Friday, October 2, 2015

The Difference Between NE and ENE Winds

"A picture is worth a thousand words" is an axiom I often tried to refute as a Navy journalist and Civil Service writer-editor. Can't begin to tell you how many arguments I've had over the years with photographers and photo-journalists alike on this subject.

However, I reluctantly have to admit there are times when pictures really do speak volumes, and the two photos that follow, provided courtesy of Skip Schaible, are classic examples. They very graphically demonstrate once and for all the vast difference you'll find at West Neck Marina as a result of strong NE winds (top photo), as opposed to the result of strong ENE winds (bottom photo).

This difference made a fool out of me here recently. Specifically, I cancelled our Dewey Mullins Memorial Bass Tourney scheduled for Sept. 26th, based on projected strong NE winds overnight Friday into tourney day (Saturday). Those winds ultimately were more from the east and east northeast, which just kept making the water level rise, after having fallen to an extremely low reading early Friday. By what would have been our regular launch time Saturday morning, there was plenty of water at the West Neck ramp, but I already had cancelled the tournament as of Friday afternoon--in the interest of allowing anglers to make alternate plans if they so desired.

While the effect of lunar tides on the North Landing and Northwest Rivers is negligible, the same can't be said for wind tides. Strong winds from the southeast move water northward from Currituck Sound and up the two rivers, flooding fringing marshes and swamps. Conversely, strong north to west winds result in lower water levels.

Because wind speeds, direction and duration are irregular, the frequency and duration of wind tides are highly variable. Extreme amplitudes of wind tides on the North Landing and Northwest Rivers are not precisely known, but similar wind tides have been estimated to cause as much as 4 feet of variation in the water surface of the Chowan River in North Carolina, and up to 3.28 feet of variation in Back Bay, Virginia.

Field observations indicate that powerful southerly wind-tidal events during periods of high riverine flow can drive water levels up significantly--nearly to the headwaters of these systems and their tributaries.

In my opinion, there's no one who can accurately predict wind direction and speed all the time, or if so, nobody seemingly has shared the magic formula with the local TV weather forecasters. I say that simply because they miss the mark far more often than they hit it. There is one website, however, that seems to be reliable most of the time, and it can be found at this link:

When you want to know what kind of water-level conditions you're going to find at West Neck, first go to the website at this link (, then add 1.30 to the reading you find there, and you'll have the approximate water level at the West Neck Marina ramp. Generally speaking, any reading (after adding the 1.30) that doesn't come up to at least 2.30 warrants your careful consideration before trying to launch. And part of that consideration needs to be whether the water is going out or coming in.

And finally, I offer this one last word to the wise: The West Neck launch ramp ends squarely in front of the last piling on each catwalk. I've seen the end with my own two eyes on several occasions, and I never would B.S. anyone about something as important as their personal safety or that of their equipment.

Have fun, but don't be foolish about it.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

I'm Really Not the Least Bit Envious

As anyone who regularly follows my blog already knows, I haven't been getting a lot of time on the water in the last couple of weeks. While that reality doesn't sit very well with me, I certainly didn't experience any feelings of "wish I were in your shoes" when I talked to my good buddy, Wayne, yesterday afternoon.

You see, he was telling me he'd be headed to Kerr Reservoir early this morning, with plans to prefish today and Friday for a tournament on Saturday and Sunday. That's a lot of time in the great outdoors when the weather during that stretch promises to be anything but great. Let's just say I sincerely hope he, nor any of the other boaters, have trouble with their bilge pumps, 'cause they undoubtedly will get a real workout during the next four days.

Just the thought of what Wayne, his partner, and all those other competitors will endure as they chase limits of bass sends chills up my spine... and I'm not talking about the good kind. Even though it hasn't happened to me recently, I still remember my early days of bass fishing when I tried to cut a few corners and make "second best" work for me. I'm talking, of course, about cheap rainsuits.

Anyone who ever has sat through one rainy day of fishing, much less four in a row, with a "leaky Lucy" rainsuit covering you, knows what it feels like to have a streak of shriveled skin that extends all the way from the nape of your neck to your nether regions. Granted, I would venture to say the vast majority, if not all the contestants in this weekend tournament, will have top-of-the-line rain gear at their disposal, so they should dodge that "shriveled skin." However, they'll still have to deal with those raindrops that just keep falling on their heads throughout much of the practice and competition.

