Wednesday, September 17, 2014

It Won't Be Long Now

That's how my friend, Jerry, began his email to me yesterday, along with attaching the photos that I'm using with this story, which describes Phase 1 improvements to the Lake Lawson/Lake Smith Natural Area.

This area is a 42-acre preserve, with more than 12,000 feet of shoreline located in the Bayside Borough of Virginia Beach, at the corner of Shell Road and Northampton Boulevard. The property was acquired in multiple parcels between 2005 and 2009, through the Open Space Acquisition Program, from the City of Norfolk and private landowners.

The current improvements began in fall 2013 and are scheduled to be completed in early fall 2014. Items included in Phase 1 are as follows:

     * New boat ramp
     * Formalized car and trailer parking
     * Stabilization along the shoreline to prevent erosion and to reestablish native vegetation
     * Several fishing and overlook platforms
     * Floating crew dock
     * Pedestrian bridge to connect the north and south parcel
     * Renovations to the existing soft-surface trail with installation of hard-surface trails
     * New playground and picnic shelter

Future improvements also will include the installation of a park office and restrooms.

Though the natural area surrounding Lake Lawson and Lake Smith is being improved by the City of Virginia Beach, the City of Norfolk still owns the water/reservoir and 25 feet around the water. As such, Norfolk currently controls the use of water regulations, including the requirement for a boat permit to use the water.


     * Motorized and non-motorized boating is permitted.
     * Motors no larger than 12 H.P. may be used. If a boat with a larger motor is put in the reservoir, the larger motor must the disabled.
     * All boats, including canoes, kayaks and paddleboats (e.g., paddle wheelers), must have a valid City of Norfolk Boat Permit. The reservoirs of Lake Smith/Lake Lawson are governed by the City of Norfolk.
     * Swimming and the use of stand-up paddle boards, sailboats, water skis, jet skis, tubes, rafts, and other inflatables are prohibited.
     * All boats must comply with Virginia and U.S. Coast Guard boating regulations.
     * Anyone under the age of 12 must be with an adult.
     * Average water depth of Lake Smith and Lake Lawson is about 4.5 feet, with a maximum depth of about 8 feet.


     * Fishing is permitted from shore at designated areas: Lake Prince, Lake Smith, and in the Norfolk Botanical Garden. Boat fishing is permitted at designated areas with a boat permit.
     * Fishing maps can be found at
     * A Virginia freshwater fishing license is required.
     * Net fishing is not permitted--rod and tackle only.
     * Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries regulations apply.

My friend, Jerry, for one, is looking forward to the grand reopening of Lake Smith. "I'm sure I'll be doing some trolling-motor-only fishing there next spring," he said.

For more information, call the Parks and Natural Areas at 757-385-0400, or email them at

Nice Day, But Too Many Toothy Critters

Anytime I catch three grindle, especially when one starts my day and another ends it, and they all represent my biggest fish of the day (about 3 lbs. each) as well, I get a little frustrated. That feeling, though, is tempered considerably when I also catch five bass, including the 1-8 pictured here, along with a 1-2, two 12-inchers, and a 10-incher.

Thus went my day down in Albright's. I also lost one bass--big enough to slip my drag--when I misjudged a swirl under my bait. I initially thought he had missed it, but I quickly realized he was connected. After only one run past the bow of my boat, however, he came unbuttoned and was gone.

With all the cloud cover and cooler temps (cool enough I was forced to wear my rain jacket for a while) this morning, I had every hope there would be a topwater bite for at least a while, but that never materialized. The only sign of any interest in my topwater bait came early on when a fish flipped it with his tail. As has been common this year, there were no second chances.

Today's fish--all eight of them--came on a bait that, three years ago, was my primary offering all year long. I had a lot of success with it then but, since that time, have been struggling to find more than an occasional fish here and there with it. I spent the last couple of days researching the Internet for some suggestions about how to fish the bait more effectively, though, and some of what I read proved to be the ticket today. Will I continue to find success? Who knows? All I'm sure of is that I'll keep trying.

My day certainly wasn't anything to write home about, but there was sufficient activity to keep my interest alive all day. Equally important, I had an opportunity to put some rods back into service that just have been resting in my rod caddy for quite a spell. I'm making a concerted effort to use some of the stuff that, for the most part, only has been collecting dust. Now, if only I could control my buying habits, but I seem to be destined to keep falling prey to those "toys" that attract more fishermen than they do fish. Oh well, you only go through this life once.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

7 Boats, All With 5-Fish Limits

It may have been a small turnout today, but none of the 13 anglers were lacking for heart, as evidenced by the fact we all brought limits to the scales at the 2:30 weigh-in.

