Always have a Plan B.
Each year I set several goals related to the outdoors and the stories I plan to write in this column. One of my goals this year was to catch fifty different species of fish from the kayak. I have had some time on the water, and have knocked off a few freshwater targets. However, in order to achieve the goal I knew I would have to hit the coast. With recent rains causing the rivers to rise out of control, and an upcoming kayak king mackerel tournament, I figured a quick trip to the coast would at least let me see how the kayak would handle the waves and boat wakes.
After reading several online reports, I set off to the Beaufort / Morehead City area. There were reports of both speckled trout and red drum hitting the waters there, specifically near the fuel storage tanks near Radio Island. I swapped out the freshwater gear for the salt water tackle box, loaded three rods and started the drive well before day break. I wanted to be there as the sun was rising. It also coincided with the low tide. The boat ramp there was busy, with a line of trucks with trailers waiting for one of the four ramps to open. I was finally able to sneak in on one of the smaller ramps, and slid the Old Town Predator 13 underneath the dock while I parked the truck.
After paddling down the sides of the inlet I searched for fish and casted. To save time in this story, let’s just say I did not catch anything. Skunked. Not even a bump of the bait. I noticed the boats anchored around the area were just as unsuccessful as I was. After a few hours, a little disappointed and the tide coming in hard, I considered calling it a day and heading back home. After about a half mile paddle I saw dozens of people on the pier near the boat ramps. They were not catching anything either. But with the shade of the bridge and train trestle, and a half pound of shrimp, I decided to give some good ole bottom fishing a try. My Plan B.
One of the rods had a bottom rig set up for just such an occasion. I positioned myself between the trestle and the bridge, with the tide pushing me towards the inlet. I took a piece of shrimp, tore it in two, and slid both pieces on to the two hooks of the bottom rig. I released the bail of the reel and just as I felt the three ounce sinker bounce on the bottom the line pulled. After setting the hook I reeled the line in and I had my first fish of the day. I continued to glance towards the pier. Still, no one was catching anything. I dropped the line a second time, and again, within just a few seconds, fish number two was surfacing. I did not catch any monsters. In fact one spot was smaller than the palm of my hand. Most were keeper size and I brought in six different species of bottom dwellers. My bait never stayed in the water more than thirty seconds. Fish after fish, I kept reeling them in.
The people on the pier took notice and casted their lines as close the bridge as possible, still falling several hundred feet short. I would bring in a couple of fish, paddle back between the bridge and trestle, drop the lines, and bring in a couple more fish. The wakes and waves never caused a problem, allowing me to gain even more confidence in my kayak’s stability. Overall, the day turned in to a great day, as I caught over fifty fish within a couple of hours of bottom fishing. Yes, Plan B worked well.