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82 Days on the Albemarle.........a view from the Bluegill Chariot

I decided on a recent trip that I would look back and reflect on a few of the memories of the 2013 season to date....If you have followed me at all on BBG you know that I traditionally count down to Good Friday as this usually marks the end of Winter and our water temperatures begin their slow crawl toward the 60s as we wait impatiently for our beloved Coppernose gills to become active..........Within 75 miles of my residence I have 12 river systems and over 50 creeks that regularly produce quality bluegills which I label as 10" or greater....When It's time to tear April off my calendar I get the chills knowing that May has arrived again and my three best months of the year are finally here.......I have checked every pole twice, retied again and again, put the battery tester on a half dozen times and written list after list to prepare for this moment, as the next 82 days will be a blur on the Albemarle........I have settled down in recent years so that I can really enjoy these moments with friends, family and gills.......I read in a local study that the grass shrimp hatch is one of the best ever and many may think, "well I'll never get a bite with all that forage in the rivers", but I think just the opposite.....it's very important to match the hatch and to fish with live grass shrimp and baits that resemble them.......Of course Doug has nothing to worry about at the local bait store as I have still been responsible for the purchase of 86 tubes of crickets since the first of May....A few local ponds near my neighborhood are producing quality grass shrimp and I go every couple days to fill up my aerated buckets with new specimens.....It would be abnormal to not hear the hum of dueling aerators in my garage this time of year.......I have big plans this season as several new anglers will join me on the Bluegill Chariot including friends from BBG.com and my grandsons also join me for the first trips for us together from a boat.....Twelve anglers fish with me during this 82 day period and 11 of them catch at least one personal best...It's both exciting and rewarding to provide friends and family with this great opportunity that is fishing........Folks from as far away as Louisiana join me in coastal North Carolina to pursue the big gills of the Albemarle.........During this period we experience three full moons and all are very productive and predictable........We have been unseasonably mild through April and the forecast is for more of the same in May.....But I have so many bugs and jigs to try and so little time to get it done......testing is fun and you never want to tell a guy or a gal that their  bait doesn't catch fish!  But when great imaginations are coupled with my bluegill addiction, big things can happen and in the days ahead I will document 82 days on the Albemarle Estuary between the first of May and the 21st of July..........2013 has been special as I have already topped 1,200 Crappie and 4,100 Sunfish.........If you get one thing from this blog, just remember how important it is to enjoy fishing for what it is and indulge in the memories as they happen....it creates bonds that are not easily broken if ever! Thanks to all the guys and gals that have got out with me this season and allowed me to share my addiction to the beloved Bluegill......I'm too old to change so you can rest assured that I'll be somewhere chasing gills or preparing a feast of those mouth watering fillets........

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Comment by Jeffrey D. Abney on January 4, 2014 at 4:42pm

After a rainy week......it was time to get back out there again on the 12th of July and we still had rain in the area and water temperatures in the lower 80s from the recent rains.....I decided to hit the Pasquotank and that was the right move.....

Broke the ice with a nice gill as the drizzle continued......

Had to don the rain jacket but the bite seemed good so I decided to continue.....

The quality of this afternoon's fish was keeping me pumped up despite some down pours.....

Bite was dominated by male coppernose in the shallows.....

I was fishing a 1/32 ounce ball jig tipped with a Gulp Alive 1" minnow in pumpkinseed......

Everything was getting a little foggy in the rain.......

You can see these fish are working hard with this male showing the signs of fanning the nest......

The rains slacked off for a little while and some solid gills made me thankful that I toughed it out....

Up close with the gills......

This hen was incredible......had to put her back into the life cycle.......

This fish was my 50th of the trip......

This was a tall gill with great body dynamics......

A Pretty fish.....

A Monarch gill....number 70 of the trip.......

The final fish of the day was number 73 and the 24th gill over 10".....all released on this day to carry on the blood lines........

Comment by Jeffrey D. Abney on January 4, 2014 at 12:31pm

So my family made it home safely from another summertime bluegill vacation in North Carolina and I headed back to work reluctantly on the 8th as rain and thunder hovered in our region.......On the afternoon of the ninth, I headed out after work despite threatening skies.......Here's how it went......

I heard distant thunder right away so I wasn't sure how long I would have but a solid gill broke the ice.....

