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Military Appreciation Day Fishing Report

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Military Appreciation Day Fishing Report

Post  Backlash on Tue Sep 24, 2013 7:50 pm

Chris Jordan and I spent the weekend volunteering at the Military Appreciation Day in Southport, this past weekend. The MAD was organized with one very simple goal in mind; to say thank you to our active duty service members by taking them fishing.  The organization held their first event in Morehead City, 8 years ago. Since then, they have expanded to include events in Southport and for the first time this year they held an event in Hampton Roads, Virginia. The Southport event had over 100 service members signed-up for a day of fishing with the dozens of boat Captains, who had volunteered their vessels to take them fishing for the day.

The weekend began for us by arriving at the Southport Marina to launch our boats and check into the slips that the Marina provided us at no charge for this event.  Then it was to see Tommy Rickman at the Tackle Box and check into our room at Southport Angler Lodging.  Then it was time for a little prefishing.

The water temps were still a little warm at around 78 degrees and we found the marshes were a bit muddy, maybe because of the very full moon tides. We fished a bit that day with little luck. However, we were told that the trout have quite showed up and that reds were taking shrimp really well around the spoil islands.  After a couple of hour, we decided to catch some finger mullet for the following day's event and Chris has become quite proficient with the cast net. After filling the live wells it was time to return to the Marina for the Captain's meeting.

The MAD organization is broken down into several committees giving their volunteers a specific area of organization to concentrate to include registration, volunteer boats, cooking, and fish cleaning. The cooking committee was responsible for a great meal of chicken and ribs at the Captain’s meeting, and they provided everyone with burgers and dogs upon their return from fishing on Saturday.  The Captain’s meeting takes place of Friday evening before the event, where the captains learn about checking in and out, radio procedures, and where to pick up their anglers on Saturday.  Then, the organizers take the time to recognize some of the volunteers and sponsors for their outstanding contributions to the event.  And to finish off the evening, there is a round of drawing in which everyone is a winner.

Saturday morning begins early, as the anglers are expected to arrive by 630am, so jump up at  5am and load the boats with gear, drinks, and ice and wait for the troops to arrive.  Chris was assigned 2 airmen from Seymour Johnson AFB who he had spoken with earlier in the week. I, however, would wait to be assigned a couple of Marines from Camp Lejeune’s single Marine program.  As with all great endeavors, Murphy’s Law has its way of presenting challenges and I received word that the bus from Jacksonville was broken down, but undaunted several marines jumped in their personal vehicles and headed to Southport. Even with this challenge my anglers were loaded and we were headed to the marsh by 730am.

We headed upriver to a marsh area that I frequent and set up by casting out some finger mullet on Carolina rigs, in hopes that a big red or flounder would pull our line. It wasn’t long before a rod bent and line began to strip from reel as it lay in the rod holder.  Lauren, an MP sprang into action and set the hook and as the fish headed toward the front of the boat she followed, lowering the rod tip as she reeled and raising the rod to gain line back.  It was quickly apparent that this wasn’t her first fishing trip as the she quickly worked the 15 plus pound ray back to the boat.  Not exactly what we looking for, but fun to watch none the less.

After a little while, we moved across to marsh to another grass where we found Chris and his crew who were more than eager to show the 2 slot limit reds that they already had in the boat.  Uuuuuughhh!  The pressure is on.  I switch my crew over to Gulp and down the grassline a casting we go.  After several missed bites, Stephen, whose family runs a commercial lobster boat in Glouster, Mass., landed a flounder that came up just short of size limit. We worked the bank for a while until we were interrupted by another ray that had taken a mullet from under a float that we had been dragging behind the boat, but Lauren quickly handled it again and it was cut free.



It was then that we noticed that the tide had gone slack, so I decided to move us back across the bay to search for tailing reds.  It was not to be.  After an hour or so of searching the flats we could only see couple of tails that were well out of reach of our casts, so I moved to the back of the marshes to fish the creeks coming off of the flats on the falling tide.

