Monday, June 17, 2013

Point Lookout Family Picnic

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 My fondest childhood memories are of days when my family and I would go on long drives to go fishing on the bay.  My dad taught me how to bait hooks, cast top & bottom rigs, unhook fish, and many more.  I remember fishing with my dad, but I don't remember the last time I fished with him - it has to have been over 7 years ago... Well, my parents are in town for a few weeks, and I took the opportunity to share my joy of kayak fishing with my dad.  I took the day off on Monday to take the family to Point Lookout for a picnic, some fishing, and hopefully a fish dinner at the park.  

Caleb looking for bugs, while the adults prepare lunch.

We got to the park around 10:30AM and started out by spending some time on the beach and preparing for lunch.  The picnic/beach area was pretty vacant, so we were lucky to get the picnic table right next to the beach. Dad and I got the grill going while Mom and my wife prepared the table, and the two boys played in the sand.  It was fun watching the boys play in the sand and get their feet wet in the water.  My older son, Caleb, loves bugs...he spent most of his time foraging for crawling things in the sand.  And we learned today that my younger son is a neat-freak - he does not like to get his hands and feet dirty.  

After our steak and salad picnic we packed up and drove over to the bay side of the park.  The water looked a little choppy on the Potomac side, but the bay side was smooth as glass.  That's the nice thing about Point Lookout - if the wind is in a east-west or west-east direction, you can always fish on the side that's blocked by the trees and land.  My dad and I unloaded the kayaks and carried them down to the south-side pet beach for launch.  My oldest son begged to go, so I thought we'd bring him along - grandpa would love to spend more time with him, after all.  Based on my experience with the stability of the Tarpon 100, I thought my dad could handle paddling it with Caleb in front of him.  The plan was just to paddle and fish for a little bit with Caleb and to bring him back for his nap shortly after.

Wake up!  Note that we all had our PFD's on...Safety first!

Well, my dad and Caleb did great!  My dad looked pretty comfortable, and Caleb was definitely comfortable because he fell asleep on the water!  When we got to water about 10 feet deep, we rigged our top & bottom rigs with cooked salad shrimp and started fishing.  I tried to help my dad by rigging for him, and at one point I forgot that I took his tackle box.  Everything was going perfectly until that my dad reached over for the tackle box, he leaned over a little too far and PLOP!  He and Caleb turtled right in front of my eyes.  It felt like it all happened in slow motion.  The surprised look in my dad's eyes as the boat slowly rolled over will never escape my memory... 

Luckily everyone had their PFDs on, and no one got hurt.  My dad quickly got Caleb into my boat, and I talked him through the process of how to right the kayak and how to get back in.  I have never experienced a turtle myself, so I had to actually go off of what I had heard people share on MKF.  If it wasn't for the experience shared by the great guys on the forum, I don't think I would have known how to help my dad.  The only casualty from that fiasco was a lost rod and reel with an X-rap on it.  That's okay, because the most precious cargo was safe and sitting in front of me.  We then proceeded to get all the floating tackle boxes out of the water, and luckily one of the rods I gave my dad to use was leashed to the holder, so he was still able to fish.  As he reeled the line back in, he actually had a croaker on it - he caught the first fish of the day!

My wet dad with the first fish of the day.

After letting Caleb play with the fish a little, I asked my dad if he was okay, and if he felt comfortable being on the water alone.  He said that he's not afraid of a little water, so I paddled Caleb back to shore for his nap.  He actually fell back asleep on the way in, and woke up just as we pulled up to shore.  My mom and wife had watched the whole turtling scene, but were surprisingly calm about it. Thank goodness!

The norm for the day.

