Saturday, April 27, 2013

Susquehanna Flats

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After I had my successful trip to the Susquehanna Flats last year, I told my friend Trey that he had to come and join me this year to catch some Chesapeake Bay Rockfish.  He's more of a freshwater angler, typically hooking up with Largemouth Bass in the local lakes by his home in western Virginia.  He has never fished for Striped Bass before, and I wanted to share the fun and excitement of reeling one in with him.

The calm Susky Flats

So for a whole year, we waited in eager anticipation for catch and release season to open on the Flats.  We  had a couple schedule conflicts in the beginning of the season, but finally settled on a date when both of us were free to make a trip to Havre de Grace to fish.  The year-long wait was finally over. Unfortunately, the weeks leading up to the trip only yielded poor reports of Rockfish in the Susquehanna Flats, and I was losing confidence that we would actually hook up with any Rockfish.  I let my friend know about the reports, and suggested some other alternatives like fishing for Catfish, or maybe even joining the Mid-Atlantic Kayak Bass Fishing tournament.  He was okay with the odds of not catching anything, so we stuck with our plan and made preparations to launch from Millard Tydings Memorial Park at sunrise on Saturday April 27th.

We got to the ramp at exactly 6:00AM, and met fellow MKF forum members DaveFX35 and Yak Fish.  They have had a couple trips under their belt already this year, so we chatted a little to talk about our plans for the day and to discuss what techniques we would try.  It seemed the name of the game for kayak fishing the Susquehanna Flats was trolling jerkbaits.  The Flats is a huge body of water, and the fish are typically schooled up in small areas, so trolling is just the easiest way to cover all that water to find them.

Trey's all set and ready to go.

Trey and I were lucky to get a parking spot immediately next to the ramp, so we just carried our kayaks and gear down to the floating dock and rigged up there.  Within the next hour we were on the water and ready to paddle into the big expanse of water known as the Susquehanna Flats.  We stuck with Yak Fish at first, and he suggested that we spread out to cover more water, and we could call each other up if we hooked up with any fish.  That sounded good, so Yak Fish went further north, and Trey and I headed straight east from the marina.

White Perch on a crankbait.

I trolled a Rapala XR-10 in black and white on one rod, and a silver Rattle Trap on a second rod.  Trey trolled 2 shallow-diving crankbaits that he uses for Largemouth Bass fishing.  We started zig-zagging across the water, while heading South when I saw a group of boats gathered together on the East side of the Flats.  I suggested to Trey that we check it out, so we started paddling over.  At one point we hit some water about 4 feet in depth, and Trey said he hooked up with a Shad on one of his crankbaits.  I don't think I've ever heard of Shad hitting crankbaits, so that was interesting.  Trey got the skunk off him early, and apparently the fish was pretty decent in size (I didn't get to see it) so he was happy to have caught a fish at all today.  He wanted to see if he could catch any more, so he started casting his crankbait and working it in that area, and he started hooking up with some small white perch!  I couldn't believe hasn't even been an hour yet and he's out-fishing me 3-to-0! 

28 inch beauty.

After snapping some pictures of his micro-catches, we continued on toward the group of boats when....I heard my rod bouncing up and down!  A fish on my rod with the X-Rap!  I took hold of the fishing rod, and fought for a good couple minutes to get the fish in.  When I caught sight of it, I knew it was an active, decent sized Rockfish with 2 treble hooks on its lips.  I've watched videos showing how to extract hooks from your flesh, but I didn't want to ever have to try it out on myself or anyone I I was in no hurry to get the fish on board.  After a couple good drag-pulling runs, the fish was calm enough to get on the boat.  A nice, fat, 28 inch Rockfish.  My biggest fish ever!  From shore, pier and boat.  I took a couple pictures of the beauty, and Trey also took a couple pics of me and her together, then back to the water she went.  Luckily the fight didn't wear her out too much - she swam right off as soon as she got wet.

17" Bass on an XR-10

Look at all those holes on its lips.  This guy does not learn....
 Excited about the catch, I called Yak Fish and DaveFX35 to let them know about the conditions of the catch.  4 feet of water, paddling east, on an XR-10.  Hopefully with those facts, they can catch some fish too.  Unfortunately, for the next 5 hours we trolled all over the flats from 4 feet to 10 feet and not another Rockfish was caught by anyone in our group.  However, it still was not a bust.  Trey and I actually hooked up with a combined 5 Largemouth Bass in the middle of the flats!  Each time I hooked up with one I was hopeful that it was a Striped Bass because of how hard the initial hits were.  Susquehanna Bass are very stocky and can give up a good fight.  What was interesting was that all 5 of them were 17 inches long.  No shorter, no longer.  With the non-existent Rockfish, the Largemouth Bass were welcome by-catches of the day.

Trey's 17" Bass on a shallow-diving Crankbait.

We called it quits around noon, and spent about 30 minutes paddling back to the launch ramp.  We loaded up the gear and went to the outdoor grill that they have next to the park and marina.  The food was pretty good, and the atmosphere of being in the sun by the water with lots of people enjoying the day was great.  Though I wouldn't say the trip was a success in terms of catching loads of Rockfish, it was still a successful day in that neither of us got skunked, neither of us turtled, I got my personal best fish ever, and Trey is now a fan of Kayak Fishing.

I love pit beef, and I love hush puppies.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Kayak Son Fishin'

The weather's been getting warmer, the days have been getting longer, and I've been itching to try taking my 3 year-old son, Caleb, on my kayak with me.  I had plans to go kayak fishing on the Susquehanna Flats with a friend of mine this weekend, and he has never fished from a kayak before.  We thought it would be a good idea to get his feet wet by taking him to a small lake in my neighborhood the evening before.  Since it was going to be a quick trip to a small lake, and the weather has been nice, I thought it would also be a good opportunity to take my son out on the water with me.

Future Kayak Anglers

Right after work I hurried home to load up my kayaks and to pick up my son to go kayaking.  My friend arrived shortly after I finished loading up the 'yaks and we made our way to the lake.  He's a bigger guy than I am, so I gave him the Prowler 13 to fish in, and I took the Tarpon 100 with Caleb.  The Tarpon 100 is a great small water kayak!  It is light, quick to set up (the seat is permanently attached, so you don't have to rig it in when you are setting up), tracks decently well, and it is super stable.

Safety first!  Caleb in his brand new PFD.

I sat my son in front of me as I paddled along, and he had a great time.  He helped me paddle the boat, helped me reel in fish (a Crappie and a Largemouth Bass), and even took my picture for me.  As the sun started to set, we packed up and headed home for dinner and some nice rest for the big day that my friend and I had coming up the next morning.

Why is there a lemon juice bottle in the picture, you ask?  I'll explain in a later post...
A crappie!
You can always tell when Caleb takes the picture...his fingers show up on the edges.