Plans were to remain on task and search for saltwater trophy specie number 5 of 6, but two days before the Catching for Kids Club Challenge Tournament, I got a message saying a few anglers were not going to make it. Several weeks earlier, I told Mark Lozier (team leader and organizer) that if he got in a bind, I’d join. So with blessings from my wife, I signed up and even recruited another skilled angler, Jay Brooks for the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel (CBBT) subgroup of Team TKAA to compete against 7 other fishing clubs… who all used big boats and motors.
There were 17 TKAA members spread through 4 subgroups to target different species at different locations. The CBBT, HRBT (Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel), Eastern Shore, and Back River were the areas we focused. The CBBT group, consisting of William Ragulsky, Alex Britland, Joe Underwood, Jay Brooks and myself launched at an ungodly hour to make it to the prime spots by the designated lines-in time of 5am. And it was worth it.
|Ragulsky 25″ – Choi 26″ – Brooks 25″ Triple Sheepshead Photo courtesy of Joe Underwood. And Lee Williams is a badass
|It turned out to be an amazing day filled with decent sized triggerfish, spadefish, flounder, spot and four citation sheepshead. Joe Underwood, who’s had some tough luck with his quest for trophy sheepshead finally got his right before we had to head back to the weigh-in. To top it off, it was the biggest of the 4! Check out his story and pics(link).
The other groups had great days as well. Three man group Richie Bekolay, Chip Camp, and Drew Camp fished Back River and were successful in sweeping 1st, 2nd and 3rd in both the puppy drum and speckled trout divisions. With 2 anglers being MIA, that’s pretty darn amazing if you ask me. Richie tells the story from Back River and explains the point system well on his post (link). It was truly a team effort as every group had significant catches and added points to our total…. a total that broke the tournament record. The unprecedented 32 points trumped second place by 13 points. We swept the puppy drum, trout, and sheepie divisions, got 3 other first places (spadefish, spot, and triggerfish) and the accolades can go on… we pretty much dominated.
Top row left to right – Joe Underwood, Rob Choi, William Ragulsky, Andy Backowski, Alex Britland, Jay Brooks, Richie Bekolay, James Short, Wayne Bradby, Chuck Wrenn, Jeff Lockhart, Kris Lozier and Tom Powers.
Bottom row left to right – Chip Camp, Drew Camp, Mark Lozier and Joe Maccini.
Much love and respect for our boating friends,
but after coming close a few years in a row, we got you this time...
in our dinky little kayaks!
Before our heads get too big, we can’t forget what this was really all about. The proceeds from the tournament help to collect toys, school supplies and donations for needy children in our community. In conjunction with Toys For Tots, the organization helps thousands of kids smile on Christmas morning.
A big thank you to all the volunteers that made this tournament possible and help such a worthy cause.
After a little celebrating, focus was returned to my personal endeavors. With all the hoopla around shark week and suggestions from good friends, I decided on my next target.
The next morning, Jay Brooks generously put his personal agenda aside to serve as a witness on my citation quest. We drove over the prior day’s fishing spots and launched on the Eastern Shore. My plan was to anchor up next to a deep channel and put cut baits out. I’ve caught 4 to 5 foot sharks before doing just that. But as we were paddling across a flat on the way there, I saw a big tail thrashing on the surface in 4 feet of water. With an unweighted whole dead spot trolling behind me, I immediately paddled over. To try to get a better view, I got up on my knees and slowed down when I got to the area. Not a minute passed when a little splash behind me caught my attention. I looked back to see a massive swirl where my bait used to be… then the clicker screamed at a pitch I never heard before and it was on. Before I knew it, I was on the fastest sleigh ride I’ve ever been on.
There was no up and down play like my previous sharks. It was all flats and insane horizontal runs with unreal directional changes. Their agility and speed can really test a kayak anglers ability to make appropriate adjustments during a fight and avoid potentially dangerous situations.
I almost lost my rod once, took a backwards sleigh ride a few times, and almost broke my rod on the gunnel twice. The shark liked to scream off in one direction, then abruptly turn around and charge back the other way, leaving me guessing as to where it was actually going to end up. After almost half an hour, I finally got a good look at it. It was close to the 6 feet I needed. The Virginia Saltwater Tournament rules states that it needs to be 72″ but estimated lengths may be used for sharks. And technically, I can touch the leader and if a witness thinks it was 6′ or bigger, I can cut it and it counts as a citation. But “close enough” just isn’t my style. So I decided I had to measure the beast.
It took me a while but I finally got my fish tailer looped on.
Much to my surprise it stayed calm when I first did it. But then all of a sudden it freaked out and I came ever so close to tipping over.
|Got some stank on my face 🙂
There was a marsh island close by so I decided I had to drag it there. But the thing is, dragging something that big is miserable even for a relatively short distance… not to mention I ran the threat of killing it. In my stubbornness, I tried for a short bit then Jay thought that maybe it was worn out enough to lift it on to my lap and take a quick measurement. I attempted to it try it but about 1/3 of the way up it freaked out again…
|Hindsight is 20/20
It was definitely still lively enough so I dragged it to the marsh.
From tip of the nose to tip of the tail – 75″ Black Tip
|Big thank you to Jay Brooks for helping with pics
After 5 to 10 minutes of reviving it swam off nice and strong.
Citation #5: Check
Afterwards, we went right back to the same spot and caught several 4′ to 5′ blacktips.
I know sharks are an alluring species to target, but if you are not used to battling large fish, I highly recommend starting with big stripers or red drum before tangoing with grey suits. It’s a different kind of fight. They are extremely erratic and unpredictable with maneuvers that are difficult to manage in a kayak. The potential for dangerous situations and bodily harm is very real. I know I made some mistakes that I luckily recovered from. I’m not saying don’t ever do it because they are a blast, but please do not take them lightly.