Snagged another nice gill as I worked the boat into some of my favorite areas.....

This little pocket has yielded hundreds of gills over the years......

This river consistently produces solid gills year after year......

And 2013 was no different.....

The storms were edging closer and closer but no alerts on my on board weather radio......

Danger lurks......so after 57 gills in just over an hour I put it in the wind to not push my luck.......

I kept a 30 fish limit on this day caught shallow in 86 degree water on tipped jigs under a float......July is truly incredible in this region in numbers and quality......

Comment by Jeffrey D. Abney on January 4, 2014 at 12:05pm

So all good things must come to an end and so it was the 2013 Abney family vacation but we chose to celebrate our success with one final big fish fry on the sixth as they all packed up for the trek back to Alabama and southern Lousisana......We were very happy to have caught almost 1,700 sunfish during their three week stay....fished some really great waters together and just down right had fun......On the morning of the 7th, they headed west on the way home and I set out solo for the first time in nearly a month.......I picked the Little River since it's close to my residence and here's how it turned out....

Got started early with a dark knight....

It was to be another hot bite on yet another river.....

I had a blast as the reality set in that I would soon be back at the grind but not before a little more action...

There's a closeup of that old reliable Gronaw Olive Grass Shrimp.....

Another nice one......

Hand sized fish are always welcome.....

My lucky James River outfitters shirt came through again......

Pretty close-up......

Another long gill.....

There's a nice one on a Cotton Candy Silent Stinger......

And the old reliable splash jig in chartreuse....1/32 ounce variety

Another Monarch Gill....what I like to call a Little River Luxury

Look at those sideburns Elvis.....

Another nice mid summer gill.....

Fish counter had reached 75 as I was working back towards the launch on another great July day....

Great looking gill.....

This was fish number 80 on the chartreuse splash jig......

Wonderful fish out of the dark tannic waters.....

Second to last gill on this morning on that 1/32 ounce ball jig.....

And finally the last gill of this trip and number 83 of the day......crazy bite in 87 degree water....

A closeup of the day's last gill.....I had an 83 fish morning fishing solo and it was fun but I already missed the competition and fellowship from my dad and nephew.....But life rolls on, you just have to appreciate those perfect days while you have them.......time waits on no man.....

Comment by Jeffrey D. Abney on January 4, 2014 at 8:00am

Well traditionally we rarely fish twice on the same day during our summer vacations but when the trip is winding down and the fishing is peak....you twist each other's arms and push it every once in awhile because you love to fish for the beloved bluegill......Pop had a great morning and skipped the afternoon trip on the fifth of July but Dan and I grabbed a nap and some southern fried chicken and headed back out to Fork Creek North and you might have guessed......What a day!

Dan started our afternoon with a nice predator.....

There's so many June bugs around here during the summer I decided to catch a few and give them a try....tipped with them and the gills crushed em.'.....

Didn't take long for the gills to respond in hot conditions......water temps in the high 80s

That olive Gronaw Grass Shrimp was king.....

Just an afternoon full of memories.....

Our catch was dominated by bull coppers....

 Dan and I were both snagging nice gills fishing jigs 18" under a fixed float in two to three feet of water....

The average fish on this day was over 9".....

Dan wasn't happy with me when I asked him to snap a few pictures......LOL

I explained to Dan that we would talk about this day for many years to come.....

A close-up of a tanker gill.....

Just incredible.....we caught over a hundred and 23 were over 10".......

One of those days where the sweat would burn your eyes so you caught a fish....wiped your brow and repeated...

The june bugs were a real hit and good to know as abundant as they are in the heat of the summer....

This is a spot that I purposely didn't fish in 2012......that turned out to be a good thing despite much anxiety in 2012.....LOL

Look at those colors....

A constant scene on this afternoon as we released all of these fish after keeping a nice mess on the morning trip......nice to have these fish to come back to another day.....

Last fish of the day as we had to get home for Mom's home made chicken n' dumplings.....wouldn't want to miss that with some "ho" cake.........This after noon put us well over 225 gills for the day and with the quality we experienced you just can't beat it.......this day is a lasting memory!

Comment by Jeffrey D. Abney on January 2, 2014 at 8:42pm

After a great celebration on the 4th......our traditional family vacation was nearing an end and we put our heads together and decided to hit Fork Creek North for the first time this season........You won't believe how good it went for us.......what a day and here's a few pictures to capture just the morning trip......

