Thursday, June 30, 2011

Reaching goals

As an outdoorsman, I find myself setting goals constantly. Whether it's taking a deer with a bow, or catching a new species on the fly, I'm in a constant struggle to reach a new objective and generally make things more difficult on myself. It's something that I feel is important and really just makes you feel good about yourself when you reach your goals.

Recently, I came up with a new sort of goal. Something I certainly never expected to even be attempting to attain. My goal was to reach 1000 page views on this blog in a month. I know that for some of my fellow bloggers, that isn't much at all...and for others, it's quite a bit. But I felt like it was something that was possible and I set about writing a bit more and advertising my blog in several different places. This goal was set when I realized that last month, I'd doubled my previous record high and reached just shy of 500 views in a month. The next step would obviously be 1000 views. I was rather shocked today when I realized that I just about made it. As usual, my incredible luck held out. My blogger account recognized 8pm as being 12:00 midnight so it essentially ended my month at that time with only 14 more page views to go before I hit the 1k mark. Meh...close enough. I can tell everyone it was 1000. It'll be the "it was -THIS- big" *extends arms wide* syndrome.

I'm not much of one for stats, but I felt pretty good about this. In the course of two months, my page view quadrupled. I definitely have all of my returning readers to thank for that! Sooo....Thank you!

Another goal of mine, which was only made a few months back, has still yet to be reached. I've been trying (and failing) to catch a King Mackerel from the kayak. I've probably caught well over a hundred Kings over the course of my fishing career, but they've eluded me while in my kayak thus far. I still vividly remember my very first King that my dad helped me reel in.

I remember the rod, reel, and lure we were trolling when the fish struck. I remember becoming almost bored after trolling for so long with no luck. I remember the sound of the drag screaming and the rod doubling over. I remember being shocked at how hard it pulled.

I also remember cowering behind the seat in our boat when my dad finally gaffed the fish and brought it in the boat. All those teeth scared me a little at that age. I hope that landing a King in my kayak will be just as memorable. Even though it wasn't a goal of mine at that age, it still sticks with me. On top of the challenge, I think that setting goals helps one remember things better. Gives one a better appreciation of just what's really going on. Do I remember my first Speckled Trout? Yes. Do I remember my 200th speck? Hell no. Do I remember my first Speckled Trout on the fly after hundreds of others on conventional? Yes.

Maybe it has something to do with 'firsts', but that's sorta what goals are. It isn't really a goal after the first time it happens, is it? end my rambling...I'll be heading out King fishing from the kayak tomorrow morning. Hopefully it'll be the day. I recently bought an HD GoPro Hero and with any luck, I might just be able to catch a goal of mine on camera. I can only hope.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Look Back: Chipola River Fishing Summer 2009

This is a report from a trip to the Chipola River during the summer of 2009. 

Early one summer morning, my dad, two of his friends, and I loaded up the kayaks and traveled the ~2hr's to Marianna Fl to fish the Chipola river. Once there, we worked out the details of the float plan and dropped off a car at the take out point. We then drove up river with the yaks and put in.

To my surprise, the river was relatively clear; not the usual coffee-with-extra-cream color that dominates this part of the state.

My goal for this trip was to catch a shoal bass. To be honest, prior to taking this trip, I was unaware there was any such thing as a shoal bass. But after talking to some of my dad's friends, I had decided that I'd like to land one in the yak with me that day.

After launch, I realized quickly that I was out of my element. I'm used to saltwater, tides, small waves, etc. I'm definitely -not- used to swift currents, submerged trees, and random limestone outcroppings. What made things even more difficult and defied the laws of physics at the same time was that my kayak INSISTED on floating backwards down the river. No matter what I did with my rudder, paddle, or curse words, the kayak would just float around and head stern first down current.

At the end of the 4 hour float, it felt like my neck permanently twisted around so that my chin rested on my shoulder. We did, however, have a great trip. I failed to catch anything huge, but did manage to land my first shoal bass...and on a fly no less.

I also lost count on the number of bream I caught. None were of any size worth mentioning, but I landed one nearly every other cast. One of the problems I noticed about fishing in a river with swift current is that you don't have all the time in the world to cast to a good looking hole. Rather, you get one, maybe two casts before you're out of range and can never get back to it again.

