Tuesday, October 30, 2012

12 Step Fish

I keep most of the eating size fish I catch. The only exceptions are large, freshwater fish. They are such a challenge to catch, I feel guilty taking them out of the system.

I keep most of the "keepers" I catch because my family eats a lot of fish. It is not uncommon for us to eat several pounds of the stuff a week. We have several recipes that we use. 12 Step fish is our favorite.

I call it "12 Step Fish" because it came from a list of recipes that claimed to only take 3 steps. This was a joke. While this recipe is not difficult, it has way more than 3 steps! It is kind of like those recipes that claim they only take 20 min to prepare, but include precooked meat and pre-chopped vegetables in their ingredient list. Anyway, "12 Step Fish" does not actually have 12 steps, it just seems like it.

12 Step Fish


Fish Fillets (light fish such as trout, croaker, stripper, or crappie are best)
1 Large Onion Sliced (2 if you really like onion, or you can substitute Garlic for the Onion)
1 cup Flower
2 cups Chicken Stock
1/4 cup Lemon Juice (Lime Juice or even Orange Juice will give it a diferent twist)
1 Tablespoon Butter
Olive oil

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Dredge the fish in flower. Coat a large skillet or saucepan in olive oil and cook fish over a medium heat. Do not over cook.

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When done, remove fish from pan and set aside. Cover the fish with a towel to keep warm.

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Caramelize the onion in the skillet. You may need to add some more olive oil. Make sure the are good and Caramelized.

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When the onions are done, add the chicken broth and lemon juice. Turn the stove to high and boil the mixture down to a thick sauce, stirring often.

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Once you just have a thick sauce, remove the skillet from heat and add the butter. Mix in the butter as it melts.

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Pour the sauce over the fish and serve. I like to eat it with sticky white rice and a green vegetable. Asparagus goes especially well with it.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

My New Trident 13

Well, I did it. After a wonderful season of fishing with my $200 beginner kayak, I bit the bullet and purchased a dedicated fishing kayak. And not just any fishing kayak. I got one of the best.

An Ocean Kayak Trident 13.

I wanted red, but did not want to wait for one to be ordered. My options where this color or camouflage. I chose this sand color for absolutely no reason.

The Trident 13 is very popular in my area. A lot of the local legends use it. After sitting in it in the store I could see why. It is close to perfect.

I should stop here and say that I purchased my kayak at the Appomattox River Company on Mercury Blvd. in Hampton, VA. I am lucky to have a dedicated kayak shop 20 min from my house. If you are in the area and would like to see a full shop of kayaks, I recommend you stop by. They have great service!

Back to the kayak.

The Trident 13 has an impressive set of features. My previous kayak was not made for fishing. I did not realize what I was missing out on until I sat in this one.

To make things simple, I'm just going to run through the basic features of this kayak, and tell you how I plan to use them.

The front hatch is spacious and has a battery bag hanging from it. I have purchased a fish kill bag and plan on keeping it in here. That will be an entire other post later.

This small covered area is for a fish-finder. The cover acts as a sun screen when the fish-finder is being used and closes down to protect it during transport. I really like using a fish-finder, so I will install one first thing.

It also has a divot molded into the hull for a transducer. This requires a mount which I will buy or make. Probably make.

The adjustable foot rests are new to me. They seem very flimsy, but the sales rep assured me they were tough. We will see.....

The rod pod is the coolest feature of this kayak. Each of those large holes will accept Scotty rod holders. It is also a nice flat surface to work on. Inside the rod pod.....

....is cavernous storage. I have lots of ideas for this. I'm hoping to eliminate my crate in the back by creating tackle storage in here. Stay tuned as I experiment with this.

The seat is fairly standard. I've heard bad things about it, but anything is better than the one in my old kayak (no seat). It does fold down for storage, but uses plastic clips. These will be upgraded to metal clips soon.

The rear well is big enough for a cooler. I'm not sure what I will put there, but I am thinking of a bait tank. Notice the built in rear rod holders.

Each side has a simple paddle holder. This design is new to me, so we will see how much it is used.

Each side also has an accessory rope. I guess this could be used for tying things down on deck or for hanging a stringer.

I can't find anything on this boat riveted down. Everything is screwed down, a much more secure method. Also, the hatches do not screw or have hinges. They strap down, another simple, but more secure method. There are very few moving parts to break or leak.

As a testament to how long this boat should last, the stern keel (maybe, I'm not up on my ship parts) has a replaceable section.

The only thing that I know I will need to add to this Trident 13 is an anchor trolley. I don't know why anchor trolleys are not standard on fishing kayaks. They are a necessary safety item.

I plan on a ton of posts involving the use or customization of this boat, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

How to Mag a Penn 309

It is hard to find a more reliable reel than a penn reel. They are rugged, dependable, easy to maintain, and inexpensive. I recently purchase a used Penn 309 level wind off eBay. I think I paid less than $30 for it. The 309 is a workhorse that is capable of catching any freshwater fish in North America and most of the saltwater fishes. From monster catfish to medium shark, it is a great reel!

I have read that some fisherman can cast it quite well. I am inexperienced with bait casters and cannot cast it at all. I get giant bird nests each time. To help with this I decided to mag it.