When asked what kind of grand prize was attached to this tournament, Wayne quickly responded, "A new, fully rigged bass boat." At this point, I understood exactly why he wasn't about to let the weather interfere with his chances of winning this thing. After all, he has delivered the goods and come home with a new bass boat on two other occasions--and that was while fishing as a back-seater. This time, he'll be in the front seat, so there's every reason to believe he might be able to pull off another victory and win a third boat.

While I wish Wayne the very best in what likely will be an extremely soggy affair, I will maintain my post here at home, trying to sort through all the necessary details to ensure a successful Dewey Mullins Memorial Bass Classic Tournament on Oct. 17th and 18th. And, should an opportunity present itself to get in a warm-up trip or two before then, I'll be prepared to do that as well. With a coastal storm  and perhaps part of Hurricane Joaquin to deal with first, though, I'm not making any kind of bets just yet on my chances of getting to the river.

Our Classic, incidentally, is shaping up to be a pretty decent event. To this point in time, I have 24 confirmed participants and 3 planned no-shows. Of the 7 I haven't heard from yet, I anticipate at least 2 more planned no-shows. Bottom line: It appears we'll have about 16 boats and 29 anglers on hand for the two-day event, provided there are no cancellations between now and the weekend of the 17th and 18th.

In the meantime, if you're out and about this weekend, I would urge you to be watching for standing water on the roadways. And if you have some rain gear, you likely would do well to wear it. Just make sure it doesn't leak. If there's even one pinhole, I assure you those raindrops will find it.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Getting Back to My Roots

Some of my fondest childhood memories are bass-fishing trips I made to local Oswego, Kansas, farm ponds with my dad and brother. And as I was making my way around a pond today, I had a lot of flashbacks to those earlier days. It almost was like Pop and my brother still were there with me.

I have to be honest--I can't claim credit for the idea of finding a pond to fish today. It was the culmination of being tired of sitting home, listening to the northeast winds blow and receiving an email from a friend the other day, telling me about a trip he had made to a pond. Suddenly, I remembered that I know someone in the area who has a pond on his property, so I called him this morning and got permission to fish there a couple hours this afternoon.

And, as luck would have it, while I was making my way around the pond this afternoon, another friend happened by and stopped to invite me to fish his pond down the road a ways. So now, I have a couple ponds I can fish anytime I want, with only two provisions attached: (1) that I release everything I catch, and (2) that I don't tell any of my friends where I'm fishing. As the star of Hunter, an old TV detective show, used to say, "Works for me."

It wasn't more than 15 minutes after I parked my van and got out a rod this afternoon that a bass snatched my spinnerbait and scratched the itch I've had for days now. He easily would have gone about a pound and three-quarters. I just had unhooked and released him when the owner showed up to talk a spell. Our conversation just was winding down, when a big 'un leaped clear of the water on the far side. I quickly took my leave and headed that way to see if I could get the attention of that fish. As it turned out, I didn't have anything in my box that would fool him, but you can be certain I'll be back for another go in the not-too-distant future.

The owner told me he caught one back in early spring that weighed more than 9 lbs., and he assured me there are others pretty close to the same weight still swimming in the pond. I look forward to finding at least one of those, as well as some of the nice resident fish in the other man's pond down the road.

Best of all, I can travel light, there aren't likely to be a lot of other anglers in my way, and I won't have a boat with a scum line to clean up at day's end. I hardly can wait to see what this coming fall holds in store for me.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Finally--There's a Topwater Bite

That's the report I got from various anglers among the 17 who participated in today's contest. I launched all 12 boats about 6:30 a..m., and we weighed in at 2:30 p.m.

Winners of this next-to-last regular tourney of the current season were as follows:

1st Place, the team of (from left) Rob Peppers and Don Carter, five bass, 12.67 lbs. total weight, no big fish.

2nd Place, the team of (from left) Bob Glass and Randy Conkle, five bass, 11.11 lbs. total weight, 4.12-lb. big fish.

3rd Place, Mike Evans, five bass, 10.56 lbs. total weight, no big fish.