The Chipola River trip was certainly an interesting one. We saw people bowfishing for mullet, fossil hunting in the shallows, and even some other fools in kayaks. By the time we reached the take out spot, the scenery had changed slightly from the morning. There were a bunch of people there and several who needed to -not- be wearing such skimpy bathing suits. It was the first time I've ever had to unload the kayak while averting my eyes from the horrors that jiggled and flopped and shook the earth with every step around me.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

How to properly capsize your kayak

Haven't been fishing much recently. The weather has been pretty bad and I learned quickly last Friday how rough is too rough to launch the kayak in the Gulf.

Made it down to the beach at 5:30 in the morning and the wind was pretty strong out of the southwest. Walked down to the water and it looked "manageable". After waiting about 30 minutes for the wind to possibly lay down, I decided to finally launch the yak.

My definition of "manageable" needs to be revised. In that short 30 minute period the surf managed to build a little bit but I decided to just go for it. I strapped down what I could, put the yak in the water, timed the swells and shoved off.

I then proceeded to flawlessly capsize my kayak for the first time in 5 years of owning it. I put my bow right into a large wave, but the current shoved my stern a bit and the wave ended up turning me sideways, picked up the yak, and dumped it over. Literally everything that was in the kayak, including the things that were strapped down, fell out.

Both rods, the bait bucket, cooler bag, tackle box, billy club, gaff, anchor, water bottles, frozen cigs, paddle, and sunglasses all got dumped. Only the rod holders and seat stayed in the yak. I managed to grab things of value in order. Rods went back in the yak first, followed by the tackle box. At this point I needed to get the yak back to shore before I had a repeat. My anchor had managed to unwind itself and was now completely scoped out in the surf. By the time I got it back into the kayak, another set of swells had come in. I proceeded to get knocked down and dragged by the kayak before I wrestled it back onto the beach. I then chased the cooler bag and bait bucket down as they were well on their way to Destin.

What kinda irked me was the fact that a man and his son stood there and watched as I floundered around in the surf and all my gear was sent washing up on the beach. The didn't even pretend to try and help me gather the things that were already beached or rolling in the surf on shore. After running back and forth for about 10 minutes, trying to gather everything, I took a tally of what I was missing:

-One clear lure box that fell from the tackle box containing a few yozuri's and other relatively expensive lures.
- My frozen cigs
- My sunglasses

It's instances like today that make me glad I've never bought Costa's or any other expensive glasses. I'll take the 12$ loss and move on 

After gathering my senses, I tried to launch again (Slow learner <). I was quickly knocked over, and dragged by the yak again. I hauled it back to shore, waited for another break in the waves, and tried to launch again.

No dice. I was knocked down again by a wave pulling the kayak and once again was dragged through the surf like a rag doll. Luckily, the yak stayed upright this time so I didn't lose anything else in the surf. I finally called it quits after the third try. Soaking wet, exhausted, and feeling pretty defeated, I hauled the yak back to the truck and went home without ever making a cast. I didn't take any pictures because I was relatively upset and thankful that I didn't actually lose the camera.

Sometimes you just have one of those days. At least I now know what is "manageable" and what isn't. Just remember to be safe despite the overwhelming urge to chase snapper

Note: Something strange is happening with blogger and I can't seem to upload any pictures. Hopefully that'll change soon.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Gear Review: Baker Magnum "T" Hookouts

For years, every time I pull in a toothy or unwanted fish, I reach for my Baker hookouts. The little tool has always been reliable at removing hooks and keeping my fingers safely out of the way. This is why I was extremely excited to receive and review the new Magnum "T" Hookouts from Baker.

The hookouts advertise a 20 inch reach and a large, easy to use handle. The purpose of these hookouts are to quickly and efficiently remove hooks from a fish with minimal damage. Soon after receiving the hookouts, I took them kayak fishing with me.

