Why You Should Always Be Prepared | Kayak Angler Magazine | Rapid Media
A man holding a sheepshead fish in his kayak. Photo by Rob Choi

FRIDAY AFTERNOON THE WEATHERMAN promised a small window to fish Saturday morning. That’s all I would need for a shot at sheepshead under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. I was facing a two-hour drive for a couple hours fishing, but it would be worth it.

I called a buddy who had been bugging me to take him sheep herding. I explained the sensitive timing of the operation. “Meet me at the tackle shop at 4:45 a.m. and we’ll launch at 5:30,” I instructed. He said he was stoked and kept thanking me for the invite. “Don’t worry, I’ll be there!” he practically shouted over the phone.

That evening I tied up rigs and packed the car. Then, I double-checked my gear and set my alarm for a ridiculous time.

The next morning, I was up and out the door in the dark. On the two-hour drive to the water, I thought about calling my fishing buddy, but he lived just down the street from the tackle shop so I didn’t want to wake him.

I made it to the shop 15 minutes after it opened and they were already running low on live fiddler crabs, the sheepshead’s favorite bait. His text message came five minutes later. “Just left the house,” it read. I texted him that I would get bait and he could meet me at the launch. Minutes after arriving at the launch, I’m dragging my kayak down the beach. He slowly pulls into the lot. “Dude, I’m so sorry,” he repeated over and over as I helped him move his boat to the beach.

When I asked for his bait bucket, he looked at me with a blank stare. “I knew I was forgetting something,” he cursed. Frantic, he dug a plastic grocery bag out of a nearby garbage can and filled it with scurrying fiddler crabs. Then he started searching his tackle box for hooks and leader. “I’ll see you out there,” I told him.

As I launched, I looked back to see him chasing escaped fiddler crabs around the parking lot. 

By the time I reached my favorite sheepie spot, the current was starting to slow down. A few minutes later, I got my fix. First, I feel the heavy weight of a big sheepshead nibbling my bait 30 feet below. Then my rod bends with the slam and I set the hook. The fish fought like a bulldog, rushed to keep it from wrapping a piling and breaking me off. Finally, I swung a 10 pounder into the kayak, grinning from ear to ear.

I looked for my buddy, but he wasn't on the water. I called him on the cellphone and found out that the fiddlers escaped. Then he realized he forgot his paddle at home.

By the time he returned to the launch with his paddle, the wind was whistling and I was heading in with two trophy sheepies on my camera.

I could see his long face as the waves pushed me onto shore. I shook my head not even resisting my burst of laughter.


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