Change

The first Healthy Grin was a 26 Albemarle. Then it was a 30 Albemarle. Currently, it is a 35 Carolina Classic. Through them all, I had a little Hydra Sports with a 2-stroke carbureted Johnson outboard.

We trailered that boat to Smith Mountain Lake to catch landlocked striped bass. I’d run it from my house in Seaford, during the wintertime, in the dark, hugging the shore, but avoiding the Rockpile, to the James and on up the Elizabeth River to the Hot Ditch to be the first boat in the Cove. During the summertime, I’d run it across the bay and up the Eastern Shore to catch tarpon. I have no idea how many cobia and drum have been caught on that boat.

I’ve always liked the Parker boats. When Dare Marina ( www.daremarina.com ) became a Parker dealer, I thought that I’d replace the Hydra Sports with one when it finally died. It never did. That dang Johnson is still running great.

Recently, but before the world turned upside down with a pandemic, I spoke with Mike Hanna at Dare Marina about the Healthy Grin. My usual mechanic was out of commission. He’d left the generator mid-repair months ago and it was time to service the main engines. Mike said the he had a guy and that they would take care of everything. “Fantastic, while you’re doing that, could you look the whole boat over? Over the past year or so I’ve been considering if it is time to put this Healthy Grin on the market.”

New heat exchanger on the generator, service has been done, and Mike gave me his assessment. “We would want to detail the boat from the props to the top of the tower. Everything needs to be in working order and you’ll have to put windshield wipers back on the boat.” Windshield wipers? One of the first things I’ve done with all of the Healthy Grins is to take the windshield wipers off, don’t like them, in the way, and Rain-x does the job. It became apparent that the things needed to be done were going to get in the way of fishing.

After a lot more talking, both the Healthy Grin and the Hydra Sports are at Dare Marina. It only took 3 pick-up truck loads to get everything off of the boats.

I thought about the chart plotters on the Healthy Grin. All of those wreck numbers, locations of all of the record grouper, tilefish, tautog and others are on there. I thought about clearing all of those but I’ve decided to leave them. Whoever the new owner ends up being can decide what to do with those. Neither boat is on the market yet but both will be after Dare Marina says they are ready. You can contact Dare Marina to ask about them: (757) 898-3000.

What I have on my boat lift now is a Parker 23 SE, in time for drum season. As for an offshore boat, I don’t know what will happen. We’ll see after the 35 Carolina Classic is sold. There is a beautiful, new 32 Albemarle sitting at Dare Marina that I can’t stop looking at…

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Sea Bass

We hit some wrecks again yesterday. We kept 56 nice sea bass. We caught a lot of bluefish, kept a few. We also caught a tautog and a hake, both kept, and some impressive conger eels which were not kept.

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Slow Sea Bass

It was another calm day on the ocean yesterday. We caught sea bass to 5 pounds but the bite was much slower for us this trip. We hit seven different wrecks and did not keep a limit. We also caught small bluefish, a big conger eel, and spiny dogs. Even the dog bite seemed slower yesterday.

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Sea Bass

We did some wreckfishing yesterday. It was a beautiful calm day with easy runs in and out. We got our 6-person limit of sea bass. We also caught a lot of small bluefish and one that weighed in at 18 pounds. We caught a couple of tautog to 12 pounds. The weird fish of the day was a monkfish. About 50 miles out, we did see some fish busting the surface that were probably bluefin but did not get close enough to know for sure. Came in early. Nice February fishing. We did have our special February sea bass permit, called VMRC operations on the way out and in and filed our catch report online. We were not met at the dock on this trip.

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Foggy Rockfish

Charles Southall sent me a message saying that he was thinking about running across the bay for some catch and release fishing for rockfish. I met him, David Brabrand and Gabe Sava at Dare Marina this morning. It was my first time on the new Special Kate. It was foggy all day and it rained but it was calmer than predicted. I was surprised by the number of boats near Cape Charles for catch and release fishing. Back when rockfish were crazy good: birds raining out of the sky, catches limited only by how many you could stand to crank, we’d go over there in January and never see another boat. Today, we had a good amount of company trying to catch some fish to release. We had two bites and held on to one. I happened to be by the rod and got to catch the first rockfish on this Special Kate. The first one was good one and hopefully, it will just be the first of many.

