The Marsh near Huggins Island

The Marsh near Huggins Island

Don’t get me wrong.  I absolutely love to fish, and I have been known to fish in some tough weather.  I have caught trout with snow on the ground.  I have fished when I was nearly frozen by cold fall winds or being slowly cooked by summer’s heat.  I have challenged the fishing gods by fishing in February on the White Oak River.

However, my favorite kind of fishing is when the spirit and warm weather move me.  When the weather, winds, and water are just right, fishing can be a wonderful experience even when you aren’t catching any fish or at least nothing to brag about to other fishermen.

While fish are optional, there is nothing wrong with catching fish and even eating a few when the stars are aligned.  Last fall I enjoyed both some trout and flounder from the White Oak.  There is nothing tastier than catching fish in your own backyard and having them in the frying pan before the sun has time to move very far.

When the fish start biting is controlled by the weather.  When I start catching fish has more to do with when it is nice enough to get on the water and wet a line.  Most of the time I hook my first fish of the year in late March on early April.  By then the weather is nice enough on a good day for it to be very pleasurable out on the water.

On Tuesday, April 3, my wife left for a morning church circle meeting, and I thought I would do some work around our home and yard.   At least that was the plan until I walked outside and noticed how warm it was and how quiet the water on the river had gotten.  With no spring winds blowing, the nice weather and water quickly changed my mind.

I put on my life suspenders, tied a jig head on the line attached to my new fishing rod & reel, and loaded all my gear in the boat.  Tying the jig on was the hardest part of getting under way.  I should have taken the time to put a leader on, but the water was calling me.  I was on my way and headed out our channel in less than ten minutes.  The ride down the river once I am out of our cove is only five or six minutes.

Actually the fishing rod was just an accessory to what I knew would be a fantastic boat ride.  With the water glassy smooth, I just wanted to get out on the water and enjoy the breeze in my face and get some salt air in my lungs.  If an opportunity for fishing presented itself, I would be ready.

When the water is still in the low to mid-sixties, it is hard to tell what you might run into when you stick your line in the water.  I didn’t really think about it since I was more focused on that first really nice boat ride of the year.   I followed one of my favorite circuits which takes me south to Swansboro, across the Intracoastal, then to the channel just north of Huggins Island and finally back down the Intracoastal to Swansboro.  I have a YouTube video which provides a close look at the area approaching the island if you don’t mind a video from a slow moving boat.

My trip on April 3, took just minutes to Swansboro because the river was smooth and empty.  After that I had planned nothing more than a ride through the back channel and a quick trip back down the Intracoastal and then home to Bluewater Cove.

However just before I turned east to be parallel with the shore of Huggins Island, I felt just the right breeze for drift fishing. It was like a switch had been flipped in my head.  I immediately cut the engine and picked up my rod and cast to the edge of the marsh at the north side of the channel.  I was fishing with a white gulp.  I waited for the gulp to sink and adjusted my camera in case there was a good photo opportunity. Little did I know that I would be too busy to find the shutter release.

I was fishing with a new rod and reel that I purchased on sale last Thanksgiving at Gander Mountain on a trip to our other home in Roanoke, Virginia.   Though I had tried the rod on an earlier kayak fishing trip this winter, I did not hook anything on that trip.

When I started retrieving the jig, I only made one turn of the reel handle before I thought I was snagged on a log.  Then my log started moving.  It didn’t take me long to figure out it was a bluefish in the three to four pound range.  My rod and reel was an outfit that I had picked specifically for trout fishing.  It was not intended for fighting with nasty tempered bluefish.   I had to make a couple of adjustments to the drag to make any progress with the bluefish who had decided to put on an aerial show while I was collecting myself.  There’s nothing like hooking something on the first cast to start a trip out right and to give you a case of fishing fever.

As I finally got organized, the bluefish decided to go under the boat, I managed to keep him from tangling on the motor, but I knew I was fighting a loosing battle with just eight pound test line, a very light rod, no leader, and no net on board.  The bluefish kept diving and finally he cut my line, and headed off for parts unknown.

After tying on another gulp, I did a few more drifts, but I didn’t even get another touch on my gulp.  I guess that was fortunate since I didn’t have any leader material with me.

The trip home was just as beautiful as the trip down the river.  I posted some pictures of the trip in a Picasa web album called Glassy April Waters.

I had a good time on my first real fishing trip 2012. I should have taken the time to install a leader.  I feel bad for the bluefish with a gulp stuck in his mouth.  That evening I went over to Reel Outdoors in Emerald Isle and got some fluorocarbon leader material.   I tied on a leader as soon as I got home.

It is a rare year that we don’t get into a nice mess of bluefish anyway.

Likely I will be back at the spot sometime in the next few days.  I’ll have a net with me, and a more appropriate rod for one of those big bluefish, but if the weather and water aren’t right, I’ll probably just settle for the boat ride and some nice photos.

When all else fails, I eventually end up heading over to the beach and practicing my six shrimp road to enlightenment.

This photo is a great aerial view of the North Carolina coast.  If you look closely you can see the White Oak River and Swansboro.