Lunker Award winners, Marjorie Gottsch and her husband, Nathan (not pictured), who weighed a 4.97-lb. bass. Total weight for their three fish was 8.33 lbs.

Mystery Weight winner was yours truly, with a three-fish total weight of 3.51 lbs., which was closest to the weight drawn of 2.35 lbs.

Here is how all the other contestants finished the day:

     * Chris Fretard, five bass, 9.67 lbs. total weight, 4.12-lb. big fish.
     * Gary Coderre, five bass, 9.19 lbs. total weight, no big fish.
     * Wayne Hayes, five bass, 9.13 lbs. total weight, no big fish.
     * The team of Ronnie and Chandler McLaughlin, five bass, 7.19 lbs. total weight, no big fish.
     * Steve Bailey, Tom Acree, and the team of Jesse Milligan and Bobby Moore didn't weigh any fish.

Overall, today's anglers weighed a total of 41 bass for a total weight of 81.36 lbs. The average weight was 1.98 lbs.

Two more competitors joined the 29 already qualified to fish our season-ending two-day Classic. Those two new ones are Tom Acree and Chandler McLaughlin.

Congrats to all the winners and thanks to everyone who came out to participate. For planning purposes, our final regular-season event is scheduled for next Saturday, Sept. 26th, from safe light (about 6:30 or 6:40 a.m.) to approximately 2:30 p.m. Registration will close about 6:15 a.m. Running lights will be required until official sunrise at 6:55 a.m. Those who don't have running lights or they don't work will have to stay on the trolling motor until that time.

I was happy to see a topwater bite develop this morning, even though all the fish I caught with my Pop-R were only running 10 and 11 inches. I had five in that range by mid-morning, after spending time in both West Neck and Pocaty.

It wasn't until I decided to check out the front end of Albright's that I found a few keepers. Two of those fish fell for my spinnerbait, and another went for my shallow-running Scatter Rap.

Duck season evidently started today. I say that because we were sharing the ramp at oh-dark-30 this morning with some fellas dressed in camouflage. And, of course, deer season kicks off next month, so it will behoove all of us fishermen to remain alert as we head into our out-of-the-way honey holes from this point forward. I speak from experience when I say that duck hunters don't take kindly to a bass fisherman running through a bunch of their decoys.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

An Old Friend Saved My Day

And that old friend was none other than Pocaty, which I've largely been ignoring for a good spell now.

As I headed out of West Neck this morning, I turned south, bound for Milldam. I completely missed the entrance to start with, which should have been a signal to alter my plans. My hardheadedness wouldn't allow that, though. Instead, I aligned myself with the boat ramp at Munden Point and quickly found the entrance.

I ran to the back and started fishing all the wood I could find, but after three hours, my only achievement was in spooking a few fish. Having gone through all my regular starting arsenal without a single strike, I decided to run back north. In hindsight, I realized that the water level was too low to be fishing that area this morning.

I stayed on the hotfoot until I approached Pocaty and decided to at least check out the water color there. To my complete surprise, it was the best looking water I've seen in several recent outings, so I shut down the gas motor, threw over the trolling motor, and started fishing. I soon was feeling some bream hits, which was sufficient motivation to keep moving.

I ultimately boated a striper that was about 14 or 15 inches long, as well as two largemouth. My best was the 1-5 pictured here; the other one weighed 1-3. Once again, the only bait that worked for me was a white spinnerbait. A worm, crankbait, topwater, and Johnson spoon did absolutely nothing for me.

I've been fishing the North Landing for a lot of years, but never in all that time have I come across what I saw today. While heading south this morning, there were two tugboats that had pinned (with engines running) their respective barges against the shoreline beyond the Pungo Ferry Bridge. One had its barge pushed against the shoreline at the oxbow on the left after you pass the bridge. The other tug had its load pinned against the opposite shoreline a short ways this side of the entrance to Blackwater. More interesting was the fact these vessels still were in the same position, with their engines running, as I headed back north more than three hours later. I don't have a clue what was going on, unless perhaps they were trying to avoid grounding.