I paddled back to my dad and asked if he had caught anything.  He said he caught 3 small ones that he let go, which was disappointing to hear...but then he pulled the stringer out of the water with 4 or 5 croakers.  He caught enough for dinner before I even caught one!  I quickly dropped my rig down, and started a fun day of pretty consistent croaker action.  The largest one I caught was 13 inches, while the majority of the fish were in the 8 to 10 inch range.  There were a lot of throwbacks.  I've said it before, but I think croaker are pretty strong fighters for their size.  Many atimes I hooked up with a fish, and was hopeful for a 13 to 14 incher, but was greeted on the surface by a puny 8 incher.  

Dad hooked up with a skate. "Woah! I got a huge one!"

Around 5PM the wind picked up on the bay side, and we wanted to grill some fish for dinner at the park before heading home, so we decided to head back in.  We quickly packed up the van, and went to the fish cleaning area by the boat ramp.  I loved the fact that they had a place to clean fish on site!  My dad and I scaled and cut the fish while my mom washed them out with water.  The job went pretty quickly with the three of us working together.  I wanted to try a style of preparing fish that Mustafa from MKF shared, which is to cut a fish in half like a butterfly from the top to the bottom.  It was actually easier than I thought, and resulted in a clean cut fish.

Everyone's excited about the catch!

I want my kitchen to be like this.

We finished cleaning the fish and the fish-cleaning area, and headed to the picnic area where we had an hour left to grill and eat our dinner.  We ate our dinner, the boys played on the playground a bit, and then we packed up to start our trip back home.  Today was a most memorable day that I am sure I will never forget.  A delicious picnic on the beach with my family, a turtle experience with my dad and son, a banner day of catching fish with my dad, and a delicious grilled fish dinner as the sun prepared to set over the beach.  I look forward to having many more days like today in the future.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Mattawoman Meet & Greet

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On June 8th, I attended the June Meet & Greet for the MKF group.  This time I took my friend JC along to give him some relaxing time on the water after some major changes he went through, including a move with his wife.  The weather for the scheduled M&G did not look promising, but we went anyway - after all, weather forecasters don't have a good track record for predicting the weather correctly. 

JC by the launch area.  
This creek is one of my favorite places, for its scenery.

We arrived at Slavin's ramp early in the morning and saw plenty of other kayakers from the group unloading.  We quickly unloaded and hit the water, eager to get into some nice snakeheads.  Well, the excitement kind of wore off after the first several hours of not catching anything.  I did catch a feisty 13 inch largemouth bass while trolling a white chatterbait, but that was it for most of the morning.

My only bass of the day.

The water was pretty high from the rain a couple days earlier, so there were a lot of submerged areas in the lily pads that I could explore.  I even got so bored I thought I'd try fishing while standing up in my kayak.  I was pleasantly surprised by the stability of my 10 foot Wilderness Systems Tarpon 100.  I did spend a good bit of energy and mental power trying to keep my balance instead of fishing, so it wasn't too effective...but it was nice to get off of the seat for a while.  I am liking my Tarpon 100 more and more each time I go out with it - it's light, it's easy to maneuver, has decent speed, and now I can add its stability to the list of advantages.  Now if I can just figure out how to keep it still in current and wind while fishing it'll be perfect.

It was neat to see drops of water on top of the lily pads.  
They looked like sparkling gems from a distance.

Lunch was schedule for noon at Grinder's Seafood, so I stopped my snakehead hunt around 10AM, and anchored up to do some catfishing.  I got to meet a new MKF'er, Jeremy, as I fished next to him.  He was actually the only one to catch a snakehead in the group that I fished with that morning.  I soaked some cooked shrimp in the water while we chatted some, and pulled in several catfish of various species - channel, blue, and some other catfish with an abnormally large head.  A little while later, I met up with JC and we raced back in to beat the rain that started.  We lost.  The forecasted rain finally came, and we were drenched by the time we got back in.

JC and I didn't catch our targeted fish, but we still caught fish.  I caught a largemouth bass and several catfish, while JC ended the day with a channel catfish and a largemouth bass.  We quickly packed up and went to Grinder's for some good food and fun storytelling with the group. It's always a fun time hanging out with the fishing buddies at MKF.