A beautiful sunrise over the Albemarle as we shove off for an early trip on the Ebbtide.....

It started early and often....

We all got excited when I located a big colony of gills boiling these waters.....

Copper foreheads were the common theme on this day.....

Pop got started early too and was distracted by the active fish nearby.......hurry up will you!

The Olive Grass Shrimp was a big winner on this day......

We were raking them in and having a ball...notice how dark the fish are coming out of this heavy cypress creek....

Did I say dark fish yet?

They just kept coming on this morning.......an incredible place......they accused me of holding out since we had not visited this location until right before they were to go home......sorry fellas.....

They were well on the way to forgiving me.....I think!

Dan helps us out with our double.....

Pop was impressed with this one....and he ain't impressed easy! LOL

Look at that copper......

Does it look like there might be a few gills in this pocket....let us find out.....

Pop said yeah!

We catch a triple and dad has another one on while I'm messing with the camera......

What a nice one Dan!

And here's another shot of a great fish.....

Love these chunky gills....good fighters......

And a frisbee gill pounded my jig......

Just a beast....even looked good in black and white......

Things were winding down but not the fish counter.....over 120 as we lose our final baits in preparation for heading out......

This would be my final fish of the morning and the 37th gill over 10".....incredible....

Dan snagged his last fish and wanted to show us his bait in the water......

Jim Gronaw tied this bug we called the Ghost and it would be all white in your hand and turn metallic in the water........my nephew easily caught more than 50 gills this morning on this bait.......awesome.....

Here it is out of the water....great looker......so we decide to wrap it up around 9:00 and Dan is already working on me to come back during the afternoon.....I said give me a minute to decide......so he twisted my arm and we were set to go back out later after some lunch and a short nap......Dan you're killing me but what a way to go!

Comment by Jeffrey D. Abney on January 2, 2014 at 8:09pm

Thanks Tony, Carl and Tooty..........getting ready to start the 5th of July.....our best day of 2013.......more than 200 fish on the rare occasion in which we fished morning and afternoon on the same day......I was nice to Dan since our family vacation was winding down for 2013.......

Comment by DAVID L EITUTIS on January 2, 2014 at 7:59pm

SOME MORE GREAT PICS JEFFREY AND BLOG.........

Comment by carl hendrix on January 2, 2014 at 7:57pm

you  have some fantastic fishing spots Jeff!!

Comment by Tony Livingston on January 2, 2014 at 7:54pm

Good plan Jeffrey. Sometimes, catches that come from private waters may not be held in the same regard as those fish that were caught in public waters.....perhaps due to the perception that private water fish, due to the vastly decreased fishing pressure they receive, are easier to catch. And, there may be instances where this argument has merit, as in those cases where private water fish do not receive heavy catch and release angling. It's worth taking note at what Jeffrey is doing here, to help ensure catches of quality fish in the future.

He moves from area to area, alternating and rotating his fishing spots. This provides benefits in a couple of ways, one being that a spot isn't "fished out", where the quality of Bluegills present would begin to suffer, and the other equally important aspect, the fish do not have the opportunity to become conditioned to fishing pressure, which can contribute to them becoming harder to catch!

In essence, what Jeffrey is doing is experiencing private water Bluegills on a public BOW. I've heard him mention that he seldom sees another boat while he's out...this seclusion from the angling masses, along with Jeffrey's management (rotation) of his fishing spots, helps provide cooperative fish, non-acclimated to angling pressure, and yields quality catches and high numbers. A very important ingredient in a recipe for success.

Comment by Jeffrey D. Abney on January 2, 2014 at 7:29pm

We hadn't been to Spice Island yet this season so we picked the third of July to hit a great location before taking a break to celebrate our nation's birthday......Had another great outing and here's a few pictures to capture that trip.....

It was a beautiful hot summer morning down on the island.....

First fish was a sign of things to come...

The first twenty gills of the morning were 10" or over.....how can you complain about that......

Dan stuck another predator.....

And a few fish later an awesome gill.....

Pop added a solid fish and we were enjoying another great day on the water.....

I felt the pressure and had to add a nice one to keep the rest of the boat honest......

Dan snagged his third bass of the day and we called it early but not before a 100 fish morning to go into the holiday......Time to celebrate the 4th!

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