Fishing for a New Hobby

My 4 a.m. wake-up couldn’t have come early enough. Weeks of planning, studying charts, reading fishing reports, and networking with locals all came down to waiting for the alarm on my watch to chime and signal it was time to launch my kayak and fish off the North Fork of Long Island.

It started months ago. As soon as I saw the Wilderness Systems Thresher 155 emerge from its packaging as part of the Annapolis EMS boat assortment, I knew I was going to get back into fishing – kayak fishing to be precise. The lines and features on this boat sang to me. I was hooked without even sitting my butt in the seat.

Before my boat even arrived, I set out to learn everything I could about my newest passion. Books, blogs, web pages, and forums all fed my thirst to learn. I introduced myself to anyone who was remotely connected to kayak fishing. All the while, my wife shook her head and chuckled to herself. She had seen this before.

The author in his "office." [Photo: Bruce Kellman]
The author in his “office.” [Photo: Bruce Kellman]
As my knowledge and experience grew, I fished every opportunity I could on the Chesapeake Bay, pursuing Rockfish (Striped Bass). I tweaked my systems, customized my kayak, learned what did (and didn’t) work for me, and then went back and studied some more.

Through sheer luck and some good planning, the most ambitious trip of my summer began to take form. I was going to return to the saltwater of my youth and stalk giant Rockfish from my beloved boat. I had three days to camp and fish the North Fork, and I was in my glory.

My eyes popped open five minutes before my alarm began to announce the start of the adventure. I fired up the camp stove and made coffee to augment the adrenaline that was coursing through my system. I got my fishing partner up with the smell of caffeinated heaven, and we were on the water well before dawn.

I was going to return to the saltwater of my youth and stalk giant Rockfish from my beloved boat.

The weather reports were favorable, and the 15-knot winds were not due to hit for hours. We had plenty of time to execute my master plan. The fish, however, had not read the script. The dropping tide left the water littered with boulders that covered my prey.

“No matter,” I told myself. I would be here all morning and the conditions would change. I would be patient. In the meantime, I decided to troll from point to point and try to locate fish that way. The tidal current was moving me along, and there was bait everywhere on my fish finder’s screen.

As I was quietly appreciating my surroundings, the drag on one of my reels began to sing in a way that I had never heard before. When I set the hook, I knew I was in for something special. The tug on the line was unlike anything I had ever felt, and I was sure I had found one of the “cows” I had been dreaming about.

The fish started to pull me this way and that. The bend in my rod had me fearful of it breaking. After what seemed like ages, I finally saw color in the clear waters of the Long Island Sound. I hadn’t caught a bass at all – it was a False Albacore! I couldn’t believe it. I knew that Albies were in the area, but I hadn’t hoped to hook one.

My mind raced as I racked my brain for anything I knew about these magnificent creatures. All I could remember is, they fight like hell and could trash your gear. Every time I got her near the boat, my drag would scream, and I lost all the line I had worked so hard to gain. I stopped thinking and let instinct take over.

I finally succeeded in landing the fish of my life. She only measured out at 26 inches, but to me, she was a giant. After a couple of quick pictures, I eased her back into the salt and watched her disappear with one flick of her tail.

She only measured out at 26 inches, but to me, she was a giant.

[Photo: Bruce Kellman]
[Photo: Bruce Kellman]
I sat for a few minutes, wallowing in the bliss of what had just happened. It was then that I noticed the winds had started to pick up and that my partner had drifted well down the beach, so I casually fished a rocky point while I awaited his return. The winds continued to build three hours ahead of schedule.

By the time he regained the ground, they were howling like a pack of wolves. With the wind out of the north, the fetch extended the entire width of the Sound. The waves quickly grew to between three and five feet, and there were times I could not see over the peak from the bottom of the trough. It was then that I came to fully appreciate the attributes of my boat: It was built for water like this. Still, the return trek was a slog.

The wind blew for the next three days, completely destroying my well-laid fishing plan. I never caught my cow, but it didn’t matter. Those surprise 10 minutes more than made up for it. I can’t wait to get back there and do it again! Like I said before, I am forever hooked.