We cast up and down the banks and then out into deeper water where we began to get some good strike. Then Lauren sets the hook on the first keeper of the day, a 14 inch speckled trout. We fished the area for a good bit longer and I boated another 14 inch speck and second one at 19 1/2.  The bite was then interrupted by a bunch of ribbon fish that began slashing through the schools of finger mullet that had surrounded us. Lauren managed to hook one of the ribbonfish and spent quite some time admiring the shiny, eel-like nuisance before releasing it.

With it getting late in the day and the radio announcing that boats had already began to return to the dock, we decided to head back down river to the Southport riverfront, as a last chance for shot a keeper flounder on our remaining live bait.  On the ride I decided to offer the controls over to Lauren and she jumped at the chance to drive, which I think was as exciting to her as anything else about the trip.  She quizzed me about the boat, the electronics, and fish in the area and I could tell that she soaking it in and already anticipating her next opportunity at a fishing trip.  The waterfront did produce much for us either, other than one run that I assume was another ray. So, we decided to head back to the dock sunburnt and happy about the day.

At the marina, we pulled over to the commercial dock where volunteers where waiting and we handed off our 3 fish catch to them to be cleaned.  After refueling and putting the boat back in the slip, the crew and I heading to tent for food and cold drinks where we talked for a bit and they were interviewed by the MAD video team.  After dinner, collect their fish, said our goodbyes, and back to Jacksonville they went.

Though we didn’t catch that many fish, there were plenty of fish caught.  We stood by cleaning station for some time and watched as the offshore crews brought in cartfulls of Sea bass, snapper, and triggerfish.  There were several large kings caught and I saw one spanish that must have been 6 or 7 pounds. To see how hard these volunteers worked for these troops was amazing. I know that boats were at the dock at 2pm and these were cleaning fish then.  However, Chris and I put boats on the trailers and drove into Southport to wash them when we returned they were still cleaning fish and as we were relaxing and watching TV at 930pm they were still cleaning fish.

All I can say is what a great thing, a great bunch of people giving back a little to another great bunch of people who give so much.  A great job by the volunteers and organizers and a great time spent with our troops. If you’re reading this and whether you’re an active duty service member who would like to go fishing or someone who would like to take some great people fishing, I hope to see you there next year.
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Backlash
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Re: Military Appreciation Day Fishing Report

Post  Snagged on Tue Sep 24, 2013 10:06 pm

Very nice indeed.  It's always nice when a group comes together to do something for troops.  And when it involves fishing, it's that much better.
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Re: Military Appreciation Day Fishing Report

Post  fishgent on Tue Sep 24, 2013 10:26 pm

What more can I add to Tom's report other than to say thanks Tom for getting me involved.  I had two Air Force guys who worked and fished together.  I can only hope I showed them a few new techniques.  We were lucky enough to take three redfish to the cleaning table.  First fish I spotted tailing and told Aaron to cast at two o'clock about a foot into the grass.  He did it perfect and was rewarded with a bent rod.  About ten minutes later we were able to grab one more redfish close to where we caught the first.  We caught a couple of flounder but nothing legal.  One was 14 7/8 on the nose.  I remeasured three times trying to make it legal but it got to swim away to grow.
We kept a live mullet under a cork behind the boat.  Several time we got to enjoy something dancing with our mullet but never hooked.  Appeared to be a trout but we really do not know since it never paid us a visit at the boat.  Midday I thought about heading outside for Spanish but really wanted to find flounder.  We tried the docks on the ICW but no luck.  Finally we hit upper Dutchman trying places I have had great luck.  Plenty of pin fish and one more legal redfish but no legal flounder.  I kept saying how is this happening?  I usually catch flounder when fishing for anything else but not today.  
We took three beautiful redfish to the table and plenty of great memories.  I hope to fish again with Kyle and Aaron.  I will definitely take part again next year.  Just need to figure out how to get the word out on Ft. Bragg. 
Thanks Tom for getting involved and thanks to the MAD team for the hard work and putting on a great event.
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