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Tournamental

I consider myself fortunate in a lot of ways, not the least of which is that most recently I am able to pursue my favorite activity largely unaffected by closures and personal distance restrictions. (Misfit Kayak Fishing Team has proudly been socially distant for over a decade now 😉.) Anyway, this past weekend being the anniversary of the Jamaica Bay Kayak Fishing Tournament (the weekend after Mothers Day was not chosen by accident), the team planned to make a showing as we have every year.

We all met each other years ago at the tournament before I started guiding for Jerry at Captain Kayak (who later sponsored and organized the tournament). While we always arrived with intentions of non-stop fishing and visions of kayak fishing fame and glory, what we invariably got as well was intoxicated and over-fed on BBQ. By the end of a three-day tournament, it wasn’t so much about the fishing anymore. It was just nice to be surrounded by like minded individuals at a time when kayak fishing was arguably first getting popular as an everyman’s thing. Tournaments came and tournaments went over the years and it was always JBay because there weren’t a lot of options as far as kayak fishing tournaments in the northeast.
All of that changed
That changed over the last decade and now the repurposed milk crate outfit that my buddy Pete made – at the time so novel an idea that it was featured in a magazine article – is now sold by Hobie for about $50. Our mindset did not change regarding the tournaments, which were primarily a reason to camp, fish and socialize. Until Jerry decided to retire from retirement and the (official) tournament ended, Misfit Kayak Fishing Team had no reason to try very hard. It was just fun. Without a centrally located tournament though, it got harder for all of us to get to connect, and last year I joined the Striper Cup in the Hobie World Qualifier. Jerry closed the kayak rental and and so I figured I would have time to test my mettle and see how well I could do when I really tried. The top 10 were in a raffle for a $5000 kayak, and the winner was flown to compete in the Hobie Kayak Fishing World Championship. My efforts were the inspiration for a post back in September that chronicled the months I spent fishing "hard."

It changed me, because it forced me to answer some hard questions; How "hard" is too hard to fish? Do I make myself go out into a cold rainy night when I don’t want to – just because the tide is right and I know I’ll catch? What social events are OK to miss because you know that you will catch a 30-lb fish if you go? Are your friends your competition now, if they’re in the same tournament? It was a season-long competition, so the question raised was always "Am I missing something by not being out there?" I’ve "willed" myself out of bed at 3am often enough to answer that in the affirmative. The real question becomes "Is it worth it?" After a lot of soul searching and a lot of fishing, I found peace with myself regarding those questions, even as that tension remains today. This year circumstances have enabled me to join other tournaments. With different structures that raise still more questions. Who knew catching fish from a floating piece of plastic could be so philosophical?
Should I fish Anyhow?
One of the tournaments that rewards total lengths of all fish caught has me taking pictures (the only way to do it) of every fish. On a good night, that could easily be 30 fish. Even with a 10-fish-per-day limit. I have to ask myself "Is it worth it to drift away from a hot bite as you spend the next 5-10 minutes trying to secure a fish in your lap in a kayak to get a picture? That thought came into sharp focus the evening that I found myself actually thinking about NOT fishing because my camera (phone) wasn’t charged. That moment, that night, made me realize that I wasn’t thinking right. I’d gone "tournamental," and had forgotten why I was there. OK, that’s ridiculous and I was ashamed to be thinking that way, but what if it’s a blitz and I’m marking bigger fish? Do I take the picture of the 28 incher and bank some points or keep fishing? I was able to answer these questions the same way that I was able to solve my moral dilemma.

I was able to answer these questions the same way I ultimately answered them last summer; with a renewed commitment to keeping it "social" (I don’t need the fish) and a pause for the thought "Will I be happy with myself afterward?" Don’t get me wrong; I take my kayak fishing seriously, not just because details make the difference between catching fish and not, but because in kayak fishing details are the difference between getting back and not. But when it comes to fishing with a sense of purpose, there have to be limitations. Limitations are personal.
The Fishing Report
That brings me (finally) to the fishing report part of this. Half of Misfit Kayak Fishing Team made it to JBay for the annual get-together. We fished Friday and Saturday and conditions were great. I was surprised by a couple of things: Happily, the presence of a lot of horseshoe crabs and bait but sadly no other kayak fishermen.