Leading the pack today was this duo (from left): Mark London and Jeremy Gatewood, whose 1st-place limit totaled 12.93 lbs., anchored by a 4.64-lb. bass.

Finishing in 2nd place was the team of Jared Allbritten and (not pictured) Al Napier, with a limit weighing 11.63 lbs. They didn't weigh a big fish.

Claiming big-fish honors today was yours truly, who boated a 5.26-lb. bass, with the help of his partner, Rob Chatham (not pictured), who netted the fish for him. Their total weight was 11.55 lbs.

The team of (from left) Dave Meers and Ed Balko walked away as winners of the day's mystery-weight drawing. They had a total weight of 6.95 lbs. (with no big fish), which was closest to the 2.70 tab that was drawn.

Here is how everyone else finished the competition:

     * The team of Bob Glass and Randy Conkle, total weight 9.03 lbs., no big fish.
     * The team of John Matyiko and Mark Cable, total weight 8.72 lbs., big fish 3.47 lbs.
     * Jesse Munden, total weight 7.20 lbs. after 0.25 deduction for one dead fish, no big fish.

Overall, the anglers today weighed a total of 35 bass for a total weight of 68.26 lbs. The average weight was 1.95 lbs.

For planning purposes, our last regular tournament of the current season is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 27, from safe light (about 6:30 a.m.) to 2:30 p.m. As noted in an earlier post, I encourage all those who usually fish our Dewey Mullins Memorial Bass Tourney Series but would like to fish the annual Dalton Waters/Tim Weddle Memorial Open out of Bob's Fishing Hole that same date to do so. And, as promised in the earlier post, anyone fishing at Bob's on the 27th but needing one more tourney to qualify for the Dewey Mullins Memorial two-day Classic on Oct. 18th and 19th will be credited accordingly so that they can fish the Classic. My verification will be seeing your names listed in the tournament results posted on the Guestbook page of Bob's website.

Rob and I will be a long time forgetting the moments immediately following my catching that big bass today. Here's why. As Rob was trying to get the hook out of the fish, I glanced up to see his rod going off the back deck of the boat. You see, he just had made a long cast with a topwater bait when I hooked my fish and had laid his rod down to grab the net.

Anyway, I quickly took the fish from him so he could grab his rod. He first thought he had a fish on, but as he kept reeling, he realized he was hung--on what turned out to be a stump nearly 3 feet below the water's surface.

We always will wonder how a topwater floater ended up down there. Our collective thought is that another fish snatched it while we were wrestling with mine, but we'll never know for sure because we never saw anything happening.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

(UPDATED) Where We Stand for the 2014 Two-Day Classic

At the moment, I have 27 anglers qualified to fish this event on Oct. 18th and 19th. The names on this list include the following:

Rob Chatham                                    Jim Bauer                                         Mark London
Steve Bailey                                      Jesse Munden                                  Al Napier
Red Bruun                                         Randy Conkle                                  Bob Glass
Gary Coderre                                    Ronnie McLaughlin                          Skip Schaible
Mitch Portervint                                 John Matyiko                                    Lenny Hall
Chris Fretard                                     Mike Miller                                        Chris Napier
John Goodman                                 Allen Napier                                      Dave Meers
Wayne Hayes                                   Jake Milligan                                     Zack Rhodes
Ken Testorff                                      Mark Cable                                       Jeremy Gatewood

The following four people still can qualify by fishing the last regular-season tourney on Sept. 27:

Dennis Cohen                                    Jared Allbritten                                 Bobby Moore
Hayden Capper

In 2012, we had 21 anglers fish the Classic. Winners were as follows: 1st Place - Al and Chris Napier, 16.78 lbs. two-day total weight; 2nd Place - John Matyiko and Mark Cable, 16.39 lbs. two-day total weight; and 3rd Place - Wayne Hayes and Gary Coderre, 15.15 lbs. two-day total weight. Big Fish winner was Duane Kessel, who caught one weighing 3.67 lbs. The Seasonal Lunker Award, however, went to Bob Glass for a 5.71-lb. bass he caught in our July 14, 2012 tournament.