I tend to saltwater fish MUCH more than freshwater fish and I feel as though carrying hookouts is a necessity since a large majority of the fish that I pull into the kayak with me tend to have a nice set of chompers. My first test was a speckled trout that I caught on a topwater plug. The plug had two treble hooks that buried themselves deeply in the fish's mouth. I grabbed the Magnum "T" and started trying to pry the lure free. I soon discovered, however, that the hookouts had some trouble removing the treble hooks. I eventually got the lure loose and released the fish, but it wasn't without some difficulty. This is where I think it is important to note the design of the Magnum "T".
Front Shot

Side Shot
The locking 'hook' on the end of the hookouts appears to be designed for the removal of single hooks. This is because when one locks the hookouts onto a hook, they are designed to twist, reverse the angle of the hook, and remove it. The problem with treble hooks is that often one has more than one point of the treble hook in the fish. If this is the case, reversing the hook angle is almost impossible since the hook is lodged in two crossing angles. However, once only one of the points remains in the fish, the hookouts do their job quite effectively and remove the hook entirely.

Later in the day, I began throwing soft plastics around in hopes of catching trout, flounder, or redfish. To my dismay, I started catching croakers. The first croaker that I pulled into the boat, I grabbed, began to pry the hook free with my hands, and then felt a sharp pain in my fingers. Turns out the dumb little fish which I assumed was harmless, cut my fingers with his gill plate. It wasn't a bad cut, but resembled something like a paper cut. Not wishing to have this happen again, I started using my Magnum "T" hookouts again. This time, the hookouts performed perfectly. The single hook design of my soft plastic lure made it easy to grab the hook and quickly remove it. And yes, it was rather difficult to film/photograph while removing the hook.

The next day I took the hookouts with me again and was lucky enough to actually catch some toothy critters. 

Blacktip Shark
 I discovered after catching a few sharks, that the hookouts work best when the fish is actually hooked in the mouth. Foul hooked fish create a whole new set of challenges when removing the hook. The fact sharks also have such thick skin made things difficult anyways.
Removing the hook from a bluefish

Design: The Magnum "T" Hookouts from Baker are very well designed. The long reach keeps one well away from sharp teeth or fins. The squeeze trigger also works perfectly and locks in the hook very well. However, they don't float (whoops) and one must be careful not to stab themselves with the sharp tip (at least us clumsy people).

Function: The hookouts do exactly what they say they'll do which is remove hooks from fish safely. As stated earlier though, they work best with single hooks, not treble hooks. Once the hook is locked it's just a simple twist of the wrist and the fish is free. I also noticed that it can often be challenging to lock onto a hook when using artificials/lures as the lure body can get in the way.

- Long reach keeps one safe from teeth
- Easy to use trigger system locks hooks quite easily
- Stainless steel design ensures no rusting
- Easy hook removal once hook is locked
- Minimal damage to fish for catch and release fishing

- Doesn't float
- Has a tough time with treble hooks
- Often difficult to lock onto the hook when fishing with lures/artificials.

The Amazing Five Star Rating System: 

***** = Five Stars (The be all-end all greatest thing that I cannot go without. Best thing next to sliced bread and pockets on jeans. I simply must have it with me)

****   = Four Stars (An absolutely great product. Something that does it's job and serves it's purpose in my arsenal of gear. Almost always carry it with me)

***     = Three Stars (An average product. Something that I can function in life without. It has its usefulness at times, but is often unneeded or is of relatively poor design)

**       = Two Stars (A poor product. Something that either makes my life more difficult, gets in my way, or succeeds in giving me ulcers. Likes to break and finds itself gathering dust on my shelf)

*         = One Star (A terrible product. Something that serves no purpose and doesn't even do what it's supposed to do. Often too large to be flushed down the toilet and renders itself a waste of time, space, and money)

Baker Magnum "T" Hookouts: **** - Four Stars

I gave the Baker Magnum "T" Hookouts four (4) stars because it did exactly what it was designed to do: Safely remove hooks from fish for catch and release purposes. The product is of a very sound design and it functions quite well. The reason it did not receive a full five (5) stars is that it is difficult to remove treble hooks from fish, sometimes hard to lock onto a hook with a lure, and sinks like a stone if dropped in the water. This product would be absolutely -perfect- for removing hooks while bait fishing with single hooks. Whether it's offshore for snapper and grouper, or inshore for trout and reds, if one bait fishes with a single hook, there will be no problems safely removing the hook. It is for this reason, that the hookouts received four (4) stars and not three (3). The Baker Magnum "T" Hookout is a product that I will definitely carry with me in the future, especially when I go on offshore snapper fishing trips where it is often necessary to safely release undersized fish.

