Friday, May 8, 2015

Big Blues in Lewes

It was perfect.  My wife was to fly to St. Louis with the kids for a week, and I had no obligations for the weekend.  There have been reports of big bluefish out of Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware.  I had to go and get some big bluefish!  I haven't touched any saltwater since last fall...I'm itching to go out!

Several of my fishing buddies had plans to go to CHSP on Friday, so I took the day off from work and joined them.  Mustafa and I are really feeling our aging bodies, and we made plans to share a motel in Lewes, Delaware so that we wouldn't be so tired the next day.  That turned out to be a really good idea, because I was exhausted by the end of the day.  It was also a decent price...we split it and it was only 25 bucks to spend the night.  I should do that more often....

A clearnose ray.

So Mustafa and I rolled into the parking lot around 6AM and found the others already parked and rigging their kayaks - Ryan, Mike, Jeremy and Dao.  We quickly rigged up our kayaks and rolled them to the beach.  Note to self: get beach wheels.  It is tough getting the kayak through sand with thin wheels!  As we waited for Mustafa to make it down, we waded around in the water and had fun with a clearnose ray that Jeremy spotted.  We didn't dare try to touch it, but it didn't pay us any mind as it cruised along right in front of us in the shallow water.

The inner wall.

Mustafa finally came out, and we headed out in the dense fog.  It was so thick that it was difficult to make out the fishing pier that we paddled parallel to.  Thank goodness for GPS-integrated fish finders!  I really would have had no idea where I was going without it. The tide was low slack, and while we waited for the current to pick up, several of us went to the inner wall to soak some shrimp for togs.  It was pretty slow, and I only picked up a few short togs with a couple cunners mixed in.  Some of the others were lucky enough to catch the limit of 3 togs, though.  And there were also some unlucky ones who caught huge toadfish. Blech.

One of my short togs.

Togging at the inner wall was very different from what I am used to fishing at Kiptopeke.  You are not right up against the wall and dropping rigs 20-30 feet're at least 5-10 feet away, and looking for the spaces between large boulders that drop from 5 feet down to 7-8 feet.  It was a much more difficult experience for me, as I constantly had to one-hand paddle to keep my position.   At Kiptopeke I have the ships to hold on to.

One of my many bluefish.

Finally, around 10AM, Dao radioed in and said that he was starting to catch some bluefish.  He was having trouble pulling them into the boat though, because they were chomping through his 60lb mono leaders! (I had 20lb steel leaders on my rods, and managed not to lose a single rig the entire day.)  Jeremy caught his single tog, and wasn't impressed, so he and I headed back closer to the beach to find some big bluefish!  By this time the fog was still thick and we had no idea where Dao was.  Still, Jeremy and I trolled some crankbaits and bucktails as we searched around for Dao.  At one point, as Jeremy was pedaling parallel to the shoreline in about 4 feet of water, his rod went down and his drag started singing!  He fought a hard fight, and wound up losing his fish as it escaped with a big splash on the surface.  Thinking there must be more, I trolled my two rods right by where the fish hit his lure and suddenly both of my rods went down and I had two fish on!  I fought the first one for about 5 minutes before boating him, and luckily the other fish was still on the other line which also took about the same amount of time to pull in.  The fight that these fish gave was amazing on my light tackle rods!  The singing of the drag was music to my ears, and the aerial shows that the blues gave were heart pumping!  This was what I had been dreaming about the past 2 nights...

The waders helped protect me from their chompers...

We started radioing the other kayakers over to join the fun, and I texted Mike and Ryan to come as well.  I let them know that I just had a double, and Mike replied with "a double what?  where are you?"  I ended up calling them and told them we found the bluefish, and they are as long as my legs. "Get over here quick!"  We continued to just troll around for more bluefish, and we hooked up with them here and there.  Every time, we had huge smiles on our faces because these fish were so strong and fun to fight on light tackle.  I first tried to bring up the fish with my net, but these guys were too big to really fit well in the was just a hassle.  I ended up using a technique that someone on the Snaggedline forum shared - bring the fish boatside, grab it by the tail, and swing it into the boat.  This worked surprisingly well, and it also kept the fish's sharp teeth away from the goods (you know what I mean).

One of Ryan's large bluefish.

By noon, most of the kayakers had left the inner wall and were all hooking into these monster bluefish.  A whole fleet of bigger boats showed up as well, and it was a lot of fun watching everyone with bowed rods pulling up big bluefish left and right.  Whenever anyone (kayakers and boaters) would see someone hook up with a fish, they would go up behind them and try to catch one of its friends.  This actually worked pretty consistently!  I had no hard feelings about it...and I don't think anyone else minded.  We were all catching fish!

My "one last fish"

By 1:00PM I was exhausted from paddling and fighting fish, so Mike and I headed in.  I am so out of kayak-fishing shape!  Just for kicks, I let out my bucktail to troll it to see if I could catch one more.  As Mike and I reached the end of the pier and were on the stretch toward the beach, I saw several groups of fish on the fishfinder.  At one point I saw them on the fishfinder, and I looked over to Mike, and said "I see a bunch of fish on my fishfinder.  If one of them were to hit my lure, he would hit it right"  And on "now" Mike and I both watched my rod slam down!  We had a good laugh about that, and this 30" fish gave me the biggest fight of the day.  It was actually dragging me further and further from the beach, and it was not showing any signs of tiring.  I fought it for a good 5 minutes, and could feel myself getting more and more I finally thought "I need to bring this thing in and get to shore".  So I forced the fish next to the boat, grabbed the tail, swung the dang thing into the boat, and without unhooking it just started paddling to shore.  There was a group of boaters nearby who watched the whole thing in amazement.  It must have been comical to watch me get pulled around by the fish, then sling the fish into the boat, and immediately start paddling away.

That fog!

We made it to shore, and took a quick break to catch our breath.  Then it was time to drag our heavy kayaks back to our cars.  It was tough dragging the kayaks to the beach in the morning, and it was 10 times harder dragging them to the car after a full day of fishing!  Second note to self: get beach wheels.  I helped Mike get his Hobie Outback to the car first, and then he helped me with my kayak.  We loaded up our cars and made our way home starting around 2:30PM, to try to avoid the heaviest of Friday evening traffic.  I made it home around 6:00PM, and spent the next 2 hours filleting the fish I brought home.  For some reason it's just a lot harder to fillet larger fish.

My parents and I had some fresh sashimi (it was surprisingly good, and non-fishy) with one of the fillets that I cut, and I dropped off one set of fillets to a neighbor that we've befriended.  My mom half-seriously commented on how terrible I am at filleting these fish..."Look at all that meat on those bones," she said.  We decided to keep the bones, and grilled them the next day (it was really good).  There was enough meat that I missed from filleting that we actually had leftovers after we were done eating them.  Then the next morning, we mixed in some of the roe with some eggs for omelettes (it was OK).  What a bluefish weekend!  I don't know if I'll ever have another day of fishing like this in my was truly a memorable experience with great friends.