Neuse River – 10/29/2017

Biggest of the year so far. He kindly posed for this photo before I said goodbye and put him back in the water.

Well, my suspicion about spending too much time on the Cape Fear this summer was correct apparently. Yesterday I did my first paddle on the Neuse and had way more success than at any point on the Cape Fear. I only got two fish, but they were nice fish. I caught a 12 lb blue cat and a (roughly) 20+ lb flathead. I say roughly because he was too long to weigh sitting down in the kayak, and too feisty for me to risk standing up. I could have paddled to the bank and got out to weigh him, but my other rod was hung up on something in the water (not a fish unfortunately) and I wanted to hurry and release that big boy.

The bite is good right now with the fish trying to load up on food before the winter. In any case, next year (and for the rest of the fall) I'll be hitting the Neuse a lot more!

Warm, foggy, and rainy morning.

I launched from under a bridge in a little town outside Raleigh. There wasn't a real ramp or launch, only a bit of bank just big enough to launch from. It was also muddy from rain the night before, but manageable. The area of town was a little sketchy and I'm not sure I'd want to go there at night, but on a rainy Sunday morning, it was fine. It rained most of the day until late afternoon and I had the river all to myself.

The Neuse is not quite as pleasant as the Cape Fear. It's smaller, there's more litter, and the foliage isn't quite as lush. But it's still a nice paddle. It's quite a bit shallower. The deepest area I found was only 8 ft, and most of it was 4 or less. On the other hand, the area of the Neuse that I worked is more curvy than the Cape Fear and the contours present more opportunities for fish to hold up. There were parts of the river that were hard going on my tandem because the current was strong. I think that was due to all the rain, but being my first time on the Neuse, I have nothing to compare it to so I'm not sure. In any case, there was one area where I got a pretty intense workout just paddling up-river about 15 yards! My usual tactic of continually moving upstream to fish and then having an easy float on the way back really paid off. I would have been exhausted trying to fight my way upstream to the launch at the end of the day!

1st catch was a 12 lb blue catfish. My first blue cat ever, actually. I debated switching to cut bait after I caught him, but ended up staying with live bait hoping for a flathead. That gamble paid off.

I caught both fish on live Green Sunfish. Both were spectacular fighters with lots of aerials. The flathead was particularly great. It was obvious from his initial strike that he was going to be big, just from how the rod bent over. He was like a stump with fins. He peeled a lot of drag and I took my time bringing him in because the last thing I wanted to do was bring a big thrasher onto the kayak. He was still pretty energetic though.

Despite the serious face, this is a happy man.

So, I still haven't caught the 30 lb fish I had as a goal for the year. But after the miserable luck I've had most of the summer, I'm quite happy with yesterday. Hopefully I'll get a couple more chances before fall ends to catch a monster flathead. If that doesn't pan out, I'll probably go in search of winter blues on one of the NC lakes.

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