Saturday, June 25, 2011

Yak Attack

Before this week, the only time I've fished from a kayak was for roosterfish in Costa Rica. That all changed Thursday when I witnessed local pods of bunker getting ripped apart by bluefish and striped bass just out of casting range from the beach. A major thunderstorm had just passed through and the radar now looked clear for the evening. I sped home and hastily put my father's ocean kayak into service. This beast of a kayak is not intended for fishing, but it would have to do under the circumstances. A buddy helped me launch it and also used binoculars from shore to assist in locating the traveling melee.

Using a weighted treble hook, it was hard to miss while snagging through the schools of bait. As soon as I would hook a bunker, I would let it swim around, all the while bleeding and attracting predators. It didn't take long for customers to find my baits.  However, I missed the first few takers, most certainly bluefish, as my bunker came back missing their lower halves.  While you always hear anglers say "don't leave fish to find fish", my buddy yelled from shore that he spotted a much larger pod of boiling fish about 150 yards away.  I put down the rod and picked up the paddle and got to work.  What the kayak lacked in maneuverability, it made up in speed.  I reached the next spot in no time and was in business as soon as my line hit the water. 

The next two hours were a bloody blur. There were gator bluefish demolishing bunker all around me and occasionally you could hear the telltale slurp of a bass that was picking up the scraps. I hooked, landed and lost enough 10 to 13-pound bluefish to last me a season, but it was bass that I was really after. During one hook-up, a heavy fish was fighting back unlike the others. Instead of violent head shakes, there were steady bulldogging pulls toward the bottom--I knew it was a striper. Sure enough, after a good battle I had a respectable linesider boat-side and I let out a victory whoop that fell on deaf ears. A few sailboats circled me enjoying the show, but I couldn't believe there were no boat anglers cashing in on the blitz. Tired, smelly and without sufficient lights, I left the fish biting as dark settled in. I made the paddle back to shore for a hero's welcome from shore-bound anglers who could only watch. I was a happy man and was sold on the kayak. Without one that day, I, too, would have been chomping at the bit from the beach. Needless to say, a fishing kayak of my own has been added to the wish list.   

This trip cemented the fact that I "need" a kayak more suited to fishing and a video camera that mounts to a hat. Here is the usable footage that I captured with a hand-held camera during all the craziness. Crank up the volume and enjoy!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Surfcasting...From A Boat

A large portion of Connecticut's shoreline is privately owned, which can make things tricky for surf fisherman on Long Island Sound. A big thing we have our favor is the public trust doctrine, which states that the area below the mean high tide line cannot be owned and belongs to everyone. Still, accessing this area can be tough if you have to trespass over private land to get there. An obvious way to get around the shoreline access issue is to fish from a boat and I was fortunate to be invited on one such trip a few nights ago. 

My friend and fishing guide, Captain Mike Roy of Reel Cast Charters, splits his time between surf and boating fishing. He trailers his Steiger Craft to striped bass and tuna haunts all over New England, but the eastern Sound is where he spends most of his time. On our most recent trip, it was an hour before slack low tide as we arrived to a nice stretch of rocky beach in front of multi-million dollar homes--not somewhere you would just waltz into on foot. Right away Mike stuck a small bluefish on a Lordship Agitator just as dark was settling in. Then we tossed a variety of offerings towards shore that were neglected, including eel-skin plugs, rigged eels, Slug-Gos, loaded Redfins, and bucktail jigs to name a few. Mike switched to a live eel and eventually hooked up with the first target species of the night--a decent striped bass of 13-pounds. We soon made the switch to live bait and started a slow and steady pick of stripers that continued through the night. 

Mike brought us to a couple favorite way-points in his GPS and we found willing fish at each stop. At the tip of one rocky outcropping, there was a rip where we drifted through and hooked enough bass that it warranted changing back to plugs. Eel-skin poppers got the attention of a few fish, but live eels still culled out the larger of the bass caught. In all, we landed six keeper-sized stripers up to 20-pounds. Not an epic night, but certainly a fun-filled trip with consistent action. At false dawn, we arrived back to the dock pretty much spent and made the hour drive back home for needed shuteye. I sure love surf fishing, but I'm already looking forward to my next boat trip. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Family Outing

