Saturday, April 23, 2016

First Time at Rudee Inlet

It's been a busy month, and it's going to continue to be busy for me for a couple more months coming up.  It has also been killing me to see pictures of other anglers getting big migrating stripers earlier this month, and I wanted to get out and catch some big fish too.  So with the one weekend I have free this month, I originally made plans to go to Cape Henlopen State Park to try to see if the big bluefish would be back from last year.  However, thunderstorms and strong winds forecasted for the weekend put a damper on those plans.  Luckily, I had a plan B to check out Rudee Inlet in Virginia Beach.  After some back and forth of emails between some of my fishing buddies, Dao agreed to join me at Rudee Inlet on Saturday.

Although I have been wanting to try fishing Rudee Inlet for several years now, this was my first time going there.  I didn't have any idea of how large a body of water it was, or how to fish it, or anything.  I just had other fishing reports to rely on, most helpful of which was Comeonfish's youtube videos.  He had been to Rudee Inlet several times this month, and did pretty well in catching speckled trout, bluefish, and even a puppy red drum.  I've read reports of flounder being in the area too, so I also was looking forward to catching some flounder as well.  It's neat that you have so many options in one body of water.  With those options, I had the following lures packed and ready: soft plastics for red drum, mirrolures for speckled trout, x-raps and bucktails for bluefish, and gulp mullets for flounder.

Shellfish at low tide.
Launching out of the boat ramp, I was surprised at the scenery that I was presented with.  The place seemed kind of marshy with tall trees past the shoreline.  It reminded me a little of Mattawoman creek or something.  Anyway, I hoped to start out by catching some speckled trout or bluefish, so I put out some x-raps and immediately began to troll parallel to the shoreline to see what I could hook up with.  I noticed that the water by the shore would slowly slope down from 1 to 4 feet, and then drop quickly to around 8 feet and continue falling deeper to 30 feet or so.  I tried to follow the little ledge as I trolled along.  Not after too long I hooked up with a small bluefish that spit the hook before I could get him to the boat, but it was still good to see that there were fish in there!  Unfortunately, that was actually the only action I got for most of the morning.

I wanted to explore the rest of the inlet before committing to fishing any area, so I followed the shoreline all the way around lake Rudee, into lake Wesley, and then through the mouth of the inlet to check out the ocean.  I didn't hook into a single fish that whole area, and didn't see other boaters, kayakers or shore anglers catch anything either.  One cool thing that happened in the morning was kayaking next to a school of dolphins.  I was just pedaling through Lake Wesley, and all was quiet when I heard a big crash in the water behind me.  I thought something was thrown into the water, but I later realized it was the sound of the dolphin coming up and blowing air out of its blowhole.

The scenery at lake Rudee.

I jigged some gulp mullets by the inlet for a little while with no luck, after which I decided to head back toward the boat ramp to continue looking for the speckled trout, red drum or bluefish.  From watching Joe's videos, I could tell that he was catching fish by the marshy areas, and not in the busier, populated areas of the rest of the lake.  After returning to the launch area, I really felt like the shoreline would be the most likely place for the trout or red drum to be, so I proceeded to spend the next hour or so casting mirrolures and jigs to the shoreline.  I caught a couple dink striped bass, but that was all I had to show for my efforts.  All the while, Dao and Paul (another kayaker who joined us for the day) were trolling large soft plastics in the middle of the lake and catching bluefish pretty consistently.  I feel like these guys have got the kayak trolling technique down pretty good.  Wherever they are, they can always catch fish trolling.

30" bluefish.

I eventually gave up on trying to catch anything by jigging, and joined my trolling buddies.  I started out using a light jighead, and a shallow diving x-rap to troll through the middle of the lake.  Dao gave me a pointer that the fish were deeper, and that he was using some heavier jig heads than he typically would use.  So I switched things up to a yozuri crystal minnow that dove a little deeper, and also to a 3/8oz jighead for my 6" soft plastic paddle tail.  That switch seemed to make all the difference.  I finally started boating bluefish, including a nice big 30" bluefish that really gave a workout on the drag of my Penn Battle 3000.  The fight he gave was a lot like the fish we caught at Cape Henlopen last year.  I've gotten my big bluefish fix for the year.  Haha.

Beautiful day!  Dao's headed to stretch his legs on the beach.
After getting a few bluefish on our stringers, Dao and I decided to go back to the inlet to jig for flounder, so we pedaled back over to the inlet and jigged our gulp mullets by the bridge pilings and the channel through the inlet.  Unfortunately, flounder fishing was very slow for everyone as far as we could tell.  We gave it a go for about an hour before giving up and going back to the lake.  We proceeded to troll for bluefish a little while longer, as the wind picked up.  Dao hooked into his own chopper bluefish, which he unfortunately lost to a bad knot.  Let that be a lesson to all!  Don't skimp on the knot, even if you're tying it on the water.

I didn't expect to bring home a fish that large...
By about 2:30, we headed in to pack it up and head home.  There was only a little bit of traffic on the HRBT, but traffic was light after that.  I got home by 7:00, unloaded my gear, and filleted the 4 fish that I brought home.  The kids had a kick out of playing with the big bluefish's tail before I cleaned it.  I grilled the big one the next evening with some salt, pepper, mayonnaise and old bay seasoning.  It was pretty good!  Actually, I think anything cooked on a charcoal grill tastes good...

She's almost as big as the fish
Reflecting back on the day, I have a couple thoughts.  THANK GOODNESS FOR A HOBIE!  I don't know if I would have had enough energy to last the entire day with my paddle kayak on my first salt-water trip of the year.  I especially don't think I would have ventured through the inlet and back to the lake twice.  Also, Monster drinks work pretty well to keep me awake, but the crash at the end is brutal.  I don't know how some of these older guys are able to do 1-day trips down to Virginia Beach.  Even though I didn't catch any speckled trout or flounder, I had fun catching bluefish with some friends.  I think I would go back to Rudee again if I were given the chance.

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