Saturday, July 12, 2014

July Meet & Greet - Lowe's Wharf

It has been a long and busy first-half of the year.  Baby Ruth arrived in March, and we moved into our new-to-us home in May.  Even if I wanted to go fishing, I felt guilty about it with all that was going on.  Things are settling down now, and I've gone fishing here and there during the past month, but haven't had time to write about them...I may get to them later, or maybe report on all of them at once in a single report.  Anyway, one of my friends insisted that I start reporting on my trips again, so I hope I can keep this up again!

This trip was a Meet & Greet with the MKF gang at Poplar's Island, launching out of Lowe's Wharf.  I think this has been the largest gathering outside of the CBKA tournaments that I've seen.  It was fun meeting old buddies, and meeting new people.  Another special part of this trip was that I got to spend time with my dad.  His first exposure to kayak fishing was at Pt. Lookout last year, and I've been wanting to take him fishing again.  I also wanted him to meet some of the other folks from the forum, so that he knows the kind of people that I'm fishing with (My parents think I'm nuts for meeting up with random people from the internet to fish).

My dad with the sun rising over the marina behind him.

My dad and I left the house around 4AM, and arrived at the Lowe's Wharf ramp a little after 6AM.  There were already a handful of kayakers unloading their cars by the time we got there.  There were more to come later, and in total I think there were over 30 kayakers at this meet up.  I chatted with a few familiar faces, and was out on the water with my dad probably a little after 6:30AM.  I gave the Ocean Kayak Prowler 13 to my dad to paddle today, while I paddled in my Tarpon 100.  I was slightly nervous about how difficult it would be to paddle a shorter, wider kayak...but it tracked fine and I did a lot of paddling.

My dad and me trying to catch spot. (Photo Credit: Mark)

I had never fished at Poplar Island before, and didn't have much time to do research before the the simple plan I had was to use fish bites to catch some spot, and to use spot later for bluefish or striped bass.  I also brought some raw shrimp to try to catch some croakers.  So the first item of the day was to catch some silly spot!  I remembered how easy it was to catch some during last year's CBKA tournament, where I quickly found them in 4 feet of water.  However, I had the most difficult time catching them this time.  I tried water at 4 ft, then 6 ft, 8 ft, 10 ft....eventually, I heard someone on the radio (Frogsauce from the MKF forum) mention that he was catching spot left and right.  What the heck?  I asked for his location, and he shared that he was smack in the middle of the channel in 15+ feet of water.  Alright!  Time to change location.

I wouldn't say the spot fishing was fast and easy at the new location, but it certainly was better.  Soon enough I caught 6 spot on fish bites blood worms, and also on some live bloodworm that I got from a forum member I met, Dao.  Most of the spot were on the large side for live-lining, and I also got a surprise croaker in the mix on some shrimp that I tried out.  No matter, though...big bait = big fish, right?  Also, the bigger spot actually felt larger than they really are.  They won't pull much drag, but they do give up a feisty little fight.  My dad fished with me here too, and I think he actually had fun catching spot.  He ended up catching a bunch more spot than I did, which we took home for dinner.

So many boats....

I was under the impression that the fleet of boats to the north of us were live-lining for stripers, so I planned with my dad to split up for a bit while I checked out the rocky shoreline of Poplar Island, and then to meet him towards the boats to try for some striped bass.  I later found out that those boats were actually catching spot to use as bait for live-lining elsewhere.  Anyway, I started my long paddle toward the island, trolling an X-Rap behind me the entire way.  I didn't get any hits the entire paddle, but I was hopeful, because I saw several large pods of baitfish that were swimming along the surface.  I tried fishing my X-Rap through the schools of fish, but to no avail...

The tide going out on the rocks of Poplar Island.

I finally made it to the rocks, and was surprised by how shallow the water was around there.  It was 3-4 feet deep, and there were submerged boulders scattered around away from the wall of rocks.  It is nice to have a paddle kayak where you don't have to worry about submerged rocks!  Anyway, I worked my way along the rock wall, casting my X-Rap close to shore (maybe within a foot or two of the rocks), and swimming it back toward me.

So close...

After a few minutes of this, I actually had a strike!  I pulled it in, and I estimate it was about 15 inches...I didn't take a picture of it, but it was a little smaller than another fish I caught along the rocks later.  I did get a picture of that one, and measured him at 17 inches.  It was so disappointing to see the fish on my ruler, coming juuuust short of the legal limit.  I really wanted to take a rockfish home for dinner, so it was very hard to let him go.  By this time, it was around 10:30AM, and I wanted to meet up with my dad to try to do some live-lining for rockfish before we headed in for lunch.

Well, I turned around to paddle towards the boats and all I could see was the picture I posted above.  How am I supposed to find my dad????  He didn't have a cell phone, he didn't have a radio, my radio was just about out of battery, and I didn't see a single kayak in the midst of those boats.  There was a boat within a short paddle distance from me, so I went over and politely asked the people fishing on it to help me look for my dad.  Luckily someone on the boat had a pair of binoculars, and while he couldn't make out distinct features, he could see a yellow kayak out on the other side of the channel, not really near the armada of boats.  I am really grateful for those boaters, because I did not even notice the kayak until they pointed it out to me.  I thanked the people for their help and paddled to the yellow kayak.  Thank goodness, as I got closer, I could see a dark figure on the kayak with a wide brim hat, which my dad was wearing.  I was glad he was okay, and told him about how I had a difficult time finding him.  He thought I was overreacting because he said that he could see me the entire time.  Well!  Next time I take someone fishing, I'm not splitting from him.  The funny thing is, that when I left him, my dad was preparing a rod for live-lining for rock.  When I found him, he was fishing for spot again.  haha!


By this time, all the spot in my bucket were dead, because I pulled it out of the water to reduce drag as I was paddling to and from the island.  I had been paying attention to the radio the whole day to see if anyone else caught any rockfish, and no one I gave up on catching a keeper rockfish, and just rigged up my rods with top-bottom rigs, and fished for spot with my dad. We ended up with a cooler full of spot, and started the long paddle in.

Before we started heading in, I switched paddles with my dad so that he wouldn't get fatigued as much.  I took the heavier paddle, and gave him my Werner Camano.  With a longer kayak, and lighter paddle, I thought we'd be able to paddle at the same pace.  However, no matter how slow a pace I tried to keep, I was steadily paddling faster than my dad.  I'm really surprised by the speed of the Tarpon, and also by the difference that paddle technique makes!  I tried to convince my dad to paddle with his waist and core, but I could see him paddling with his arms.

Dinner is served...

We got back to the ramp, loaded the kayaks, had lunch at the marina with the gang, and went home.  When we got home, I let my boys hold the fish and play with them for a while, and then I cleaned and filleted some of them for dinner.  I told my boys to thank grandpa for all the fish he brought home today, and they even asked for seconds during dinner.