Day 1 (August 22nd) – The Traffic Begins
My girlfriend, Alex, and I had decided to travel down to Virginia for a short 4-day trip as a way to cap off the summer and celebrate finishing our summer jobs. There were many species on my wish list in the area and Alex wanted to cross Delaware off her list as well as go to the beach. Day 1 was basically a driving day, Google Maps told us 11hrs to our furthest point. I had planned to stop at a Longear Sunfish spot that Pat had given me on the way but the insane traffic around DC prevented us from making it there in time. Instead, we stopped at a creek where he said there should be Swallowtail Shiners, Satinfin Shiners, and River Chub present. Unfortunately, when we got to the creek I saw that it was high and muddy: unfishable.
And so we continued on our way down past the city and to an area in the Mattaponi River drainage. We arrived well after dark but I was desperate to add something to my lifelist so I got out my tenkara gear and walked down to the creek. At first I saw some shiners that looked like they had glowing fins in my headlamp; I needed one! It didn’t take long before I had landed my H&L Satinfin Shiner lifer.
Afterwards I continued walking upstream and noticed some fish moving around in a puddle that had formed just to the side of the creek itself and I went to investigate. To my delight, they were Pirate-Perch! I was very lucky to have found them in an area with no cover where they could hide themselves, a so-called “Pirate-Perch Puddle”. It took a little convincing but I succeeded in getting one to take the tanago hook.
The final fish I would catch with my micro gear that night was a Pickerel, I thought it was a Grass Pickerel so was very excited. Little did I know it would turn out to simply be a juvenile Chain Pickerel (thanks guys).
I also managed a few species with my dipnet that night: Banded Sunfish, Comely Shiner, Shield Darter, Flier, Swallowtail Shiner, and Eastern Mosquitofish. By the time I returned to the car to go to sleep, it was well after midnight.
Day 2 (August 23rd) – Washington DC
Today was an exciting day, we would be visiting the city and there wre quite a few lifers available to me in the area. We started by attempting to get to the Longear spot again, traffic screwed us once more :( So we changed plans and headed straight downtown. Alex and I parted ways after having lunch at the seafood market, she went to visit museums while I fished. I started by casting around for a Northern Snakehead but didn’t get a single hit.
Giving up on the Snakehead, I cast out a worm rig and a cutbait rig for White Catfish, Blue Catfish, and whatever else would hit. It didn’t take long before I had my first bites on the worm rig, but every fish I pulled up were either Bluegill or White Perch. I kept some of the gills for bait. Finally, I felt a hit from something slightly larger and reeled in an American Eel; a species I had caught earlier in the spring but it was still cool to see another one.
Shortly after, I got another good bite. I reeled in what I thought would be another Eel, but was pleased to find a Catfish on the end of my line. My much-desired White Catifsh! Apparently they are becoming rare in the area so I was super happy to have landed one :)
Eventually, Alex came back from the museum and then later Pat came to join us after work. He told me that it was unlikely but still possible that I could catch a Longear Sunfish at the spot and was kind enough to lend me his Sunfish pole so that I could try for them. I pulled up Bluegill after Bluegill but then suddenly Pat exclaimed “that’s it” as I lifted up another Sunfish. I looked up dumbly wondering what was what and it took me a moment before I realized I was holding my lifer Longear in my hands XD
After catching the Longear, I “lent” Pat’s pole to Alex so she could also try for some sunnies. She also caught countless Bluegill but also managed her lifer White Perch. Pat also caught a Blue Catfish on one of the Bluegill she caught.
After dark, we drove out of the city and straight into, you guessed it, more traffic! We made our way to a WMA about 2hrs away and went straight to bed.
Day 3 (August 24th) – Sunfish Slamming
I woke up early to have some time to fish in the nearby pond which was supposed to have Redear Sunfish. It took me a while before I found any fish at all, but when I did they all turned out to be Bluegill. I kept one for bait but otherwise failed the Redear mission.
We drove back into DC where we were going to try a little more Snakehed fishing. It was high on both our lists so we wanted to make at least a small effort even if our chances were slim. Unfortunately, the spot we had planned to fish had a construction yard blocking the access. So we gave up and went to a Blue Catfish spot.
We cast out two lines each baited with the cut Bluegill I caught that morning. It didn’t take long before we had our first run… man these fish hit hard. Unfortunately the fish dropped the bait but almost instantly the second rod went off! I set the hook and knew I was into something sizeable. In the excitement of fighting the fish, the first rod started being dragged into the water again, Alex set the hook but unfortunately ended up snagged. I finally landed the fish and was super happy to lift up my lifer Blue Catfish! It also had some pretty cool whiskers, kind of like split hairs.
