Spring is our favorite time of year to fish, and for good reason. Fish of all species are flooding the rivers and gorging on bait, preparing to spawn. As odd as it may sound it actually becomes difficult to choose what species you want to target. The fishing in the Spring is the best it will be all year… and this year it was no different.
With the quick warming trend we had this Spring the Shad Run showed much promise from the moment the first Hickory was caught. The Nungesser silver spoon was the weapon of choice throughout the run and it did quite a bit of damage on the Shad, both Hickory and American. The Shad Run is usually a fun and easy way to catch a lot of fish, but this year it was significantly easier as we never got much rain. Tactics never changed and the fish were very easy to pattern, making the fishing as good as it could get!
With good Shad fishing comes easy bait, with easy bait comes more time to search for the big girls. Grant benefitted substantially from the added catfishing time, capitalizing with what seemed like a big Blue Catfish every trip out. He managed to land multiple trophy Blue Cats using our kayak drift fishing technique with his biggest fish being a very impressive 44 inch fish weighing in at approximately 50 pounds!
Big Cats weren’t the only thing making their presence known. Large ocean-run Stripers come up the rivers following the massive schools of Blueback Herring, eating as many and as often as they can until they’re fat enough to pop. These fish come in a variety of sizes, from the “schoolie” size fish from 5-15 pounds to the “cow” Striper that range from 20 pounds all the way up to 50 pounds and beyond.
Although Grant and I caught our fair share of the schoolie fish, I had my eye on one special fish in particular. I was looking for a Striper that would help me achieve my Class III Master Angler status within the State of Virginia. To do that I would need to find a jumbo fish, a Striper bigger than 37 inches and/or 20 pounds.
After three long hard weeks of fishing I finally found the beast I was searching for.
It started out as lazy evening on the river, I decided to take it easy and fish for fun with some buddies of mine. After about a dozen trips with not much luck the trophy hunt was starting to wear me down a little. A “just for fun” outing would do me some good.... catch some fish and get my spirits up, hopefully recharge my batteries and give me some new hope for the trophy quest. We went out and after catching our bait fairly easily we decided it would be fun to park our kayaks in a nearby boat slip and hit up the adjacent restaurant for some grub. After crushing some pretty epic fish tacos that had a little extra shaddy flavoring from unwashed hands we hit the water to find some cats. We knocked off a few small fish here and there but it wasn't long before I got the nagging feeling that I was wasting an opportunity to chase my goal. I gave into the big fish dreams yet again and left my bros in search of the fish that seemed to constantly occupy my thoughts. I quickly drifted down river until I found the perfect ambush point along the river's main channel edge. I anchored up, threw out some rods with fresh cut Hickory Shad, and began to settle in for the long haul. It was then that I noticed the wind finally laid down and it suddenly became eerily quiet… like something was about to happen. I was only anchored up for 5 minutes, not even long enough to get myself situated, when two of my rods got absolutely slammed. I cranked down and hooked up with my first rod up of the flat…. Fish on! The second rod, directly under the boat, was hooked up briefly; just long enough for the rod to wrap around the hull of my kayak, the clear-coat cracking and popping with the intense stress…. The rod being pushed to the limit only for it to go slack moments later, the second fish gone. I still battled fish number one, dancing and darting around the boat, doing everything it could to get away. After a few hard runs she gracefully accepted defeat.. or so I thought. Upon bringing her aboard I quickly realized just how unprepared I was for this moment. Nothing was in place, no camera at the ready, no measuring board prepared… on top of that this big mama was doing everything in her power to get back in the water, flipping and flopping and coming close to slipping away numerous times. I made the quick decision to call my buddy Nate Blanche who was just upriver. He made a hasty paddle down to me. With his hell I was able to get my measurements and the all important glory shots. After the quick photo shoot she was safely released back to where she came, hopefully to make some babies for us to catch in the coming years. After the chaos finally settled I began to shake with excitement… I had done it… another milestone achieved. Class III Master Angler would now be forever belong to me, all because of that big beautiful fish. An elegant lady wearing stripes, a 42.5 inch - 35 pound supertanker!!!
Just goes to show, things don’t always go as planned. Sometimes you just need some good fish tacos, some better friends, and some of the best luck any fisherman could hope for.
Fish Hard or Stay Home,