Magging (sp?) a bait caster simply means adding powerful magnets to its frame to help slow down the spool. It does not work the way you are thinking. The magnets do not slow down the spool by pulling the spool with their magnetic fields. In fact, for this to work the spool needs to be non-magnetic and the magnets should not touch the spool. An aluminum spool is perfect.

What happens is the magnets create an eddy current brake. It is complex, but basically (to the best of my understanding) when the spinning spool comes in contact with the magnetic field a small electrical charge is produced. Electricity and magnetism are quite similar. The electrical charge on the spool pushes against the magnetic charge, creating a brake.

Anyway, it is easy to add a magnetic brake to Penn reels. All you need is:

  1. A couple half inch or smaller washers
  2. A stack of rare earth magnets that are slightly smaller than the washers and as thin as possible.
  3. Epoxy
Rare earth magnets are sold at some hardware stores and can be found easily online. They are shinny and very, very strong. Don't let small children play with them.

Before I begin it should be noted that you can screw up your reel if something goes wrong. I'm also sure this voids any warrantee that came with the reel. Don't blame me if you ruin your reel.

The first step is to remove the plate covering the side of the reel. You have to remove five small screws to do this.

You will notice that there is a surprising amount of space inside the cover plate.

Position your two washers inside this plate. Right now you are just test fitting them. They need to sit in without touching any of the other parts.

Once you confirm that they fit, epoxy them in. Be very careful. If you get epoxy on the working parts of the reel, it is ruined.

After the epoxy has fully dried, add a magnet to each washer. They will stick in place by magnetism. I like to place them so that they are pushing against each other.

At this point you are basically done. Reassemble the reel and check to see if you like the brake. If it is not strong enough, take it apart and add a second set of magnets.

 Resembling the reel can be tricky, but after the first time you do it is it a snap.

The closer the magnets are to the spool, the harder the brake will be. You may need to add washers to shim the magnets closer until you get the desired brake. Just make sure the magnets do not actually touch the spool.

There you have it! The Penn 309 is still not easy to cast, but it is doable!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Typical Day On The Water

This past week I had an opportunity to go fishing. I wanted to bring home a striper, now that they are in season. Opportunities are few and far between, so I take them when I can get them. The weather forecast was poor, rain and storms all day followed by a cold front. I knew that if I wanted to catch much I had to beat the cold front, so I donned my rain gear and headed out.

My timing was poor, I missed the low tide. Unfortunately, the tide does not always jive with my job and family! It ended up being a good day anyway.

They started out small with this pretty little red drum.

And got smaller with this baby spotted trout.

Things started to look up with this 16" red

This 18" blue cat put up a good fight. I love showing pictures like this to people who think you can only catch catfish on stink bait. I catch them all the time on bucktails and other lures!

I got excited about this 15 1/2" spotted trout. I found where they were and what they wanted! (Gulp swimming shad of course.)

This 17" trout really made my day. I never release legal spotted trout. They are just too yummy. Now that I had two, my wife and I had a good meal.

Still no striper.....

WhooHoo! A legal, 20" striper! It was kind of thin and had been recently attacked by something big enough to eat a 20" striper, but it was a striper none the less!

It always feels good to catch your target species!

Amazingly, this was a typical fishing trip for me this year. After discovering the joys of kayak fishing and the power of Gulp baits, I have been consistently successful. It feels good to finally be good at fishing!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Megastrike Pro-Shak E2 Jig Head - Review

80% of my fishing and 95% of my catching is done with jigs. I generally use plain old curly tail grubs or Gulp Swimming Shad in the 3" to 6" size. I go through a lot of jig heads and have tried many different verities. My favorite are simple unpainted 1/4oz heads with long shanks. Gamakatsu are my favorite.

I have two problems with jigs. First, they snag easily. Few things suck more than sneaking up to a perfect spot, and then spooking everything with a snag. Second, I get a lot of short and missed strikes. I am constantly looking to increase my hookup rate.

I few weeks ago I stumbled upon the Megastrike E2 Shakey Head Jig. They claim to present the bait in such a way as to increase strikes and hookups. They also can be rigged weedless. Plus, These jig heads are designed for finesse fishing, my favorite technique.

Sounds perfect, right?

At $6 for a pack of four, they have a lot to live up too.

When I opened the package I was impressed by their quality of construction. The heads were painted very nicely and the hooks were sharp. Scary sharp. The sharpest I have ever seen. Much sharper than a sewing needle.

I also like the Pro-Shake E2's long shank.

First impression? They look promising.

On a closer look, things were not so good. Two of the four jig heads had thick paint covering the eye. The paint was so thick over the eye I had to literally drill it out with a small drill bit and my cordless drill. This is why I prefer unpainted jig heads. Clogged eyes should not happen with jigs of this price point.

Another problem came when I tried to rig them weedless. The screw that holds the soft plastic to the head was not sharp enough to easily pierce the soft plastic grubs. After a few minutes of fumbling I gave up.