The Baker Magnum "T" Hookouts featured in this gear review was given to me at no cost through the efforts of the Outdoor Blogger Network in exchange for an honest product review. All ideas expressed within this review are my own personal thoughts and opinions of the product and I received no compensation for the review. Any reviews featured on Outdoor Adventures my honest and unbiased opinions. If one has any questions or concerns regarding the review or product at hand, please feel free to contact me through the 'contact' page at the top of the website.

Monday, June 6, 2011

100+lb Tarpon from the Kayak: Port St. Joe Part II

"No no no NO! Oh my GOD!"

I felt absolutely sick to my stomach. I wanted to scream. What my poor eyes had just witnessed was beyond comprehension for a few moments. I was fishing in the Gulf off of Cape San Blas near Port St. Joe Florida in my kayak and was busy catching live bait with a Sabiki rig. I had caught a perfect sized Bluerunner and set about hooking it on my bigger rod to catch King Mackerel. My dad and I had seen King jumping all morning, so I had high hopes that this day would be the day I finally landed one in the yak. Thanks to the wind, I was slowly drifting farther and farther offshore and I put my King rod in the rod holder with the live Bluerunner so it could be dragged behind my drift. My bait catching rod was laying in my lap with only 2 feet of the Sabiki rig dangling in the water next to the kayak. Suddenly, something grabbed the Sabiki rig while I was messing with the King rod and with a quick jerk, sent my Shimano rod and reel into the Gulf and disappearing into the milky green water forever. I had no time to react.

Speechless. I couldn't even think of a good enough curse word to fit the situation. I just sat there in silence as I looked into the deep green water where my rod and reel was being dragged around somewhere below by a spanish or baitfish. I turned the yak around, and paddled back closer to shore after a shark stole my blue runner. I honestly just wanted to leave. Just go back to the motel, go to sleep, and try it again later that day. My dad, however, convinced me not to, and boy was I thankful for that.

We started floating frozen cigar minnows behind the kayak with balloons in hopes of catching a King. It wasn't long, however, that we both started pulling in sharks. Lots of sharks.

My dad soon gave up on floating balloons and started slow trolling the cigs. Almost immediately my dad was hooked up and I heard him say what I thought was "King!". Turns out I was hearing the tail end of a common four letter word that is often turned into an adjective because my dad had hooked another shark. Regardless, I took my balloon off the line because I too wanted to catch a King. I cast my cig out behind the boat, and began paddling closer to my dad. Within just a few seconds, my rod was doubled over and the line was screaming. I couldn't turn around fast enough but I noticed some HUGE jump behind the boat. All I caught was the end of the splash. I finally wrestled the rod from the rod holder behind me, set the hook, and noticed that I was being spooled quickly. I tightened the drag, and the fish's run stopped. What happened next was a shock. A big tarpon jumped right in front of me!

"I got a tarpon!!", I yelled at my dad as I began my (soon to be) two mile Tibetan sleigh ride. I could tell it was a big fish just by how quickly I was being dragged offshore. My dad started to follow me and at one point, he couldn't paddle fast enough to keep up with my ride. After a few minutes, I tried to back the drag down a little bit on the old Shimano 650 Baitrunner, but to my dismay, the drag began to fail. I had to grab the top of the reel in order to keep the fish from just swimming off. I played with the drag a little more and finally settled it out WAY higher than it should have been. The fish almost couldn't take any line out and I was nearly herniating myself every time it -should- have taken out line.

After a 20 minute, two mile fight, I got the fish close enough to the kayak that I could now see it. It fought under the boat for a few more minutes and even rammed the bottom of the kayak hard enough that it lifted the bow up. I soon lip gaffed it, dropped the lip gaff from the fish going crazy, regained control of the gaff, and pulled the fish's head into the boat.

