I love it when a plan comes together.
I had been studying the winds for the last couple of days to make the most of my day off. I have been fixated on taking advantage of the spring spawn run and wanted to find big fish. I wanted to head to the flats, but the water was too dirty after recent storms so I re-evaluated my options and chose to launch at Beverly Triton. The water temps started at 53 degrees (and eventually hit 56) and I was fishing the top half of the flood tide.
The winds were forecast to be 5-10 out of the NW and diminishing as the day progressed. My plan was to follow the contours of the submerged point where I had luck with last week. From there, I intended to work the contours towards Turkey Pt before crossing over to some submerged structure that jutted out from Thomas Pt. I started by checking the channel cut in the shallows where I got a 32" recently, but I came up empty all around.
The winds were stronger than predicted and were blowing a gusty 10-15 against the tide. Naturally they were blowing directly from the direction I was traveling and creating 1-3' whitecaps, making for a wet and rough slog.
I was completely second guessing myself and trying to figure if I was willing to put in the effort to crawl across the mouth of the South River, but I just kept paddling. Stubbornness can be a curse at times.... My average speed was between 1.5-2 MPH, but I had no where else to go and I didn't want to settle on catching Schoolies closer to the launch. With the tide and the winds, I just felt like the bottom side of Thomas Pt was where I had to go.
After 2 hours of hard work (and no fish), I finally arrived. I started a troll parallel to the shore, trying to hit as many contour anomalies as I could. I was using a Striper Sniper Kodiak Jig with a 8" Z-mann paddle tail in pearl. This style jig was perfect for the area because, even at 1oz, if glided over the shallows and stayed off the bottom. I've been learning a lot about the philosophy of "big bait, big fish" and this was the prefect rig to try and apply those principles in the 7' water.
It didn't take long for my starboard rod to go down hard. As I reeled the fish in, it felt very odd. I soon realized the fish was tail wrapped and I was pulling it in backwards. When I got it boatside, I raised my rod and was shocked when the fish unwound from my line like a yo-yo, making 4 full revolutions before coming unbound. It immediately went berserk, leaping and thrashing next to the boat, before making another run. I regained the line and boated the 23". It wasn't the cow I was looking for, but at least I avoided yet another skunk. I have never had a fish become so entangled in my line before. It also had a significant wound on it's gill plate that made it look pretty rough.
I released the fish and reset my rig. 5 minutes later, the same rod (Med-Lite) was slammed again and the drag started playing that sweet, sweet music I love so much off of the Stradic 2500. I knew immediately that I had found what I had been seeking as this fish continued to take line. After several runs, I was able to get multiple glimpses of her and felt confident that this was going to be a new personal best. I just knew it was going to be over 40"!
When I got the grippers on and hoisted her into the boat, I realized she wasn't as big as I had imagined, but she was still a beaut! - but only measured out at 33", tying my current PB. I would be lying if I didn't confess I was a touch disappointed. I soon got over it though and appreciated the amazing experience I just had. After reviving her, which took a while due to the long fight on a light rod, I was thrilled to watch her kick for the bottom.
Things got quite for about an hour but I continued to work the area. I was trolling along chatting with a power boater that was slinging a deceiver on a fly rod when the same rod took a quick dip. I assumed it was just a Lions Mane jellyfish that had gotten fouled on the hook. As I reeled to clear the line of the perceived obstruction, I quickly realized that the fish was still there. Once again, as with the first fish, the fight was a weird one. When I got the fish close to the boat, it took a while to figure out what I was seeing. It turns out that the 26" fish wasn't hooked at all. The paddle on the Z-mann was caught in the gill plate and coming out it's mouth. I can only assume that it failed to get hooked on it's initial strike but the long (and very elastic) paddle tail, in the process of being swallowed, had come out it's gill. The paddle on the tail got wedged between the gill plate and the fishes head! What was most amazing was that the bait remained completely intact while I fought this very respectable fish all the way to the boat.
More time passed and I managed a 21" and a 25" over the next hour or so. I paddled around Thomas Point out to the day marker in front of Fishing Creek hoping to find productive grounds.
My plan all along had been to work to get to Thomas Pt and ride the wind and tide back to BT. The winds had abated and the tide had begun to ebb. It was a smooth ride home and I was grateful for it as I had busted my ass much of the first part of the trip.
I made into the beach after 5+ hours and at least 10+ miles of paddling - much of it into the weather. Needless to say, I was beat up and tired. It was the very best kind of tired though. The kind that comes from successfully executing a predetermined plan.
I'll just have to wait on a new PB. Being stuck at 33 isn't the worst thing in the world. Maybe it will be the next time out. I am already looking forward to it!