In 2013, we had 23 anglers competing. Winners were as follows: 1st Place - Michael Sims and Chris Napier, 26.37 lbs. two-day total weight; 2nd Place - Randy Conkle and Bob Glass, 22.05 lbs. two-day total weight; and 3rd Place - Jesse Munden, 22.01 lbs. two-day total weight. Big Fish winner was Rob Powell, with a 4.78-lb. bass. And for the first time ever in the history of the Dewey Mullins Memorial Bass Tourney Series, Angler of the Year title went to Bob Glass, who amassed a total weight of 146.92 lbs. throughout the course of the year's tournament schedule. Bob also repeated as winner of the Seasonal Lunker Award for a bass weighing 6.89 lbs. that he caught Sept. 7, 2013.

I would remind everyone that we'll be fishing eight hours each day this year, unlike in previous years, when we had a shortened second day because of a cookout. We decided to drop that part of our program this year. Fishing hours both days will be safe light to 3 p.m. And for planning purposes, please remember that I collect all monies ($50-per-person entry fee, optional $10-per-person big-fish pot, $10-per-boat ramp fees except for those who store their boats at West Neck Marina, and optional $2-per-person seasonal-lunker pot for those eligible and still participating) on Day 1 to eliminate any hassle on Day 2. There are no exceptions, so please come prepared and try to have the right change.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Miles Apart, But Results Very Similar

The evening email from Jim Bauer about his day on Lake Gaston revealed that he had another four-fish day, led by the 2-6 bass in this photo. He also caught a 1-2, 1-0 and a dink.

Said Jim, "I caught the first real early on a Rage shad, then missed a good one right after that on the same bait. The darn fish was well off a dock and surprised me."

Jim fished a worm, craw and buzzjet jr. before he decided to pick up his "old reliable"--a French fry, which accounted for three of his four fish, including the 2-6. It came off a dock in deep water. As he explained, "I just was dragging the bait along as I headed for a cove, and the fish nearly yanked the rod out of my hand. Got lucky!"

The wind on Lake Gaston this morning was blowing from the north but shifted to the south before the day was over. The water temp this morning was 78, compared to 83 this afternoon.

In assessing today's outing, Jim wishes he could have known that all he needed to do was fish an hour this morning and then another hour or so this afternoon and get the same results as he got from fishing an eight-hour day. "It was a long dry spell between the first and last fish," he noted.

Like Jim, I spent eight hours on the water today and also had a four-bass day. The similarities don't end there, either. My best fish was the 2-13 pictured here. I also had a 1-4 and two dinks and lost another fish equal to or better than the 2-13 early this morning while--yep, you probably guessed it--reaching for the net. One of these days, I'm going to throw that net as far as I can send it--I came close to doing that today.

Besides the bass, I also boated a 15-inch striper and about a 21-inch pickerel. They, like all the bass, came on only one bait--a topwater. You'll have to excuse me, but with another tourney this coming Saturday, I'm not prepared to divulge what topwater bait I was using. However, I will tell you that the other bait I threw today was a chatterbait, and I had four or five hits with it but wasn't able to get the hook in any of the fish.

I didn't check the water temperature this morning, but I noticed it was showing 80.7 degrees as I motored toward the ramp this afternoon.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

After Being Cooped Up for a Day and a Half...

My friend, Jim Bauer, returned to the water at Lake Gaston today and ended up with four fish in four-and-a-half-hours' time.

His biggest was the 1-12 pictured here. He also had a 1-2, 1-0 and a 14-ouncer. He only fished three baits: a worm, swimbait, and a Rage DB (as in Denny Brauer) craw. The latter, as Jim explained it, "is a bigger craw with split pinchers."

He went on to say that "the 1-12 and one other ate it." He also had a fish pick up the craw and swim about 6 feet or so, and when he set the hook, he felt nothing, and the hook point still was in the body.

The Gaston water temp today was 80, compared to 83 on Sunday. Said Jim, "I was rained on four or five times today, and showers chased me for cover twice." With a dry and warmer day predicted for tomorrow, he plans to head to the mouth of Pea Hill Creek and work his way back toward where he's staying.

In looking toward tomorrow, Jim concluded his note to me this way, "It sure would be nice to find some bigger fish."

Monday, September 8, 2014

Rain, Rain, Go Away... Come Again Another Day

These are lyrics to an old nursery rhyme. However, they have special significance for my good friend, Jim Bauer, as he begins another week of fishing on Lake Gaston.

