Monday, December 31, 2012

An Almost Crappy Day

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What better way to spend the last day of 2012 than being on the water with some of your fishing buddies, right?  Well, Ryan and I were able to convince Mike to come out in the cold and join us for some crappie and possibly some catfish this New Year's Eve day.  The day before was super windy, so I thought "Whew!  We missed the bad weather, it should be a great day!"  But as I've seen on other occasions after windy days, the water was really low compared to the other times I had fished here in November.  It was so low that I was actually able to paddle under the docks at the marina across the river from the park.  I read a report from another angler on the Severn that the water was unusually low there too.  I'll have to keep that in mind next time I think about fishing after a windy day.

Low water level

It was cold, the water was low and muddy, and the fishing was slow.  However, all three of us were able to manage to catch at least one keeper crappie that day.  Ryan and Mike only had MD licenses, and the MD/VA reciprocity agreement starts at the route 95 bridge, so we started out by jigging the route 95 bridge pilings for some crappie, where we each caught our skunk saver fish.  However, none of us could manage to catch another after about an hour and a half of slowly moving around the pilings.  I tried the technique that worked for me last time, of dropping my jig down about 4 feet from the bottom and slowly paddling around the pilings.  I got a lot of hits this way, but only brought up one keeper crappie and a small one after that. 

Eventually, we moved on to try some of the other marinas that were out closer to the mouth of the river.  We all kind of split up and fished different areas.  Mike and I thoroughly fished different marina docks for a while, and Ryan tried soaking some minnows to wrestle up a monster flathead catfish.  Again, none of us had much success - except Mike did hook up with a 20 inch blue catfish on one of his gulp grubs.  We were split up, so I didn't get to grab a picture of him with the fish.  We then moved back to the bridge to see if things might have heated up, but I only managed one more keeper before we gave up.  Though the fishing was slow, and it was freezing, it was a great day on the water with my fishing buddies.

My unimpressive cooler of fish.  Thanks to Ryan and Mike for giving me their keepers!

Maybe I knew the day would be uneventful and needed something else to write about...or maybe the cold water did something to me...but while jigging the bridge I did something I thought that I would never do.  While starting my migration to the docks, I made some final attempts at jigging the bridge pilings in hopes of finally finding that huge school of slab crappies.  At some point I had a tangle at the end of my rod, so I tried to untangle it by shaking my rod to free the hook.  While shaking it over the side of my kayak, I just watched as my hand autonomously opened its grip on my rod and let it go...PLOP!  I let out a loud groan as I watched my less-than-a-year-old ultralight outfit go down into the depths of the river.

The last 2 times I fished the Occoquan I only brought my single ultralight rod with me to catch crappie.  By chance this trip, I brought a second rod with me to try for catfish if the crappie fishing was slow.  I didn't have a fishfinder with me, but I was familiar enough with the bridge area to know that I dropped it in the deeper part of the area.  It was going to be tough trying to somehow snag one of the guides of the rod or bail of my reel...but I had to try.  I was prepared to spend the rest of the day trying to snag it up - it was my favorite rod and reel combo!  I frantically dug through my tackle box to find the heaviest jig heads to use as a grapple to snag my rod.  I thought adding a treble hook to the ball of hooks might increase my chances of snagging my rod so I added an inline spinner to the end of my line.  I should have taken a picture of it, because it looked pretty ridiculous!

Jigging for my rod was proving to be difficult, and I was starting to lose hope.  Luckily, Ryan was nearby and offered to help find my rod.  He had some top-bottom rigs that he was using for catfish, and used a different technique to try to snag the rod.  He floated downstream a little, cast over the area where I made my stupid mistake, and reeled his rig in slowly to try to snag the rod.  After just a couple minutes, I saw him bring up a white and chartreuse grub - the same one I was using!  He had managed to snag my jighead and my rod along with it!  Wow, that was close!  Ryan saved my crappie day from being a crappy day....