Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Applying what you learn

As the picture above and the title suggests, it is important to go out and apply what you have learned.   Whether it is a training program learned by members of our military and applied during training sessions like you see above or something as simple as using the techniques and tips taught to you by individuals with the knowledge and expertise.  The latter is what was laid before my friend Joe and I today at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.

My last few outings have not had the measure of success I had hoped for - last year's trips resulted in nothing more than one oyster toad.  This year's trips have resulted in lost gear and nothing but croaker.  When I attended the evening session with Kayak Kevin last week, I wanted to see if I could identify what I was doing wrong in my past excursions.  What I learned primarily is that I wasn't doing anything technically wrong, rather I was not fishing in ideal conditions.  You see, every time I have ventured out to the tunnel complex in search of fish, I noticed that have each time the current was .7 or above and the winds were not optimal.

Today was an opportunity to try and change that.  Today's conditions were still ripping for current with a .8 falling tide, but the winds were forecast to lay down at 1-3 out of the WSW by mid-morning.  Joe and I met at Ocean's East 2 and purchased the requisite bait for the day - fiddler crabs and clams.  We launched at 7am and made our way out against the stiff current - it was tough sledding for the better part of an hour until we reached the first island.  From the first small boat channel to approximately 100 yards from the island the "red tide" was in full bloom.  Not good.  The algae bloom actually reduces the oxygen in the water and really turns off the bite in that vicinity, so we continued all the way to the island.

We dropped our lines in and immediately had bites and lost fiddlers.  Promising one would think, but Joe and I spent the better part of an hour battling current and other boats with nothing to show for it but empty hooks and a lot of pedaling.  Joe decided to switch it up and try drifting and jigging for some flounder.  I wish I had done the same, but I had left my flounder rigs in the van to focus on sheepshead and spadefish.  Even though the seas were rolling pretty good, Joe managed a couple bites but no flatties in the boat.
After losing 12 fiddlers with nothing to show for it, I was getting a little frustrated to be quite honest.  The current was so strong the even the eddys were difficult to hold position in.  My seat are was washed over several times by crashing cross waves next to the pilings.  After a few too many close calls against the pilings, I made the decision to switch tactics and focus on spades for the next hours or so.  We had planned to be off the water by 1pm due to the forecast calling for storms rolling through the area later in the day.

I baited my line and made my way to the first piling I could find that had clear water.  Joe followed right behind me after having no luck with the flounder.  By this time, it was getting close to 10, so we needed to make our move and try to improve upon our success rate on the day.  I found a set of pilings that had several feet of clear water and no hint if the "red tide" anywhere near, so I maneuvered into position and saw what I thought was a quick silver flash.  I dropped my line in the water and immediately had a surging strike that started shaking furiously - the tell-tale sign of a spadefish bite.

Rule # 1 when fishing for spades, set your drag light initially or thumb the spool to try and avoid ripping the hook out of their tender mouths.  Guess I forgot to heed this rule, since the first and strongest hit of the day resulted in a lost fish.  I quickly baited the hook again and dropped the line once more - Fish On!!!  The current was still moving at a good clip, so this time when I dropped the line, I left the spool engaged to free-spool the line.  When the spade hit this time, I simply set the hook and thumbed the spool allowing the fish to pull without ripping the hook out.  As the current pulled me away from the piling, the spade had no way to get me wrapped and break the line.  A few seconds later, the fight was over, and I had my very first spadefish - a chunky little 10" fighter!  Finally!!
I was pumped.  With the adrenaline flowing, I quickly re-baited my hook an made my way back to the same group of pilings.  A few minutes second spade on the day.  This one was a little smaller but extremely fat.  It measured in at a scant 8" but the fight was much better that the size indicates.

Still riding an adrenaline buzz, I re-baited again and made my way back to the pilings only to find that the current had swept in the "red tide" as the clarity of the water started to drop significantly.  The next hour was spent chasing pilings with clear water.  I had several more bites and lost bait, but the bites weren't from spades.  Another CBBT bait stealer was the sea bass.  Joe had landed several at this point, and I found out I was not immune to them either.
Joe was working hard trying to find some spades having only sighted one on the day so far.  It was tough sledding there for a bit with very little action.  Once the current started to slack off around 11, we knew this would be our best chance at holding position over top of them and waiting for the bite.......unfortunately, it never really turned on.  Joe and I worked every set of pilings from the second small boat channel all the way to the first small boat channel with no real action to speak of.
I ended up getting one more spade and a couple more sea bass for a total of six fish on the day - 3 spades ad 3 sea bass.
While the numbers weren't exceptional by any stretch of the imagination, this was the first time in four outings I landed a targeted species.  I am still waiting on that first sheepshead, but I know it will come in time with continued persistence and patience.

If you have the chance, study up on the techniques for targeting spadefish by ordering Kayak Kevin's Kayak Fishing the Chesapeake Bay 2 - The Summer Species DVD.  It will show you the rod, reel, line and rigging techniques used to target spades at the CBBT.  It's what I use!!

Until next time, be safe, tight lines and apply what you learn!


  1. Glad you got your Spades. The Spades and Sheep still manage to avoid me out there. I will keep trying. Maybe my fourth time out will be the lucky number like yourself. The DVD is a great help but experience will teach my how to feel for the bite.

    1. Thansk! No doubt - the spade bite is easy once you find them. It's keeping them on that's the hard part. Many people have their drag set too tight. Sheepies for me are probably the "unicorn" of the bridge species. I'm hoping my next outing will be in calmer currents to help detect the bite a little better.