Friday, November 29, 2013
Black Friday Fishing
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Black Friday shopping is overrated...I'd rather be fishing. My wife was kind enough to let me go out fishing the day after Thanksgiving this year. My in-laws were in town once again, so I tried to keep the tradition going of catching dinner for the family. Some places I had in mind this time included: the hot ditch on the Elizabeth River for some speckled trout, the Occoquan River for some crappie (and also for some recon fishing in preparation for the Maryland Kayak Fishing Meet & Greet I'm hosting in a couple weeks), the Wilson Bridge for some blue catfish, or the South River for some striped bass. I would have liked to fish the Occoquan because I don't think I'll have time to fish it between now and the Meet & Greet, but with all the rain and winds that we had this week I knew the water would be muddy and low....not good for crappie fishing. Well, my wife and kids liked blue catfish the last time I brought some home, so I figured the Wilson Bridge would probably be best since it's also the closest to home.
I met Ryan at Jones Point Park at 7:30AM and we quickly rigged our kayaks to launch on the free kayak launch that is there. I took my camera out to take a picture of the launch area and was greeted with a "no battery charge" message on my screen. Doh! If you have no charge, how are you showing me that message??? Well, because of my dead camera, this post will not have any pictures. Anyway, as soon as I started paddling around on the water, I could see tons of big marks on my fish finder. The catfish must be everywhere around that bridge!
Well, I tucked behind the first wall from shore to hide from the current and got set up to do some bottom fishing with shrimp, spot and squid. I have read that raw chicken breast works really well for blue catfish at the Wilson Bridge, but I wanted to get rid of some of these other baits that I had in the freezer from previous trips. I assumed anything with a strong odor should work, as I always see Jeremy Wade on River Monsters using the smelliest, raunchiest baits for catfish. Ryan had some more interesting offerings for the fish with chicken breast, and some other secret baits that were equally weird.
I started out by using some cooked shrimp that had worked for croaker in the summer, but as I waited for a nibble, Ryan managed to pull up 2 healthy blue catfish on his baits. I had hope I could keep my hands and boat clean by using the shrimp, but it was apparent that I needed to get my hands dirty and switch tactics. I pulled out my frozen spot and cut it up for bait. Within the first few minutes I landed the first fish of the day - a healthy 22 incher! Into the cooler he went, and I continued to fish for some more of his brothers and sisters. The catching wasn't hot and steady, but I did manage to catch about 5 to take home for dinner, and a couple throwbacks that were too big for my liking.
At one point I tried checking out the other side of the bridge, because that was the side that the current was hitting. Maybe the bite might be hotter there due to the stuff the current would carry toward the fish. The wind and current were pretty strong, which made it hard to stay still and fish. The next time I fish the Wilson Bridge, I'll have to remember to take something that I can use to attach to the holes in the walls to stay put.
Around noon Ryan and I decided to check out a warm water discharge in front of the DC water treatment plant to see if any striped bass were around. We paddled against the wind toward the plant, and wandered around looking for the warm water discharge. Having never fished there before (or any other warm water discharge) I had no idea what to look for. However, during my paddle over, I saw what looked to be a fishing boat in the distance. I just made a B-line to where they were and fought hard to ignore the bad stench in the air. I eventually got there and found a pretty interesting site. I could see the water churning a little differently from the rest of the river, and the water was crystal clear around the discharge area. At one point I saw several schools of fish swimming under my boat - unfortunately the only ones I could make out were orange and goldfish-looking. Not what we were looking for.
I called Ryan over, and he jigged around to see if he could catch anything, but nothing was biting. Also, I didn't see any fish arches on my depth finder. I don't know if it was because of the churning water or something, but my fish finder was acting up where it wasn't giving me accurate depth readings, and the temperature reading also went berserk. I just paddled around looking for any signs of fish, but didn't see any after the school of goldfish that swam by. I remember admiring how clear the water was around the warm water discharge, and could see the areas where the murky river water met the warmer water. Perhaps next time we'll try jigging some lures starting in the muddy water and into the clear water to mimic baitfish being swept in from the river.
We eventually decided to head back to the launch area, which was difficult again because the wind blew us toward the ramp while the current pushed us back up river. I was pooped (pun intended) by the end of the day! By 2:30PM Ryan and I were packed up and went our separate ways. As soon as I got home I cleaned the 5 catfish I kept and we had a fish fry for dinner. I kind of messed up the fish because I added way too much salt (oops). My mother-in-law made a separate batch of fish for my older son, who has a wheat and egg allergy....and that tasted pretty good. However, I think I still prefer saltier water inhabitants for the dinner table. I need to head back to Virginia Beach this winter...