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Christmas Snapper

We spent the last two days fishing the wrecks. Catching was good. We caught limits of jumbo sea bass, lots of bluefish, tautog, Almaco jack, bunches of triggerfish, and more red snapper. Snapper in Virginia at Christmas time. We did catch a single smooth dogfish but no spiny dogs.

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Virginia Snapper

It was too rough. We went anyway. I told the crew that they are crazy. First drop on the wreck, everyone is bowed up with jumbo sea bass. They’re still crazy but we were catching fish. Later, we caught sea bass pieces and proceeded to catch the choppers that were chomping our sea bass. We kept some eating-size bluefish, a limit of sea bass and a nice triggerfish. All typical Virginia wreck fishing. The snapper we caught are not typical. We caught 3 and think we lost a couple more. These are the first Virginia snapper we have caught.

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Fishing Weekend

I think we may have been the low boat out there Saturday. The bite was around the 850 line, basically offshore of the B Tower. There was 73 degree water in 40 fathoms holding wahoo and some tuna. Out at 100 fathoms, there was 76 degree water holding tuna and some wahoo. Even a few billfish were caught. There was a finger of 67 degree water between the warm water areas. Boats caught fish in the cold water also so I guess fish were all over. A few boats headed in early with limits of yellowfin. There were some weedlines and floating stuff where boats, who wanted them, caught dolphin. We targeted wahoo. We caught a nice one and managed to not catch a handful of other wahoo bites. We did catch a yellowfin. The best boat I heard of had a limit of yellowfin and 7 wahoo.

Well, this evening I went out on my dock where I knew I would be the top fish catcher. Netted some shrimp and used them to catch speckled trout and perch. When I left the dock, a great blue heron landed in his nightly fishing spot. I swear I could hear him laughing at me.

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Saturday Bottomfish

The blueline tilefish season closes at the end of October. The tuna and wahoo bite is excellent right now but the guys wanted tilefish again before it closes. It hurt my feelings a bit but bottom fishing we went. I did expect Stan to bring his two rods he had made for daytime swordfish dropping but when they showed up at the boat, they were not with them. I asked where is the swordfish stuff…they “forgot” it. Yea, I expect they knew that after about 10 minutes of tilefish I would be saying let’s go swordfishing. It was a gorgeous run out. We caught a limit of nice bluelines and then moved deeper to try for other stuff. We caught more bluelines. I had never caught bluelines that deep before but even over 100 fathoms, we were loading up with bluelines. We did use a “Seaqualizer” device to release them but even with that, I was not happy releasing these fish from the deep so after trying several spots and not being able to get away from them, we ran in shallower to a wreck and caught a nice mess of sea bass. We also had a rather good porgy bite. Back at the dock while fueling up, a boat came in and threw seven nice wahoo on the dock. I told the guys, good luck getting me to go tilefishing next weekend. They just laughed and said that it will be closed.

Very close to home, I have been fishing off of my dock in Seaford most every night this month. I go castnet some shrimp (some we eat) put them on a hook and catch speckled trout, striped bass, red drum, and perch. This is going on in all of the creeks, inlets and rivers…fun and easy fall fishing. Shrimp have become much more common over the past few years. A very small scale, experimental commercial fishery is being tried along the oceanfront. This is the second fall that it has been tried. Bycatch is being closely monitored and the area they are allowed to fish and the net size they are allowed to use are both small. So far, Virginia shrimping has been very good.

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October Dock Fishing

Most evenings this month, I walk down to the dock. Cast net shrimp and use some as bait. Perch, speckled trout, puppy drum and striped bass like shrimp. This time of year, most every dock with a light on it is likely to be holding some fish.

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