Ten Great Fishing Memories

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John Veil

Earlier this summer, a few Chesapeake-area fishermen started challenging other fisherman to post fishing pictures ten days in a row on Facebook.  I was nominated to undertake the challenge.  I spent an hour going back through hundreds of photos to choose my top ten memories, including fishing trips on my own kayaks and center console boat and fishing with guides on their boats.  On each day, I tried to tell a story relating to the photos I chose.  This document includes my write-ups for all ten days, including the photos I selected, for those who do not see my Facebook posts.  It was a fun trip down memory lane for me.

Day 1

I start off with two photos of what is arguably the smallest fish I ever hooked. It is hard to imagine that the hook point could penetrate this tiny fish’s body.
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A few minutes later I put the same jighead and Gulp bait to good use in catching one of my first redfish from Maryland waters near the mouth of Eastern Bay. I was casting to shallow water near a marsh grass edge. The date was August 2, 2013.

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Here is my photo for the second day — what appears to be a humble white perch. But it was a very special fish. I decided to get some fresh air on January 1, 2012 after a late New Year’s eve party. I visited a Severn River tributary to fish for pickerel. I did catch a few pickerel that day. However, I was greatly surprised when in three feet of water depth I caught a massive white perch!

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I released the fish alive after some photos. The Maryland DNR offers catch-and-release citations for qualifying fish. The perch was nearly 14” long, easily larger than the 13” citation-size threshold. A few weeks later I received a DNR citation and later received an entry to the year-long Maryland Fishing Challenge.

At the awards ceremony the following September, my name was drawn as one of five finalists. After we came up to the stage, we each opened a tackle bag. My tackle bag contained a certificate for the grand prize — a Tracker boat, motor, and trailer that was donated by Bass Pro Shops.

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That white perch had enough powerful mojo to win the 2012 Maryland Fishing Challenge and a bass boat for me. It is an unforgettable fish.

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Day 3

These photos are from an August 2011 fishing trip in Alaska. Six of us chartered a 52′ boat for 3 nights and 4 days of fishing out of Homer, AK. We lived aboard and had fresh grilled fish each evening. The captain and mate filleted and offloaded the fish to a fish processing plant each evening. At the end of the trip we had over 600 1-lb vacuum sealed and frozen packs of fish fillets to bring home – I carried 40 lbs of frozen halibut in soft sided coolers in my two pieces of checked luggage.

The bright orange fish is a yellow-eyed rockfish. The silvery one is a salmon.  The flat one is a halibut. The long brownish fish is a ling cod.Alaska1a007
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Today’s photos show my first two citation-sized chain pickerel (24″) that I caught a week apart in November and December 2014. I had fished from my Native Watercraft kayaks for pickerel for nearly a decade in the tidal creeks off the Severn River. I caught plenty of pickerel each winter, but could not find any over the 24″ mark.

It was exciting and a relief to finally break the 24″ mark. Pickerel are active in our area from October to April, but can also be caught occasionally in the warmer weather. They represent one of the few shallow water species we can target throughout the winter. Last winter (2015-2016) I caught about 270 pickerel from many different tidal creeks off the Severn River.
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Day 5

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The photos show the 29″ northern snakehead I caught while fishing with Capt. Dave of Indian Head Charters in Mattawoman Creek off the Potomac River in July 2015. By the way, snakeheads are one of the tastiest fish I have eaten.

My fishing buddy Mark Bange was along on the charter. He caught several nice largemouth bass.

 

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Day 6

The photos for today show two of the largest striped bass I ever caught — and both were caught this year.  The first one is my personal best striper from a kayak. I caught it in the Severn River on April 2, 2016. For several weeks in April and May, schools of larger stripers move into the river. I have been catching them during the past three springs by trolling paddletails from my kayak. I often catch fish in the 24″-27″ range, and have had 29″ and 30″ fish. While two of my fishing buddies watched, I hooked a 37″ fish that dragged me some distance and spun the kayak around 3 full revolutions before I landed it. It was a cold, windy, and rainy day. Sadly the photos that my buddy got were somewhat blurred. As you can see from the grin on my face, it was an exciting catch.

