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Goodbye Schoolies, Hello Keepers!

Goodbye Schoolies, Hello Keepers!

David Bailey |

By Capt. Derek A. Barber

 Today was definitely looking more like summer, finally.  No rain, few clouds and temps in the 60’s.  So what better of day to take out my new Old Town® PredatorTM, Minn KotaTM series kayak, for its first of many trips looking for stripers.  I started the morning going to The Goose Hummock Shop in Orleans to pick up some last minute essentials, one of them being live eels.  Then I packed up the truck, loaded the ‘yak, the reels, the tackle boxes and everything else that could possibly fit into the cab of the truck and off to Barnstable Harbor I went.  

  High Tide was high at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, so I launched just before  2 o’clock.  The fishing started out a bit slow.  I was trolling two eels and trying to keep the yak close to the edges of the marsh embankments where it seemed deepest.  I managed three hits in the first 45 minutes but none of the fish sucked down the eels entirely to the hook.  They were just grabbing the tail and not taking  the whole eel down.  I started thinking to myself that they must be really small fish and that this may be a slow day unless I change it up and start to target smaller stripers.  But I decided to keep at it.  I ended up finding some deeper water further in the harbor that was 15+ ft deep  so I dropped another eel out down the center of the yak with some weight on it.  Now I had three live eels out, had never fished this kayak before for stripers and was in a section of the harbor that I was not to familiar with.

  Then it happened.  Right when I was rounding a point, where a little side estuary was emptying, the starboard side rod went off and when I say went off it was screaming line out.  I quickly pulled in the port rod in while the fish was taking line and then I managed to retrieve some of the center deep rod when I noticed that the fishing was still taking line and the spool was starting to get low.  I grabbed the rod out of the holder and tightened the drag down two clicks and the fish came to a stop. The fight was on, the kayak slowly started turning toward the fish and, once again, the fish started to take more line before I had even gotten any back.  Now I was starting to think this fish may be bigger than the little schoolies that were earlier trying to grab the tails of the eels but were unable to take the whole eel down.  The ‘yak was getting pulled across the marsh a good distance before the fish started letting me get some line back.  As it was finally slowing down, I retrieved a bunch of the line back and the fish was now in sight.  I could could tell it was a keeper and a decent one at that.  Once I had the fish within sight I backed the drag off allowing the fish to be able to take line if it could.  It was tiring out, as was I, but the fight was not over.  He held his head down for a few more minutes and a few more short runs but he was almost done.  I grabbed my fish grips and was now ready to land the fish.  After a quick tail splash at the side of the kayak that got me pretty wet, I was able to leader the fish and lip him in the same movement.  I had done it!  Not only was this the first fish that I had hooked up on in my PredatorTM kayak but  it was also the first keeper I landed as well.  I quickly pulled the fish out of the water and measured and weighed it.  Wow,  40” and 24lbs.!  A slob I must say. I revived the fish for the next few minutes, took a couple of pictures, and released him back to the water like I do every year with the first keeper striper that I catch.

  That was great. What a relief and what a great way to start the kayak season.  I continued to fish and did very well over the next two hours.  I went on to catch three more keeper bass in a row after that, measuring 30, 28 and 30 inches.  By the end of the day I had caught six keeper and six schoolies between 23 and 26 inches.  What a great day.  The kayak performed great, all the gear worked well and the fishing spoke for itself.  I could not have had a better first trip.

My name is Capt, Derek Barber and I am a kayak fisherman. I hope to see you on the water soon.  Good luck and happy hunting.

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