Sunday, July 31, 2011

TJM Celebrity Charity Kayak Fishing Tournament–Wilmington, NC

In a effort to expand my horizons and fish different areas on the eastern seaboard, I made up my mind to fish the Hook, Line, and Paddle, TJM Kayak Fishing Tournament.  After some discussion with friends, Wayne Bradby and I decided to split the expenses and carpool down.  I would be meeting up with my buddy Seth and his girlfriend Kam as well.  Wayne and I decided to Leave on the 28th, get checked in and run over to the store.  We went in to drop some stuff off and helped them set up the raffle prizes.  Meeting the guys at HLP was a treat in itself, and they are definitely super knowledgeable about the sport.  When in SE North Carolina, make the trip to Wilmington and stop in the store.  After we left HLP, we checked out a flounder hole that one of the owners (Chris) told us about.  It was fishy looking water and a beautiful location.
Looks Fishy!
After unsuccessfully scouting the area for the mysterious, unknown location of the “Flounder Hole”, I was working the grass when I picked up my first fish.  I thought it was a mackerel of some sorts, but I later learned that it was a Lizardfish.
Mean little bugger caught on the lure of the week, a 3” Bayou Thumper.
After the Lizardfish, I ended up the night with some small little bluefish in dock lights.  We heard a bunch of commotion, and tried and tried to hook up, but came away unsuccessful.
Day two started with a visit to Tex’s Tackle.  It is a nice store with a good selection of inshore baits.  They were also one of the big sponsors of the tournament.  Thanks guys for your support!  After we left Tex’s, we headed down to Fort Fischer to pre-fish. It is a cool place to fish with lots of deep holes, shoreline structure, and seemingly endless flats.  Bait was everywhere, and the first order of the morning was to collect some mullet, which was an easy task along the wall.  
Pelicans along the wall and the smallest Pompano ever!
The first area we fish is known as the cribs.  We got first hand reports of reds and flounder in the area, so we decided to give it a shot.  I ended up with this nice 15” flattie for my efforts.
After the flattie, Wayne and I decided to work a set of flats in search of reds.  The wind was ripping, which made standing to spot fish difficult.  I ended up spotting a few rays and a few reds.  At the end of this flat, I saw a bunch of commotion.  Right about this time, Wayne made a cast and hooked up with a solid 18” red.
Not a bad day of pre-fishing
I ended day two with a few flounder, a few rays, and a bluefish, to bring my total species count for the weekend to 4.
Day Three – Tournament Day!
We arrived at the Fort at 0445, got rigged up and we were ready to go at 0530.  That time was the longest half hour ever!  0600 finally came and I was off to the wall to find some mullet.  I get to my spot and I start to cast, getting a few each time.  About this time, Wayne comes up to me and he has a 16.5” speck on the boga.  I snap a few pics, and our duties have changed.
Wayne’s second place Speck
As I work the area with a MR 17 mirr-o-dine and a 3” Marsh works Bayou Thumper, the Mirr-o-dine goes off.  I know this is a nice speck, but it comes off about 15’ away.  Fish one of the tournament lost.  I am in the dumps, but I decide to give it a try.  I drift and cast the 3” thumper picking up a bunch of Ribbonfish, and a  17” Speck. 
The next few cast bring more ribbons and a destroyed thumper.  We decide to leave with the hardest fish of the slam out of the way.  Next goal for me was a red, while Wayne decided to target flounder.  I went to a spot I knew to hold reds and casted a 3” thumper under a popping cork (I caught all but one of my reds this year on this rig).  I make a cast along some grass and the cork is gone in a instant.  The fight was not on, because the sheer violence snapped my powerpro.  (Fu#k, another fish lost).  I was fishing the cork, and a second rod with a mullet on the bottom.  This is when I picked up a small blacktip shark.
duh-da, duh-da…. (Jaws theme song)
Once I released this little guy, 3-6’ blacktips started thrashing all around.  It was time to move.  I saw a good choke point adjacent to a channel, and a oyster mound.I make a cast with the cork and BOOM!  fish on, but this time it is heading straight for the oysters.  I guess it was divine intervention, but this fish went straight back to the grass.  This time it was not a bad as oysters, but the pucker factor was still there.  When I got it boatside, I knew it was nice, but I did not know how big.  It was a competitive fish though.
Yeah baby!
I throw it on the Hawg Traugh and it comes out to be 24 1/4”!
I call over to Wayne, who found his flounder.  He was looking  for a red to complete the slam.  He said that Seth and Kam were on some smaller fish, but noting of a winning size.  He decided to stay and fish.  My nerves were crazy, so I took a smoke break and made a phone call.  During that call, Wayne comes over the radio and says.
“William, I know that you’re going to hate me, but I just hooked up with a 26” er.”
I was happy for him, knowing that was a hell of a fish.  With his 13.5” founder, I didn’t hate because it would only take a 15” er to tie his slam.  We both head back to the cribs in search of flounder.  I cast with mullet and I end up with a GIANT inshore gag grouper.
I know, its HUGE!
Right about this time, Wayne hooks up with a nice fish.  I thought it was a nice red, but it ended up being a nice, 19.5” flattie, and the last one I would see all day.  The flounder would have given me my second ever inshore slam, and the first on a tournament day.  I hope it will happen soon.
To close out the day weigh-in came and went.  Native endorsed guide and fellow Marine Kaleb Dutil came and grabbed Wayne, another individual and myself.  The results of that verification were as follows:
Speckled Trout: second place - Wayne Bradby
                          first palce – William Ragulsky
This was my second tournament win and my first time winning a kayak!
Wayne ended up winning the Slam, being the only one to catch one (a solid 62”).
Trout Division winner!  Artwork, Dry-gear, Carbon Fiber Paddle, Native Ultimate 14.5 Tandem
Wayne’s Slam Presentation
First Place and Slam Winners!
Thank you to Wayne, Seth, Chris, Ryan, and the guys from HLP, and all the sponsors of the TJM Celebrity Kayak Fishing Tournament.  Ill be back!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Writing Prompt - Summer Traditions

Fishing has always been in my blood, from early childhood trips in the mountains of Colorado, to my latest adventures as an adult on the east coast.  For the last three years, I know summer has officially started when I make my first trip out to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel in search of Sheepshead.  This tradition started off innocently enough, one summer day after looking for new places to launch and new species to catch.  That first summer was tough, as I knew there were sheepies around, but I could not get any to bite.   It was one of those times where I was too stubborn to know when I was beat.  That summer taught me a lot about patience, as well as the area.  The following summer, I grew as an angler and found fish that I never dreamed of catching.  The perseverance of that first summer definitely paid off.   The first fish on the CBBT were a pair of Virginia citation size Sheepshead (24 ¾” and 24” respectively).
2010 Citation 24 3/4"
To follow that up I was able to find some small Tautog, as well as some respectable sized Triggerfish.  This summer started off with two sheepies at 23”, a 17” and a 16” Tog.  Now, when the fiddler crabs start to show up in tackle shops, and the Jet Ski’s start to drive me crazy, I know it is time to go out in search of one of my favorite fish, the Sheepshead!
2011 Sheepie 17"