by Ashley Williams – GOPC Kayak Fishing Team
Recently I was able to go down to Fort Fisher for the 1st Annual Hook, Line, and Paddle TJM Celebrity Kayak Fishing Tournament. Not only was I competing but I also had the great fortune of being asked to participate as one of the celebrity kayak anglers.
Friday morning a handful of us had decided to pre fish the area to see how things might work out for the following day. Upon arriving at the Federal Point ramp we were welcomed by strong 20-25mph winds from the south. As each person arrived you could hear the groans as they stepped out of their car for the first time. At the edge of the water was a large collection of minnows that were unable to swim against the strong winds. Seeing something like this is highly unusual and makes you put your fishing “thinking cap” on. The thought was that with the bait being pushed against the beach like this it was highly likely that they would also be in the grass out in the flats we planned on fishing. So we all headed out and made our way across the Basin to fish an area commonly known as “Cribbins”.
As we came into the area we split up to divide and conquer. I made may way to the northern section of Cribbins and searched the grass for signs of action. This wind had blown the bait up into the grass similar to the way those were laying up at the ramp. As the sun came up over the beach I poled my Ocean Kayak Trident 13 around the flats searching for redfish and hoping to see some large wakes or rolling that was characteristic of this fish during feeding mode. Being able to stand up in a fishing kayak has its advantages and sight fishing is one of them. But this morning would be a bust as I was unable to find anything more than pinfish and lizardfish chasing bait in the grass.
After regrouping with the others, who had split off to search other areas, we found that no one had located any game fish in the area. Everyone reported the same feisty pinfish and lizardfish chewing up their lures. We checked out a few more areas before stowing our rods away and heading back in. As it was now low tide we were able to get a good idea of the bottom and its layout. We marked a few deep channels that we would return to in the morning. Maybe there would be fish hanging out in them away from the current and wind.
The day of the tournament was not much better than the pre fish. The wind had laid down some but was still gusting around 18mph from the SSW. Not everyone who entered fished at Fort Fisher because the approved fishing grounds stretched all the way up to the north of Wrightsville Beach. A few people launched at Snow’s Cut in Carolina Beach and a handful of others took the short trip to the backside of Masonboro Island from the Trail’s End ramp in Wilmington. The majority decided to stay at Fort Fisher instead of risking missing the weigh in because of a long drive.
6:00 am was the shotgun start for all the anglers. No one could be in the water or fishing before then. The mob at Fort Fisher jumped in for what was a wet trip across the Basin. Fighting the wind and swells wouldn’t have been so bad had the waves not been coming from the SSW. It was a constant barrage of waves over the front right of the kayak that challenged paddling technique, tracking, and clothing. About 20 minutes later I found my way across the Basin and into the fishing area. Out of the 40+ paddlers who left from the ramp I was the second person across. Thanks to the Rod Pod on my Trident 13 all my rods made the trip and stayed nice and dry. My Werner Ikelos helped me maintain my course across the Basin in the high winds.
For me the rest of the morning and early afternoon proved to be a bust. I managed to catch a small flounder which I immediately threw back. I had already gotten word that a 16” flounder had been caught and mine was well below that. After speaking to other anglers in the area it seemed that no one was going to be weighing a redfish in. No one had heard any reports of any being caught. Some had heard about two trout being caught nearby and one trout lost at the side of someone’s kayak earlier in the day. Every continued fishing with hopes of catching the first redfish but only succeeded in feeding lizard fish and croaker.
As I left later on I spoke with a few people and found one with a good size trout that was around 15”. On the return trip across the Basin this same angler managed a 25” redfish on his “one last cast”. Everyone began getting wondering what had been caught elsewhere by those who chose to fish away from Fort Fisher.
At weigh in we were treated to a catered lunch by Middle of the Island catering company. This was one of my favorite places to eat until they closed there doors a few years ago but I was happy to hear they had a catering business up and running. I wonder if they would consider catering for just one person but neglected to ask…
Everyone rushed to beat the 2:00pm deadline for weigh in and the line began to form. Kayak fishing weigh ins are different than the stadium filled, music blaring, and fireworks filled Bass Master type stuff on TV. In fact, there are no stadiums, fireworks, or music (exception being the radio in someone’s car nearby…). Weigh ins are done by catch, photo, and release. Ties are settled by who brought their camera in first. One 1st place prize was determined by a seven minute difference in weigh in times. As I had nothing to show I settled back and spoke to other anglers about their catch and how they caught them. A lot of folks said they had trouble with the lizard fish getting in the way and eating their lures.
The winning redfish came from the very southern bay of Fort Fisher called Buzzards Bay and the other two came from behind Masonboro Island. The flounder came from Fort Fisher and Snow’s Cut. The winning trout came from Fort Fisher (caught by the guy who had lost his first trout at the side of his kayak earlier in the day). Another trout was unable to be measured as something had taken a bite out of it while being reeled in.
After the grand prizes were awarded began the raffle prizes. Lots of good gear had been donated along with gym memberships, sightseeing tours, etc…
It was a good day and I look forward to participating (and doing better) next year. The next tournament for the GOPC KFT will be the TKAA Annual Tournament on September 26th in Virginia Beach. This will be a very large event and has drawn over 100 participants in the past. Hope to see some of you there.