. I thought I had one big fish, but the biggest of the pair was 24″ and perhaps another 6 pound fish.

Leadcore is crucial for flat-lining, as it eliminates any doubt where your lures are running; of course if you know your speed. This can be done with any gps; handheld or on your fish finder.

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I was on the water from 5:30 to 9:30 and left before boat traffic showed up. Great Sunday on the lake.

Some pics of the nicer fish.

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Summer Striper Fishing is Heating Up…Doubles!

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I got out on a local lake the other day and while it was hot, the striped bass were starting to school up.

I was even able to stay on a school for a few hours, trolling around with two rods double-rigged with bucktails and sassy shads. This is an awesome summertime tactic for anglers to chase these fish.

I’d come across the school, mark them on my sonar and know something was going to happen. The fish were feeding 15 feet down in 30 feet of water and luckily I use leadcore. All I had to do was troll around with two colors out, along with the weight of the tackle considered for each rig, and I knew exactly where my lures were running. Leadcore is colored and weighted line. This allows you to more accurately know your depth if you’re flat-lining for stripers without down-riggers.

The first double (feature photo) was one fish on each rod I was trolling, both on bucktails. I just kept slowly trolling along while fighting the first rod to go off and after a minute or so the other rod also went off. I landed the first fish, got the two lures secured lol, then grabbed the second rod and fought that fish to the boat.  One was almost 22 inches and between 4 and 5 pounds, the second fish only an 18incher. The Native Mariner with its pedal drive makes this type of fishing possible. I couldn’t troll with two double-rigged rods with an oar in my hands.

The second double of the day (an hour later) was a different thing altogether. I had one rod go off and began to fight the fish, but after a few minutes of steadily moving along while fighting the striper (to keep the other rod with its 2 baits running) I actually hooked another fish on the sassy shad rigged with the bucktail on the rod I was already fighting. I could suddenly feel the load increase but the 7 foot ugly stick held the load nicely.

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So the weight increased a good bit with two 22” stripers on one rod. But I was able to land both of ’em. That was interesting.

I was able to measure 3 of the 6 striped bass I caught that afternoon for kayak wars and even caught a good white too.

Fun afternoon on the lake after my “real job”.