Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Rats and dinks but the future looks brighter....

The last couple of years I have seen fewer and fewer reports of redfish in the inlets that are part of the Chesapeake Bay fishery.  Perhaps some of these folks are not sharing their catches for fear of predation by man, but I have spoken to a few kayak anglers from this region, and they tell tales of years where you could fish on any given day and consistently catch redfish one right after another.  When I first began my quest for my own redfish, I was only able to manage one over the course of 4 months fishing out of Lynnhaven and Rudee Inlet.  I was determined to add this species to the bucket list of fish I have caught.

On my very first outing nearly three years ago, I spooked two over slot redfish and later caught an 18" pup in a different location.  It was at that moment that I knew the redfish would be a species on the short list that I would target in the future.  Last year, I didn't even see one caught when I was on the water, so my confidence in the overall health of the population was shaken.  Fast forward to this year.  If the action of the last few weeks is any indication of the future, the redfish may yet again return to prominence in this region.

Well, I headed out with my friend Joe Underwood to target some speckled trout after reading several of the recent successes people have had in the area.  Our original plan was to chase spades, sheepsheads, flounder and togs at the First Island, but the winds were blowing in strong and would have made fishing there almost too risky.  We decided to stay a little closer to shore and target specks instead.  I arrived at the launch 30 minutes ahead of Joe, so I headed out for a quick recon on the weather and found the winds to be a tad too strong for any of our planned drifts.  The winds were 17 out of the SSW with gusts forecast to be in the mid to high 20's.  I made my way back to the launch and waited for Joe.  Along the way, I fished a grassy shoreline and quickly found a small school of reds that were hungry.
I was using my favorite jighead paired with a chartreuse Gulp swimming mullet and dragging it slowly with a subtle hop once in a while.  With the winds blowing so strongly, casting was limited to strainght into the teeth of the wind or straight downwind unless you felt like dealing with a bunch of slack line and missing a hook set.  I made multiple casts after each repositioning of the kayak to cover the shallow flat I was staked out on and landed a total of 3 under slot reds in a 10-15 minute window with the best one measuring right at 13".
Once Joe arrived, we made our way out to the channel to try and drift along with the wind, but the wave chop started to get a little "snotty" and tossed us about pretty good.  We made the turn and pedaled our way over to our primary target area.  Joe was drifting a little further out than me to see if there were any takers along the channel ledge, and I hung a little closer to shore to see if I could entice any more reds into the yak.

As we approached our primary target area, we found the creek mouth to be completely blown out and too difficult to try and maintain a good boat position.  So we headed back into the creek and sought out shelter from the wind and began to stalk the grass for some more fish.  There were visible signs of baitfish being pursued, so we felt our chances were pretty good.  I had brought 3 setups for the day - topwater, jighead and a popping cork rig with a Marsh Works Killa Squilla and Shrimp Hook tied on. 

After a few minutes in the sheltered water area, I knew the high winds would not help me with my top water plans, so I simply drifted the popping cork rig giving it an occasional pop and cast the jighead rig into the banks and worked the slow hop/drag technique again.  This technique proved relatively successful for the better part of the morning.  I ended up catching 5 more using this technique, including my very first fish on a popping cork - way cool!!  We would probably could have caught more if we weren't determined to stay out of the teeth of the wind so much.  I know the shoreline leading up to the creek mouth is loaded with fish on calmer days.
In total, Joe landed 6 reds, and myself 8 with the largest one measuring in at 14 1/4".......

Here's a quick video of the largest one being measured.......

It was a great day on the water with a good friend.  Even though we didn't catch our targeted species, we did catch some fish and enjoyed each other's company on the water.  So far this year, I have caught 15 or more reds in two different locations several miles apart from one another and all of them were healthy looking with exceptional coloration.  If the numbers I have caught are any indication of future populations of redfish, then the future is looking pretty bright.

Until next time, stay safe, take a kid fishing and leave the water a little cleaner that when you arrived.

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