Hopefully it will not be the end of an era and someone will step up and keep the tournament going. My "competition" this weekend was my teammate Pistol Pete Kelly. I outfished him by a sea robin on Friday, each of us landing four bass, and he outfished me by 3 bass the next day. Pete had the right tool for the job and even though I was drifting into 30-pound stripers, Pete was the one who brought the sand worms they were feeding on. Rule one: match the hatch. Pete had bass up to 34 inches and my biggest was only about 25.

At the end of the day, it was not unlike the ten years that preceded this weekend. Me and Pete knocking back a couple of cold ones after a great day on the water. We got our priorities right20200516_201311.jpg.

New York Fishing Reports

Misfit Kayak Fishing – JBay keepers

Tons of bait in J-Bay, like everywhere else. Had a great day on Thursday, so I went back Saturday. Like Thursday, I didn’t fish the back bay by JFK, but I know there’s bunker back there and I’m hopeful that the bass big enough to swallow a bunker (or shad) would be bigger than the schoolies I was getting closer to Floyd Benett Field. That said, I did get two keepers without getting more than a half mile from the boat ramp. Trolling (small and silver) 20200426_135640.jpg20200425_093519.jpg20200426_135607.jpgoutproduced jigging.
New York Fishing Reports

Bridge Bass and Blues

I headed out last night later than I had hoped (overslept), but decided that it was a good idea anyway. Normally at the bridge I fished the incoming which means that the water is Flowing from east to west under the bridge. I’ll work the west side so the current pulls me away from the pilings and usually I do OK. Last time out they were all on the east side of the bridge and even though I caught fish I paid the price for it, as the sdded concern of getting pulled into the pilings has its hazards. I figured if they were on the east side and I was fishing the outgoing it would be a win-win. as I headed out from my launch spot and traced the shadow line beneath the new bridge I could see small blue fish stacked up like cordwood. I thought "I’m going to kill it tonight." I worked both sides, even returning later to the "cordwood," and I didn’t hook up on my trolling lures.
As the outgoing picked up I did get a couple of bumps on the east side but wasn’t marking fish at all. Ran into PortlyJoe and BIGBASS, fellow kayak fishermen who’d chosen to fish the south span and and another local spot that morning (3-5am) with moderate success.
As I headed back to the launch I thought I might be able to entice a blue out of the shadow line with a popper (admittedly just to keep a streak alive) and on the third cast I was rewarded with a small bass. The guys stayed to chat it up while I packed up and we were treated to a beautiful sunrise.
Three hours of pedaling, little sleep, one fish. I’ll take it every time20190525_052101.jpg20190525_052623.jpg.
New York Fishing Reports

Ponquogue Bridge Bass Have Arrived

"Back bays" and bridges are getting a little crowded out on Eastern L I, so I went to Ponquogue Bridge, hoping that some of the schoolies that everyone’s getting in the bays and Quogue Canal had made it as far as the Bridge in Shinnecock Bay. Wasn’t marking much at all and the only bass I caught I did not catch where I was marking. Nonetheless it felt good to catch when I really wasn’t expecting to.
I’m seeing typical early season bass patterns, but about 2 weeks earlier than last year, by my estimation. The early numbers seem better than last year, too. Hope I’m right.
Long Island Sound Fishing Report

Kayak Bassing in CT with my son

Made a couple of trips north to catch some stripers in the Housatonic again. My buddy and I struggled just to catch. Only rats for us and not many. Interestingly – to make this a fishing report – last weekend on the Housey everyone who used soft white plastics seemed to suffer a sub-par day. I’m being conservative when I say that; it sucked for a lot of us… except one guy I watched pick up a bunch of (albiet small) bass on the troll with a thin red tube – about the farthest thing from a small white grub that you could imagine. He was bailing them. I stocked two for today’s follow-up trip a week later and it produces nothing for me. Still learning Housey.
Last weekend conditions were nice and we caught very little. My 14-year-old son’s been jonesing for a bent rod too, so I loaded an extra (sit-in) kayak and committed to taking him "rain or shine." He’s pretty fearless about the conditions when he’s on the water with me, so I knew he’d be OK there. It was "rain," not shine, and a lot of it. Torrential rains and a stiff 15mph wind followed us across the Sound from LI. To his credit, he never complained once and he fished his heart out under those conditions for over 4 hours. He did everything right. They just weren’t biting for us. I caught two tiny stripers, each about 18 inches. He got comfortable with my rig very quickly and probably would have stayed longer if not for the fact that we were both looking forward to a hot meal and a visit to Bass Pro Shops (right next to the ferry) on the way back.

It’s not always about whether or not you caught a fish.