In an email I had from him last night, he wrote, "Not sure 'bout tomorrow. The forecast can be summed up in one word: rain. Got to check it again later."

The same front that forecasters say promises to dump up to 2 and 3 inches on our area in the next couple of days may find my friend watching a lot of TV and/or doing a lot of texting/emailing the next day or so, as he waits for skies to clear. It's a heckuva way to spend vacation time, but Jim is an old pro at it after all his trips there and, in earlier years, to Lake Anna.

Even though it looked and felt like rain all day yesterday, Jim hit the water just after 4 o'clock and boated a couple of keepers. The 1.11 in this photo was his best, but he also caught one that weighed a pound even, plus a couple of dinks. The 1.0 fish came from the cove where he's staying, the 1.11 from a boat dock.

Jim described the bite as "weird." He said they just picked the bait up and were swimming to the boat. "I missed a couple before I woke up," he said. Rounding out last evening's activity was what he thinks was a catfish that snapped his line. "All I saw was grey and white when it went airborne," he explained. Everything that Jim brought in the boat came off a coon-tail worm.

He ended yesterday's email by noting that it "felt good to get back in the saddle again after a couple weeks off." Here's hoping your week isn't ruined by the weather, my friend. Catch a big 'un for me.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Annual Dalton Waters/Tim Weddle Memorial Open Approaching

Now is the time to get geared up for this annual tournament held at Bob's Fishing Hole in Chesapeake. It's scheduled this year for Sept. 27.

As advertised on Bob's website, the entry fee is $60 per boat, including ramp fee and lunker pot. Prizes, based on an 18-boat field, will include the following: 1st Place - $600, 2nd Place - $350, 3rd Place - $250, 4th Place - $175, 5th Place - $125. Guiding the competition will be all of Bob's standard rules. Their website promises "good food and great fun" for all.

In a posting dated today, Dennis sent out what he termed "another unabashed plug and lobby effort for you all to change your 9-27-14" plans to fish at Bob's and support this tourney. Accordingly, I encourage any of those anglers who usually fish the Dewey Mullins Memorial Bass Tourney Series but would like to participate in Bob's event to do so, even though the 27th is our last scheduled regular-season tourney for 2014.

And to be fair to those who may need this tourney to qualify (e.g., complete the four-tournament requirement) for our annual two-day Classic in October, I will grant credit as having fished our Sept. 27 event if you decide to fish Bob's tourney instead. My verification will be seeing your name(s) among the tournament results published on Bob's website afterward.

We've All Heard It Before...

"What a difference 24 hours can make when it comes to fishing." And while I'm sure no one was trying to prove this statement, anglers from the Confederate Bassmasters (pictured here at weigh-in) pretty well did exactly that during their tournament today out of West Neck Marina.

For example, in our Dewey Mullins Memorial Bass Tourney yesterday, three boats brought double-digit bags of fish to the scales at weigh-in, and another three had better than 9 pounds. Today, however, not one tournament boat weighed a double-digit bag of fish, and I heard a lot of comments about how tough the day had been.

This difference wasn't just felt at West Neck. It also was evident at Bob's Fishing Hole, where anglers in six of nine boats at their regular Saturday tournament weighed limits. Today, though, Little Creek Bass Anglers in seven boats didn't weigh even one limit. "Very frustrating day for all" is how Dennis summed it up.

With cooler temps, it would have seemed today's bite should have been better than yesterday's, but that simply wasn't the case. There also was falling water, which, as Dennis noted, "usually activates the fish on the Northwest, but not so today."

Despite today's "tough" bite, Confederate Bassmaster Luke Cooper (pictured here) managed to boat a 3-2 bass and capture the day's lunker pot. He was quick to explain that he had to abandon his Plan A this morning. His Plan B, consisting of topwaters and crankbaits, proved to be the winning ticket.

Congratulations to Luke and to all those who participated in today's events--both at West Neck Marina and Bob's Fishing Hole. May your next trip to the water make today's adventure seem like just a distant memory. "Tight Lines!" to one and all.

If you would like to see exactly how everyone fished in the Confederate Bassmasters club tournament today, keep an eye on their website: Their "tournament results" page likely will have the stats posted in a day or two. You can find results of the two referenced tournaments at Bob's Fishing Hole by clicking on this link: