Monday, May 7, 2012

Gone fishing on "Son-day"......

Since my last trip this past Thursday, my son has been after me to get him on the water.  Ever since he landed his first bluegill from my kayak at age 4, he has literally been "hooked".  He has even hinted that I should really divert funds his way, so he could have his own kayak.  Too funny!!  Little does he know that the plan has been in the works for some time now.  Anyway, this past weekend presented an opportunity to get him out on the water for the first time this year.  Up until now, the water temperatures in the Chesapeake Bay have been fluctuating in the low 60's combined with windy conditions.  Just recently, the water temperatures started steadily increasing into the lower 70's in certain areas of the bay, along with very warm air temperatures.  This presented an opportunity to get him on the water for the first time safely, so I loaded up the van the night before and awoke to find my son ready to go!!

Looking at the CBOFS readings (Chesapeake Bay Operational Forecast System) for the Thimble Shoal area one last time before leaving, it looked like the real-time wind readings and forecast for the rest of the day were not as favorable as I would have liked it to be, but a promise is a promise.  I opted to launch on the Hampton side of the HRBT in hopes of keeping the 15mph NNE winds in check as a precaution.  The weather updates on my marine radio also indicated that a small craft advisory was in place for later that day and for the remainder of the weekend, so that just further instilled upon me the need to keep a weather eye on the horizon as a precaution.

We pedaled out to the bridge complex and started drifting - for me, a Marsh Works Bayou Thumper in Pearl and for him a Haw River Sickle Tail grub in white with a pink tail in the hopes of locating some blues or croaker.  My son's rod went down a couple times without any successful hook sets, so we moved over to a somewhat wind protected cove.  I checked my son's lure and found the remains of a shredded Thumper from a voracious bluefish bite.  I changed it out for him and told him to cast over to the shoreline and slowly bounce the lure back across the sandy flat.  A few seconds later I hear the exuberant shout of my son screaming, "Daddy - I got one!".  I turn around to see my son reeling in a nice little speckled trout.
After a quick photo, the undersized trout was set free.  It measured in at 13 3/4", a 1/4" shy of making its way from the salty waters and into the broiler for dinner.  Oh well, let's try again.  He makes another cast to the same general area and starts telling me again, "Daddy, I got another one!".  Only this time, it is not a trout or croaker, it is a pesky little crab!!
After a quick photo, the crab lets go and drifts back to the salty depths of the flat.  We tried another little cove but had difficulty in keeping our lines from getting snagged on other obstacles like pilings and rocks due to the stronger winds, so we decided to head back out into the protected main bay and drift for some flounder or a cruising striper.

Along the way, my son tells me he is hungry, and after a quick glance at my watch, I can see was 12:30pm.  Any parent knows that when their child starts hinting at being hungry, any family activity will soon come to a screeching halt if that urge is not satisfied.  So we made our way back to the launch to pack up and get something to eat.  As we are nearing the launch, I notice some movement near the pier and see a juvenile blue heron wading the shallows looking for a meal.
While I packed up the gear, my son bounced around the launch area looking for shells to add to our ever growing collection at home.  We always take time on every saltwater trip to try and find some more shells to take home and show to mom.  Once I had everything loaded, we went and grabbed a quick lunch.  While we are eating, I asked my son if he still wanted to fish some more, and he chimed in immediately with a vibrant "Yes!".  So we finished up our food, and I headed further south to Rudee Inlet.  I knew the winds would not give us the opportunity to head to some of the prime flounder spots, so I figured we would pedal around until we located some fish.

After about an hour of searching, we weren't having that great of a day.  I knew from past experience that fishing Rudee the morning after a full moon would be challenging, but I was determined to try and get him on some of those feisty blues and croaker Rudee is known for.  We made our way around to some of the well-known spots, but could only manage some passing bluefish strikes with no good hook sets.  We drifted back past the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center and took in the sights from a different perspective having visited the Science Center and outer grounds just this past fall.  As we were drifting, I finally managed a firm strike and a hood hook set.  The result was one of the many cookie cutter blues that frequent the area - a 13" chomper.
On our way back up the tidal creek, my line became snagged near the shore.  So we drifter over, and I actually had to get out of the kayak and remove the snag in my line.  Turns out, someone had apparently been unable to loose their anchor from the oyster bed most likely during an ebb tide and risk running aground, so they apparently cut the anchor line.  I removed the snag and gathered the remnants of the line.  It was a great opportunity to demonstrate the importance of leaving the water cleaner than when you got there!!

On our way back out into the inlet, I ran into a couple of familiar faces - Joe (AgentVA) and Mark (landingcrew).  I have fished with both in the past in Rudee and knew both to be competent anglers for the area.  Joe indicated a slow day as I had previously figured it would be, and Mark was heading out in hopes of getting a later afternoon bite.  We chatted a bit with Mark and even spent a little while fishing with him.  My son managed to land a few more crabs but no fish.
We decided to drift back towards the launch and said our goodbyes to Mark. While drifting back towards the launch, I made a cast over to an area where finger mullet were busting the surface and quickly got a solid strike.  A good hook set and a quick 20 second fight lands me my second fish for the day, this one a 14 1/4" bluefish.
A quick check of the watch told me that it was time to call it a day.  Even though it was the weekend, school is still in session for my son, so I needed to get him back home in time to get cleaned up, fed and in the bed.  While we may not have had a numbers day, we still had a good time and shared a day on the water together for the first of many times this upcoming year.  A great way to spend my "Son-day" if you ask me...........

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