Thursday, August 15, 2013

Bye Bye Baby

We are taking my youngest daughter Grace back to school in the am, so tonight it was just her and I. Grace, Mark and I have fished a lot together over the past month. Thoreau said "Some men fish their whole lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after". While I am not one of those men, sometimes the fish take on a little too much importance. Fishing has been great on a relative basis. There have been acres of 14-17 inch fish all over the shoal. Every night, without exception, we lost count of the number of fish landed within the first half hour. The problem has been that the larger fish have, for the most part, stayed out of the fray. This has been a problem when fishing with my buddies who also fish for a living :). Dabs in particular, has been itching to move into deeper water and actually use all that expensive electronics gathering dust up front in the cabin. Thats just not me. I am all about the perfect topwater night. I was pleasantly pleased when our father daughter night was one of the best of the year. We left the dock it almost felt like fall. The air was crisp and clean, with none of the humidity that has plagued us the past few weeks. I actually had on my Gupta jacket (family joke). There was nice breeze, so the water was not like glass, but it was fairly flat due to the dead low tide. When I anchored, we were only in two and a half foot of water. There were already 4 or 5 boats anchored and several more trolling, so we moved in closer to the point than "the spot". Since the water was so shallow, Grace was bumping the rocks on each cast, so we switched her over to a Papa Dogg. She loves topwater, but is not a fan of pulling 2 sets of treble hooks out of a flopping fish. It's hard to blame her after taking many a hook in the thumb over the years. So our last night of the summer would be spent tossing our Dogg's into a perfect sunset with multiple blow ups on each cast. We even managed to land seven keeper sized fish. It was a night we will remember for life and one that would make Thoreau proud.
The Gupta jacket.

Grace with her biggest of the night.

Aug 12. John King

Aug. 10. Perfect topwater night with mom blowing up instagram

Aug. 9 Perfect Topwater night.

Aug. 9th. Great night of mid 20's fish
Going to miss my fishing buddies

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

"Is this reel life?"

Last year there was a popular youtube video where a drugged up kid, returning from the dentist, asks his dad "is this real life?". After the last few weeks of fishing, I am asking the same thing. There has been quite a few charter captains from down south that have been complaining that the entire biomass of Chesapeake bay stripers is camped out in the middle bay. Although that may be a bit sensationalized, they may not be far off. That is how "scary good" fishing has been.

The only thing that has been missing is that perfect topwater night. I dream of those nights where the water is like glass, the air temp 10 degrees cooler than on land, the tide two hours after the changeover, and zero boat traffic. When a night like that occurs in mid July, I am asking "is this real life". 

I left the dock at 7:30 and anchored up at "the spot" at 7:31. I knew immediately that Papa Dogg was going to have a busy night. My first 7 casts all resulted in beautiful healthy keeper sized fish. Several weeks ago my dog Fin ate my ruler, so sizes have been mostly guesswork. This really has not been a problem since I pride myself on estimating the age of a fish. One of the earlier fish was a tough call. Based on the fight and the spectacular blow-up, I was sure it was a 24, but after looking at the picture, it  looks to be a 22. It was non stop action until dark, although all of the fish were between 16 and 18 inches. What made it so exciting was how healthy and fat the fish were.

Looks like a 22

For some reason the fish shut down briefly while this cloud passed

Non stop fun on team Dabney boat.
It does not get any better than this

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Fishing Buddies

One of the most satisfying things in my life is to share my love of light tackle fishing with someone who had either never tried it before or had no success. I had promised to abstain from posting until Mark, my daughter Grace's boyfriend, had landed his first striper. We had gone out more than a few times with no success. Despite the black cloud that hung over his head, he persevered and I could see that he was beginning to look at fishing in a different light. His only exposure to the sport had been "trolling" with his uncle. They had rarely caught fish and he felt bored. The difference with light tackle is that it is just you, a pole, and a fish. Fishing just feels less  like "luck" and more like a skill that one can cherish for life. It was great to see Mark land his first fish this past week, and even more excited when he  was inducted into Club Papa Dogg. I have little doubt we will be long time fishing buddies.

This past weekend we had our extended family stay with us and I had a fantastic time fishing with some old fishing buddies and a few new ones. Saturday morning Danny and my brother in law Danny joined me for a quick half hour on the shoal. My brother in law had been out with me once before, but we were forced to fish the Riva road bridge area in early July which is a futile exercise. A strong outgoing tide and steady 10 knot wind made for some sloppy conditions, but it was quite pleasant. It was too choppy for topwater, so we were all armed with sassy shads. It was not long before my brother in law turned to me with a with a big grin and said "that was my first fish I have ever caught on a lure".  Saturday night I was joined by Grace, Mark, and my sister in law Noelle. My sister in law is the consummate New York City girl. She does not own a car and did not recall ever fishing before. It was blowing about 15, so casting was a bit difficult. Nevertheless, she picked up the cast fairly quickly.    We had less than a half hour until dark, so when I picked up my first dink, I handed her the rod. I could see she really wanted to get one on her own though. Unfortunately it was getting dark, so I made my way forward to pull the anchor. A determined Noelle had continued to furiously cast and just as I was making my way back I hear her scream that she had one on. As she swung a beautiful 18 inch fish aboard, I could see on her face a true sense of pride and a new love for fishing. 