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The second photo was taken in January 2016 in the Chesapeake Bay near the mouth of the Potomac River. I was fishing on the charter boat of light tackle guide Capt. Walleye Pete Dahlberg. We found massive schools of large and fat stripers. I caught dozens of fish over 25″ with the pictured one measuring at 34″. These fish were caught while jigging long slender BKDs, Bass Assassins, and metal jigs. It was so cold that morning that Capt. Pete’s boat needed to break through thin ice to get out of the creek. Despite the cold air, the bite was red hot that day. I suspect that I caught more biomass that day than in any fishing trip before or since. All fish were returned safely to the water.Dcropped

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Day 7

For the past three years I have fished often with guide Neil Taylor of Strike Three Kayak Fishing based in the Tampa, FL area (20 days in 2015 and on target to surpass that in 2016). Neil has taken me to some beautiful spots where I have hooked many species of fish.  One of my most memorable fish caught with him was a 39″ blacktip shark caught while casting a 1/8-oz jighead and 3″ paddletail in June 2015. The fish pulled hard, made numerous strong runs, and even wrapped the line around my anchor line. Nevertheless, I got the fish in.
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In addition to the shark, I have caught numerous speckled trout, some redfish, flounder, snook, ladyfish, jacks, pompano, and other species. On my last visit there, I hooked several large black drum and one cobia on light tackle but was unable to land them before they broke off.

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Today’s photos offer several shots of some huge bluefish I caught at Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware in May 2015. I trolled several lines from my 10′ Native Watercraft Slayer Propel 10 kayak. Over the course of several hours, I hooked 8 bluefish ranging from 32″ to 39″ on large Storm shads and other paddletails. On three occasions, I had two fish on at the same time, which made controlling the kayak nearly impossible. I could not lean back far enough in the kayak seat to get the whole fish in the picture on the measuring board.
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Day 9

The photos for Day 9 show two of the most memorable redfish I have caught. About 2004, I decided that I really wanted to catch my first redfish. My work travels often took me to the Gulf coast. Over the next few years, I booked several charters in Louisiana and Florida but just could not catch a redfish.
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In July 2008, I read a report about good redfishing just 4 hours to the south of Annapolis in Virginia Beach. I was already a kayak angler and chartered half a day with well-known kayak fishing guide Cory Routh. I made the drive in the morning, met Cory for lunch, and fished for 4 hours that afternoon. 90 minutes into the trip, I felt a pull on my line unlike the stripers I catch at home. My hopes quickly rose as I fought the strong fish in shallow murky waters. When I finally brought the fish to the kayak, I was ecstatic! My multi-year redfish quest had been fulfilled. During that half-day trip, I caught 7 redfish up to 27″ and had an even stronger one on the line before it broke off.
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Since then, I have caught a few more redfish in Texas, Florida, Virginia, and even here in Maryland, but none were larger than the 27″ fish, until last year. In September 2015, my fishing buddy John Rentch and I fished for redfish on a fishing reef in the Virginia portion of the Chesapeake Bay. Within a minute of dropping the bait to the bottom, the line started pulling out hard. I counted to 10 then set the hook. 15 minutes later I brought a personal best 38″ redfish to the surface. That was our only fish of the day, but it was a memorable one.

While Virginia does not have the great redfish reputation of other states farther south, it has been my go-to source for that prized gamefish.

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As the 10-day fishing photo challenge draws to an end, I offer some photos of large and exciting tarpon.  Like my quest for redfish, it took quite a while to get my first tarpon. I chartered guides in Florida several times over three years without success.  Either the planned day was too windy to go where the tarpon were or we just did not find any.  My fishing buddy Mike Paque from Oklahoma joined me on these trips.

Mike and I tried again in May 2002.  We booked two half-day trips on consecutive mornings.  Part way through the first day, Mike got his tarpon.  Shortly after that, I fulfilled my tarpon quest by bringing a 100-lb fish to boatside.  The guide did not want to lift the fish from the water, so I posed for my glory shot with the mate holding the fish in the water.
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Between the two half-day trips, we caught six tarpon weighing from 70 to 170 lb (I caught the 170-lb fish).  After starting the ten days of fishing photos with my smallest fish caught on a hook, I end with my largest fish caught on a hook.

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