Thursday, May 19, 2011

Fly Fishing For Snakeheads - Rewarded After Year(s) of Hard Work

The threat of afternoon thunderstorms went away after lunch today. After reading a post about the carp biting in the Tidal Basin I decided to head down there. I tied up some 20 second nymphs for the trip, a bead head on a shrimp hook. Black rubber leg tail and a dubbed body with rubber legs behind the bead.
I got to the tidal basin and first noticed gar, needlefish, carp, and snakeheads. It was awesome. One snakehead decided to swim up onto the flooded sidewalk and hang out.

I moved down the basin and set up camp in some flooded waters. I tied on a scorpion bug with the nymph as a dropper. Not long into a few casts with a slow retrieve I hooked a nice channel cat. The benefit of tourists walking by is that they will gladly take your picture with your camera. 

Some of the people want to hold the fish and be photographed by me

I continued fishing and got another tug on my line. I set the hook and before I knew it my line was slicing across the water and I was into my backing. Several minutes later and a crowd of kids jeering me on I landed a carp. The thing was foul hooked. I wish the fish would tell me earlier before I land them that they are tail hooked. I showed the kids the fish and released it to the flooded sidewalk.

I moved down the trail a bit more and saw several gar, koi, carp, and snakeheads. I was casting to the shallow waters on the edge of the sidewalk and slowly stripping as if fishing a midge in a lake. My line went tight and I set the hook. To my surprise a snakehead came up. I had the thing hooked well and backed up to prevent the fish from getting off the flooded trail and into the deep. I backed into the fence and was able to hand my camcorder to a tourist who gladly recorded the whole thing.

I had the fish up in the shallows and fought it for 2 minutes. It slashed and fought and then gave up once its belly was up on the grass. The thing looked big. Huge. I was getting ready to beach it when it got back into the water and my leader wrapped around the rod. I tried to grab the fish but it pulled and popped the tippet.

The fly (the same nymph as before)  broke off (8lb umpqua leader) and the fish just sat there exhausted. I did the first thing that came to mind-I kicked the thing toward shore. I kicked it once and it moved to shallower water. Then again and finally had it pinned where I could pick it up. I grabbed it and ran to dry land where I dumped it on the sidewalk.

I spent the next 30 minutes trying to photograph it and be photographed with it. I had school groups come by and get close ups of it. I explained why I had to kill it due to the laws, its biology, and its history as an introduced species in the tidal Potomac. We measured it at 34" nose to tail!

I finally broke down and decided to kill the fish. Not something I found easy to do. I wanted to keep the skull to study it (as the last one I kept was removed by a critter in the night). I took out my Leatherman wave and cut the head off. It was not as traumatic to me as I had expected and hoped it was quick and painless to the fish. I let it bleed out in the shallows and then got a plastic bag b some folks from northern Indiana. I put the head in the bag and headed home.


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