The bites went on like this for a while until the tide slowed down. The action was insane but our hookup ratio was terrible, I was unused to cutbait so think I had cut it too thick and it was stopping the hook from catching on anything. It probably took 10+ missed runs before Alex landed one of her own as well.
Satisfied with our afternoon of catfishing, we made our way up to Philly. Guess what, traffic was terrible here too, the drive took over 4hrs. Alex wanted to visit a harbour park but it was impossible to find parking cheapr than $17US :o No way were we about to pay that, so I dropped her off and did a quick check-up on my car while I waited. We also had the mandatory Philly cheesesteak, they’re pretty good.
Leaving Philly presented us with surprisingly little traffic, so we made good time as we headed to the New Jersey Pine Barrens for some very special species. It was dark by the time we arrived, and I wasn’t sure how that would affect my targets. As it turns out, it couldn’t have turned out better. The Mud Sunfish I wanted were crazy aggressive and it didn’t take long to land my first one!
Next up were the 3 “micro-sunfish” of the Enneacanthus genus. I was seeing small Sunfish all around but it took a little time before I was able to differentiate the species with my headlamp. I located a number of Banded Sunfish and lifted up my first one in no time!
The Bluespots took a little more time to find. Probably about 20 minutes later I gave up and tried going for what I figured was another Banded Sunfish. To my surprise, the fish I lifted up was my Bluespotted Sunfish! Only the Blackbanded left now…
This last one proved difficult. I figured they would be easily recognizable in the water but I was unable to locate any save a very small individual that I knew was too tiny even for the smallest of tanago hooks. I was somewhere around the spot where I had caught where I caught the Bluespotted when I saw the desired stripey fellow. I tried convincing him to take a small chunk of worm for about 10 minutes before I realized his mouth was just too small to take the already miniscule bait. So I cut it in half, the smallest bait I’ve ever used… after a little bit of tempting the fish, it nibbled the bait and I lifted out the Blackbanded Sunfish! I couldn’t believe my luck at having completed the slam in one outing, and at night!
After that fish it was getting close to 1AM so was definitely time to find a WMA and get to sleep for the big day ahead of us.
Day 4 (August 25th) – New Jersey & Neverending Traffic
After the late night, we slept in a little bit and rose at 8:00AM. Then we drove out to the coast to a spot near Tom’s River where I wanted to try dipnetting for a whole panoply of saltwater species. Unfortunately, it seemed like none of them were to be found. All I caught were some Mummichog and this Inland Silverside.
Leaving Tom’s River, we continued our route north along the coast to an inlet at Point Pleasant. The amount of people going to the beach that day was insane, we were starting to regret sleeping in. I fished from the rocks for a while but the action wasn’t very hot. I was looking for Searobin but all I caught was a Cunner in the rocks.
After a while longer of casting I felt a tap out in the middle of the inlet and reeled in my first Summer Flounder! They have such beautiful patterns.
After about 2hrs of fishing, we gave up our parking spot and continued on our way to the Shark River Inlet. The tide had slowed down by this point and it seemed like no fish were being caught during the time I was there.
Final destination on the coast was Sandy Hook. We paid the $15 fee to access the park, it’s well worth it when you don’t have to pay for parking and also helps to avoid the crazy crowds at the public beaches. Upon entering the park, I noticed some shallow tidal pools that seemed fishy so I crossed the highway to go check them out. They were full of a ridiculous amount of Mummichog, I netted one Striped Killifish but knew I would never be able to get one on H&L because of all the ‘chogs.
We drove all the way up the point and were surprised to see some abandoned building and some old missiles/cannons. Apparently Sandy Hook has been used for military reasons, wish I had taken pictures of it. We stopped at the “fishing beach” where we would be spending the day before making the long drive home. I waited for hours with my bait in the surf but didn’t catch anything. I saw one person catch a Searobin… very jealous lol.
That unsuccessful attempt at Sandy Hook was the end of a very successful trip down into the US; I caught 10 lifers on hook and line in 4 short days. Final total is: Satinfin Shiner, Pirate-Perch, White Catfish, Longear Sunfish, Blue Catfish, Mud Sunfish, Banded Sunfish, Bluespotted Sunfish, Blackbanded Sunfish, Summer Flounder. Big shoutout to everyone who helped me plan this trip, I could never have caught all of these fish without help.
The drive home was brutal, NYC traffic killed us and we only rolled in at 4AM.