Cape Fear River – 5/20/2017

Out on new waters

This morning I got a little bit out of my comfort zone and fished a body of water I hadn't visited before. I went to the Cape Fear River.

Naked.

Just kidding. I didn't go that far out of my comfort zone. I did take my yak to the Cape Fear though.

It was a truly beautiful and relaxing morning, I didn't get skunked, and I did not run into Max Cady. That counts as success in my book.

Fortunately I missed Max.

The Haw and Deep rivers converge to form the Cape Fear river about a half hour from my house. The river then meanders roughly southeast and flows into the Atlantic Ocean at Cape Fear, after which the river is named. Along the way are sections of deep, slow-flowing runs, fast whitewater rapids, and a system of locks and dams run by the Army Corps of Engineers. In the upper river where I was at today, it was all calm, tranquil waters, which is just the way I like it. I don't do this for a thrill ride. I put in at the Avent Ferry boat ramp, maybe a mile or two downstream of the Cape Fear's beginning.

Normally, I take the SS Guacamole on reservoir lakes because I have two (Jordan Lake and Shearon Harris) that are very nearby. I don't get out to rivers much. But I really need to do it more. One, rivers are more fun to kayak in my opinion. A lake is mostly water, while a river is mostly bank. So the scenery can be more varied and nearer at hand. And I have to say, the Cape Fear (at least the upper part of it that I've seen) is particularly lovely.

A morning full of promise

The second reason is that the two big rivers in my area, the Neuse and the Cape Fear, are known to have large flathead and blue catfish. In fact, the state record flathead was caught in the Cape Fear, and in December a guy caught a 112 lb blue catfish (just a few pounds shy of the record) in the same river! Meanwhile, Jordan and Harris only have channel cats, which are fun but comparatively small.

This section of the Cape Fear is fairly wide, deep, and slow-moving

Unfortunately, I didn't catch any giant blue cats on my trip. I'd intended to spend a couple of hours fishing for panfish to use as bait since fresh cut bait works best with blues. But the panfish weren't having what I was serving. So if I was going to catch a blue catfish today, it was going to be because I lucked out and got an especially hungry one willing to go after the prepared bait I brought.

It's early. I haven't had any coffee. And I can't catch any bait fish.

Not surprisingly,I didn't run into any blues that desperate. I did catch two channel cats though. First one was a dink that I foul-hooked on the side. I really don't like to foul-hook fish. I removed the hook as gingerly as I could and released him, hoping for the best. The second fish was properly hooked in the mouth and was a nice, eating-sized cat. Probably about 3 or 4 pounds. Good-looking fish and a great fighter. He was definitely feisty, both in the water and out. I released him too since I have plenty of catfish in the freezer.

I caught my two under a canopy of trees with a bunch of fallen trees in the water. I'm not very skilled at fishing in these densely covered areas and casting from a seated position in the kayak makes an already challenging location even worse. I had several hang-ups. I was very glad I'd put a quick release and retrieve capability on my anchoring system because I got a lot of use out of it today!

The canopy of trees where I finally starting catching some fish

As is usually the case, the fish starting biting right before I had to leave. At about 12:30PM, I started paddling back to the boat ramp. I'd told my wife I'd be back by 1:00PM and I was already going to be late.

Back to the boat ramp

By the way, in my last trip report I described the video system I'd put together for my kayak fishing adventures. I wish I'd brought it on this trip, but I didn't. I'd never been on the Cape Fear and I wasn't sure what the water was going to be like. So rather than risk dumping my video recorder, I decided to leave it at home. Next time I'll bring it!

I fully intend to go back to the Cape Fear as soon as I can. I've got to get the bait fish thing sorted out obviously, but the allure of big cats is just too great. I would also like to take some non-fishing paddling trips with my sons on this river. It's truly a lovely river and I  think they'd really enjoy exploring it on a kayak.

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