During the infancy of my fishing addiction, my dad took me out to the end of a rock jetty in Glen Cove NY on many occasions. He use to sling big chunks of bunker out, and wait while I learned to cast, have patience, and eventually catch all the Taylor Blues I ever wanted on spoons or popping corks. Over 25 years later, I turned the table and put him on sizable Bluefish he hadn’t seen since those days.
I looked over just in time to see his kayak turn abruptly. He started to spin and that’s when I realized this was the first time he hooked a fish on the yak that was big enough to really move him around. The smile on his face said it all…
My hunt for citation Bluefish, which is now in its 4th year, felt somewhat okay to leave on the back burner. Sharing that time with my dad, the one who got me into fishing, was special enough. Plus, I had checked off a big personal milestone not long ago.
Several days earlier, a few of us went in search of the big Red Drum that migrate to the Eastern Shore flats of Virginia. It was blowing steady, at least 15 kts, and the water was cloudy, but we were still super stoked for our first day out looking for those powerful predators. The Humminbird side scan unit came in handy with the bad water clarity. It wasn’t long before I had one or two blips that quickly turned into a screen full of big marks. To say I was excited would definitely be lackluster, but keeping my cool, I calmly cast my 6” swimbait.
It’s been three years since I achieved VA Saltwater Expert from the kayak, and as I expected, my fishing time has decreased tremendously since then. But none the less, I’ve been able to pick off trophies here and there. I even managed to achieve Class 1 VA Freshwater Master Angler, which entails catching trophies of 5 different species with no time limit. Over the years, I’ve caught Blue Catfish, Flathead Catfish, Gar, Yellow Perch, and Striped Bass. Recently I added Pickerel to the list, so I have my eyes set on Largemouth, Smallmouth, and a few others for Class 2. I’ve come within half an inch of both types of bass multiple times so it’s really just a matter of pulling myself away from the salt long enough to put the time in.
Last year I realized, that as far as I know, no one has achieved both VA Freshwater and Saltwater Master all while fishing strictly from a kayak. For Master Saltwater, an angler has to earn 25 Citations in a minimum of 5 different species, a maximum of 1 Citation per species per year allowed, over an unlimited period of time - More info here. At the start of this spring, I only had one more to go.
So I cast, feeling like my lure should get crushed at any moment, but that didn’t happen. I looked back at the screen and they were definitely there. The water was too dirty for me to see them, but I knew they were there. Then I realized what I did wrong. The strong wind was pushing my kayak too fast and my retrieve speed compounded the problem, so the lure didn’t get deep enough. I slowed the retrieve on my next cast, and sure enough the lure got slammed, and the sleigh ride ensued. I quickly told my buddy Jeff, who was following closely, to cast in the direction I just hooked up.
I ended up with a very hard fighting 43” Red Drum, which was 3” short of citation, and Jeff ended up with one a little over 50”. Less than 5 minutes later, I found the school again on the side scan unit, hooked up quickly, and put Jeff and Billy on fish as well. They fought their fish well and ended up with matching 46” Red Drum.
As for me, I accomplished my mission with one that measured a little over 50”. It was my first over 50”, and now I had achieved my VA Saltwater Master Angler.
Big thanks to my dad for starting this obsessive addiction, and obviously so much more. Also big thanks to Kayak Kevin who earned his Saltwater Master years ago, and provided me with much inspiration.
I have taken myself so much further in this sport than I ever thought I would. It’s been a long time coming and I’m grateful and proud to say I’m the first in Virginia to achieve Freshwater and Saltwater Master Angler strictly from the kayak.