After unhooking it, I set about trying to revive it. It took only a few minutes before the fish had enough strength to swim on its own and I let it go into the murky green water. It was an absolutely awesome experience and one that I kinda hope to never have again. I've caught big 150+lb tarpon from a power boat before as well as 30lb'rs from the kayak. But this fish beat me to pieces. The rod butt bruised both my abs and groin muscles and I thought I'd never make it back to shore with my sore arms. I actually think that instead of reeling the fish in, I just pulled myself to the fish the whole fight. But at the end of the day, the fish helped me shake off losing the rod and reel and definitely made my trip. A big thanks to my dad for not only paddling out with me to take the picture, but also raging at the sharks and inadvertently tipping me off for the right tarpon set up. Hopefully, if this ever happens again, I'll have that helmet camera and be able to catch the whole thing on film.

Speck Fishing and Mullet Snatching: Port St. Joe Part I

The next few posts will be my most recent trip to Port St. Joe and will be broken up into a few parts.

Woke up at some ungodly hour of the morning last Wednesday and made the 3.5 hour drive down to Port St. Joe with my dad. Despite being zombie-like from the lack of sleep the night before, I was really excited about making this trip. Prior to this, I hadn't been to St. Joe in over six years.

We arrived sometime around 8 am and decided that our first stop would be the St. Joseph's State Park. Even though it had been six years since the last time I had visited, few things had changed throughout the small town. A few new houses, new stores had opened, old stores had closed, and that was about it. The state park was just how I remembered it. We soon launched the kayaks and paddled out over the grass flats and fished the incoming tide.

It was a beautiful morning. The wind was up just a little bit, but it was manageable in the yaks. The best part was that the fish were biting. After just a few casts, I landed a nice fat Speckled Trout on topwater.

I hooked and missed a few more trout after this and then proceeded to catch this little guy.

I never knew they made Bluefish that small. Over the course of the trip, I only landed the one trout and little Bluefish. I missed a good ten strikes and lost a couple of fish that I had hooked. What I'm pretty sure was a Redfish came up and annihilated my topwater lure, but because of their downward facing mouth, he managed to -not- hook himself. Apparently I should have switched to subsurface because my dad landed about six trout and lost a few bluefish on soft plastics.

One thing I love about St. Joe is how much area there is to fish. The grass flats extend for at least a half mile off shore and continue down the seven miles of peninsula.

This is why I was livid slightly perturbed when I saw these people run their boat up in the shallows, chop the grass, make a ton of noise, and chunk and anchor our RIGHT next to me. And no, the picture doesn't quite do their "closeness" justice.

It was at least a small victory to see them get excited and yell "Fish on!!", only to pull back a pinfish with their live bait.

By this point, my dad and I were both really tired from the drive and all the paddling. The wind had come up quite a bit more so we decided to call it quits and head back to the truck. The next morning we decided to launch the kayaks at a cove in the southwest corner of the bay. We got there right at dawn and got to see a beautiful sunrise.

The water was quite a bit more shallow than over at the state park. It took close to 10 minutes of solid paddling before I reached 2 feet of water. To my surprise, nothing was biting. I had taken the fly rod with me so it only made sense that after a few casts, the wind picked up to a near-gale. I did, however, notice that there were mullet -everywhere- and I remembered that I brought one snatch hook with me. I paddled back to the truck, switched my gear up a bit, and paddled back to where I'd seen so many schools. The mullet were VERY thick first thing in the morning, but they had begun to spread out by the time I began snatching. I still, however, managed to land one big fat mullet that I failed to take a picture of. I hit another 15 with the snatch hook and hooked and lost 7 of those. If only mullet would take a lure/fly in saltwater. Believe it or not, they fight very hard. The mullet that I landed took out a bunch of line and even dragged me and my kayak a good 50 yards into the wind.

I gave up after a while since the wind was getting stronger and it was exhausting trying to hook a mullet from the kayak. It's quite a bit harder to hook one from the kayak because one can't get the same leverage as they can while wading.