Unfortunate circumstances brought my brother home from California over the weekend. Nonetheless, it was the first time our immediate family was all together since last October. The trip home coincided with Father's Day, so my brothers and I brought our dad to a local stream for a good dose of quality time and fresh air. The lushness of the woods and sounds of the flowing water were good medicine for us all. My brothers, who admittedly don't fish as much as me, happily pitched Rooster Tails into choice pools for sunfish, largemouth bass and, the catch of the day, a feisty rainbow trout. The patriarch of the family was content with bird watching and dipping his feet in the cool stream. It was a couple of hours well spent. The family will be together again in a few weeks for a memorial Wiffle ball tournament that we throw for my late brother each summer. Hopefully we'll be able to sneak out for another outdoor outing then too. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Poor Timing

Timing can be critical when it comes to fishing. In the weeks leading up to a recent Cape Cod trip, there were numerous reports of large striped bass gorging on mackerel in the Canal. In addition, the extensive flats of Cape Cod Bay were offering excellent sight-fishing opportunities for smaller stripers. Almost as if the fish were tipped off that we were coming, the bite shut off as soon as we crossed the Bourne Bridge. 

We planned a backyard camping stay with family only minutes from the "Big Ditch" and a short ride up Route 6 to good flats fishing. With our customized bikes, we pedaled up and down the Canal for two full nights and mornings. We bathed in bug spray, chugged Red Bull and retrieved hundreds of casts for one small bass between the three of us. During the day, we covered miles of flats despite a north wind and overcast skies that made sight-casting virtually impossible. We put a lot of eggs in one basket for this trip and were dealt a bad hand. With buckets of rain on the way, our sleep-deprived decision was made easier and we cut the trip one night short.

Poor timing or not, we had fun, gave it our best shot and gained valuable experience and knowledge about surf fishing the Canal and Bay-side flats.  Both fisheries are challenging and enjoyable in their own right and we still have a long way to go with each one. I didn't expect to waltz into epic action without donating some hours to the karma bank. Maybe next time.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sand Eel Invasion

The western reaches of Long Island Sound are paved with millions of tiny sand eels; a favorite meal of striped bass, bluefish, and fluke among others. There are literally acres of the small baitfish lining our beaches and river mouths, which should help draw in predators and contribute to some great angling opportunities. I recently ventured out at first light armed with a fly rod and sparse sand eel presentations; my favorite way to capitalize on this type of action. There were so many sand eels in front of me that I was snagging them on my hook during retrieves.  Micro striper were crashing on the surface all around me, sending the bass candy flying in the air. Each drift produced at least one strike, so I eventually put down the rod and picked up the camera and just watched the feeding frenzy. That would not have been easy to do if the fish were any larger in size. It was a fun morning regardless and one that I hope to replicate many times in the near future. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011


I will let the photos do the talking in this post. Needless to say, I am on cloud nine right now after finding the most impressive Native American artifact in my collection. Jackpot indeed!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Sea Lice

After a brief break from the water, a friend and I found some fish during the low incoming tide last night. Derrick was first up with a gator bluefish that tipped the scale to an impressive 13-pounds. The next taker was a welcomed striped bass on my line; not huge, but certainly the species we were after. The bass was covered in sea lice--a sure sign of its fresh arrival from the Atlantic Ocean. Sea lice are marine parasites that hitch rides on host fish for an easy meal ticket. This poor bass also had a rusty hook embedded into one eye. We figured removing the hook would only do more damage, so we let it be for the rusting process to run its course. I wish I could say more stripers cooperated last night, but the last hook-up of the night came shortly after and was another heavy bluefish.  If nothing else, the lice-covered bass was a positive sign that new fish are arriving in our area. Hopefully they stick around for a while because friends and I are going on a road trip to Cape Cod this weekend. We'll be sight-fishing the flats by day, traversing the Canal by night and sleeping in sweltering tents somewhere in between. Hopefully I have some good stories to share upon our return.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


A seafood lover I have always been and shellfish are near the top of my list. With last weekend being the unofficial start to summer, I set out to harvest some of my favorite treats from Long Island Sound. My first experience digging clams last year yielded a decent appetizer, but nothing like what friends and I uncovered during two recent low tides. The amount of soft-shell clams for the taking was quite impressive and kept our time on the rocks and mud to a minimum, which was a good thing as the digging and bending over can take a toll on your back. The most productive method for us was using a pitch fork for breaking the hard surface, then a smaller claw for picking through the mud and rock piles. We took home 60 on the first trip and broke triple digits on day two.  Needless to say, both sides of my family ate well over the weekend. Steamers always taste great, but they seem that much better when you dig them yourself.

Photo credit: Alex Moe