On the water they performed like......normal jig heads. I caught fish, nice fish, but no more or less than I would have with cheap unpainted heads. They snagged just as easily, perhaps more so due to their large hook gap. In fact, I lost three of the four to snags on barnacle crusted rocks.

I still missed strikes with the same consistency as normal jig heads.

So, are they worth the extra cost? Nope. They are fine jigs. In some conditions they might perform slightly better than regular cheap-o's, but they are not easily made weedless and did not increase hookups for me. The fact that the eyes of half of them were clogged with paint is a deal breaker all in itself.


Monday, October 1, 2012

2012 TKAA Kayak Fish for Charity Tournament

This summer has been crazy. I've been too busy to blog much (or any) and too busy to do much fishing. I did make time to participate in this years TKAA Kayak Fish for Charity Tournament.

This year I joined the Tidewater Kayak Anglers Association. Every year they put on a tournament to support Project Healing Waters and Heroes On the Water. Basically, it helps get our wounded or disabled military personnel out fishing.

The tournament has grown to be the third largest kayak tournament in the US. This year something like 275 people competed.

I have never been in a tournament before, so I had no idea what to expect and have nothing to compare it to. I suspect that I am now spoiled, as the prizes and comradeship was outstanding. There were hundreds of prizes. It was sponsored by lots of companies including Hobie Kayaks, Wild River Outfitters, Tar River Outfitters, Nu Canoe, Appomattox River Company, Hurricane Kayaks, Confluence/Wilderness Systems, Wild River Outfitters, Release Reels, Kokatat, Native Watercraft, and Dicks Sporting goods; just to name a very few. The first place prize in most of the divisions was a very nice kayak.

This is what I was competing for.

The tournament worked like this: I was given a ruler and a wrist band. I could fish at any public water within 50 miles of the tournament headquarters. When I caught a fish I had to take a picture of it against my ruler wile showing my wrist band (a skill all in itself) . At the end of the day I brought my score sheet and memory card to the tournament headquarters to be judged.

I decided to compete in the Largemouth Bass division. With the Largemouth Bass I figured that I had the best chance of at least catching something. Catching something was my goal. I knew my chances of winning were zilch, I just did not want to show up with an empty scoring sheet.

Before headquarters got crowded
I am not a sociable guy. So, the captains meeting the night before the tournament was uncomfortable for me. There were so many fishermen talking about their gear and telling fishing stories, I was quite intimidated. I was embarrassed by my $200 on clearance kayak the I bought at Dicks, my Ugly Stick rods, and my home made gear.  From the sound of it, some of these guys caught fish every week that were bigger than any fish I had ever caught! There were some local fishing legends there, like Rob Choi, that I really wanted to talk to, but could not gather the nerve to approach. The meeting lasted longer than I expected, so I did not hang around afterwards. I had a baby sitter on the clock......

The next morning I was excited and nervous. I had decided to fish an area called the Lone Star Lakes. They are a group of small lakes. I figured that if the fish were not biting in one lake I could just hop over and try another. The first lake I fished in is brackish. It holds a nice population of Largemouth, but also all of your bay fish. Right away I caught a largest Specked Trout of my year. Then I caught a few Redfish, Croker, Spot, and Catfish. I was beginning to think I entered in the wrong division! Come to find out, I did. I could see Redfish in the shallows that could have won that division, but I ignored them seeking a Largemouth. 

The weather began to turn bad with a constant cold rain and slight wind. So, I decided to try another, smaller lake that would provide some protection from the wind. Plus, I reasoned that this lake was small enough to entirely fish in the time I had left.

I also switched up my gear from casting heavy soft plastics with a medium rod to casting crappy jigs with an ultra light rig and 4 pound test line. At this point I was not trying to win, I was just trying to qualify. Anyway, most of my large Bass have been caught with ultralight, including my biggest ever, so my confidence was high. As soon as I switched over to the ultralight rig I began to catch Largemouth. Small Largemouth. I caught probably two dozen small Bass with a few Crappy and Bluegill mixed in. It was fun, but I still didn't have anything over the 12" minimum.

And then my drag began to squeal.....

 WHOOHOO!!!! I don't totally suck!

It was a 16" fish. It looks 15 1/2" in the picture because the ruler and fish were not lining up like it should, but it was totally 16". Even after about 20 pictures I could not get the flimsy ruler and the mad bass to cooperate.  I claimed 15 1/2" on my score sheet. I'm practicing the picture taking next year!

Big enough to qualify, maybe big enough to place..... or so I thought.

Back at the headquarters I quickly learned the the Largemouth fishermen had a good day. There were a lot of nice Bass caught. The winner caught a 19 1/4" fish (If my memory serves). I was pleased and proud of my showing, but I didn't win anything.

I was kind of worried that the award ceremony would be like the captains meeting. Me, awkward, shy, and board. Thankfully I sat with a group of great guys. They were funny and just normal guys like me. One of them actually fishes the same lakes I do, so we were able to compare notes. It was the most fun I've ever had chatting with strangers.

All in all the tournament was a very rewarding experience. I learned that there are some VERY serious kayak fishermen in my area. I also learned a lot of new techniques and now have my sites set on a dedicated fishing kayak.  I'm already planning my strategy for next year....

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