We didn't really know what to do in the afternoon because of the wind. The Gulf was too rough to launch, and if we launched at the state park, we'd never make it back up the beach to the launch because of the wind. We finally decided to just fish the same area as we did earlier in the morning. It was different this time because the tide had now run out. What was once a long stretch of water 2 feet deep, was now nearly a half mile of six-inch deep grassy water. It took forever to paddle across it thanks to dragging the bottom and fighting the wind. The mullet were still thick, but were now in only a few inches of water and every time I cast the treble hook at them, it just stuck in the grass. I managed to find a hole that was a few feet deep and began casting some soft plastics into it. I caught fish, but unfortunately it was just one croaker after another. But hey, it gave me a chance to use those hook outs that I need to write a review on.

I gave up after a few hours and paddled/push-poled myself back to the launch. Upon arriving, I noticed something I'd nearly forgotten about Port St. Joe. Fiddler crabs!

One can't really be careful when walking around them. Whether you run through the group, or step gingerly near them, you'll still hear an unpleasant crunch as one finds the bottom of your shoe. It's a shame I never make it down to Port St. Joe when the sheepshead are really biting.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Summer Update and Other Stuffs

Well, summer is in full swing here in Florida and the fishing will only continue to get better. I haven't made it out to fish much in the past two weeks but that will change come tomorrow. My dad and I leave to Port St. Joe Florida to kayak fish for a few days. We aren't camping since we haven't had much time to get our things ready, but we'll still get plenty of time to fish and hopefully have a blast.

This trip will also give me a chance to try out a few things. I recently received the Baker Magnum "T" Hookouts from a gear review opportunity through the Outdoor Blogger Network.
Hopefully I'll have a chance to try it out during this trip. Also, Snapper season finally opens tomorrow and when I get back, I'll have another chance to put the hookouts to the test. Another thing that I'm itching to try out is a homemade Hawaiian sling/sling bow. Now, I'm a HUGE fan of Dave Canterbury from the Pathfinder School LLC and (the more popular TV show) Dual Survival. On his youtube channel, he's got instructions on how to make a sling bow. Essentially, the sling bow is a sling shot that can shoot an arrow.

The idea looks great and I really wanted to try it out. Unfortunately, I don't have my Crossman slingshots with me (I left them in my apartment at college) and those are the ones that are used in the video. Instead, I have an older slingshot that was bought from Academy Sports and Outdoors. The handle isn't solid plastic like the Crossmans so I can't fit the PVC piece as shown in the video. Instead, it's wrapped in a thin flexible plastic material to cover the metal frame. I schemed for a while before I decided on my own version of the sling bow. Since I'm relatively terrible at crafting things, I decided to keep the design as simple as possible. Therefore, my sling bow only has one additional part.

I bought a 6 inch eye-bolt at Lowes and stuck it in the handle. Yep, that's it. 4 years (going on 5) of college education and that's the best I can come up with. Surprisingly, it works...sorta. I have no intention of shooting an arrow with fletchings from my sling bow. Instead, I bought a bow-fishing arrow and plan to fire the sling bow underwater at fish.

It's HIGHLY doubtful that I'll actually shoot anything, but it's worth a try. I know that Port St. Joe has a bunch of big mullet that come pretty close so I'll be testing out my sling bow this week. Out of the water, it'll stick the bow-fishing arrow about 1/2-3/4 inches into a fence from approximately 10 feet away. Underwater...who knows? I'm hoping to start getting into free diving/spear fishing and I think this might be a good start. I'll be taking along my pole gun as well, and I hope that will at least work.

I'd also like to start video taping such outings with a waterproof camera. I'd really just like something I can use when I kayak fish, spear fish, wade fish, bow hunt, or whatever it is I'm doing at the time. As of right now, I'm thinking about purchasing a Contour HD Helmet Camera and with it, a waterproof case.

I've seen other people using the GoPro HD Hero, but I'd like something I can strap to the side of my visor or snorkel mask and not have a giant camera on an arm sticking off of it.

I also got word that I'll be receiving the 1470 and 1449 Guide Series Waterproof cases from Plano. I'm really excited about trying these out and writing a review on them. I plan to put them through the usual process that my gear endures including, but not limited to: Sun, sweat, saltwater submersion, heat, being dropped, stepped on, lost, found, being dropped, kicked, run over, stuck by lightning, being dropped, and possibly a good scratching.

And with that, I'm off to pack. Hopefully I'll have some good reports rolling in sometime next week!