[UPDATE: I think my pal, Charlie, may have solved this puzzle about the tugs and their barges. He went to Blackwater yesterday and to Indian Creek Monday, and both times, North Landing Road to the draw bridge was closed in the afternoon. The draw was stuck open. "I'll bet the barges were on hold, waiting for the repairs to get done," he offered.]

The one nagging question I have about the fishing is this: What has happened to the topwater bite? I haven't talked to a soul who has been having much, if any, luck with their topwater baits.

Had an email from Jim down on Gaston this evening. It opened thus: "I fished my butt off today, and all I got for my effort was two super dinks. One little dude wasn't much more than 6 inches long; the other was just a bit bigger. I threw everything but the kitchen sink."

If you remember, I mentioned earlier that Jim had had some problems upon his arrival at Gaston that had him considering just turning around and coming home. He worked past those obstacles, but it seems Murphy's Law may once again be rearing its ugly head. He was running down the lake this afternoon when his Yamaha started missing.

"Not noticeable on the tach," he said, "but I could feel it--just what I didn't need."

If you recall, it wasn't all that long ago that his outboard had a "big bang." Said Jim, "I'm sure not looking for another one."

He summed up today's note like this: "Dang shame the weather is great, but the fishing sucks."

Here's wishing you better luck for the rest of the week, my friend.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Everybody Is Catching a Few

That's the bottom line this evening, as it relates to three different anglers. Those anglers include Jim Bauer, "Doc" Murdock, and yours truly.

Jim is spending another week on Lake Gaston. Without getting into the specifics, suffice it to say this trip got off on the wrong foot this past Sunday, and for a spell, Jim wasn't sure but what he might just cut his trip short and come home. Two and a half hours on the water that first day yielded only three bass, including a 1-3 and two dinks. He also lost one right at the boat.

Monday, however, Jim was singing a slightly different tune, primarily as a result of boating the nice 4-8 in the accompanying picture.

"I had tossed a worm, two different crawfish, and a swimbait, and all I had to show for it was a dink," he explained. "So 'bout 2 o'clock, I broke out a French fry, and on the second cast, this big girl ate it. She had me sweating because she went airborne several times, plus ran under the boat before I finally got her in the net."

Jim called it a day after two hours and headed back to his rented quarters to find some relief for his tired, aching shoulder and elbow.

Today was another abbreviated fishing day for him after failing to hear the alarm this morning, coupled with having to make a run to Food Lion for some rolls to replace some that, in his words, "had come down with the 'blue fuzzies.'" It was 4 o'clock this afternoon before he got on the water, and when he quit about three hours later, he only had located a couple of dinks. "I also had a few bream teasing me," he added.

"Doc" made his way to the north side of the West Neck Bridge first thing this morning and soon boated this 2-7. As I learned in a later discussion with him, he often scores with a fish or two from this area when he's on the water.

"Doc" was using this swim jig when he caught the 2-7, his only fish of the day. He wrapped things up and headed to the ramp once the coolness of the morning air disappeared.

My day in West Neck started slowly. I spent an hour or so tossing a Spro frog and a Bang-O-Lure, with absolutely no interest whatever shown either one. Of course, part of the problem was that I couldn't keep the Bang-O-Lure in the water. Instead, "it" was finding every limb, stump and you-name-it in the creek.

When I had tired of having to go get the Bang-O-Lure, I started alternating among a Johnson Silver Minnow, a Rapala Scatter Rap, and a curly-tail worm. I had no problem keeping these baits in the water, but it made no difference, because, again, I couldn't buy a strike.

At that point, I picked up my favorite white spinnerbait and went to work. This hump-backed dink at right was one of the first bass I boated. Before the day was over, I would catch one more that could have passed as a twin to this one. It's a bit unusual--for me, at least--to land two of these hump-backs in the same day. Makes me wonder if other anglers are running across more like these in their angling pursuits.

My total on the day was four dinks and this 2-2. I caught everything on the same white spinnerbait and missed about three more fish that swirled at it but didn't take it. Incidentally, this 2-2 had a distinctly bloody tail.

My plan at the moment is to try and drag my fanny out of the sack in the morning  and hit the water again. Don't know for sure yet where I'll be going, but the odds are that it'll be somewhere south of West Neck. I like to stretch the boat out a little bit, especially now that I seem to be past all those annoying overheat alarms.