After the crew left, I was able to get back to fishing with my old fishing buddies. Dab's and I had a great night Monday with several 20-24 inch fish on Papa Dogg. Fishing has ben just plain amazing lately and should only get better as the fish start to put on some weight for the winter.
My trip with Dab's to Crisfield for Spec's

Noelle's first fish

Daughter Liz with a nice one 

Marks First

Monday fish

Dogg days of summer

Monday, June 24, 2013

June 2013

In all the years I have kept this blog, you can count on one hand, the number of posts in the month of June. It was usually windy, so trips to the shoal, were rare, given the 40 minute "commute" from Harbor Hills. Thats not to say that I rarely fished the point, but trips were less than this year. I would make all kinds of excuses to myself. It was too windy, fish were feeding on May Worms, unlucky timing of tides, you name it. Fishing has been just plain phenomenal since March. If conditions were right it has not been unusual to get five to ten big fat 22-26 inch fish. Since my commute is now only one minute, I now have the ability to make multiple trips to the point. Most nights I have fished for a half hour or so, ran in for dinner, and then went back out to catch the last hour of light. As a result, I have learned a lot about how to work the shoal. At least once a week, a new boat will show up to give the Shoal a try. I would watch with amusement as they dropped anchor nearby, but nowhere near "the spot". The spot was a rock pile about halfway between Thomas point park on land and the lighthouse. I  would literally anchor every night within a ten foot circle. What I have discovered since moving to Thomas Point road, is that in order to grow as a fisherman, you have to shake things up. What I slowly started to figure out is that there are hundreds of different rock piles that litter the Shoal, all of which hold fish during certain conditions. The challenge was to figure out "when and where". It was during the rare nights when the tide was ripping with no chop from the wind that my eyes began to open. It was on these nights that you could see clearly rips created by water moving across the rocks. So after living on the point for one month the number of waypoints on my GPS went from one to ten. It seems to me that the biggest factor as to which spot will be productive is the wind. I doubt seriously the fish respond to the wind, buy what it does effect is how your plug will present itself as it passes the rocks and this is primarily determined by how the boat can be positioned given wind conditions. It seems like the best position is one where you are casting with the wind to the front edge of the pile. The fish seem to position themselves in front of the pile and wait for baitfish to be pushed into them.

Even with my newfound insight, when June 1st rolled around, I started dusting off the golf clubs. To my utter amazement a good night on the first outing in June, I picked up seven nice fatties, all on Papa Dogg. This good luck continued all the way until tonight. I decided to post tonight because of the unique differences in the 3 fish landed. The first fish was fat but covered in sores. I do not usually see sick fish until the warmer months of July and August. The second fish was of the same class as the first, but was as perfect as a Striper gets. The third, of the same 6 year old class as the first 2, but appeared to me to be a female who had yet to drop her eggs. Just look at the pictures and Judge for yourself?
Fish One

Fish 2

Fish 3...Egg filled?

My new dog Fin's first fish. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Real Fatty

My buddy Danny sent me a text around 1pm asking if he could meet me at the boat at 4. Since he would be driving out from DC, I called my wife to see how it looked out there, given the steady wind all afternoon. She said it was very choppy, but no whitecaps. I told Danny not to waste his time, so he said he would hit Fletchers instead. Low tide was projected to be at 6:30, so I headed out at 6. The water temp has risen to 58 degrees and the wind seemed to be laying down. By 6:30 it was like glass out there. Unfortunately the fish were nowhere to be found. Several times I had decided to make 10 more casts and head in for dinner, but just could not seem to put the rod away. By 7:30 the boat began to swing around ever so slight;y. It seemed like seconds later, on one of the longer casts of the night, I had a huge blow up. The fish slammed 3 times before she was hooked. She jumped one time completely out of the water so I knew it was a big fish. The fight that followed was a blast. She started from several hundred feet behind the boat and ended up with me leaning over the bow to get the reel under the anchor line. Just as I completed this feat, she took off under the boat and I had the repeat the process. I was using a medium St. Croix that was bent as far as possible. Finally she came belly up. Since it was a long fight and the huge belly indicated she had yet to drop her eggs, I took 2 quick pics and released her unharmed. I felt bad about Danny, but it turned out he got into some nice Shad on a fly and was quite content. Great night.
Like Glass

Thank you Popa Dogg

Obviously Prego

A tad over 28

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Thomas Points Flats 2013

We were very lucky to find a rental home on Thomas Point Road. I am now literally in fishing nirvana. It has been a very cold spring and the water temp has been in the mid 40's until Sunday when we finally broke the magic 50 degree mark. I can leave our dock and anchor up at "the spot" within 5 minutes, so I have fished just about every day since March 9th. It has been windy, choppy, and downright cold. I have been invited several times to troll this past week, but passed in favor of my quest for a springtime trophy. Tonight was perfect when I left the dock at 4:30. The tide was coming in, the ships had just swung around, the water was like glass, and the temp on the water was almost sweater weather. On my third cast I finally had my trophy...a fat 32 inch male on my trusty Papa Dogg. Unfortunately my Iphone was dead, so no pic. Within minutes of releasing the fish, the wind picked up and before I could make another cast, things got really messy, so I headed in. Great feeling none the less. Very few people believe me when I tell them that you can catch trophy sized stripers on plugs during the spawn off  Thomas Point. I want to assure my readers, that you do not need to go to the Flats for huge topwater action. It can be had right in our back yard.
Picture taken by my wife of our backyard.

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